Q. What role do you see the NIL changes, how that fits into the world of recruiting, how much you've thought about how you may use that in a pitch when you're trying to get an athlete?
DABO: I don't see it changing a whole lot as far as what we do. The goal of our program is graduating young men, developing great men, equipping them with tools for life, making sure they have a good experience and win a championship. It's been that way since 2009. I don't see that changing one bit.
This is just another one of those tools that we have to help, come alongside and equip them with. We've been doing P.A.W. Journey for 12 years. P.A.W. Journey is a curriculum, and it has been for a long time. We've been doing financial literacy, agent education, all these things, for 12 years.
There's a couple other pieces we need to add to that. We are. We've got internal teams, external teams. We've made it as easy as we can possibly make it. The biggest thing is help 'em, educate 'em, equip 'em, help them navigate any opportunities that some of them may have.
Like I said, the goal, the target has not changed at all. I think, kind of like a bowling alley right here, we all know what we're trying to do as a program, we kind of got to be the bumpers so that we can make sure they hit the target.
These are young people. This is a different dynamic. Easy for maybe some of them to lose focus on maybe the long-term and get distracted maybe by the short-term. So our job is educate, equip, help them navigate, making sure they have every resource they could possibly need, make sure we hit the long-term target that we're all after.
Q. You were a little apprehensive about the NIL at first. Seems like your sentiments have changed. You are one of the top programs in the nation. Can you elaborate on how you're going to help players, if your current players want to approach other companies, how you're going to facilitate that?
DABO: I've never been apprehensive about NIL. That's not the story. People hear what they want to hear, then they write what they want to write, then people believe what they want to believe.
My comments were I'm against the professionalization of college athletics. Always have been, always will be. I'm for education, graduating, equipping young people through the game of football for life. That's what it's always been about for me. That's what it's always going to be about in college football.
This does not change the collegiate model. This is just common sense. To say that is inaccurate, all right? This is common sense. If a young guys want to go do an autograph signing, if a guy wants to go back and do a camp in his hometown, I worked all through college, there was never a day I didn't work on my time. I cleaned gutters, umpired, cut grass, sold Cutco knives. I worked non-stop all through college.
For our kids to not have the opportunity to work on their time, I've never agreed with that. That's a common sense thing to me. I would have liked more to have been done through the scholarship, to be quite honest with you, because then everybody could participate.
NIL is going to be for some, not for everybody. But we can't facilitate. We can educate. We can navigate. We can equip. We've got an entire educational library. July 1 didn't just get here and go, Okay, you figure this out. This is something we've been prepared for for a long time and built for. Like I said, through our P.A.W. Journey program, for 12 years.
Appreciate your question, but the beginning of it's not accurate.
Q. You have never shied away from being a strong man of faith and speaking on that publicly. What has that past year taught you and how do you use it as a leader?
DABO: What has it taught me? I think just an even more deeper appreciation for life, for family, for the ability to do what you love to do with people that you love doing it with. The little things, you know. I mean, just a deeper appreciation for that I think more than anything.
But most of all, that, hey, God is still on the throne, you know? My word last year was 'faith'. I don't ever know why my word is my word, but last year it was 'faith'. Certainly grew in my faith through this past year. Thankful that I've got a God that is there all the time and available 24/7, has paved the path for all of us.
Q. You got some good news over the summer, Justin Foster is coming back. How happy are you to have him back on your defense? How is his progress?
DABO: He's doing great, which is why he came back. I tried to talk him out of it in January, just say, Why don't we just give it some time here.
But he was ready to get out. He had a job. He was ready to kind of go. But in May he called me and said, "Coach, is there a chance I could still come back? I feel great."
He'd been training, running. Things had turned around for him.
He's just a great, great young man. He's one of the most respected guys on our team, incredibly smart. He's a graduate. He is a tough, tough, hard-nosed football player. So he just brings invaluable depth and experience and leadership to that position.
With him back, we have five guys, five starters, at defensive end. Just really thankful. I'm happy for him to be able to end his career. He's a guy that will have a chance to play at the next level. So to be able to see him kind of get back to a good place, because it was a really hard year for him. So I'm thankful and grateful that he is where he is now.
