Dabo Swinney previews Georgia matchup in Tuesday press conference


CLEMSON — On Tuesday, head coach Dabo Swinney met the media to preview Clemson's matchup vs. Georgia. 

"Everything builds to the season, you only get 12 opportunities on your schedule," Swinney said. "Whatever comes after that is a result of what you earned. If you make it to the national championship, that's only 15 days. The other 350 days you spend preparing, dreaming, planning, and working toward these moments. It's exciting to finally have the opportunity to go play. I'm excited to see where we are. You're coming off a month of camp, so where are we and what do we have to do to get better.

"Huge, huge challenge in Georgia. I think this is the fourth time in the last 21 years, since 2000, that there has been a top-five matchup as an opener. So these are rare, rare, rare moments. Difficult challenge right out of the gate playing a team good enough to win the whole thing. 

"For us, it comes down to our first goal. We want to win the opener. We can't do anything other than win the opener. Then we go from there." 

"Health-wise, we are in a good spot from an injury standpoint," Swinney said. "Hopefully that'll continue through the week." 

Swinney was asked about cornerback Fred Davis and his availability for Saturday. 

"Everybody is available," Swinney said. "I think we are all still living in a COVID world. That's how we are going to handle it, same as last year. We are just going to say who's available and not available and keep moving on. Everybody is available at this point except for a couple of guys we've talked about from a long-term injury standpoint." 

"When you look at Georgia, they are built in the trenches on both sides," Swinney said. "Massive... massive on both sides. They are built to stop the run; they've led the country two years in a row in rush defense and yards per carry. Nobody has really run the ball on them. Very aggressive in how they stop the run. They are built up the middle. I mean, No. 99 (Jordan Davis) and No. 95 (Devonte Wyatt) are pros. They are as good as you'll find: big, strong, pocket-movers. They just don't get moved at the point of attack very often.

"Their 'backers are outstanding players. Very experienced. Those safeties are great players and very involved in the run game and are physical. This is a team built right up the middle.

"Schematically, they do a great job. They don't give you anything. You have to make plays. Very aggressive in how they schematically do things."

"Very impressed with their quarterback (JT Daniels)," Swinney said. "He some great experience and confidence last year with how the season ended for them. Made some big plays in critical moments. You look at the Mississippi State game late in the season and they had some tight plays right here, and he made three or four throws to get that go-ahead score. They dropped a couple of them but he kept battling and putting them on the money. Really impressed with his moxie, you can tell he's a good leader. Great arm talent. 

"They are going to get off the bus running it and play-action shots down the field. There's not a lot of dinking and dunking going on. They do have a great screen game they want to manipulate you with, but they want to run the ball and get the ball over the top of you. 

"Man they're receivers, they have some guys that can run. No. 7 (Jermaine Burton) is a special player. No. 10 (Kearis Jackson) is a great player. No. 3 (Zamir White) and No. 4 (James Cook) in the backfield are downhill runners, they can slip through cracks, they don't need much space and next thing you know they're in the second level breaking tackles.

"They have recruited very well. A lot of those guys we recognize from recruiting."

Swinney was asked about Clemson's starting center. 

"Yeah we'll probably play multiple centers throughout the game-- probably will have to," Swinney said. "Good news is I think we have multiple guys that can go in there and play.

"We kind of know what we want to do. We'll roll somebody out there and get it started and go from there." 

"There's a lot to learn about your team because you haven't really tackled in a year outside of two days (in camp) where you've really tackled," Swinney said. "Now you have to go out and tackle on the field at an incredibly high level to be success."

Swinney was asked how Clemson tackled in camp. 

"We've had a great camp... I thought we tackled really well. Two things I was really pleased with in camp were how we tackled and how we played the ball, positioning. That was very encouraging coming out of camp. But again, it's a whole different deal when you get to a game. You're not going against your same people. There is a familiarity going against your own people and there's no scoreboard. That's going to be key for both times." 

Swinney was asked if he'd like to play Georgia more often. 

"Yeah it just makes sense, right down the road from each other," Swinney said. "We've played big opponents for 12 years since I've been the head coach, it's what we've done. It brings a lot of excitement to it and the fans love it. But Clemson-Georiga is not just a quality game and opponent. There's a tradition there and history that I think both sides have a lot of respect for it. There have been some incredible moments in the Clemson-Georgia game over the years. 

"I remember when I got the job in '08, '09, people were talking about playing Georgia in 2013. I remember that vividly. It's like I don't even know if I'm going to be the head coach in 2013, I'm trying to survive '09, and people are asking me about playing Georiga in 2013. 

"It's a big deal, proximity, fan bases living on top of each other in both states. It's what makes college football fun, rivalries like this." 

Swinney was asked if given critiques of ACC scheduling in recent years, if this game is an opportunity to send a statement. 

"We are not worried about any narrative," Swinney said. "We just want to play well and win the game. I think the narrative of our program speaks for itself."

 Earlier in his press conference, Swinney spoke about consequences of outcome(s) on Saturday night. 

"This is one game. This is one of 12. When it's all said and done, I don't think you can judge either team based off one game, especially an opener. Nobody is going to be declared the national champion if you win this game."

Swinney was asked about playing in Charlotte at a neutral site to start to the season. 

"I mean it's fun," Swinney said. "I think ultimately you'd always prefer to play a home game, that's my preference. But I think this was a deal that came together and was a good opportunity for both teams. We're excited about it. Fun for the fans and good experience for the guys. 

"They changed the playing surface up there, so it will be field turf instead of grass. But yeah, definitely a place we are familiar with." 

Swinney was asked if there's one matchup in particular that'll decide the outcome on Saturday night. 

"I don't know that there's one matchup... I think ultimately it comes down to who wins the line of scrimmage," he said. "I don't know if I could single out one person-- but in a game like this you have to figure out a way to come out on top (in the trenches). You're not going to win every battle, but neither are they. Who can consistently win that matchup up front, because that dictates everything up.

"It's not just one factor, but I do think in a game like this that's a critical matchup based on what both teams what to do." 

Swinney was asked for his thoughts on the recently formed Alliance among the ACC, Pac-12, and Big 10.

"Honestly I haven't thought much about it at all because it has nothing to do with what I'm doing right now," Swinney said. "That's for somebody else to spend a lot of time thinking about. We are going to play the schedule we get just like we always have around here.

"Who knows what's coming down the pipe in college football? I certainly don't know. That's just probably one of the dominoes along the way. At the end of the day, it's my job to get a team ready week in and week out."