Just started Dabo's press conference. I'll have that posted along with player interviews in a bit!
Dabo had some great lines and went on a long talk about the misperception of Clemson by the national media like ESPN. Of course, I've recognized how special this team was all season, but Dabo said the national media has totally missed it, and it's a shame because this has been a beautiful team and season.
He also said he doesn't listen to Paul Finebaum or care what he says. "Never worry about criticism from people you wouldn't take advice from," Dabo said. That's a good policy!
I asked Dabo about Potter, and he said that he's made 3 of 4, so that's consistent enough. So despite missing the 32-yarder in Columbia on Saturday, Dabo will not be switching to Sawicki for short field goals. He said he'll judge Potter on his next 4. For whatever reason, Potter struggles on those short ones from the right hash.
I'll have more quotes from Dabo in a bit!
First of all, just really proud of our team and our staff. This has been an incredible, incredible year. This is a football team coming off a National Championship last year and obviously a lot of good players that moved on, and to see what this team has accomplished, the leadership, just their daily commitment, it’s been special. Super proud of them to be where we are and headed back to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game.
Congratulations to Virginia and Bronco [Mendenhall] and what they’ve done. What a remarkable job he’s done with that program, and something I definitely saw coming a couple years ago. As a coach, there’s just certain things that you see and you have instincts on, and [I’m] just not surprised at all that we’re playing Virginia. I just think they’re just going to continue to build a great program up there.
Really excited about that, and also want to congratulate all the All-ACC players from across the league and also certainly, especially our guys. I think that just came out this morning, [Assistant Athletic Director for Football Communications] Ross [Taylor] told me. We had a lot of guys on there, so really happy for those guys. Not real sure how [James] Skalski didn’t make it. He’d have been one of my top votes for sure, but I don’t think he even made honorable mention. But if I’m correct, I don’t think Isaiah Simmons made honorable mention last year, and he’s probably up for defensive player of the year overall. Didn’t even make honorable mention last year, so that just goes to show you how smart … and he was pretty good last year too, but didn’t make honorable mention in the league. But you know, that’s just kind of how it goes. I’ll give a personal shout-out to Skalski because I think he is a war daddy and has had as good a year as any linebacker we’ve had, and other guys as well.
Looking at Virginia, this is offensively a very experienced group. And the one thing I would say about Virginia first of all, is, you know, as a coach, when I watch a team, yeah, you’re looking at their scheme, you’re looking at their personnel, you’re looking at those things, but for me, I want to know who they are, and I can see who they are after I get through all the tape. I always have a very good feel for who they are and also as a program – who they are as a unit, whether it be a receiver group, or running back group, or whatever – but let me tell you, this is a football team that I have such a great appreciation for who they are because you can see their culture, you can see their heart, you can see their will to win, you can see their passion, you can see their togetherness, you can see their belief on tape. It just kind of oozes out when you watch them play. That’s a credit to Bronco and his staff. They’ve done an awesome job because those are the hardest things to have, you know? And that’s why they are where they are, and when you get those things right, then you have got a chance for bigger and better things as you go, and they’ve got that right. This is a team that has, again, a great will to win and a great belief in each other and just a lot of passion. Really excited about competing against a team like that.
Offensively, again, very experienced, very efficient in what they do. I think first down is probably the most critical down against these guys. They’re one of the best teams in the country in third down, so they stay on the field a lot, and a lot of that just speaks to their efficiency and what they do offensively. They’ve got a really good receiver group, make a lot of competitive plays, very experienced group of receivers. The tight end is a good player. He’s a guy you can’t sleep on. [They run] a lot of option principles throughout everything that they do.
But at the end of the day, I mean, their quarterback… I mean, he’s a ‘Wow’ guy. He’s a guy that the crazier things get, the better he gets. When things break down and it looks like a terrible play is about to happen, man, that’s when he’s at his best. He is just a very, very good football player. Very explosive. He’s big, 6-3 guy, and he can run as good as any running back you’re going to see. He has put up unbelievable numbers running the ball and throwing the ball. I think he had 479 yards of the 492 yards of offense versus Virginia Tech, so everything is going to go through him.
They’re really a pass-first offense. They really want to pass the ball to run it. You know, they’re built that way with all their draw sets and a lot of draw set RPO stuff and some designed quarterback run play, but also a lot of quarterback run that comes off of just the draw game and a little different than some of the zone read RPO. A lot of draw sets and then trying to throw the ball or run it. It’s a very good scheme for their personnel, and certainly with him.
He’s a great player, he’s a guy that we have got to account for at all times because he’ll go 50, he’ll go 60. Our D-line is going to have to play with great discipline, you know, and really keep him corralled in the pocket and do a great job with our eyes and our rush lanes and getting off our blocks and those types of things and he’s just a really good player.
Very impressed with their scheme. They’re well-coached. They challenge from their formations, their alignments, their quads, their motions, all those things that you have really got to be able to have a good plan for, so they manufacture a lot of things within their offense and again that just speaks to the type of coaching that they have.
