Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke Tuesday at the ACC Media Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina about being the preseason favorite in the league. See what he said below. All quotes courtesy of ASAPSports.com.
Q. Coach, just your thoughts on being picked as the favorite to win it all and upend Florida State?
COACH SWINNEY: Good morning, everybody, first of all. But I don’t really have a lot of thoughts on it, to be honest with you. I never really get too caught up in the pre-season prediction-type stuff. I appreciate people having respect for our program and our players. But, you know, really it truly is about the performance. Hopefully when it’s all said and done in December, whoever voted for us, we can make them look really smart, see if we can get it done. I do think we’re definitely one of those teams. There’s several teams in this conference that I think have a chance to win the league. I think we’re one of them. Our guys realize over the next 46 days we got a lot of work to do to have a chance to do just that. So looking forward to it. We got a lot of people to replace, those type of things. I love our team. I love our roster. I definitely think we have as good a shot as anybody out there.
Q. I believe before you had a Twitter account, how did you use that then, and how do you use it now recruiting the guys?
COACH SWINNEY: I’m what they call a Twitter quitter (smiling). I think I quit in like ’09. I didn’t last very long. Yeah, I don’t tweet. I don’t really think people really care what I’m doing or what my opinion is on certain things from day-to-day. I’m not really interested in having a bunch of followers or whatever. I’m kind of old school with modern ways, if you will. Steal a line my O-line coach talks about all the time, I’m young, but I’m still kind of traditional in ways. I still actually like to talk to people on the phone. I still do snail mail, email, all those type of things. Certainly it’s a huge part of our program, social media. We have a very active social media department, if you will. Our staff does a great job. Right now Twitter for the coaches has been a way to communicate with the players. That’s been very helpful. I think the texting thing is probably going to change at some point here in the near future, which will probably alleviate some of the need to have to use the Twitter. Really doesn’t make much sense right now. You can tweet ’em, but you can’t text ’em. I don’t really participate too much in that. But we do as a program. There’s a lot of things that I’ll suggest from time to time, Hey, let’s send this out, so forth.
Q. I know you have two games before it, but that first ACC game against Louisville. What are your thoughts on the overall Thursday night game?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, seems like we get a Thursday night game every year on the road somewhere. That’s just kind of one of the things that comes with the territory at Clemson. But it’s going to be a tough venue. I personally have never played there or coached there, but I certainly have seen Louisville on TV many, many times, especially on Thursday night. I know it will be a great crowd, a lot of anticipation leading up to the game. The biggest thing for me is the preparation of it. It’s a very, very difficult challenge to get a team ready. We play on Saturday afternoon against App State. You have Sunday, Monday, Tuesday to get ready, challenge on Wednesday. A difficult challenge from a routine standpoint in prepping your team. We’ll definitely have to have a good plan as we move forward through our fall camp preparing for that. Look forward to going up there.
Q. Deshaun Watson showed you some things last year. What can you say about him? Picked as the pre-season Player of the Year at this point.
COACH SWINNEY: He’s as advertised. Y’all are picking him to be the pre-season Player of the Year and all that stuff based on what y’all have seen. He’s beyond what you’ve seen. He is a great football player, there’s no question about that. It’s pretty easy to watch this kid play and say, Wow, this is a rare guy. But what you don’t know, he’s only been in college a year. What you don’t really know is who he is. I mean, this is a special person. He really is. He’s a great leader. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. I haven’t been around many seniors with the football IQ that this man possesses right now as a true sophomore. Really excited about his future, his potential. Can’t wait to get him back out on the field. When he’s out there, we got a chance each and every play for something good to happen. That’s a good thing.
Q. Coach Tommy Bowden, how has he influenced you as a coach? With being picked pre-season ACC champion, with the Player of the Year, anything specific you do to try to keep the team grounded in the face of those expectations?
