Press Conference Transcript via ASAP Sports.
Q. Can you talk about the problems that Sammy Watkins presents? He's obviously had a huge impact as a freshman at Clemson. When you see him and compare him to the other top receivers, seeing Gibbons last week and Vernon and Varner the week before, what does Watkins do that makes him so effective?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, he's a lot faster than a lot of people, that's the first thing. You know, when you watch him, it's hard to fathom that he is just a true freshman. He has tremendous skills, quickness and speed. He's a handful.
Q. Is he a guy that you shape your coverage for, to double him or try to take him away and make him do other things?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, I don't know if we are equipped to do that, but you certainly have to be aware of where he is and what he does, and schematically do the best job you can to make sure you try to neutralize him in the best things he does.
Once again, I don't know, you have to be on a certain level to do some of those things. We have to play our defense.
Q. Coach, Clemson tries to set up a quick pace offensively, snap the ball inside 20 seconds or so, does that create problems any more for teams, or do you see that enough that you are conditioned to it?
COACH SPAZIANI: No, I think it creates problems and I think people are starting to create their hands around it. I don't think we have our hands around it; we being coaches, that is, as much as we are going to need to with many teams doing it, and it's certainly been a problem for us. It's certainly something that's a big concern.
Q. I assume that it just pretty much limits, if not eliminates, in some circumstances situations, substitutions.
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, you know, it's not -- when they substitute, you're supposed to be allowed to substitute and so there's a gray area in there. But it poses problems, it does, yeah, because of, you know, trying to get fresh people on the field and matchups. There are a lot of problems there. That's why they do it.
Q. I know this is a loaded question, but can you explain or summarize why you guys have struggled so much this season?
COACH SPAZIANI: That's not a loaded question. That's straightforward. We have struggled, and once again explaining is not excuse-making. We are who we are and we never have excuses.
We have had some -- what usually happens when you struggle. We have a leadership issue. We have very few upper class seniors on the team. We have had the ones that were upper class injured and hurt. And we have had guys in and out of the lineup, and we have had an inconsistency in our practice schedules that has shown up and manifested itself in the games.
Once again, they are realities and nothing that we didn't expect or obviously there's some different things that happened that no one expected. But injuries that came -- you know they are going to happen. You just are not sure who it's going to happen. So everybody is going have them and you have to work through the problems. I hope that answers your loaded question.
Q. Is there anything that you can do in the second half of the season to reverse that?
COACH SPAZIANI: First of all, we are not into the second half. You know, we are getting better. Let me just say that, all right and once again, the record is what it is. But there's improvement. The young players that are playing are getting better. The players are working hard. There's a tremendous attitude.
And we go one game at a time. You know, the whole idea from the beginning, and this is not a revelation for programs, but is to get better as the season goes along. So you know, we are not looking to get better -- we always are looking to get better week-to-week. I guess that will improve in the second half, won't it.
Q. To follow up on that, have you resigned yourself to, we are going to need win ballgames, 21-20, 23-20, that kind of thing, have you resigned yourself to, that there's a certain kind of ballgame you can win, you have to play a certain way defensively?
COACH SPAZIANI: Resign yourself is not the term I would have used. We look at our squad, and we looked at it in preseason and we looked at it in summer and we looked at it as we are going along. We are always evaluating how we have to play to maximize our chances to win, and we knew we had to play different coming in in some ways, and as things have unfolded, you know, that's -- we have not quite met the challenge doing that. We understand that we have to make some adjustments.
Q. So you knew you had to play a certain way, so you privately saw this coming; that it was going to be a struggle offensively this year?
COACH SPAZIANI: Not privately. I've been quite forthcoming with how we -- with what we needed to get out of certain people and how we had to play and what our role would be as coaches and putting guys in the right.
Q. With all of those great receivers outside Clemson has, how difficult is it to handle their tight end, Dwayne Allen, who is also a big, physical, fast guy?
COACH SPAZIANI: You're right, he's a great football player. They have a lot of great football players. And we usually do when there are a lot of great receivers like that, we just don't cover the decoys.
Q. You were asked recently about sort of a comparison to last season when you got started slow and finished strong and from what I kind of read in the comments, you basically shot down any type of comparisons. And I'm wondering what your thinking was in doing that, or is it a message to your players, don't expect that you can magically turn things around; some people might have thought you were sounding kind of pessimistic with those answers.
COACH SPAZIANI: You know, first of all, I'm not pessimistic at all. I'm very optimistic. What I was trying to say was, yes, there is certainly a comparison in both years, the starts have not been exactly what you would like. Let's put it that way; the optimist.
But they are different teams with different problems and certainly different circumstances. And yes, we did it once and certainly you can build on that, and you should. But it doesn't guarantee and we are certainly working towards that. That's what I was trying to say. I was in no way implying pessimism, because that's not even a thought. Matter of fact I'm very optimistic about the direction we are going.
Q. What gives you some optimism?
COACH SPAZIANI: The optimism is that we have a tremendous amount of improvement that we can make. There's a tremendous amount of potential.
Now, potential means you haven't done it yet; but we have that. And it looks like it's a function of time and we have to speed it up as fast as possible. And we have kids that are working hard, understand exactly what they have to do, and they are coming out to practice and to get as good as they possibly can be.
The guys that are out there every day are getting better, and we'll all get better for it. That's my -- there's a lot to be optimistic about.
Q. Montel, can you quantify where he is physically at this point?
COACH SPAZIANI: Montel will be day-to-day throughout, you know -- that's where he is. It's taken a long time to get to this point, and best answer I can give you is he's day-to-day.
Q. He's shown incredible grit to be able to work through that.
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, Montel, I've said it over and over again. Montel is a very special person and he's certainly a very special player, and we all recognize it here in BC.
Q. The other thing, curiously, this Clemson/Boston College rivalry in the ACC has taken on kind of an identity of its own, obviously recognized with the trophy deal; but just the nature of the games and the closeness and some of the dramatic outcomes. Is it just kind of a curiosity or is it -- do you have a view of it?
COACH SPAZIANI: Yeah, I think somebody asked that. I think early on, a couple of the games had some implications. They had -- they were all important but some are exponentially important with rewards and outcomes. So I think that has taken it on, and they have got great fans, and they have been for the most part competitive games. So other than that, I can't really explain it.
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