In Dabo's Words: To live in top 10, Tigers 'have to step up and win games like this'

'Ultimately...either you're better than that guy or he's better than you, blocking and tackling, throwing and catching'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney greets defensive end Malliciah Goodman at the bottom of the hill on senior night.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney greets defensive end Malliciah Goodman at the bottom of the hill on senior night.

(Editor's note: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made the following comments during his joint press conference on Sunday with LSU coach Les Miles).

In Dabo's Words

On the Tigers' favorite part of bowl week: "Well, it's been a great week. We have enjoyed Atlanta and we have enjoyed being part of the Chick Fil A Bowl festivities. Really have appreciated the great practice venues that we've had. That's been really nice. I think our players have really enjoyed everything, to be honest with you. You know, maybe the go karts I guess. They seemed pretty enthusiastic about that. It's been a good week of preparation and again, just to the point now where you're like all right, let's get on with it, let's play the game. It's an honor to be up here with Coach Miles. All we need is Terry (Don Phillips) - in fact, Terry is getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's been a good week, and again, we are looking forward to a great competitive game."

On what 'stood out' about LSU as he studied Les Miles' team on film: "Well there, was really nothing that surprised me about LSU. I've followed LSU for a long time. I paid coach-attention to what Coach Miles has done there in his eight years or so he's been there. This is a national championship caliber team, and less than 12 months ago played for a National Championship and probably, literally, are a couple of plays from being in the game this year. Really nothing surprised me. But the thing that just jumps out at you is the overall speed and athleticism. They have got quality depth, and then their style of play. This is the most physical team that we have seen in quite a while. That's how they play the game and it's a really tough challenge to prepare for."

On the significance of a victory over LSU in the growth and progression of Clemson's program: "This has not been the norm for us and we are trying to make it the norm to where we are in this situation every year, Like LSU has been. LSU has been a program that's won, 10,11, 12, 13 games pretty regularly under Coach Miles.

"So again, they are a national championship caliber team and we are not quite there yet. But we have made great progress: back to back ten win seasons and for the first time since the 80s, and we won ten regular season games this year for the first time in 31 years.

"So I think you've got to at least acknowledge that we are making some progress. We are a Top 15 team. If we are going to be a Top 10 team, you have to step up and win games like this at some point. Our two losses this year were Top 10 teams, and we competed hard. But we just didn't get it done. To be in a situation where we have a chance an 11th game, something that has not happened in our history very often, is a great compliment to our team and our staff, because, again, we have made steady progress.

"It would be huge for us. It would be a great ending to an already very good season, a great finish. But you know, that's easier said than done. We know that LSU is who they are because of their consistency in play regardless of who they play, where they play, and we'll have to play very well.'

On the 'next step' for the Clemson program: "It's everything. We have to do a great job as coaches of giving our guys a chance to win, first of all. But in games like this, when you have two quality teams that are going to play really hard, it really comes down to a few plays, it really does. It's just truly three or four, five plays. We have got to put ourselves in position to make those plays and then we have got to make them because that's ultimately what it comes down to when you have two really quality teams that are both going to play hard. So that's the next step for us."

On the suitability of Atlanta as one of six host sites for the new NCS playoff system: "I've had the privilege of being in a lot of bowl games over the years. I've been in pretty much all of them except the Rose Bowl, and those venues, that experience that comes game week - I absolutely feel like that they should be under consideration for one of those sites. I'm sure they will put a good package together and present their plan in the right way. It's a great venue, great hotels, you've got everything that you would need to be able to handle that type of game."

On the important of physical play in competing against teams like LSU and Alabama: "I don't subscribe to the theory that you have to line up in I formation to be physical. I don't think that's the case as all. We pride ourselves on being a physical football team. There's lots of different styles of play in college football, and I think that's what makes college football so much fun. It's not a cookie cutter product. You have all kind of varieties out there and it's made this game very popular and exciting.

"I think at end of the day, you have to do what gives your team the best chance to win, ultimately. That may be different depending on where you are and what your personnel is and your resources and all those things.

'I'm very confident in our style of play of how we play the game, and we have been successful. In preparing for any opponent, we try to present the challenges for your team that they are going to see on game day.

"If you are going to play a spread team, a true spread team; we kind of get lumped into that, we are not really a huge spread team. But if you are going to play that type of team, then you have to present that and the challenges that come with that. If you play a triple option team, you have to present that. It's difficult to prepare for. If you're going to play a team like LSU that has a physical style of play that you don't see every week, you've got to prepare for that.

