Clemson Football

'Proud' Dabo Swinney says Clemson 'competed every snap' in 2021 regular season

December 28, 2021
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Find out what Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell had to say before Wednesday’s Cheez-It Bowl matchup in Orlando by watching the full video above. Remember to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay updated. Click the bell on YouTube to get notified when we are LIVE. Clemson Sports Talk can be heard daily from 4-6 PM on Fox Sports Radio 1400 and  on iHeart Radio.

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DABO SWINNEY: Good morning, everyone. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and enjoyed the week. We've had a great visit. It's flown by. I knew it would. Just really proud of our team and how they have handled themselves, and we've had great preparation.

Very appreciative of all the effort and work, first of all, that goes into making it a great experience. It's an enormous, enormous undertaking by all the volunteers that are part of the Cheez-It Bowl. Obviously, great sponsors supporting the Bowl. Logistics, from hotels to travel, you name it, there's a lot that goes into it. I appreciate all those efforts to make it to where we can show up and really be able to enjoy it but also get our work done.

And then same thing with our staff, our support staff and logistical team, if you will. They have done an amazing job to make it an efficient week for everyone involved, all of our families.

So it's been great. I was just riding over here, I was just saying, what a great city Orlando is and really, I mean, you know, I think is built to handle really anything, from a Super Bowl or whatever it is. It's got great infrastructure.

And from a Bowl experience and having been to Bowls all over the country, it doesn't get any better than this when it comes to the experience for your families and all that there is to do and same thing for your team.

It's been a great week and a fast week, and we are excited about competing against a really, really good Iowa State team. Matt is a guy I've got a ton of respect for. He's one of the guys in the profession that I will keep up with and pay attention to because I think he's got a lot of substance to him and I think he coaches for the right reasons, and that's why his team is where it is and the program that he's built there and what he's done there is incredible.

So it's an honor to be here and look forward to a great competitive game.

MATT CAMPBELL: From my end, I certainly echo some of the very similar sentiments, being here now, our second time in three years in Orlando, the experience and the opportunity to bring our football team and our program here to this city; the events, the time, the effort that the leadership has put in to making this Bowl experience first class has been second-to-none.

We know the time and effort by so many people that go into making this a really special trip; it's first class. From my end and our staff's end and our players' end, it's certainly appreciated. We're certainly a staff that's got a lot of young kids.

To be in Orlando, that's a tremendous opportunity for our football players in general. There are two classes that were not with us the last time we came. To see their excitement and to be able to go through the city, and then obviously the weather is pretty hard to beat. I don't know if we'll see this in Ames, Iowa, here until about May. So I think that's certainly a great part for everybody involved.

From our end, from a football standpoint, it's been a great week as well. We've got a great mix of an older and a younger team in a lot of ways. Really valuable experience for us to be down here in this environment.

To really go through this journey together has been a real joy, really, to be honest with you, since the end of the TCU game for us, and competing against Coach Swinney, as I've said multiple times, just the utmost respect for who he is, what he's about in this profession, how he's built a football program. That part, for me, is a great honor, to be able to compete, our team and our program, against this great Clemson program and what he's been able to build.

Obviously, Breece Hall will not be in the game due to going for the NFL Draft. A few years ago that was taboo, and now it is commonplace and might even look good for a program. Talk about player mobility in the college landscape here.

MATT CAMPBELL: That's unique from an Iowa State standpoint just because Breece is such a unique football player. He's a young man that has done everything for the betterment of Iowa State Football from the day he's been on our campus.

We certainly understand the situation and the opportunity that he has in front of him, and yet I would say Breece has been the ultimate leader in that running back room, even since he decided that the best thing for him was to not play in this game.

That's what I love about Breece. He's one of those young men that's been such an integral part of the growth of our football program in every way, shape and form.

What's going on in the overall landscape, Coach Swinney and I have had those conversations. It's an interesting time of where we're going and what's going to occur, but I do think these Bowl experiences are really special.

I think it's special for communities and programs, especially like ours at Iowa State, where you can rally around these opportunities. And for the 18- to 22-year-olds that would maybe never get these experiences, I think these are priceless.

And so you know, from my end, I think Breece is certainly an outlier, but we understand and certainly support him in every way, shape and form.

