Dabo went on the offensive in his post-Georgia interview with the media, challenging them to move beyond the 'Clemsoning' narrative. I hate the term but it's true we have had a decade of Tommy Bowden being up and down and even Dabo had the Orange Bowl debacle. That being said Clemsoning is hot garbage and largely comes from being an easy media-driven narrative that lazy commentators latch on to (looking at you Jesse Palmer). Dabo has been sticking it to the media by saying that we are one of 6 teams that has been ranked in the top 25 the past 30 weeks of college football. He was right that it is time to talk about what Clemson has done and less about what we haven't. FSU and Georgia seem to lose every year as well inexplicably. NC State says hello. That is not to say that Thursday night games on the road don't creep me out (Maryland and State are those trap games).
Question: Talk about the last time you played S.C. State and where the program was then and where it is now.
Swinney. We're a long way away from where we were. We have a foundation in place to sustain some success. I felt we were built to make a run two years ago from a personnel standpoint. I think we're in the middle now. I think we have a talented team. I know a lot of people may hope that Clemson goes away or fails. If losing a game is pulling a Clemson, there are a lot of people pulling a Clemson. We have some things in place that hopefully will breed some consistent success.
In terms of personnel, Tyshon Dye will be re-evaluated in 4 weeks and is still getting epidurals. He has some nerve damage in his back and could require surgery so he is headed for a redshirt. Jordan Leggett, Sam Cooper, and Chad Kelly are all questionable for SC State but will be available.
Mackensie Alexander was cut loose on Monday and will be seriously practicing this week. If he doesn't have any setbacks, look for him to play a lot against SC State. Hopefully he will help shore up our special teams as well.
Carlos Watkins was probably the surprise starter (we said here to look for DeStefano to play some Tight end in certain packages) of the game. He looked very athletic and played much better than I expected. DJ Reader only was in on 8 snaps and got dragged into the endzone by Keith Marshall.
Swinney. We have five guys at d-tackle that we see as starters. They all play a bunch. It's a great situation for us. We didn't make a decision until Thursday night. Grady has kind of separated himself. When you have that type of competitive situation, everything counts. And Grady played really well but those other four were battling for that other spot. Carlos, we just felt like he deserved to run out there first. D.J. didn't play quite as much because he hadn't practiced quite as well recently. He's a great player. It's just a good situation for us to have that kind of quality and talent and depth at a position like d-tackle.
Dabo was also asked about Martavis Bryant's mercurial performance. Dabo rightly stuck up for him. My take is that Bryant just needs to get comfortable in the game situation. He is a bit of a head case (the false start penalty) and always will be but he has shown that he is an elite player in the practice setting so this isn't a kind of Milton Jennings case at all. I think the comparison to Brandon Ford is a great one (speaking of the Auburn game Swinney said, He had been Robin his whole career, now he's Batman and he wasn't ready for that"). He should play the majority of SC State game, in my opinion, just to get used to taking the reps. We will need him to be elite against FSU.
Swinney. "Martavis has been consistently not good, great. All spring, all fall camp. Bottom-line he just had a bad night...No. No. Charone had a great game. Charone's was probably a fumble. He caught the ball and positioned it right here instead of transitioning to a good tuck position. The guy made a great play. He caught the ball. I thought Charone played great. The fourth and one was a poor throw. We weren't going to fire Brandon Ford after a poor performance in the opener, we won't do the same with Martavis. He'll be just fine. Ya'll can quit asking questions about Martavis. Ya'll going to be asking different questions about Martavis. Trust me."
There is certainly a lot of well deserved Dabo love going on right now. We looked like a much tougher team against Georgia and during much of the game we were dishing it out more than taking it. When reserve LB #44 BJ Goodsen filled the hole and just rocked Georgia's very talented fullback--you could feel the difference. After Vic Beasley sacked Aaron Murray, he started hearing footsteps and got a bit rattled. Spencer ('Pig Suey'??) Shuey was still tackling tight ends with authority well into the fourth quarter. So how did this happen?
This won't be incredibly popular but what changed Dabo's tenure was hiring Chad Morris (for which he deserves all the credit in the world). Morris came in and demanded up tempo but also more physical play. We were still soft after Dabo's first two years (6-7 despite a D-line and secondary littered with NFL talent) and even in the 10-4 run but that started to change last year. Venables wanting more physical practices and more best on best injected a new level of toughness and you see a different team after LSU and Georgia.
Paul Hogan has helped our Offensive line and the entire S&C program immensely. The training table and emphasis on nutrition will continue to pay dividends.
The other thing that has made the team tougher, which is talked about much is tempo. When other schools play more snaps and get worn down a little bit, they don't hit as hard. The pace of the game often makes it so that opposing defensive players aren't getting set and aren't in good position to hit like they normally would. Jordan Jenkins is an amazing player and I was impressed with Trey Matthews. For a true freshman he was tough and fast (sure he missed Peake on the 4th down but he had to play most of the game) and I think he is a future All-American. My point is that this isn't some team of scrubs but the tempo got to them and negated some of there 'toughness' advantage.
5 Quick Points we aren't talking enough about
1. Georgia will be just fine because of the return of Josh Harvey-Clemons. Before his suspension I was leaning towards Clemson losing the game because he is that dynamic and versatile a player. I think he will be the difference in a win over South Carolina, if Georgia can pull it together. Oh and Todd Gurley (what a manbeast).
2. I love Bradley Pinion. He is going to be a weapon for the next three years. Please kick everything into the end zone. It is so nice to have a punter who can kick more than 35 yards consistently. Pinion will help make our defense better this year.
3. RT is a potential problem. Either Giff Timothy just had a really, really off night that is an anomaly or we need to expedite the Brandon Thomas to RT experiment. Shaq Anthony could be an option if he were not in the doghouse, Joe Gore's knee is not holding up, and it doesn't seem like Eric MacLain is ready yet but something needs to be done. Timothy was just whiffing too much for a fully healthy veteran guy. Isaiah Battle has not taken ownership of the position in the offseason but maybe he is just a gamer (oh help me, I think that is a line Jesse Palmer used to describe Jameis Winston). We need to know if Giff will hold up against FSU or South Carolina. If that is not the case then start the creative experiments against South Carolina State.
4. Punt return?? We have not seen the return part of 'punt return' for about three years. I know teams like to kick it short but our coverage team is just awful and we never seem to block anyone. Sammy has muffed too many kicks in key situations for my liking. Why is M. Bryant fielding kickoff returns--he runs too upright and lacks the vision?? Lets try G-Hop this week or even Alexander.
5. Thad Turnipseed is a great, great hire. Dabo deserves a lot of credit for these staff hires. Here is his interview with Philpot. You already see his hand in updating our social media, particularly the Instagram and Youtube videos. Great move to purchase the NFL films video clips for recruits. Hopefully Clemson will strongly consider hiring a couple more people underneath him.