David Cutcliffe Talks Clemson

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.

COACH CUTCLIFFE: Obviously going to Clemson, just playing the quality of that team, the number two team in the country, that certainly plays as if it's a number one team in the country. At Clemson, Death Valley, Saturday night, is a huge challenge. One that our team needs to embrace and look forward to. And you hope you have a program that's excited about challenges rather than getting overly concerned about it.

So we've practiced well. We'll see what happens one day at a time. That's all I've got on this end.

Q. You haven't played Clemson since I believe 2012. That was Brent Venables' first year as defensive coordinator. I'm just wondering how you think they're different or similar since the last time you saw them.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, obviously it's been a while. So I think they've continued to improve physically. I think Venables has a system in place that veteran players have really embraced. They do a lot of different things they do them well. They were aggressive then. But I think this is a completely different level of Clemson defense.

And I think he's as good as there is in the business.

Q. How much does it help to have a veteran quarterback like Daniel Jones when you're going into an environment like Death Valley, what do you say to some of the younger guys that may not have seen an environment like that?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, it always helps to have a veteran quarterback. He can have a settling effect. We do have some veteran players on offense. That will help. To some level, you still have to -- the environment's one thing. The defense we're looking at is a whole different thing.

So they're both really difficult, but there's no question that a veteran can help not only on the field but in the preparation and just we're counting on our leadership to help control those young folks' emotions. And sometimes you have to -- takes a little while to get through that, the opening quarter even can be a jolt to a lot of young players. But we'll somewhere in there settle down, I believe.

Q. I'm writing a story about Dexter Lawrence. I don't know how much video you've seen of him this week. But I was kind of curious your impression of what you've seen?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, I watched him play in high school, live. I've certainly watched every game they've played this year and watching him play defense. He's a great player. He's, as we all know, a big, powerful young man. His athleticism defies someone that size. Always has had it.

And they've done a great job. He looks like he's in great shape and can play a complete game and plays really hard. So a guy that's 350, 350-plus pounds, whatever that is, he plays really well. Plays really hard.

Q. In terms of trying to contain that Clemson offense, can you take a page from anything that, say, Syracuse or Boston College have done this year to kind of try to keep this within reach there?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, you always watch opponents, and particularly pay attention to games where opponents have played better, maybe, than some others.

I think a lot of that comes down to players that you have in matchups. Certainly you've got to play with great effort, focus and intensity. But you also have to be able to match their physicality. And Boston College and Syracuse both, defensively, are playing very physical right now. And we've got to pick that up a notch to be able to stay on the field with those guys. And then once you do that, you still have to be able to handle an incredibly gifted quarterback with a lot of weapons.

They can run the ball. They are physical but they can also create explosive after explosive in the pass game. So I think our young people realize that they've got a big challenge in front of them. We've certainly practiced with great intensity. But it will be just something you do one play at a time. You can't live and die within a single play. But you've got to play every play as if the game depended upon it.

Q. Obviously you've had a lot of experience with high-profile quarterbacks, having to make decisions about their futures. And I know you still have a couple of games still left to play but a lot of NFL folks liking what they're seeing out of Daniel Jones. When do you begin to have those types of discussions with him as he tries to evaluate his future?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: He should be drawing a lot of attention, because he's legitimately that type of player and person. We've already had a little conversation. Nothing -- I've just tried to help he and his father both, because I've been through it so often, just as to what to expect and here's the thought process that you need to put into it and you need to learn that you don't listen to noise; you need to evaluate your information clearly from the league.

And we'll get to that pretty quickly, once we finish next week. And there's so much in the media that you just -- and I told both of them, you can't ride that wave. It's unimportant. And I'm going to tell you, he has been incredibly focused and will be. He's such an unusual young man that he would not ever -- he's such a great teammate, let me put it that way. He would never let himself get distracted. I've been very pleased with that part of it.

Dabo Swinney


THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Dabo Swinney.

COACH SWINNEY: We're excited about being back at home this week. It is senior day for us and military appreciation day. We've got a great military heritage here at Clemson. And so we always look forward to this day. And certainly with this senior class, this is the biggest senior class I've had, just unbelievably accomplished group. A bunch of graduates, and just great young men that we're going to honor individually coming down the hill this week.