Q. Did you attend Jack Swarbrick's playoff presentation last night? If so, did it allay or perhaps even affirm some of the concerns you voiced to your local media the other day?
DABO: Yeah, I was there. Man, he did a phenomenal job. I will say this: the four people, I can't remember who all it was, but the four people who I guess authored it, put the presentation together, spent two years trying to study and come up with something, research, take the charge that had been given to them I guess by the presidents or the committee or whatever, they did a phenomenal job.
No, it doesn't change my stance at all. Again, my opinion, it doesn't mean anything because that train's left the station, you know. I think sitting around and talking about what this coach thinks or that coach is a waste of time at this point. I think expansion of the playoff is inevitable. I think the conversation needs to be, How do we get it right for the player, end of the day? How do we save the bowls?
I think we're past the point of -- not that's a foregone conclusion that it's 12 teams or whatever. I think there's a long way to go and a lot of conversation to be had on what's going to happen. I think expansion is going to be inevitable.
Money's driving that. I assume that's what the fans want. But I think most importantly what do the players want. To ask these guys to have to show up earlier, to have no open dates, to have no break between the championship game and another game, to play more games, I don't think -- that may be what's best for the money, what's best for the fans, but I don't think that's what is best for the player.
That's my opinion. Nothing changes. So I think if we're going to expand, I think you should talk about the season as well. Maybe you go to 11 games instead of asking these guys to play more. Having been there to say -- I can just visualize being in Tampa after beating Alabama with one second on the clock, and then being out there at Levi Stadium, you've been in a championship game, you've been in a playoff game, you've been in a national championship game. Now you sit there and look at these guys and say, All right, guys, we got one more. You're just spent. You're exhausted.
What it takes at that level. People say, It's just one more game. To me, that is a total lack of appreciation for what it takes to win a game, to prepare for a game, to play in a game of that magnitude. When you get to that level, you're talking about the best of the best, the elite of the elite. These guys all have, at that level, NFL aspirations, and a lot of them are going to play in the NFL. You got combines, you got a lot going on.
So I think there's a lot of -- lot of discussion. It was a fantastic presentation. He did an awesome job. But, again, we'll play whatever system, whatever rules we got. I was not for a four-team playoff. It's not like anything has changed for me.
I just want the players to be considered in that. We should not ask more of the player, in my opinion.
Q. Why is it so important for you to bring back former players like the recent news of Tajh Boyd joining your staff, what they bring to your staff?
DABO: I mean, Clemson is Clemson family. We've talked about that from day one when we built our program. I love being able to give a former player opportunity where it's warranted. It's been cool to see so many guys pursue coaching. I got another one right over here that's going to be -- he's like Pete Rose this year, player coach. But Skalski is going to be a coach whenever he's done. I love being able to nurture that. I love giving former players opportunities.
I think there's nobody more invested in your program than those who have put their blood, sweat and tears into it. So all the way from Tony Elliott who I coached, who was a captain for me. I think we've got 22 former players that are either full-time coaches, coordinators, P.A.W. Journey, strength and conditioning, player development, analysts, whatever it may be. I think their perspective is priceless. They've lived it. They've done it.
Most of them, most all of them, played for me. I'm not here if it wasn't for the player. So for me to be able to give a guy an opportunity to played for me is a big deal.
I'm also here because Gene Stallings gave me the opportunity. He could have given that opportunity to a lot of people, but he gave the opportunity to me because I had played for him for three years. I had been a GA for him for three years. Then, boom, he hired me full-time after that.
Without that opportunity to be that graduate assistant, that opportunity to learn under him, come in and work, I'm probably not standing here for sure.
To me, I love giving a former player the opportunity and, again, the perspective they bring to your team.
Q. For you last season the couple games you got to get into when Trevor was out, what are your takeaways to go back to that film, what you can say about stepping into this season as the true leader?
D.J. UIAGALELEI: Some things I would definitely say was definitely a true blessing to be able to get some starts into the game last season. I got a whole week of preparation becoming the starting quarterback, be able to get into that Notre Dame film.
