Here we go. This is it--the game that defines the entire Clemson season. Sure you can have a good season without beating the Coots but you can't have a great season. Even if you won a National Championship and lost to the Coots it would feel hallow in a way. Dabo seems to disagree with me on this.
I'm sure you disagree with the fact that a lot of things would be for naught if you don't win Saturday.
Swinney: I think that's sad. People who say that have no appreciation for winning and how hard it is to win. It's hard to win 10 ballgames. It's hard to do. The people who say those things, they don't get it. Yeah, you'd be incredibly disappointed. You have to live with it all year. It's pride. State pride. Everybody lives with it. You lose this game, you deal with that. So if we're 0-11 but win this game, that's a good season? I don't think so. All I want to do is for us to play our best.
It is not a great season if you beat the Coots, Dabo has that right. But that is because it is the standard and expectation to beat them. You can't have a great season by beating them but you can't have one without beating them as well (I'm sure many will disagree with this).
The only injury of note is that Bashaud Breeland is now out for Saturday. He was obviously not at 100% last week. The real question is how injured are the feet of Connor Shaw and Doo Doo Jadeveon Clowney? Watching the Wofford game Shaw was visibly bothered and was staying in the pocket and throwing more off his back foot to compensate for the hurt foot. He wasn't rolling out and making plays with his speed and finding open receivers. He is obviously at his best not in the pocket where he has a bit of trouble locating his receivers downfield (because he is a bit short and his WR's are very short targets). When Shaw can run the South Carolina offense is potent and can be very impressive when Shaw gets on a role. Without that threat I think he is an average QB who struggles going through his progressions.
Doo Doo is another mystery. Supposedly he has practiced fine but he is already scheduled to have surgery on the foot in the offseason so this is not some ailment that will magically get better. What Clowney will receive is a steady dose of pain killers so that he can play. To what extent he can play is the question and will our pace on offense limit him even more. Right now I can't see him playing more than three straight series without a break. Clowney makes an already talented pass rush, one of the best in the nation. I see him playing the same role that Spiller did against Carolina his senior year in terms of playing time.
Morris talked about Clowney and the defensive line's use of the Rabbit package (where they put four defensive ends on the line) saying:
They haven’t quite been as much rabbit package as they were a year ago, but they are very talented up front--there is no question about that. They play a lot of man, and a lot of man free, the same thing we have said each week. They play their safety extremely deep, and try to not let anybody get behind him. They try to out-physical you out on the edge. They feel like they can stop the run with their front and man you up and they have had a lot of success with that this year. They are as good of a defensive line as we have seen, and we all know about Clowney and the player that he is, maybe one of the best in the country. They are doing a few things different than they did last year, but they are still playing their four down.
My three main concerns for this game after NC State are the Clemson secondary, Clemson punting, and Clemson kick coverage. The secondary needs better Safety play, communication, and better CB technique (Dr. B said everything in his post-game recap of NC State). I think the Linebackers have to cover the South Carolina Tight Ends better this week than they did against NC State. Justice Cunningham is a huge safety valve for Shaw and has come up with some big plays for them this season. LB's can't lose Running Backs and TE's this week in coverage.
Punting and kickoff coverage are big against South Carolina. We need to make them earn their yards and can't give up points off of turnovers or kicks to Ace Sanders. Byrd and Ellington are legitimate threats. The left side of our coverage was embarrassing last week and has been weak all season. We are ranked in the 90's in kickoff coverage nationally.
Swinney was also asked about reflecting on his maturation as a coach by good ol' Ron Morris.
You mentioned the manturation of Boyd and the team. Have you matured as a coach from three years ago to now?
Swinney: Can't you tell? I'm 43 today, Ron. I was 38 when I got pushed into this grease pit. Absolutely. I think we all mature. I was a better player as a senior than a freshman. I was a better student as a senior. I'm a better husband 19 years into marriage. I'm a better Christian now from when I first decided that was the path I wanted to go. I'm a better father. I think as you mature, you get better at everything. I'm much more mature just because of experience and going through things. You learn and grow and I work hard at it. I'm always trying to improve. I'm never satisfied. I don't want our team and our coaches to be satisfied. You always try to get better. When you're through improving, you're through.
I think Swinney has matured as a coach and I will cry crocodile tears when Morris leaves but Morris has allowed Swinney to grow into being a head coach. I will miss the one liners and prescient commentary from the Chad.
I think you had a quarterback that wasn’t running the ball very effectively. He was standing back there like a concrete deer. A statue. Really, that is what he was. He was hit early, and he had lost his fundamentals and his technique and wasn’t moving as well. He was a sitting target. But it was several guys. We looked at the things they did that caused us problems, but this is two different teams.
Boyd will be the difference in this game. For a minute or two last week against NC State we saw the team almost revert back to the woes of last season. Boyd threw a pick, Morris was calling too many passing plays, and everyone seemed to be pressing. Boyd seemed prone to having a Werner moment but that didn't happen. He ran for a first down and was able to settle the whole team down. Boyd will have the stage to prove he is one of the best in the game. Hopefully the student section doesn't leave at halftime this week. Swinney got it right when asked about Maryland.
It caught me off guard. Just a surprise, but not a shocker. Who knows anymore. You just have no idea. I just keep my head down and I'm trying to get a first down.
Keep your head down, get a first down and beat the Coots!! Happy Turkey Day!