CHICK-FIL-A BOWL: LSU v CLEMSON
December 31, 2012Richmond High School
THE MODERATOR: Coach Swinney, we'll start with you, if you would give us an opening statement and maybe talk about your Bowl week experience so far and maybe excluding practice, what do you think has been your team's favorite event of the week so far?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, it's been a great week. We have enjoyed Atlanta and we have enjoyed being part of the Chick?Fil?A Bowl festivities. Really have appreciated the great practice venues that we've had. That's been really nice. I think our players have really enjoyed everything to be honest with you. You know, maybe the go?karts I guess. They seemed pretty enthusiastic about that. Been a good week of preparation and again, just to the point now where you're like all right, let's get on with it, let's play the game. It's an honor to be up here with Coach Miles. All we need is Terry ?? in fact, Terry is getting inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It's been a good week and again, we are looking forward to a great competitive game.
COACH MILES: Certainly our practice has been great. I might take a second and talk about Tredawn Phillips (ph). He hired an assistant coach, and said we changed see if you could be the head coach, and the same Coach Swinney and I would have to think that we are both in some way very much indebted and we would like to say thanks. We took a chance on two assistant coaches and when they happen to be playing each other in this very prestigious Bowl game.
We all have enjoyed Atlanta. Atlanta is a great city and it's a great destination for us, a place that we recruit and we recruit regularly and we enjoy being here. Every time we are here, it is a new site and a new piece to Atlanta that we learn about. Again, practices have gone well and looking forward to playing the game. This is a great quality team, Clemson, and it's time to play.
Q. For both coaches, you guys prepared for each other's teams, looked at game film but what stood out the most about your opponent, maybe surprised you or impressed you?
COACH SWINNEY: Well there, was really nothing that surprised me about LSU. I followed LSU for a long time. I paid coach attention to what Coach Miles has done there in his eight years or so he's been there.
This is a National Championship?calibre team and less than 12 months ago playing for a National Championship and probably, literally, a couple of plays from being in the game this year. Really nothing surprised me. But the thing that just jumps out at you is the overall speed and athleticism. They have got quality depth, and then their style of play. This is the most physical team that we have seen in quite a while. That's how they play the game and it's a really tough challenge to prepare for.
COACH MILES: We have followed the Clemson team, and I also kept my eye on the Clemson team. Since Dabo has been the head coach, they have consistently recruited well. And when you saw the film, you recognize a very talented team, very well prepared, well?coached. Coach Swinney is asking his players to do the things that they do best, and hopefully gives them every opportunity to play great. We are challenged by a great quality time and frankly, I've said this before, BCS matchups, this is a great match?up. So two great quality teams.
COACH SWINNEY: I would say one other thing that jumps out is No. 44. He's got his own Refrigerator Perry in the backfield and you don't see guys like that very often.
Q. Neither teams fans have traveled quite as much as they might have to previous Bowls. I know you have both insulated but can you share whatever interaction you might have had or any impressions you've had from the fans you've seen at your hotel or elsewhere around town?
COACH MILES: The only thing I can tell you is what you saw yesterday is exactly right. Everybody that I see is talking about the game or looking forward to the game. I think you need to get to the arena before you write off the fact that the LSU faithful won't be there. I think that you'll find that the place that the LSU Tigers play, the LSU fans will be there. It's never failed. I imagine when we turn up in the Dome there will be a great Clemson contingent and LSU contingent, as well.
COACH SWINNEY: I'll second that. I've had great interaction with my fans over last couple of days. A lot of people will be coming in today I would imagine. We'll probably have quite a few that will actually drive in for the game. So I don't have any doubt it's going to be an electric atmosphere when we kick it off.
Q. A potential win in this game would mean different things for each program, and Clemson would be a great cornerstone, can you talk about what this would do for your program? Les, your program turned the corner years ago, can you talk about the challenge of maintaining year?in and year?out?
COACH SWINNEY: This has not been the norm for us and we are trying to make it the norm to where we are in this situation every year, Like LSU has been. LSU has been a program that's won, 10,11, 12, 13 games pretty regularly under Coach Miles.
So again they are a national?championship calibre team and we are not quite there yet. But we have made great progress: Back?to?back ten?win seasons and for the first time since the 80s and we won ten regular season games this year for the first time in 31 years.
So I think you've got to at least acknowledge that we are making some progress. We are a Top 15 team. If we are going to be a Top?10 team, you have to step up and win games like this at some point. And our two losses this year were Top?10 teams, competed hard. Just didn't get it done.