Little bit of a follow-up to your opening statement, what you said about Coach Campbell, what do you see specifically in him? There's hundreds of coaches out there. What do you see in him building this program that stands out to you?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, first of all, how he's done it in Ames, Iowa. You know, I mean, I'm not sure of the history of Iowa State, but I know what he's done since he's been there has put Ames, Iowa, on the map.

You know, to be able to go into a place that really hasn't won at the level he's won and do it, there's something unique there.

I think you have to do it differently, and I think that's intrigued me. Young guy, came from Toledo, kept up with him a little bit there and watched him from afar, how he's responded, how they have handled success, how they have handled failure, listening to him, you can just tell he's a coach of substance.

First time I met him was in the airport. We were crossing paths, kind of a random meeting, and swapped numbers there. And next thing you know, brought him out to Clemson, and we hung out for a day or two. Spent some time together. He spoke at our clinic, and then our defensive staff actually went out there.

So, you know, I just think that he's a very bright coach. But more than anything, I think he represents what a coach should be. I think he truly coaches for the right reasons. He cares about the whole player, his staff.

And I think that's one of the reasons he hasn't had a lot of staff turnover. Most of his staff's been together for many years now, and I think that says a lot.

But, I mean, they play with anybody. You look at every game this year, I mean, they could be in the Playoff right now; they are a few plays away from that, literally, every game, down to the wire.

I think when you see a team compete the way they have competed, it just says a lot about the culture that's been established around them, and that doesn't just happen.

So good football coach, bright future, and Iowa State is a school that's not going away.

What do you figure your final words to Brock Purdy will be?

MATT CAMPBELL: I think you can sum it up in really two words, is thank you.

Thank you for believing in a vision. Thank you for staying the course. Thank you for fighting through really good times and fighting through really tough times, and thank you for leading with class every step of the way.

You know, Brock, as I have said many times, our program has grown with Brock Purdy, and we have been able to stay the course through almost every ounce of adversity that's come our way because of how he's handled adversity.

I think it's a really simple sum-up, is thank you. It was his birthday yesterday. As I whispered into his ear as we went out to practice, 'You deserve the world because you've given us everything that we could ever have asked for, and we are really grateful for everything you've done and accomplished here.'

Just really excited to be able to lead with him one more time and really excited to watch what he does going forward.

You just alluded to this being the landscape change and it's been an interesting time. By my count, you've got 12 players in the transfer portal. Why is that, and what do you do about it?

MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, I don't think you do much about it other than you keep building your program. It's certainly an interesting time. I think whatever my opinions are on what this time is are really irrelevant other than I still believe that the college journey between 18 and 22 years old is about – it's transformational rather than transactional.

I've always believed it's about the entire collegiate experience. And to me, you only continue to strengthen and build your program in a time where I think the rest of the world wants you to become transactional. The rest of the college football landscape wants you to become transactional.

To be honest with you, it's why I have so much respect for Coach Swinney and what the Clemson program has done because I really believe he's built his program through transformational leadership and transformational value system. It's really hard to find in our profession today, probably getting harder and will continue to get harder.

But if that's not the way we can coach or I can coach, then maybe that's not the way to continue to do it anymore, as well. But for me, it's continuing to build your program the right way and continue to align yourself with the coaches and players that believe in that kind of system.

So you hate it that we've been very fortunate and we've had great alignment and little turnover in our program. For the first time, we've had a little bit of it. But you learn from it and build from it and continue to try to build your program the right way.

If the average Clemson fan or the above-average Clemson fan asks you to describe the current state of the Clemson program, how would you answer that?

DABO SWINNEY: Good as it's ever been.

Elaboration, a little bit?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, we've got a great young nucleus of players. Got just about everybody back. Not a single lineman that's going to play that's not back. All the running backs are back. Eventually we'll get all of these receivers back. We have got an unbelievable tight end room. We have got a great young quarterback that's gotten better and better through the year. We've got a great recruiting class coming in, nine mid-years.

Got a pretty good defensive line. Every one of them, I don't think – well, we might lose one, but they could all be back. Everybody inside's back. We may lose a corner. Definitely going to lose one. We're going to lose one safety, a couple linebackers, but we have got all these great young guys that have gained a lot of experience. We have our kicker back. He's pretty good.