So, excited about that. And ironically they'll have an opportunity, if we can win it will be their 51st win, which will be an ACC record for this group. Proud of this group and again looking forward to honoring them.

And then Duke, this is really going to be a big challenge. They're 7-3. Beat Northwestern at Northwestern who clinched the division in the Big Ten.

I think this quarterback is as good as there is in the country. And really impressed with him. I think he's probably going to be one of the top two or three quarterbacks taken in the draft. But Coach Cuts has done an unbelievable job with this football team. And I know that we're going to be challenged in a big way and are going to have to play at a very high level to have a chance to come out of it with a win.

So we're excited about it. And with that I'll take your questions.

Q. What makes Dexter Lawrence such an exceptional defensive lineman? And is it his agility that maybe most stands out among his qualities?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I think it's the combination of his agility and size. There's very few guys that are 345 pounds that have the body composition that he has. He's 345 but he is a muscle. And his composition is really good. And then you couple that with his unique agility, ability to change direction, just strength, makes him really, really special.

And then he's a high character young man that just plays with a tremendous motor and effort. And so those are a lot of great characteristics. Certainly his measurables, but I think it's his immeasurables that make him special.

Q. Obviously you've had some excellent teams in recent years. But have you learned this year, are you better than you were in recent years in any certain area?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, I think we're just a more experienced team. Coming into the season, it's one thing, on paper, I felt like this would be the deepest and most experienced team that we had coming in. But that doesn't always equate to performance. But these guys have done a great job to this point. And I think that has proven to be the case.

And certainly we've been able to play a lot of people and we've been able to really use our depth through these 10 games. And I think hopefully it will pay off for us as we get down the home stretch here.

Q. When you're game-planning for Duke or for any opponent, in your opinion, is it more important to concentrate on what you do best and see if they can stop it, or do you have to concentrate on adjusting to stop them to see what you can do to stop them from doing what they do best?
COACH SWINNEY: I think it's a combination of both of those things. I think at the end of the day you always start with who you are and what you do, and you study how they defend those things or how they attack those things based on game tape and all that in the previous games. And then you formulate your plan.

But, yeah, you're not going to change who you are from week-to-week, but there are game plan adjustments and things like that that you have to tweak, or maybe as you study the opponent you realize that you might have to feature some other things more in your package than maybe something that you did last week against a different style of play. If they're going to be more of a man team or more of a zone team, then you're going to call some plays differently. But it's all within your system.

So at the end of the day, regardless of what you do, it still comes down to being able to do what you do better. Blocking, tackling. Just execution. But you gotta be aware of what they do so you can position your players to have a chance to be successful.

Q. Let's talk about the military appreciation day. I know I talked to you about it last year. Just refresh everybody here on the call about what you guys do for military appreciation day?
COACH SWINNEY: Yeah, it's a great event here. We play in Memorial Stadium. And right across from where the rock is where we enter is the Scroll of Honor and that's a memorial for all of our veterans that were lost in war. And Clemson was a military school, all the way until 1955, I believe. And in fact I think only Texas A&M had more officers in World War II than Clemson University.

So just a deep heritage here and something that we take a lot of pride in this day and just the pageantry that we try to instill and it's a lot of fun. A lot of fun. We won't be able to have the fly-over this year because it's at night. But there will still be a lot of veterans coming back and they, all throughout the game, they do a great job of capturing the essence of the day and the tradition of our university.

Q. A question about Daniel Jones, what do you see getting ready for him, do you think he's an NFL-type quarterback next year?
COACH SWINNEY: I don't think there's any doubt about it. To be honest with you, I haven't really studied him much prior to this game. Just because we haven't played Duke in a while. And just haven't studied him a lot closely. But as I watched him, man, oh man, not only is he going to be a pro, he's going to be a high pick. This guy can flat out play, incredible presence in the pocket. He's big and strong. He can fly. You know, he just pulls away from people. He rushed for 180 yards last week and can make every throw. He makes some really, really tight throws against contested coverage. And I can't imagine that he's not going to be one of the top quarterbacks to be drafted.