Definitely a lot of things I can take from last year. I learned a lot backing up Trevor, seeing the way he runs the field, see the way he just treats off the field, too. He's the true definition of a professional in my eyes. That's why I think I could take from Trevor last year, learning from different games. There's a lot of stuff that I'll be taking from him, taking from my own experiences.
Q. What do you feel with Trevor Lawrence leaving, you now being the signal caller? What do you bring that's unique from Trevor in your skill set?
D.J. UIAGALELEI: Some things I feel like are definitely unique, I think I'm a little bit bigger, heavier than Trevor. About 250 pounds. That might be something a little bit more unique.
Trevor does a lot of great things. But I feel like our games are a little bit similar. I like to throw the deep ball a lot. I like to see how far I can throw it in a game. That might be one big thing.
I feel like for the most part there's not a lot of differences, but we just both like to play football.
Q. Tell me about your approach to the opportunities via NIL in general and specifically the deal announced yesterday with Bojangles, how you got into that, if that was a recent discovery for you?
D.J. UIAGALELEI: No, definitely, Bojangles is definitely a recent discovery. California, we don't have Bojangles down there. I remember one thing coming down here to the South, one thing I definitely learned is Jesus is number one here, then it goes football, and then it goes down people love Bojangles down here (smiling).
My approach with the NIL is that I don't want -- I signed with a marketing agency, VaynerSports, with AJ Vaynerchuk and Gary V. The whole idea of that was to make sure my goal is I want to be a student-athlete. So school comes first. I want to graduate. I want to be a football player second. I want to make sure all my focus is on those two. In my off time I can have people worry about my branding, NIL and stuff like that. That's how I'm treating the NIL.
Q. In six weeks or so you're going to be a few blocks away from here going against Georgia. College GameDay will be there. You've played big games. How do you feel all of those experiences will prepare you for walking into that stadium on September 4th against another top five program?
D.J. UIAGALELEI: I think all the experience will definitely help out. Playing in big games, high school played in a lot of big games. Nowhere near the magnitude with the game we're about to play, full capacity stadium. I think in high school played in front of 15,000. I like big games, I like the big moments. Really doesn't get me too nervous.
We're going to play a great team in Georgia. I'm super excited about being able to play them in Charlotte.
Q. Last year you said to came to Clemson to sit behind Trevor Lawrence like Aaron Rodgers did with Brett Favre. What did you learn from Trevor that you can take into this year?
D.J. UIAGALELEI: There's a bunch of stuff. I think the one thing I'll touch on is how to become a true professional of the game off the field. The way Trevor handled different things off the field, how he dealt with media, how he dealt going around town. He couldn't be like himself, he had to uphold to a Clemson quarterback where he maybe couldn't do the regular things that a college athlete or college student couldn't do.
He couldn't go down to Chipotle and get some food or it would turn into an autograph session, just different things like that, things about how to become a true professional of the game.
Q. This isn't much of a question, but with you getting that new Bojangles deal, I would look forward to having a (inaudible) meal deal, a $5 chicken supreme box, if you would consider that.
D.J. UIAGALELEI: That would be a super cool thing. I think that would definitely work. I have to talk to Bojangles about that (laughter).
Q. You had five weeks between games mid-season last year. Did that affect the team in any positive way, any negative way? What about the rhythm and that disruption?
JAMES SKALSKI: I think you got guys like Trevor going out, D.J. having to step in, you got key pieces to your team that missed some time, that allows young people to step in. Overall I think it helped us ultimately. Gave some guys more experience in some crucial times later in the year.
Q. People are accustomed to player turnover at Clemson. Your defense this year is unusual in that you hardly lost anybody. What are your expectations for your unit this year?
JAMES SKALSKI: It's the same every year. It's play good team defense, be in the top five in most of the categories. But for me this year, I just want to see all three levels playing together. I think last year was just a little dysfunctional at times. I think we have all the things we need to glue it all together and have a great defense.
Q. As you talked about the defensive pieces, the continuity, one of those key pieces Lannden Zanders, what have you seen from him in the off-season and what do you expect from him?
JAMES SKALSKI: Very unique guy in his athleticism. Real bendy. Great tackler, too, great in open field. We're real deep across the board everywhere.
Lannden is a guy that puts in work, keeps his head down, stays quiet. Does his job.
