First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. This is a great week every year.
Obviously, all of us have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of
preparation, and we have to practice on Thanksgiving Day, but we will make sure that we
structure our week and our day on Thursday where we can get our work done, but also
carve out a little time to give our guys, our coaches and everybody a chance to be thankful
for all their blessings.
It’s hard to believe that this is the last game of the regular season. It has flown by this year.
You hear me say all the time that we have the season, and then we’ve got South Carolina. It
truly is a season of its own. For us, it’s our next goal and something that we know is
important to a lot of people in this state, on both sides. It’s our total focus this week, and
we’re excited to head down there and take on a really good South Carolina team.
This is a team that’s really played well, and they’ve gotten better as the year has gone on.
Will [Muschamp] and his staff have done a great job of giving these guys a chance to win
each week. They’ve had a couple of other games where they were also in a position to win.
They’ve been in it…they’ve had a chance to win [every week]. You have to give those guys
credit. They’ve been playing hard, smart and with great effort…they’ve done a great job of
Defensively, they’re a very impressive group. Keir Thomas and D.J. Wonnum are very
athletic and have made a lot of plays for them. Wonnum has run a lot of guys down and has
made a lot of plays on the quarterback. It’s a group that is playing with great chemistry and
is playing hard. They play physical, and they’re very rarely out of position. That’s a sign of
good coaching. I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen defensively.
Offensively, Jake Bentley is a very good player. He’s a great competitor, and he has a great
understanding of what they’re trying to do. He does an excellent job of managing their
offense and executing their run game and their passes off the run game. He’s got some
craftiness to him. There’s time and time again on tape when you think he’s sacked and
somehow he breaks free, and then he’ll find a play.
He scrambles and finds guys on their scramble drills. That’s one thing that I think he does
a great job of. He’s got a nice arm and made a big post throw for a touchdown against
Wofford last week right before the half. He had a play against Texas A&M that I think
epitomizes who he is. They had him sacked and bottled up, and somehow he spins out and
throws a big pass. When you get your hands on him, you have to hold on and get him down.
He’s a big, strong kid. We’ve got our hands full there.
Offensive line-wise, I think they’re playing a lot better than last year. That’s why they’re 8-
3. That’s year two with their coaching, and they’re getting good chemistry and getting guys
in the right spot. They’ve done a nice job there. Their tight end, Hayden Hurst, is a great
football player. He’s a guy that will definitely play at the next level. He is a very, very good
player. They do a good job of getting him the ball…he’s got a bunch of catches; they hand it
to him from time to time; he’s thrown a couple of passes; he’s a very multi-dimensional
[A.J. Turner], the running back, is a very good player. They’ve got big receivers in [Bryan
Edwards] and OrTre [Smith]. Those are big, 6’4”, plus-type receivers. No 13 has been a bigtime
playmaker for them. He’s made a lot of plays…he’s a returner and a very good football
They’ve done a nice job. They really have. Special teams…it’s the same thing there. They’ve
won a couple of games this year on special teams…they made some big plays early in the
season. We know we’ve got be sharp there.
But we’re looking forward to it. This is a week that everybody gets excited about all across
the country. You’ve got rivalries taking place this week…Alabama-Auburn, Virginia-Virginia
Tech, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Mississippi State-Ole Miss, Michigan-Ohio State. It’s that time.
It’s fun to be a part of it. I’ve been a part of it my whole life, and it’s great. [Having] a night
game down there…I’m sure it’ll be a great crowd. We’re just focused on trying to finish our
season as strong as we possibly can, and it starts by hopefully playing our best four
quarters of the year this week.
On the team’s health:
We’re in a pretty good spot. We’ve got a couple of guys that we’re still a little concerned
about and probably won’t know for sure on until Thursday. But for the most part, we’re in
as good of shape as we have been in a while.”
Later Swinney said the players who have the furthest to come to play are Tre Lamar and
How do you bring that rivalry to these kids from out of state and explain to them the
importance of the rivalry to the University and the local population?
I don’t really have to do much. They live here. You go to the grocery store; you go to
church…anywhere you go, it’s constant. And that’s on both side.
They know it’s one of our goals [to win the State Championship]. From the moment they
get here, they understand that…and you live with it every single day. Last year, we won the
National Championship and lost to Pittsburgh, but if we had won the National
Championship and lost to South Carolina…nobody was running up to us at church going
"Hey, congratulations on the National Championship, but hey, you lost to Pittsburgh."
Everybody moved on. But this is one that nobody moves on from. I’ve been on both sides
of it, obviously. It doesn’t take long for everybody to figure that out, because this is what
people talk about everywhere they go.
I know you preach to your players that every game is a season, and every game is the
biggest game of the year, but how hard is for you and your coaching staff, personally,
to not pay attention to what’s going on down-state, at least athletically, during the
We know what’s going on down there, and they know what’s going on up here. Again, you
live here. It doesn’t matter where you are in your season…you always have people coming
up to you and saying something. It’s just part of it. But we do a good job of staying focused
on wherever we are, and that’s why we’ve been so consistent. But this is one you really look
forward to each and every year. These guys all know each other…they’re on the news, and
it’s pretty easy to keep up with a team that’s in your state.