Recreation

Q&A with Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney

Dabo Swinney realizes a 6-7 season in 2010 simply wasn't good enough for Clemson fans.

It didn't come close to reaching his expectations, either.

A 29-player recruiting class, ranked eighth in the nation by ESPN.com, gives Clemson's football coach reasons to believe improvement is on the way. He's certainly not shy about sharing his optimism.

He arrived on Hilton Head Island on Monday evening with another story to share -- his testimony of faith. Swinney served as the keynote speaker at Crowne Plaza Resort in Shipyard for the 33rd annual Week of Champions, a faith-based event in Beaufort and Jasper counties that has been running since 1978, director Gary Wetherington said.

Swinney said it was his first trip to the island, though a year ago he swooped up one of the top linebacker recruits in the nation, Justin Parker, from nearby Beaufort High School.

The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette spoke with Swinney and got his take on a loaded recruiting class, Parker's future with the Tigers and what coaches can do to rid college football of controversy.

QUESTION: WITH A YEAR-ROUND BUSY SCHEDULE, WHY DO YOU MAKE TIME FOR EVENTS LIKE THE WEEK OF CHAMPIONS?

Answer: This goes along with my faith. This is a great thing they're doing down here. It gives me an opportunity to share my faith and share my testimony with a lot of young people and hopefully impact some lives.

Q: With a highly-rated recruiting class coming to Clemson this fall, what are your expectations for your program's future?

A: I'm real excited about our future. I think we've addressed a lot of needs, and I feel like we're on the verge of great things. I really do. I think the glass is a little more than half full at Clemson University, and I'll be excited when those young players arrive on campus on July 3, because we're going to instantly be better.

Q: One of your recruits last year was four-star linebacker Justin Parker from Beaufort High -- how does he fit into your future?

A: He's an outstanding prospect. He played last year as a freshman, but he still had a lot to learn. He really, really had a great spring. He improved from fall to spring as much as any player I've ever been around. In fact, he got our most improved player award (during the spring). We're awfully excited about the future for Justin Parker.

Q: What advice would you give high school athletes who dream of playing at the next level?

A: There's a place for you. Play as long as you love the game. Find that spot you want to be at, and go for it. This is such a great game. To me, this game the greatest teacher of life we have out there. Keep playing.

Q: What will be the biggest changes with new offensive coordinator Chad Morris?

A: The biggest change is the tempo. We're going to be a very fast-paced offense, running a lot more plays than we did last year. That's been an adjustment for everybody, but it's gone very well.

The team's enthusiasm is very high right now. Even the defensive guys are real excited about what we're doing on offense, because they're excited that we're going to score some points. Chad Morris has done a great job. The guys have bought into that. We have some weapons that we're going to have to coach up in a hurry, but this system fits (quarterback) Tajh Boyd very well.

Q: What will be this team's keys to success?

A: We've got a good first group on both sides of the ball, but we're going to have some question marks with our backups. That's probably going to come from a lot of our youth, which is OK. I'm just ready to get started and ready to play. I think we're on the verge of some special times at Clemson University.

Q: There's been some controversy surrounding college football over the past year -- Cam Newton, Jim Tressel and Ohio State, Southern California. How can coaches do a better job of keeping a positive reputation for college football?

A: Just do things right. It's not that hard. Just do what's right. And if you do mess up, tell the truth about it. The sad part about it is those are the things that get all the headlines. You hear so much about all that stuff, but I really believe that 90 percent of the people out there do things the right way. I believe there's less cheating in college football now than at anytime in this game's history.

But there are things we can do as a sport. I think there's got to be some real teeth in consequences -- jobs, money, suspensions, those types of things. The best thing we can do is to do things the right way, police ourselves, police one another and promote the good things going on in our game.

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