We've got a couple pretty good, young snappers that nobody knows about that can zip that sucker back there. We've still got another Swinney to hold the ball. We've got a great coaching staff. We still are in Clemson, South Carolina. We've got the best game day experience environment in the country.

I mean, I don't know what else I could say. We just won nine football games, and you know, we're a couple plays away from being in the Playoff as well. We lost to a good Georgia team on a Pick-Six, they are pretty good. We lost to a pretty good NC State team at their place in double overtime and lost to the ACC champion Pitt that just made a couple more plays than we did.

But our team competed every snap, all year and never made any excuses. And they are all here. So I mean, you can't get excited about that, I don't know what else there is to be excited about.

Again we've got a great group of people. We've won with people and we've still got a great group of people, so we're in a lot better shape today than we were ten years ago, I can tell you that.

That elaboration enough? (Laughter) okay. All right. Elaborate. That's the word of the day.

You talked about the importance of the Bowl period for younger players and obviously the portal and Breece going to the NFL has opened the door for some opportunities for young guys to not only play in practice but get a big role in the game. How big can that be for guys like Beau and so on down the line, Jirehl?

MATT CAMPBELL: Yeah, I would just say, man, like remember Beau Freyler was a freshman all-conference football player in the Big 12. Jirehl Brock was critical to our success this fall.

What I think is huge for those guys is they gained real-life experience this fall for our team and in a lot of ways were a key part of our success in being able to fight through the adversities of the season and in some ways, I think our coaching staff felt like were the springboard to the future of our football program already because of what they have done this fall.

Yes, this time of year is awesome for young players to get great opportunity and great experience, but I think equal, it's been really fun – I said to our freshmen class as we were walking off the field yesterday; man what that group has done since fall camp. This is a group that we recruited here and if you would have told me any of our freshmen would have played on this year's team, I would have chuckled at it.

Yet there are so many key contributors in this freshman class that came in with that competitive spirit and came in and challenged right away and I thought were really a huge asset for our team from the time they stepped on campus. I just think it's been really fun to watch that group grow and he involve over the length of the season. I think there's a general excitement. I don't know if I've felt as much excitement about where our team is and where it has got the ability to go than what I have felt over the last month.

So I think there's a lot of excitement. Like Coach was saying, we have 12 mid-years coming in right now that will join us in January. And to me, I kind of always look at alignment: Where are we and are we aligned, and I would probably say we are as aligned today as we have ever been moving forward and I think that part is really exciting for myself and I know our coaching staff, and I think the young leadership in our football team coming back.

With Bowl games continuing to get postponed or canceled across the country, was there ever any consideration to pull out of the Bowl game and any precautions you guys took while you were here?

MATT CAMPBELL: I know from our end, coming from Ames, Iowa to Orlando, there was no chance we were going to pass that opportunity up.

No, I would just say we never had an issue or had anything to worry about. Our kids have done a phenomenal job really over the last two years of understanding the challenges that are out there, trying to do what's best for everybody withinside of our walls and trying to do a great job of keeping health and safety at the forefront of everything we've done. I really appreciate our kids' ownership and buy-in value to that experience.

No, we were really looking forward to this opportunity and certainly did everything we could to get ourselves down here and be safe and ready to play.

DABO SWINNEY: Same here. The guys have done a great job all year. Everybody has had to manage a spot or two along the way.

But, no, we are super excited to be here. It's been an awesome experience and really kind of fun because – and we've always, even in six playoffs – well, last year didn't really count because that was a two-day away trip. We just went to the hotel and didn't leave our rooms hardly.

But prior to that, even in the playoff games all the way back, we have always tried to really value the Bowl experience. I've always really tried to make it a memorable experience for the families and our players. We have not changed that approach one bit. We have won a bunch of Bowl games and playoff games, but we really haven't treated this any different from the playoff experience.

The cool thing for me is we have a bunch of guys on the team that have never experienced a Bowl. Because last year, all the new people last year didn't get a Bowl, and then you have a lot of new people this year. So it was really cool. They really didn't know what to expect. So to watch them go through that has been a lot of fun. It's been a great time and there's been no thoughts of not playing or anything like that for us.

To piggyback off of that question, what do you think when you see games, teams have gone through practice and kept kids maybe quarantined, and you see the games canceled? How blessed do you feel to be able to play this game, and has COVID hit either one of your teams and do you expect anybody to not play?