I think another year, I think he was battling injury a little bit, so a whole 'nother year in the weight room, I think you'll see a completely different player this year.
Q. Can you tag on to what Coach said about you ending your career as a coach and what has influenced you to take that decision?
JAMES SKALSKI: I just show up every day and I'm in love with what I do. When you get old like me, you start to think about, What am I going to do for the rest of my life? I'm getting to that point.
I just can't think of my life without the game of football or sports in some way. Maybe I'm not the next Coach V or Coach Swinney, but in some form or fashion I'll be around this game. That's just how I see it.
It's something I love. I can't get enough of it. So I got to have it.
Q. Not many people get to say they played six years of college football. With that being said, how excited are you to get the season started especially against Georgia?
JAMES SKALSKI: I mean, I'm very excited. It truly is the last one, so... I got to go out with a bang (smiling).
We usually end our regular season in Charlotte. It's a pretty cool experience getting to play a team the caliber of Georgia in a place luckily we're familiar with. It's exciting.
We're happy we get that caliber of opponent so that we can hopefully prove some people wrong.
Q. Coach Swinney said he would hate to ask you guys to play another game. You've been through the grind of playing 15 games. How would you feel about expansion, having to keep going as a player?
MATT BOCKHORST: I would say I definitely share Coach Swinney's sentiment, that I don't necessarily feel comfortable adding another game. I think if we're going to talk about expansion of the playoff, we also need to consider shortening the regular season.
As an offensive lineman, when you start getting up to 14, 15 games, that's quite a few snaps. Given the situation we were presented with last year with lack of depth, the snaps add up quickly. That's some wear and tear on your body that's hard to describe.
I'm not here to get anyone's pity, but it's much easier said than done. That's where I stand.
Q. The offensive line this season, what can you say going into 2021, your assessment of the line at this point?
MATT BOCKHORST: First thing I'd like to say is that our offensive line has had an incredible summer. The competition that I've witnessed from our group is unmatched during my time here at Clemson. I think the energy of the young guys, coupled with the experience of myself, Jordan McFadden and Will Putnam, I think we're in store for a special year.
I think that all really needs to come to fruition in camp in a couple weeks. I know we'll be well-prepared heading in to play Georgia, given the fact we get to compete against a good offensive line every day in practice.
Q. A bit on the lighter side. You have 1,352 career snaps. Is there one you remember most and one you'd like to forget?
MATT BOCKHORST: I'm going to go ahead and couple those as the same one. When we played Alabama in San Francisco for the national championship, the 2018 season, John Simpson's helmet got knocked off in I believe the first or second quarter. Let's just say I did not anticipate to actually play in that game. I go out, run my happy butt out there, first quarter of the national championship game, line up against future top five pick, Quinnen Williams. Safe to say I did not run the play correctly. I came out the next play (laughter).
That's how she rolls sometimes.
Q. Is there a different approach in blocking assignments when there are different quarterbacks at different points in the game?
MATT BOCKHORST: I'm not sure that I would say there's a different approach. I think that different quarterbacks bring different strengths to the field. At Clemson we're lucky enough to have pretty talented quarterbacks as of late. We just kind of try to do our job and make sure their jersey stays clean.
We're very fortunate obviously the past couple years having Trevor Lawrence, this year's No. 1 overall pick, now moving into this year with my good buddy D.J. over there. We're in pretty good hands. As long as we take care of our business, they can take care of theirs.
Q. Talking about D.J. there, I noticed you guys out yesterday together riding scooters. You're already out protecting him on the city streets. What kind of voice does he have in the huddle with you guys?
MATT BOCKHORST: I don't know if he needs me protecting him on the city streets. He's a pretty big guy.
D.J. has come in and just been a steady worker. He's got great confidence and poise for a young guy. Obviously we saw what he could do last year on the field when he was kind of forced to step in. He performed exceptionally well.
We all know how D.J. is as a player, but he's an even better guy. We enjoy being around him.
For me being a guy going into my fifth year, I certainly respect him. I know I can speak for my teammates when I say that.
We're really looking forward to having D.J. with the keys to the offense this year. I know he'll have our backs just like we'll have his.