But again, to be in a situation where we have a chance an 11th game, something that has not happened in our history very often, is a great compliment to our team and our staff, because again, we have made steady progress. It would be huge for us. It would be a great ending to an already very good season, a great finish.
But you know, that's easier said than done. We know that LSU is who they are because of their consistency in play regardless of who they play, where they play, and we'll have to play very well.
COACH MILES: Any time you win a game like this, it's about that game. The approach is the same. It's a very quality opponent. Clemson is talented, well prepared, offense, defense and special teams challenges to us and it really is about playing well in a significant football game. That's really what it is.
We focus our team to improve and play well. Both teams want to play their very best in the last game, both teams. And certainly that's our approach. Any time you have an opportunity to play in a game like this, the opportunity for victory is twice, tenfold what happens if you finish second. So both coaches understand that and will be playing along those lines.
Q. What have you noticed about LSU's depth and do you think that will have a factor in this game?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, they have got depth, and their depth just got better, because my understanding is they have gotten?? (Laughter)?? we were laughing the other day, you get a little paranoid because there's a lot of cameras and I told Les, I said: Well, we were only videoing the scout sessions of your practices.
COACH MILES: With so many silhouettes, if you look back in there in there?? you're exactly right, I can't tell you how many managers I have to run up to an area.
COACH SWINNEY: But he's got a lot of depth. And again the bigs, and you look at their defensive line, they just kind of roll them in there and kind of, who is that guy, who is that guy. That's won their championship program, it all starts up front and they have obviously recruited very, very well in the trenches. That's what it takes to be able to hold up and sustain and win at a championship level for 13, 14 games.
Q. You talk about your team as a Top 15 team, maybe not quite on LSU's level yet. What has to happen for your team to take that next step? Is it a particular part of the team or recruiting or what would that be?
COACH SWINNEY: It's everything. We have to do a great job as coaches of giving our guys a chance to win, first of all. But in games like this, when you have two quality teams that are going to play really hard, it really comes down to a few plays, it really does. It's just truly three or four, five plays. We have got to put ourselves in position to make those plays and then we have got to make them because that's ultimately what it comes down to when you have two really quality teams that are both going to play hard. So that's the next step for us.
Q. Just talk about recruiting in Georgia and recruiting ends in February, you have always had strong recruiting classes. Do you think possibly that after the Old Miss game after you stood up for your players in the post?game press conference that this is a family environment and you are going to protect your players at any cost?
COACH MILES: I don't know that stance that I took there has really any impact. I haven't heard a lot of feedback. I have seen a lot of coaches over time do exactly the same thing.
I guess what I'm saying to you is I don't know what impact it's had.
Q. Tajh Boyd yesterday was talking about how their offense is predicated on tempo and the faster they can go, the better they play. You've face some really fast teams obviously and you had to change the way you practiced against Oregon. What do you see in their team speed, I guess it's not necessarily how fast they run the plays but with the velocity that they run them once they get the ball.
COACH MILES: It's really both. They have the ability to run the plays in rapid succession: Get on the ball and snap it, get on the ball and snap it. And they have great speed.
The preparation for that is certainly something that we have undertaken for some time and just only hope that what it is is, get ready. You must get ready when they snap the ball and that's north and south, getting down on the ball, understanding your responsibility and assignments and doing it like that.
There's certainly something that we have worked hard on, we've accomplished and we'll find out Monday night how successful we've been.
But yeah, we've hadtempo, period, in our practices, really, since two springs ago, just before we set up to play Oregon. I think it's been certainly beneficial for us both offensively and defensively.
Q. There's speculation that this game could be one of the six host sites in the new playoff model. Based on your experience this week, do you feel like this game is worthy to be a host of the new BCS model?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I've had the privilege of being in a lot of Bowl games over the years. I've been in pretty much all of them except the Rose Bowl, and those venues, that experience that comes game week?? I absolutely feel like that they should be under consideration for one of those sites.
But I'm sure they will put a good package together and present their plan in the right way. But a great venue, great hotels, you've got everything that you would need to be able to handle that type of game.
COACH MILES: I would agree with coach Swinney. It's a major metropolitan area. It's a football?friendly environment. It's a great sports town. The Dome itself is really a great quality arena to play in and it's great turf and all of the acoustics and everything you want visually. And the committee here does a great job. The Chick?Fil?A Bowl Committee does a magnificent job in really serving our coaches's needs and players, as well.
Q. One of the Clemson's assistants said of you, they have a coach that wants to pound you into oblivion, as far as smashmouth, strength and conditioning. Is that the way you guys play football?