And so that's what we try to do in practice, just like we do every week. We always, as he said, they always have a tempo part of their practice, and we always have really tough inside drills with different styles of running so that our defense is always seeing things throughout the course of the year.

"But in this particular game, you know, here is who they are and you have got to prepare for it and you've got to be able to hold up. Simple as that. So that's why you play the game and all you can do is prepare your team the best you possibly can and go play the game.

"I feel good about our preparation, but you know, again, you just hope that when you play a quality team like this that has the amount of depth that they have, that you can sustain for four quarters and very few teams have been able to do that against LSU. So that will be one of the stories, I'm sure. Ultimately it does come down to...either you're better than that guy or he's better than you, blocking and tackling, throwing and catching."

On recruiting against LSU: "Well, we have not won many of those battles, first of all, so we are like 1 for 20 somewhere along the line there...I have great respect for Coach Miles. I told him this the other day, I appreciate how he handles his business and I appreciate the example that he sets for all of us coaches, because he does it right. His staff does it right. I can't necessarily say that about everybody in this business. There's good people and bad people in every business, even in y'alls business, believe it or not (laughter). Coach Miles and the LSU staff, they do it right, and they win the right way, and recruit the right way."

On starting and finishing the 2012 season in the Georgia Dome: "It's been quite a journey for us, it seems like forever go this time of year. You look back and reflect and that was a huge game for us. This was a team, Auburn, that was very difficult to prepare for, two new coordinators and two new styles of play from what they have been doing and a lot of unknowns in that game.

"For us, we were very young up front on both sides of the ball so we knew coming into the game it was going to be a big challenge. Auburn played extremely tough. We were able to overcome some mistakes and adversity and find a way to win and that was a big, big win for us and a great way to start the season.

"So having played here, it's a positive thing for our players and hopefully they can draw on that experience. I know it doesn't have anything to do with this game, but it's kind of interesting, the Tigers here in Atlanta."

On sharing common opponents Auburn and South Carolina with LSU: "All of the film is beneficial. You are going to develop, especially this time of the year, you can kind of see a personality of a team over the long haul. Obviously we have got a good feel for South Carolina and their personnel, same thing with Auburn. That's just part of the preparation.

But it's really no different from all of their games. All of their opponents are quality opponents and present different challenges, so you try to study and learn from all of that.

'"They did a super job against South Carolina and really physically dominated the game and had a tough battle with Auburn, really tough battle early in the year there.

That was a hard fought win for them. So again, every game is different and the objective is just find a way to win; whether you win 2 0 or 59 58. You want to try to find a way to win games and LSU has done a great job of that."

On LSU's ability to pressure with four pass rushers and cover: "All great teams, Top 10 teams, Top 5 teams, most of the time they are usually pretty good up front. That's the case with this football team. This is probably the fastest team we've played. They are big in the secondary, very long. Most of those guys are 6 0 or better, maybe one 5 11 guy, and they are fast.

"Because of the speed they have up front and the strength and the power and explosiveness with their athletes, you know, and they bring pressure. They create pressure with the fifth and sixth guys, as well. But when you can do that with four, obviously that's a numbers advantage for you from a coverage standpoint, especially with their style of play, they will get up, challenge you, they disrupt you, and it's tough, no doubt about it.

"the margin for error is not very big. You know, against LSU, that is open. It's open. It's almost like playing an NFL type team. You don't have a lot of room for error. You throw it a little bit behind, it's probably a pick, so you have to be very precise with your execution against a team like this. And in my opinion, you'd better have some balance, because if you become predictable against these guys, it's a long day."

On the final game for Clemson's senior players: "Well, I mean, I think it is what it is. That's just human nature. Guys know that they are playing their last game and to be honest with you, the guys that are coming back, they are going to live with you for eight months.

"In this game, we had a long time before we get to tee it up again. But for those seniors, this is one that they are going to take with them for a long time and they certainly know that. That's just a part of their journey for all these guys.

It comes to an end at some point and I knew going into my last game, we are playing a national championship game and I knew it was going to be my last game. There were some special moments for me in preparing for that game and knowing that. I've played football a long time, a long time, and I can remember my last practice, walking off the field. There was a sentimentalness to that. I remember my last game in high school. I'm sure there's part of that.

"But as far as making a big deal out of it, it's really not - the game is the game. It's about execution and performance, and the emotional stuff only can take you so far. But certainly the players, they understand that and we address that with each other."

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