Dabo Swinney says Clemson still needs plenty of improvement

Clemson running back D.J. Howard is tackled by Boston College Eagles linebacker Nick Clancy in the first quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson running back D.J. Howard is tackled by Boston College Eagles linebacker Nick Clancy in the first quarter.

Chad Morris talks Clemson-BC


— Saturday, Clemson scored 45 points. Put up 576 yards of total offense, the 10th-best single-game total in program history.

The Tigers rose two spots in both national polls, to 15th entering this weekend’s visit from Georgia Tech.

But when asked about potentially overlooking the Yellow Jackets, coach Dabo Swinney made it clear plenty of work remains for his team, 4-1 overall and 1-1 in ACC play.

“If our guys are thinking that, they don’t have the right to think that,” Swinney said on his weekly Sunday teleconference. “We looked like the Keystone Kops out there. We’re a long way from overlooking anyone. We have a lot of improving to do as a team.”

Following the 45-31 win at Boston College, Clemson is 87th nationally in total defense, allowing 438 yards per game. Swinney said his defense “grew up” in the second half, but it is far from a finished product.

“We gave up too many chunk plays, making critical mistakes, a poor job with our eyes in particular,” he said. “We have to be disciplined with our eyes and trust in what we’re asked to do.”

He was proud about how his team bounced back from the 49-37 loss at No.4 Florida State, overcoming a slow start that saw Boston College take a 21-17 lead late in the first half.

“It was just a big win for our team,” Swinney said. “I was proud of our guys bouncing back; we had some adversity throughout the game.”

Sophomore cornerback Garry Peters, who replaced ineffective starter Darius Robinson, was a big part of that defensive improvement. Swinney says he has earned a starting role as practice begins this week.

“We’ll start Garry this week, I think he earned it,” Swinney said. “We were too inconsistent on the back end and he went in and did some good things. We’ll give him the opportunity to be the starter, but he’s got to practice well. He’ll be the starter going into (Monday’s) practice.”

In addition, redshirt freshman Ammon Lakip will be in the mix for kickoff duties alongside Bradley Pinion and Spencer Benton this week. Both have been inconsistent.

“We’re going to take a look at Ammon,” Swinney said. “It’s not something we’ve been concerned about. Benton and Pinion have not been good, they’ve been great through camp and the early part of the season. But last night and last week they’ve been inconsistent with the way they’ve been hitting the ball. We’ve got to get that fixed and resolved. We’ve had Ammon focus on field goals and he’s done a good job. We’ll see how they compete and go from there.”

Clemson came out of Boston College relatively healthy. Backup tailback D.J. Howard is questionable for Georgia Tech with a shoulder injury, while senior center Dalton Freeman finished the game with a thumb injury that isn’t expected to affect his status this week.

Star sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins missed the game with a mysterious abdominal virus; Swinney said trainer Danny Poole took him for further blood work Sunday, but he is improving.

“He feels a lot better, and that’s a good thing,” Swinney said. “He’s definitely improved greatly since Thursday night. We’ll find out more (Monday).”

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