COACH MILES: Just tell me he's not a big guy. (Laughter).
I take that as a compliment. Certainly football at some point in time is reduced to that kind of disrespect, and at some point in time, you'd better be prepared to play like that. If you watch some of the games in this last year, it's apparent that that is where the game is.
So we recognize that and I'm sure that at some point in time, we may have to step in there and play. I get it. I'll get that guy's name and I'll have to size him up (chuckling).
Q. Could you talk about, kind of touch on that, preparing for a physical game? Obviously LSU and Alabama are successful for a reason because they are physical and a lot of college football isn't right now.
COACH SWINNEY: I don't subscribe to the theory that you have to line up in I?formation to be physical. I don't think that's the case as all.
We pride ourselves on being a physical football team. There's lots of different styles of play in college football, and I think that's what makes college football so much fun. It's not a cookie cutter product. You have all kind of varieties out there and it's made this game very popular and exciting.
I think at end of the day, you have to do what gives your team the best chance to win, ultimately. That may be different depending on where you are and what your personnel is and your resources and all those things.
You know, I'm very confident in our style of play of how we play the game, and we have been successful ?? in preparing for any opponent, we try to present the challenges for your team that they are going to see on game day.
If you are going to play a spread team, a true spread team; we kind of get lumped into that, we are not really a huge spread team. But if you are going to play that type of team, then you have to present that and the challenges that come with that. If you play a triple?option team, you have to present that. It's difficult to prepare for. If you're going to play a team like LSU that has a physical style of play that you don't see every week, you've got to prepare for that.
And so that's what we try to do in practice, just like we do every week. We always, as he said, they always have a tempo part of their practice, and we always have really tough inside drills with different styles of running so that our defense is always seeing things throughout the course of the year.
But in this particular game, you know, here is who they are and you have got to prepare for it and you've got to be able to hold up. Simple as that.
So that's why you play the game and all you can do is prepare your team the best you possibly can and go play the game. I feel good about our preparation, but you know, again, you just hope that when you play a quality team like this that has the amount of depth that they have, that you can sustain for four quarters and very few teams have been able to do that against LSU.
So that will be one of the stories, I'm sure. Ultimately it does come down to what he said; either you're better than that guy or he's better than you, blocking and tackling, throwing and catching.
Q. Can you talk about the extra practice time that you've had within the last couple of weeks with so many younger guys on your football team and just gearing up for 2013? Clearly you have one more game to go, but the extra period is always good as every coach said to get geared up for the next season.
COACH MILES: When you have 15 practices in a spring practice, and a Bowl practice, it allows those teams in a Bowl preparation to have another spring.
So many of our freshmen played in this last year, so really getting our young guys ready, it means practice. In other words, you practice, and it's a second team and that's where the freshmen class are, a lot of them.
But again, it's one of the rewards of having a quality season. You get into Bowl practice and get guys into spots that they are going to be playing for some time and to give them reps and just perpetuates the program.
Q. You guys have squared off in the past on the recruiting trail and probably will continue to do so through the future. Your impressions of how each one of you gets things done, how the other one gets things done.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we have not won many of those battles, first of all, so we are like 1?for?20 somewhere along the line there.
COACH MILES: Depends on where you're at. If you're over by where they live, we don't do very good either. If they are over by where we live, we do pretty good.
COACH SWINNEY: I have great respect for Coach Miles. I told him this the other day, I appreciate how he handles his business and I appreciate the example that he sets for all of us coaches, because he does it right. His staff does it right. You know, there's?? I can't necessarily say that about everybody in this business. There's good people and bad people in every business, even in y'alls business, believe it or not (laughter).
Coach Miles and the LSU staff, they do it right, and they win the right way, and recruit the right way.
COACH MILES: I agree with Coach Swinney. Exactly the same thing. He really kind of stands for?? as a players' coach and works hard and has all of the advantages in recruiting. That's why they are a quality team. That's why they are playing in a great, quality Bowl game.
I want to concur. I've only ever seen Dabo Swinney's operations to be done right and correctly and with the best interests of the player in mind.
Q. Probably the first time in a long time that we have entered one of these games and your quarterback has not been the center of many a question. I think we've had maybe two questions this week. Does that speak to some of the balance that you've achieved in the last half of the season here, and just talk about going into this game being back home for you and what you've seen this week in practice.
COACH MILES: Well, what we have really encouraged our team to do is improve and that's been a focal point from really the beginning of the season right on through and we are really doing?? on certain phases of our offense, defense and special teams, we are playing our best football.