Flipside of it, and again another reason why they’re a championship team, is their defense. They’re really good. They’re sixth in the country in sacks. I think they’ve got 43 sacks and we’ve got 35, so they get after the quarterback. They do a great job schematically challenging you. The big challenge for us, you know, against this type of front and the way they use their personnel, is communication and just making sure we’re targeted properly and that we’re all on the same page. You know, running back, OL, quarterback, tight end, everybody locked in. They do a good job of getting after the quarterback.
They’ve only had two teams out of 12 have 400 yards of offense on them, so this is an excellent defense. They’ve had one team rush for 200 yards, that was Louisville. And they’ve had six of 12 opponents they’ve held to under 100 yards rushing. That’s kind of how they’re built – to try to stop the run, always get that extra hat in there, so we have got to do a great job again of just targeting them and good clean execution in all phases.
They’re No. 24 in the country in third-down defense and they’re top-20 in third down offense, so this speaks to their efficiency because they’re keeping the ball and they’re getting off the field at a very high rate. So, when you look at them statistically, that’s what's generating some of those numbers that you see. Again, only two teams have had over 400 yards on them in 12 ballgames. Very efficient football team, a team that doesn't beat itself and obviously is incredibly well-coached.
Excited about it, looking forward to going up to Charlotte on Friday. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd up there, it’s going to be beautiful weather. I don’t think it is supposed to rain. Last year I think it rained the whole entire game, so I think it's going to be a beautiful night and a great matchup between Clemson and Virginia.”
On if Bryce Perkins is the most experienced and dangerous quarterback Clemson has played:
“Well I think the best quarterback we’ve faced is in practice every day, to be honest with you. Practice is competitive for us, so we go out and try to win every day in practice. But as far as not on our team, he’s as good as anybody we’ve played in what he does. Everybody has different strengths, just depends on what you’re asking. As far as dynamic? He’s the most dynamic guy we’ve played. He’s dangerous because he can throw the football and he can run like a running back, so he’s just incredibly dynamic. But we’ve seen some good players. I think the kid from North Carolina is a great quarterback. I think he’s a really good football player that’s going to get better and better. But this kid here is a grown man. I mean, he’s a winner. I just love his heart. If you could cut this guy open, man, he’s got a giant heart, he’s a winner. He just loves to compete, you can tell there’s just this huge belief that he has in himself, but also that everybody else has it in him, and as a competitor, you have a great appreciation for that. He’s a guy that you’re going to have to beat and you’re going to have to play 60 minutes against him, because that’s what he’s going to do. You have to match that.”
On if parity in the Coastal illustrates Clemson’s consistency in the Atlantic:
“It’s hard, it’s hard. The hardest thing to do is win again, to win consistently. I think it’s really hard to sustain over a long period of time, and so for us to have nine 10-win seasons and get back now for a fifth time, that’s our greatest accomplishment – the consistency. Not just on the field, but off the field. Eight out of our 10 years, we’ve been top 10 academically, and eight out of the last nine. That type of consistency as a program is the greatest accomplishment that we’ve had.”
On Virginia WR Joe Reed:
“Yeah, he’s a good player. He’ll be in the slot and he’ll line up everywhere and he’s also the best returner in the country. I forgot that. He leads the nation in returns. A great player. And their receivers as a group, they make a lot of competitive plays. I mean, they fight for the ball, and you can just tell that they’re all on the same page. The quarterback believes in them, and they believe in him. There’s a lot of plays. I think [No.] 2 has got 70 catches, so just a very productive player and definitely a guy that they’re going to position to have a chance to get the best matchup.”
On the versatility of Virginia’s linebackers:
“[No.] 11 is like 6-7. [No.] 14 is like 6-5. I mean, they’re just two big, long defenders and you know, they’re kind of an Okie front, they always have kind of got overhangs, what we call overhangs – guys outside. They’ve had some injuries, so the last game or so they’ve had to use their personnel a little differently, and again it's just a credit to them finding a way to maximize their roster. They didn’t play a lot of guys. They only played like 13 guys against Virginia Tech. They don’t have a ton of depth, again some of that is just some of the injuries that they’ve had, but 14 and 11, they are good players, and again, just long guys that can be a problem in the pass game and do what they need to do to help support the run.”
On Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall:
“He’s a great coach. He’s about the right things. He’s what's great about the profession. I love being around people like him that truly are ambassadors for the game and love their players and are about building something the right way. That’s exactly what he’s doing there, no doubt about it. He’s tough. He’s not afraid to fail. I think a lot of people when he came here and took that job, everybody was like, ‘What is he doing?’ Great situation he was in. And the first meeting I was in, I was like, ‘That guy gets it. That guy will be successful.’ I don’t know when or what their situation is or how patient they’ll be, because they’ll fire you after two years now, not even two years… You know, take over a dumpster fire and they’ll fire you in two years. But they’ve done a great job. I don’t think they did very good the first year or two, and last year they took a step forward, and, man, now here they are in year four, and they’re in the ACC Championship Game. For me, the first time I met him, and just being around him the last couple of years, very easy to see that he was going to be successful. He’s made of the right stuff.”