CHARLOTTE, NC. — Fresh off an appearance in the national title game, Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney understands his team has a target on its back. Last week, Swinney spoke to reporters at the ACC Media Kickoff.
Here is some of the conversation with the Tigers’ head coach:
You were joking about being back for another year at Clemson. You're in an odd profession. Even with all you've accomplished, do you feel like you have job security, or how much job security do you feel you have? With each level of accomplishment that you reach, does the pressure grow almost unrealistic?
SWINNEY: "Ain't no job security in what I do, that's for sure. If they'll tell Coach Bobby Bowden it might be time to move on, they'll tell Dabo, I promise you. There's no security in what we do.
"But I don't think of it like that. I just try to focus on doing the best I can do day in and day out, year in and year out. Sometimes, as I tell my players, the days are long but the years are short. Just try to enjoy the journey. That's really it.
"I don't know. I mean, we don't know if we're all going to wake up and have air in our body tomorrow. I don't really worry about stuff I don't control. I just worry about my personal approach and attitude.
"I love what I do. I'm passionate about what I do. I'm passionate about where I do it at, a place like Clemson. I just try to do my best. If my best isn't good enough, I mean, you move on.
"We embrace the expectations. Always have. I think our guys understand that. There's a small margin for error week in and week out with this profession and this job. Understand that everything is scrutinized to the Nth degree, what you say, how you say it, whatever.
"None of that stuff really bothers me. It comes with the territory. I just try to stay true to my core values, do what I think is best, in the best way I can possibly do it."
Could you update us on Mike Williams' situation. It was ghastly at the time. Where does he stand right now?
SWINNEY: "He's great. Ready to go. Had a great spring. He's confident. I thought the early part of spring, it took him a little while to kind of get his wind because he obviously hadn't played football in a while. Really kind of hit his stride the second half and finished strong, competed at a high level all spring.
"We did not let him scrimmage, but he did everything else, all the one-on-ones, all that stuff. He's great. I mean, he really is. He's poised to get back out there and hopefully pick up where he left off, scoring a bunch of touchdowns, but hopefully jogging back to the sideline when it's over."
You spoke about obviously not having stability on things you can't control. But your staff is staying together, your commitment to one another. What can you say about what you've given to them and what they've given to you back over the years to put you in the situation you're in?
SWINNEY: "If you look at any successful program out there, I mean, Alabama is probably the other program that's certainly had the type of consistency on the field that we've had. You surround yourself with great coaches. I think Coach Saban would tell you that, he's had great coaches. I've had a great staff.
"To be good at anything, you have to surround yourself with good people. This is a people business in every Coach Meyer up at Ohio State, he's always had a great staff. You have to surround yourself with good people because you're one person. You can't do it all.
"I've been very fortunate to have a great staff really from the start. I've had a great group of men I've worked with from day one that have done an incredible job of helping us build a foundation and build the program that we all enjoy today.
"But most importantly, the credit goes to the players, you know. You can have a bunch of good coaches, but if you don't have buy-in from the players, it ain't going to work. Very thankful for the young men that have played for me. As Deshaun was saying, all the way back to C.J., Tajh Boyd, Sammy, Spencer Shuey, Da'Quan Bowers, guys when we were in the process of building something special, stayed the course, didn't grow weary, bought in when they didn't have to buy in because they didn't come there for me to be their head coach.
"Just very appreciative of all the people who have had a part in helping us build our Clemson brand to where it is today because it's no one person's credit, that's for sure. It's a total group effort."
Last year, 14-1, made it to the championship game. How do you keep your team motivated for year number two? How do you keep your team motivated during the season?
SWINNEY: "It's probably easier, to be honest with you. We have a highly motivated team. I think it's just the culture of our program. Regardless of whether we won 10 or won 14, it's always about what's next.
"As Deshaun said, what we did last year is not going to win for us this year. We've got to go prove it and earn it all over again with our daily commitment. We start over. New team, new chemistry, new leadership. Pay the price all over again. With a humble and hungry spirit.
"We didn't win the game. We finished with some regrets. We want to finish with no regrets. Even had we won the game, for us, we're going to start over. We're going to go back to the basics and try and reinstall our program, the core values of our program, get everybody on the same page with a common purpose and go grind. That's just what we're always going to do.
"I think that mentality has allowed us to become an incredibly consistent program over the last five, seven years. This has been an easy team, probably the easiest team I've had, from a sense of urgency standpoint."
You did such a great job with your players last year. In Glendale you kept reminding them they earned it and deserved to be there. What do you and this program take away, how does playing in that national championship game help you moving forward, especially this year?
SWINNEY: "Well, I think the big thing is we all dream big, we talk about dreaming big, dream the dream. Last year it was dream the dream, 15 for 15. We kind of laid that out there. Let's go earn 15 opportunities. They give you 12. You're kind of guaranteed that. You earn what you get after that. It was something that we talked about a lot last year.
"But I guess the thing I would say is it's one thing to dream about something, it's another thing to experience it. It's been a long time since we've had a team at Clemson that has had a national championship experience, and all that comes with getting that experience, the run of that, the pressure of that, 10 straight weeks.
"You're getting everybody's 'A' game every single week. You're No. 1 in the country. Oh, by the way, we have another layer. We have a College Football Playoff. When Clemson won the national championship in '81, they were 12-0. 12-0 got us a ticket to the ACC championship game, which then you win that, you get a chance to go to a playoff, win that and get a chance to go to the national championship.
"This team has an experience that's different than any team I've had in the past. I think, again, we all learn from what we go through in life, the good and the bad. The failure is just as important, if not more important, than the success.
"Just another step in our journey last year. Again, I think the guys coming back, they know what it takes. Again, it's one thing to think you're good enough, it's another thing to know that you're good enough.
"I think, if anything, just a total buy-in from our players, just a validation of what we do in our program, how we do it, how we train, how we practice, how we meet. Everything I think just creates a little bit more buy-in. We've been working toward that for quite a while now."