COACH SWINNEY: First of all, I love Coach Bowden. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Tommy Bowden. He was my first position coach at Alabama. A lot of people don’t know that. When I first joined the team in the fall of ’88, spring of ’89, fall of ’89, he was the receiver coach. I really liked him as a coach. He was an excellent receiver coach, a lot of energy. Then right after my redshirt freshman year he left for Kentucky. But we always kind of maintained a relationship. He was only at Kentucky for like a year, then he was at Auburn. As I finished my playing career, I would see him before the games. We would always talk. Then I got right into coaching. So I’d see him on the road all the years that I was at Alabama and he was at Auburn. Then obviously he got the Tulane job. I was still at Alabama coaching receivers then. So always communicated with him.
Even when he went to Clemson. Just a real blessing. He literally called me out of the blue on a Friday. I coached eight years at Alabama, then got out of coaching ’01 and ’02, those two seasons. He just called me in February of ’03, asked me if I was interested in getting back into coaching. I said, Absolutely. Had it not been for that relationship, just that seed that was planted years ago when I was just a young player, probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity. So very fortunate that he gave me a chance to come to Clemson. We have a great relationship. In fact, that was my very first interview was Coach Bowden. What a way to start the day off. But he’s been incredibly supportive. In fact, when they made the change at Clemson, Terry Don Phillips, I’ll never forget it, that day, his exact words to me were, That was Coach Bowden’s suggestion, would he give me a shot to be the interim. I’m very much indebted to Tommy Bowden. He’s as good as it gets as far as a person. I’m not sure he’s quite all into this media stuff, but he’s getting better. I think he’s getting more entrenched. Really I appreciate the opportunity.
As far as the expectations, we talk about that stuff with our players all the time, whether it’s good or bad. Just don’t pay attention to that stuff. I think Oklahoma last year was picked to win the national championship, pretty much maybe the consensus. That just doesn’t mean anything. It’s fun for talk, fun to predict, all that. There’s so many things that go into a season. What I tell our guys is, when we won the league in 2011, I don’t think we were ranked in the top 25 pre-season, yet we won the ACC. I’ve been on teams that were pre-season top 10 that didn’t finish ranked. So what you better focus on is you better have a formula for excellence that you believe in and that better be what you focus on. Don’t get distracted by that stuff. This is a game of performance, not potential. It’s great that people say, hey, they have good potential, but it’s really about the performance on those 12 Saturdays. Come November and December, that stuff is a little more meaningful.
Q. You already mentioned the Louisville game. After that you also have Notre Dame, Georgia Tech. What is your outlook on that part of the schedule?
COACH SWINNEY: They’re all tough. There are just no easy Saturdays, despite what some people may think. When you do this for a living, there’s no easy Saturday. Every week is you better be all in and fully prepared and have great respect for the opponent that you’re playing. That’s just what we try to do. We like to tell our guys, We’re playing Clemson 12 times. Let’s take care of Clemson. We’re going to prepare each and every week for whoever the opponent is. Let’s take care of Clemson. Let’s be committed to how we prepare, the effort that we apply, our commitment on and off the field. Those are the things that we talk about. You can pull out any of them, any opponent on our schedule. They’re going to get our best because we know we’re going to get their best for sure. I’m excited about Notre Dame in particular just because as a college football fan, as well, never had the opportunity to go to Notre Dame, play Notre Dame, coach against Notre Dame. That’s exciting to be a part of that game at Clemson because it’s been I think since ’78 since they came to Clemson.
Q. Right after Florida State, your memories of last time you were at the Dome. There was a little run-in with the coach. Talk about your thoughts on that.
COACH SWINNEY: Tremendous place to go play. Really that was a neat experience. Obviously glad we won the game. Our guys played well. Coach Shafer’s first year. He was just kind of getting going. We had a strong team that year. But I’ll tell you, he’s done a great job in really building them up. They’re a tough team to play, done a great job in coaching those guys. I loved playing up there. I thought it was really cool, just the whole environment of Syracuse. I’d never been there. But I’m glad we played well. It’s definitely a place, if it’s a tight game in the fourth quarter, the crowd can be a factor.