DABO SWINNEY: Super blessed, thankful. Your heart hurts for all of these people. It's an enormous amount of preparation that goes into getting ready for a football game. But when you have this amount of time and all the things that you have to balance and plan for and do, it's a lot, and to not be able to play.

And then those seniors, you know, I know for our guys, we've got a lot of guys that are going to wear that paw for one last time, and it's important to them. It's a big deal. You've poured so much into something. Our sixth-year seniors have had 700-something practices at Clemson, 69 games, and they are fighting to have one more. I mean, I think that's a really cool thing.

So you hurt for them, but we are thankful and blessed and grateful that we've able to make it through this season without a lot of issues from a COVID standpoint. Our guys have done a great job.

As far as this trip, we have had two guys that are out from a COVID standpoint and then another one that's quarantined, a protocol guy. But outside of that, we've been in good shape.

MATT CAMPBELL: I would say the same comments about what Coach said, thankful and grateful we get the opportunity to play.

Your heart hurts for the teams and certainly the young 18- to 22-year-olds that put the time and effort to prepare, to train and go play in that game. Whether it's three days out, four days out, five days out that, that game doesn't go, that's really hard, especially for the seniors, and let alone your fan bases who maybe some of those fan bases are already out there and traveled to get to those games or those universities.

You see the time and the effort that so many people have put in to making this function go off; that to not have those experiences occur, especially this late in the game, I think that's really hard.

Fortunately, from our end, we have been in a really great situation from the COVID standpoint. Our kids have done a great job. We hadn't had any issues this season, and as of right now, we don't have any issues.

You elaborated before about how much talent you have up-and-coming, a lot of that is on the defensive line there, too. How do you prepare younger guys against a quarterback as experienced as Brock Purdy? He's going to be on his way out, he's graduating. Are there any intangibles you prepare them for this that situation?

DABO SWINNEY: No, you just get them ready for who they are and what they do. He's a great player. He's a gamer. We're not playing freshmen over there. You know, Myles Murphy is not a young player. Xavier Thomas is not a young player. K.J. is not young. Mascoll. Ruke's played 12 games now as a third-year sophomore. Tyler Davis is a junior. Skalski and Spector have played 10,000 games. Nolan Turner has played 20 years. Booth and Mario are juniors and seniors.

So we don't really have a lot of young guys over there. They have played against a lot of great players. So you just have to get ready for what they do and try to affect him. It's easier said than done. Like I said, he's a gamer.

The flip side of that is he's seen it all, too. Not much he hasn't seen. He's very well coached and very well prepared and has a great understanding of their offense and ownership of what they do and knows how to get them in and out of bad plays. So, you know, takes care of the ball.

I mean, this is a team that doesn't beat itself. That's the one thing that jumps out at you about Iowa State when you watch them. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They don't beat themselves. They are one of the least penalized teams in the country.

So it's a challenge, again, schematically in what they do, but we just, you know, got to apply our knowledge. The knowledge – we've all acquired some knowledge at this point, but, you know, wisdom is applying the knowledge. And so that's what we've got to do. We've got to be a wise football team against a great quarterback.

I don't think E.J. Williams was in practice yesterday. Do you have an update on him?

DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, he's in COVID protocol. Unfortunately. Just when I thought we were getting a break (chuckling).

Talking about Clemson's defense; how do you crack that defense?

MATT CAMPBELL: Boy, you know, just like you said with Coach, it's a veteran defense. They are elite at almost every position group. I think when you have really talented players that have great experience like Coach has, the way they have played, really, through the entirety of the football season, it's a great challenge for our football team.

You know, I think it really starts up front for them, and then you look at that secondary and the veteranness of the linebacking crew, I think from our end, you've got to try not to make mistakes on the offensive side of things in some way, shape and form as you go into it because you know you're going to get a great team that's going to have great experience, that's going to put great pressure on all phases of what you try to do offensively.

I think the starting point is doing a great job of not making mistakes on the offensive side of the football.

How big of a concern is your lack of depth at wide receiver?

DABO SWINNEY: Well, we've had seven scholarship receivers out the last two games. We're beyond that now. We just roll with it. We're experienced at not having guys. Nothing you can do. Get the next guys ready. Excited about that.

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'Proud' Dabo Swinney says Clemson 'competed every snap' in 2021 regular season

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