When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney entered the WestZone team room Tuesday for his weekly press conference you could tell that there were more important things on his mind than a football game.
Swinney took the first few minutes sharing his thoughts on the people that lost so much this week in the historic floods that devastated so many lives in the hopes that his words might bring some level of comfort and perspective.
"First of all I just want to offer our thoughts and prayers for all of the people in this state that are devastated right now, and it's kinda trivial, honestly, to come in here and talk about football when we've got a lot of people trying to figure out where they're going to sleep," Swinney said. "A lot of people lost their lives and you know there's a lot of devastation in the state."
"We know that our governor and a lot of people are trying to work very hard to get help to a lot of people. It is just a crazy storm. So we just want to offer our prayers to all of the people out there struggling today. You know we are very fortunate and blessed to do what we do and get to come in here and talk about football but hopefully we will have some perspective and we can find a way to help those people."
After Swinney's heartfelt remarks regarding those in our state that lost so much the Tiger's head coach turned the attention toward the next opponent on the schedule--the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Jackets enter the game with a 2-3 record having dropped their last three games in a row, most recently last Saturday's home game against the University of North Carolina. In spite of their record Swinney understands that the Yellow Jackets are a dangerous team.
"You better be ready to play Georgia Tech I can tell you. They lost at Notre Dame. Let's not forget Notre Dame was the fifth ranked team in the country and they are still really, really, really good. It was 16-7 in the fourth quarter so they were still in it up there...They got after them guys at their place. We know how good they are and their record has nothing to do with it.
The Yellow Jackets triple option offense gets a lot of notoriety around the country, however for the Tigers head coach it was the Jackets defense that was the difference in last season's 28-6 blowout loss. Something he knows can happen again if the Tigers are prepared for a challenge this week.
"They are very experienced. They've got 15 seniors and juniors on their two deep and they kicked our butt last year--it's that simple. We were pathetic against this group last year," Swinney said Tuesday. "Two pick six's and putting our defense in bad situations in the game last year and all of those guys are back. Six of their front seven are back, they've got a secondary that is well coached. They do a good job technically...It's a good group, a really good group."
Swinney understands that the Tigers cannot afford to have a let-down, win or lose, if they are wanting to make a serious run at the ultimate prize of the College Football Playoffs. However, let-downs are something that the Tigers have been great at avoiding under Swinney--whose teams currently boast a school record 30 consecutive wins over unranked teams.
"If we have a let-down we're gonna get our butts kicked I'll tell you that. I haven't really seen that though in the fabric of our football team. We've been a very consistent football team regardless. We haven't lost a bunch of games but when we have we've come back and played well."
"You know that was the rhetoric last year when we lost in Tallahassee, 'How are you gonna get the team back?'...That was the story line, 'Oh God, what are they gonna do? The loss is gonna beat you twice.' You know that garbage and what did we do--we won nine out of 10 to end the season...Hopefully we have demonstrated consistency regardless of wins or failure. You know we have had other big wins around here. That is just the way we do things around here. We don't practice any longer. We don't meet any longer regardless of if it's Notre Dame or Wofford or whoever we play...thats our mentality."
Sitting at 4-0, ranked 6th in the country in both polls the Tigers may have they're biggest weapon still sheathed--the fact that according to their coach they have yet to play their best game.
"4-0 that was the goal, to be 4-0 at this point in the season, but four games don't make a season. Our goals are much bigger than that...Our best football is ahead of us. That's the thing that I'm most happy about. We're 4-0 and we haven't come close to playing our best game, so I'm excited about that."
The Beaver Award
Swinney said that kicker Ammon Lakip won the teams Beaver Award given to the player that either gets the teams first interception or causes the first fumble recovered by the Tigers. For Ammon Lakip it was special.
"It was something I got from Pete Carroll (current Seattle Seahawks coach). I read his book a couple of years ago...it is something that we put a lot of emphasis on is turnovers," Swinney said.
"The Beaver Award is when you think about a beaver, you know somebody's got to lay that first log. Somebody's got to lay it down and then you start building. Think about a beaver and they're always working, they're busy. They're just chopping all of the time. And that's what we need...that mentality. So what we do is whoever get's the first interception or whoever caused the first fumble that we recover that's who is the Beaver of the Week. And we've got a little stuffed animal they get to hang on to it for the week. We have fun on Monday's when we give it out...it is something that they (the players think about)...So Ammon didn't actually recover the fumble but he caused it. It is the first time in the history of the Beaver Award, for us, that we have given it to a kicker so we had some fun with that yesterday."