Clemson Football

Dabo Swinney 'likes the attitude' of the 2022 Clemson Tigers heading into opener

September 2, 2022

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Dabo Swinney had a lot to say on Thursday about Clemson’s opener against Georgia Tech, including an important stat on conference openers. Plus, Swinney pushed his stance forward that NIL is good for the players, especially at Clemson, where it’s become a purpose-driven initiative. 

Watch the entire press conference above or catch a few unedited notes below.

Opening Statement:

“This is what it's all about. I mean, we've been going since January. So this is just kind of the next step for us in our, in our journey of 2022. And it's finally here, and we're ready to kick it off. I cannot wait to see us play. I want to see us compete against somebody else. We've competed-- we've had three weeks of camp. That's the longest camp we've had in quite a while, several years now. But school starting a week later, gave us an extra week of camp when you're not on the 20-hour clock and all that stuff. So it was a really good camp, but a lot of competition, a lot of competition on our practice field. I love how the guys showed up every single day and, and brought it."

"We've got a committed group. We've got a team that's really fun to work with. I think that we've got excellent leadership, but probably more than anything, I just like the attitude of this team. I like their attitude. I liked their work ethic. I think there's a lot of character in this group. Those are intangibles that win. I think this team has a lot of great intangibles to go along with the measurables that you need to be successful."

On Openers:

"All the openers are hard. Always. I think for everyone, the openers are typically the toughest game to prepare for because you got so much time. There's so much there. You've got no tape. You look at last year's tape, but you know, it's new, it's new coaches galore, new coordinators, everybody's got their own thing. You've had forever to get ready, and you don't have any video evidence kind of confirming what you think they may do. So you have to prepare for a lot in these types of games."

On opening with a conference game:

"For us, conference play right out of the gate, our focus is to really just achieve our first goal, and that is to win the opener. That may seem like a simple goal, but if you look at how that applies to the championships at Clemson-- there's been 26 conference championships at Clemson-- in all the leagues we've been in, historically, and Clemson is 23-2-1. Those championship teams are 23-2-1 in winning openers. So it's a pretty significant game when it comes to championship teams. I'm 7-0 on our seven ACC championship teams, we won the opener, every single one of those teams. Our six playoff teams, all won the opener. We didn't win the league last year, and we didn't win the opener. Our goal is simply to try to find a way to achieve the first goal and then we go from there."

On having more respect for GT after a 14-8 win last season:

"Oh, heck yeah. I mean, we got respect for anybody that we play, and especially our conference. I mean, you've got to show up ready every single week. We were fortunate to find a way to win the game last year. We know that we got to do some things better. We had some opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, but I thought they played a hard-fought game, just like we did. We were at home and found a way to win, and now we got to go on the road and find a way to do the same thing. They'll be as excited as we are. Both of us are undefeated, and one of us is gonna come out with a loss. So, being excited, don't get it done. We've got to go execute and earn it on the field."

On the defensive line depth vs. previous groups:

"On paper-- they haven't done anything, but on paper, it reminds me of our 2014 defensive line. Everybody talks about 2018, and that was a great group, but really, very young behind, we got lucky, you got to have some luck to win a National Championship. You got to get a little luck along the way and we were very, very fortunate that Christian (Wilkins) and Dexter (Lawrence) and Clelin (Ferrell) and Austin (Bryant) played every game, and we had Albert (Huggins). We kind of had five guys, and if you really look at the roster, we were really young and very inexperienced and very unproven behind those guys. Those guys had to play a lot of snaps. We had a very young Justin Foster that was moving from linebacker. We had Logan Rudolph, Xavier Thomas was a true freshman, and some other young guys in there. So we were very fortunate. But that's what it takes to have a season like that. Our 2014 team-- just the opposite. They had some misfortune. If you go back and look at our '14 teams. You look at that D-tackle group Deshawn Williams-- he's on year eight with the Broncos. Carlos Watkins. D.J. Reader. Grady Jarrett. The only guy I knew was gonna start was Grady. And it wasn't because he was more talented than anybody. He just separated himself in every area. But that other spot, I mean, these guys are all NFL guys, but Dan (Brooks) would grade them all the way through the Tiger Walk and how he felt like they looked in pregame."

