CLEMSON — Asked generally, but not specifically, about his approach when private bickering goes public, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney didn’t have much personal experience to draw upon.
But he does try to avoid creating headlines via confrontation — the way Clemson’s in-state rival, South Carolina, poured out frustration after its 41-30 loss to Georgia Saturday.
Among the fracas in the visiting Gamecocks’ postgame interviews was head coach Steve Spurrier hinting he’d be getting more involved with South Carolina’s defensive game plan, saying “We’re going to change our defense … I’ll give coach (Lorenzo) Ward some suggestions.”
On the sideline during the loss, linebackers coach Kirk Botkin and defensive line coach Deke Adams exchanged heated words, forcing Ward and free safety Brison Williams to separate them.
The question on Clemson’s Monday teleconference did not specify the Gamecocks’ woes, and Swinney seemed unaware of the situation two days after his own third-ranked Tigers dismissed South Carolina State, 52-13.
“I try not to get involved in that type of stuff — publicly, anyway. I’m not into calling out coaches,” Swinney said. “My job is to be the head coach, because ultimately I am responsible. Anything that’s good is a credit to our coaches, and anything’s that bad is my fault. That’s what I believe, because it’s my job to fix things.”
South Carolina’s star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney also vented his frustration with the game plan, as North Carolina and Georgia have purposely schemed away from the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Since Clemson is 2-0, everything’s hunky-dory in the Upstate. That’s the nature of college football.
“This is a tough business; there’s emotion, guys are competitive and everybody wants to win. All of a sudden, when you don’t win, some of those things might rear their head,” Swinney said. “From time to time, you’ll have guys that might say something you don’t want them to say. You sit down with those guys and educate them. Everybody has guys that get mad or get their feelings hurt.”
Out of sync
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ playbook is based on precision, so it makes sense he’d be a perfectionist.
“I didn’t think we played with nearly the energy we needed to play with, especially our older guys,” Morris said after reviewing tape of Saturday’s game. “We didn’t perform like we needed to play.”
The Tigers ran 54 plays and exceeded 300 yards in the first half alone before the starters departed. But clearly, the offense wasn’t its usual powerful self.
The lowlight was when the visiting Bulldogs stuffed senior tailback Roderick McDowell on fourth-and-1. “I know it gave me a bad taste in my mouth,” Morris said.
With 19 days between the Georgia showdown and Clemson’s ACC opener at North Carolina State, Morris is concerned about the offense’s rhythm after a lackluster second effort.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. It was good to get them some rest, get them some reps early, (but) I didn’t think we got any flow,” Morris said. “Didn’t think the first group got any continuity.”
Sammy in the doghouse
Since dropping a punt return against Georgia and surrendering momentum when the Bulldogs recovered, junior Sammy Watkins has not been sent back to field punts.
“Catch the ball consistently. Keep your eyes on the ball. He’s trying to do too much,” Swinney said of what Watkins must correct. “That was a definite fair catch situation, and he wants to return it. That’s a guy wanting to make a play, but it’s a short kick, guys are right there on you — just fair catch the ball, focus your eyes on the ball and finish the play.”
Swinney said Watkins was caught peeking at the Georgia gunners, losing his concentration.
“Next thing you know, he doesn’t have good fundamentals, a good foundation underneath him, and he muffs it,” Swinney said. “He’s got to do his job.”
Redshirt freshman receiver Germone Hopper now has the same amount of ACC Rookie of the Week honors as former receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and one more than quarterback Tajh Boyd.
Hopper was acknowledged by the league office for his six-catch, 66-yard, two-touchdown performance against S.C. State. It was the Tigers’ lone weekly nod, a week after garnering four.