And I really think that again?? the quarterback snaps, just like a great quarterback, he gets better and better with snaps, and he's having more experience. I think the chemistry in the passing game, and he understands the running game pretty well; I'm glad there's no questions about my quarterback.
Q. I know you rely on seniors in this moment, the biggest game of the year but Andre Ellington, who has overcome injury after injury; a redshirt senior like Brandon Ford who had to switch positions and work his way up the depth chart, how about the moment for them? How much do you lean on guys like that?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we have 11 seniors on scholarship and those guys have all done a great job. Andre Ellington has been special. It's been fun to see him have healthy year, rush over a thousand yards, and he is a very, very good football player.
The best part about he and Brandon is watching them graduate last week. That was awesome seeing those young men achieve that goal. As you said, Brandon Ford came here as a receiver, and he's been a guy that's just kind of had to transition and develop the skill set that you need to play that position. Always has had the ball skills.
And you know, we have got some pretty good tight ends there, Michael Palmer and Dwayne Allen backing him up last year. This was a year that Brandon Ford, if we were going to have a good year, he needed to take another step. We talked to the local media about that a lot and he did. He was first team all conference, and he was a very consistent player for us and a big reason why we won ten games. I'm proud of both those guys, but all of those 11 seniors.
In games like this, absolutely. You want to see those guys play their best in their last game and hopefully they will do just that.
Q. You were initially an interim coach and won them over and won the job. We have a guy at Baton Rouge at Southern University, kind of the same thing. How do you win over the fans from a staff who has kind of been dismissed?
COACH SWINNEY: I tell everybody, I was a walk?on player that earned a scholarship and I was a walk?on coach that earned that job. Kind of is a similar thing. You just have to do a good job and you have to be consistent and surround yourself with good people. That's been the biggest thing.
It's been a four?year journey, and I'm very proud of what we've gotten done. We've still got some goals out there, but I think that we have made Clemson relevant again and that's very exciting. The credit really goes to the coaches. Credit goes to the players that have chosen to come to Clemson because they believe in what we are trying to do and the way we are trying to do it.
But it's been fun. As far as, I think Coach Odom, is that who it is? He's a great man, great coach. He actually is a guy that's worked my camp every year that I've had camp. He would come and work in camp, and the thing I know about him is a ton of energy, a ton of intensity, a ton of integrity. I don't have any doubt he'll put everything he has into getting that program right.
As far as how often it's worked out for an interim coach, probably not very often. But, you know, I'm not sure that there's been many that have gotten the job, much less been able to hang around. You know, this is a volatile business. As a head coach when I first got the job, obviously I was the last man in the league from a tenure standpoint and then four years, I'm fifth man in the league. I'm staring at Grobe, Beamer, Sutcliffe, Paul Johnson, that's it. I'm like fifth now.
So it's a crazy business, that's for sure, so very fortunate and blessed to still be here and hopefully we can win this game and they will bring you back for another year?
Q. Have you spoke to Coach Odom?
COACH MILES: You know, it's an interesting thing, Media Days, seeing those coaches?? (Laughter).
Q. Have you talked to him?
COACH SWINNEY: I have not talked to Coach yet but I will.
Q. Does it make the week more enjoyable? I know you don't want to play Michigan; do you not like going up against people that you generally appear to like?
COACH MILES: I have to be honest with you, the opponent's coach, I hate to admit it?? my kids, my own son?? I met his wife and his family and I think they can hang out with us now. I'm not ready to go vacationing yet (Laughter).
COACH SWINNEY: Saw a bunch of balls we are going to auction for our trip to cab oh for the off?season. (Laughter).
He's got a great family and I'm recruiting his sons. I've got these little guys and he's got these, you know, big guys. So I'm trying to recruit them to come to our camp in summer. I was telling them about the quality of our camp, and we have got Death Valley there and purple with the Tigers, kind of Death Valley northeast, if you will, so hopefully I'll see a couple of those Miles boys running around in my camp here soon.
Q. Describe how you started the season here in Atlanta, and you're going to finish it here. How does that feel to start here and end it here?
COACH SWINNEY: It's been quite a journey for us, it seems like forever go this time of year. You look back and reflect and that was a huge game for us. This was a team, Auburn, that was very difficult to prepare for, two new coordinators and two new styles of play from what they have been doing and a lot of unknowns in that game.
For us, we were very young up front on both sides of the ball so we knew coming into the game it was going to be a big challenge. Auburn played extremely tough. We were able to overcome some mistakes and adversity and find a way to win and that was a big, big win for us and a great way to start the season.