On what Blake Miller did to earn trust at right tackle:

"Same thing Mitch did, except he's bigger, stronger, longer. But similar demeanor as Mitch. I think Mitch was maybe 290 when he came in here and started as a freshman, but just similar characteristics. Blake, he's a giant, and he's one of the strongest kids on the team. It's just amazing to see a high school kid coming here like that. Just rare. Obviously, he came in January, so his ability to have the opportunity to go through some installation and really physically, he was ready, which is rare for a lineman. Really any position, but mentally just took to it, like a fish to water. And that's the way Mitch was. That's why he is where he is. He's earned it. It's created some opportunity and flexibility with that entire group, but really proud of him. He and (Colin) Sadler, the other true freshmen that came in, in January, both are really, really talented freshmen that will help us this year."

On why Clemson didn’t use the portal for the offensive line:

"Both of those combinations. Coming out of spring, we were really, really encouraged and excited about the guys that we have on the roster that we've recruited, that are developing. But we felt like with (Mason) Trotter out, that veteran guy, we felt like if we could find the right fit, a veteran, a graduate, a multi-year starter, somebody like that, then we would certainly consider that. There were two kids that we offered that we really, really liked, we just didn't get them. But there was nobody else that fit what we were looking for-- and certainly compared to what we had on the roster."

On the Oklahoma and Virginia games coming up Saturday:

"Absolutely. I can't wait to see him. It's Tuesday to me it's Thursday to them. So I'm sure they're both kind of getting a little jacked up. So I'll probably shoot them a little text. Reach out to them here. I can't wait. It will be fun."

On if it’s better to have a punter and kicker-- or one guy who does both:

"It doesn't matter. Whoever gets the job done. There was a guy named Gardocki here, that was pretty good at everything. So what's ideal is having a guy that can put it through the pipes and bomb it. And if it's the same guy doing it-- great. It doesn't matter. There's no grey area and those jobs. Those are very easy positions to evaluate. Whoever is the most consistent at getting it done, I don't really care if he does all three or whatever.  Potter can do it.  I think it's really going to help him for the next level because they don't keep many guys. They dress about 48 on game day, so the more guys you have that can do multiple things that's more spots for another position."

On taking the pressure off D.J. Uiagalelei:

"Well, I think just really more what you said first, I mean, we just got to be better around him. If we're better around him, there will be less pressure on him. Period. That's not a knock on last year, but we got to be healthier. And if we're healthier, we're going to be better. If we're better around him, he will be better. Then he's got to do the things that he needs to do within his own world as well. I feel great about the supporting cast, starting with the guys up front, and if they'll just go play like they've practiced, I think will certainly be much better."

On the outside perception that he’s against NIL:

"Yeah, I don't know, people, people like to write that. I've never been against the NIL. Doesn't matter how many times I say stuff like that. People already have their stories written. But that is what it is. It's been great for us. I mean, it really has. It's been great. I know, there are a lot of unintended consequences that have come about because of the changes, and hopefully, those will smooth out or there'll be some order put into place somewhere down the road.  I know, there are some crazy things that other places have dealt with, and we just have not. I'm just being honest with you. I think it's just how we do things, how rooted and connected we are. I'm on your 20 here. I would hate to be starting out, and trying to manage everything that you got to manage. It's been great for us. It's been awesome, man. It's been great for our guys to be able to have, you know, opportunities. We've got a couple of great collectives out there. I guess I can talk about that-- that I think, align with who we are as a program-- we're purpose driven. It's great to see our guys serving the community. It's great to see our guys giving back, and it's great to see them have the opportunity to make some money."

On the future of college football:

"There's a lot of talk in college football about professionalizing, and NIL is not professionalizing it's them being able to do what they want to do with their name, their image, and their likeness. I would hate to see, you go away from a collegiate model. I would love to see them enhance the scholarship. I would love to see us make sure that we don't ever get away from the main thing in college athletics-- and that is education. We know that 98% are not going to play in the NFL. That is not some make-believe thing. So if we don't keep education, the main thing, we're gonna have a lot of guys with no degrees. We are going to have a lot of people, especially in the transfer, and all this stuff, you're gonna have kids all over the place, the next thing, you know, they're gonna end up in a ditch. They're not going to be equipped, and they're not gonna have degrees. I've been doing this a long time, I'm very well qualified to speak on it. To me, I would love to see him further incentivize graduation.  I would love that. However you want to get to it, that would be, to me, an awesome thing. I think the more we can incentivize graduation, the better it is for the young people that are playing this game."

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Dabo Swinney 'likes the attitude' of the 2022 Clemson Tigers heading into opener

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