In Dabo's Words: 'To be a national contender, we've got to win at home'

'Our fans have been incredible. They've brought a lot of life to Death Valley. The energy that they bring is awesome'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney congratulates Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd after Boyd scored a touchdown in the first quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney congratulates Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd after Boyd scored a touchdown in the first quarter.

(Editor's Note: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney made the following comments during the ACC coaches' teleconference on Wednesday).

In Dabo's Words...

On the importance of consistently winning at home: "If we can win this weekend, we would set the all time record here at Death Valley for wins in a row, and I think we've got the third longest home winning streak in the country right now. To be able to win this week and set that record to me to be something really special to be a part of. They've been playing here 117 years, and there's been a lot of good teams. To be a part of that type of record, that type of consistency, that's what you want in your program.

"When I got this job, one of the very first things I said to our team was if we're going to be a consistent program at Clemson, if we're going to take this program back to the top and be a national contender, we've got to win at home. It starts at home, because we were very inconsistent. We've really been able to kind of create that culture here.

Our fans have been incredible. They've brought a lot of life to Death Valley. The energy that they bring is awesome and gives us a great advantage every time we line up and play in that stadium. But our guys, they take a lot of pride in playing at home. They take a lot of pride. And then we won four road games this year for only the second time in 15 years.

"We're just trying to build consistency from a winning standpoint is what we're trying to do this year, and we've made good progress. So hopefully we can get that done and keep it moving forward."

On Maryland's defensive improvement: "We're going to have to play well this week against Maryland. They're probably as good a defensive group as we've seen. They're top 10, 11 defense in the country...They're just a very physical, well coached defense. A new coordinator, and I've been very impressed with what they do. Like I said, they're one of the top in the country."

On Clemson's focus: 'For us it's just about continuing to try to prepare with purpose and play with great effort, emphasize technique and stay committed to the things you've got to do to win football games, and that's really what our team is focused on.

So we look forward to getting back in the Valley this week."

On the incremental improvement of Clemson's defense: "We really played good the whole game (against Duke). Early in the game we gave up the two big plays that were really just - not to take anything away from them at all because I thought their receiving corps and outstanding and their quarterback is really good - but it was really poor technique and understanding on our part by our two DBs in those two situations.

"The one, he knows he's got no help inside, and for some reason he's just trying to do too much and he's looking in at the backfield, when he has one job, get inside technique, stay on top and just put your eyes on your guy, play your guy. Because when you don't, that's what happens. And their receiver did an excellent job of stemming the route, and our guy is looking in at the backfield and he's got no post help, and what does the guy do, he runs to the post.

"So it was a well executed play and poor job (by Clemson). But it wasn't a bust, it was just more a technique issue with us. In the early part of the season we were having some busts and just from a lack of understanding how to apply the defense to what we were seeing, especially early in games. We're just not having that as much.

"A prime example of that is our first six games we had 19 rushes of 20 yards or longer. In our last three games we've only had one running play of 20 yards or longer. That's just a product of these guys growing up. They're just more knowledgeable. They get it more. They've been coached, they've made mistakes, they've learned from their experience, we've got good depth. Those young guys are coming along, and as a result we're playing faster, more physical, more violent, because there's not a lot of thinking going on. They're able to react and apply our defense.

"i'm just proud of the improvement, as I said, early in the season we were going to be a work in progress, and that's what we've been, but we're playing pretty good football now. People are going to get 1st downs and there's going to be some plays made, but it's a four quarter game, and we are improving not only throughout the season but we're improving throughout the game, and that's a really, really positive sign for our defense."

On Clemson's defense not giving up points after turnovers: "You've got to give credit to our defense. (Duke) got zero points off four turnovers, and to take it a step further, our last eight turnovers that we've had, we've given up zero points. And so our defense deserves a lot of credit for that.

"We lead this league in red zone offense and defense, and to me the name of the game is points, and that's where our defense has really done a good job all year. Early in the year we gave up some big plays and all that, but we've been pretty good red zone and 3rd down all year. Our defense gets the credit for that."

On the importance of eliminating turnovers: "You won't win a lot of games when you're minus 4 in the turnover margin (as Clemson was against Duke). That's why we talk about turnover margin all the time. When we win the turnover margin we are incredibly difficult to beat. The last time we lost was the Auburn game of 2010, it was like the second game of the season, and that was in overtime at their place.

"So it's important that we win that turnover margin. That's a real key stat for us, not that you can't win if you lose it, but it's very difficult, and that was a big positive from the (Duke) game the other night was how our defense responded."

On what he saw in Tajh Boyd, coming out of high school: "Big time skill set, natural leader, fun to be around every day, serious about being great. Had a lot to learn, and we had to get him healthy, had to kind of change his body a little bit. He was coming off a knee surgery. He's just continued to grow and mature, and he's really developed into a heck of a quarterback this year.

"He was a good player last year, but not a great quarterback, and this year he's really matured into a very, very good quarterback, and he's become the leader of the team. He's not just our quarterback, he is the leader and the heart and soul, and I'm really proud of his overall development, and I look forward to bigger and better things from him."

On Boyd's freedom to run the football: "That's a big part of what we do. That was one of the things last year down the stretch where we really graded him down on, and he just was very inconsistent with his decision making in the run game. And this year he's been outstanding, and he's got a much better feel of not just making those decisions in the run game but his scrambling and where - his pocket presence and understanding the rush and the rush lanes, and being much more decisive when he does decide to tuck it and go. nd he's in great shape.

Last year, and we've talked about it many times, he came in about 220 and by the end of the season he was up in the upper 230s, just wasn't quite the same. Heck, he was 218 yesterday. He's just in great shape physically and mentally. His ability to run the football and his effectiveness with that has been a huge, huge part of our success this year."

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Comments » 4

StupidShouldHurtMore writes:

If Clemson wants to be a national contender, they have to improve their strength of schedule. Playing in the Anyone Can Compete conference doesn't make their case for lofty ranking, let alone the pipe-dream that is playing for a national championship in the modern era.

When you play Wake Forest, Maryland, Duke ... in FOOTBALL, you deserve BCS consideration again why?

Play an LSU ... an Alabama ... a Florida, week in and week out and then you *might* be considered some sort of contender. Get rid of the piddly non-conference opponents and play a Michigan or Southern Cal, or Texas. Now you might have some "cred" there ...


TiberBoy23663 writes:

I cannot WAIT for 11/24... I'm giddy!

33dtb writes:

...."In Dabo's Words: 'To be a national contender, we've got to win at home'..."

Like Alabama.
Did you see how Texas A&M's O-Line pushed Alabama's "D" around ??????????

LaLa 'bout beat Florida !!
Let's all hear another round of SEC propaganda.

Kimarie56 writes:

Correct me if I'm wrong, although not a contender this year, isn't Texas A&M in the SEC now? But you are correct about the Ragin' Cajuns, they played fine football yesterday!! As for our Tigers, them some fine playing sons of guns, I don't care who you are!! ACC may have their issues but don't downplay our guys & what they have accomplished! I will ALWAYS bleed Orange!!!

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