So having played here, it's a positive thing for our players and hopefully they can draw on that experience. I know it doesn't have anything to do with this game, but it's kind of interesting, the Tigers here in Atlanta.
Q. With being so far removed from the last game of the season, the regular season, being in Atlanta and having all of these things to do, lead up to the game, how do you keep your team focused on Monday at 7:30 and how do you feel that they are focused leading up to the game?
COACH MILES: I think it's who we are as a team. I think there's a personality of the team. I think there's a strong center core of our team that's about playing the game. I don't know that the distraction that Atlanta can present will change their focus, if you will. I think that the Bowl, it's a tremendous one, and it's certainly to be enjoyed, but the game, the focus on the game is a sincere one.
Q. You have two common opponents in Auburn and South Carolina, how beneficial was that in your scouting?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, you know, all of the film is beneficial. You are going to develop, especially this time of the year, you can kind of see a personality of a team over the long haul. Obviously we have got a good feel for South Carolina and their personnel, same thing with Auburn. That's just part of the preparation.
But it's really no different from all of their games. All of their opponents are quality opponents and present different challenges, so you try to study and learn from all of that. They did a super job against South Carolina and really physically dominated the game and had a tough battle with Auburn, really tough battle early in the year there.
That was a hard?fought win for them. So again, every game is different and the objective is just find a way to win; whether you win 2?0 or 59?68. You want to try to find a way to win games and LSU has done a great job of that.
COACH MILES: I want to complement Coach, maybe their best two games. They played very, very well at home against us and I thought they played Clemson extremely hard.
Q. How difficult is it to prepare for a team that gets pressure with four and five and has the amount of interceptions they have?
COACH SWINNEY: Again, all great teams, Top?10 teams, Top?5 teams, most of the time they are usually pretty good up front. That's the case with this football team. This is probably the fastest team we've played. They are big in the secondary, very long. Most of those guys are 6?0 or better, maybe one 5?11 guy, and they are fast.
And because of the speed they have up front and the strength and the power and explosiveness with their athletes, you know, and they bring pressure. They create pressure with the fifth and sixth guys, as well.
But when you can do that with four, obviously that's a numbers advantage for you from a coverage standpoint, especially with their style of play, they will get up, challenge you, they disrupt you, and it's tough, no doubt about it.
So the margin for error is not very big. You know, against LSU, that is open. It's open. It's almost like playing an NFL?type team. You don't have a lot of room for error. You throw it a little bit behind, it's probably a pick, so you have to be very precise with your execution against a team like this. And in my opinion, you'd better have some balance, because if you become predictable against these guys, it's a long day.
Q. Wanted to ask you guys about the last game in the respect of, for X amount of players on each team that will literally be the last game, the last time they will put a helmet on and go play football. Do you address that leading up to the game? Do you have any thoughts about it? Have you changed your ideas over the years about how you approach that?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I mean, I think it is what it is. That's just human nature. Guys know that they are playing their last game and to be honest with you, the guys that are coming back, they are going to live with you for eight months.
In this game, we had a long time before we get to tee it up again. But for those seniors, this is one that they are going to take with them for a long time and they certainly know that. That's just a part of their journey for all these guys.
It comes to an end at some point and I knew going into my last game, we are playing a National Championship Game and I knew it was going to be my last game. There were some special moments for me in preparing for that game and knowing that?? hey, I've played football a long time, a long time, and I can remember my last practice, walking off the field. There was a sentimentalness to that. I remember my last game in high school. I'm sure there's part of that.
But as far as making a big deal out of it, it's really not?? the game is the game. It's about execution and performance, and the emotional stuff only can take you so far. But certainly the players, they understand that and we address that with each other.
COACH MILES: I agree. It's interesting, though. You don't think that ?? a player who knows it's his last?? if it's his test question, or won't play any more games after this game, NFL or not, I don't think that they know what that means. I think that there's something that you have to reconcile and I don't think there's much that a coach can do to reconcile the fact that there's been a passion in their life and they are not going to play the NFL, and now it's time for other things that fuel their passion.
I think at the end of every year?? anybody staying, it really focused on how the different personalities of people come together to produce. Coach said it right. It's all about the game. It's how you factor and how your contribution was felt.
Q. We already heard about your paranoia in the Georgia Dome. This press conference, are you guys continually on? Are you taking mental notes about what each other says, or is this really burning time until you get back to watch film?
COACH SWINNEY: I don't think we really said anything very important.
COACH MILES: I took every note. I was going to write it down on this but I didn't.
THE MODERATOR: That's a good place to end it. (Laughter) fast and if you want to give each other a big hug, we'll allow that, as well.