CLEMSON — Maybe Dabo Swinney has learned to not bite when Steve Spurrier tweaks the Tigers, or perhaps the ol’ ball coach has grown tired of the sniping through the media.
It’s been a pretty tame the last few days without much incendiary remarks from Clemson to South Carolina or vice versa, and for Swinney’s part, he doesn’t see any acrimony in the relationship between the head coaches — at least much less than there was two years ago with some famous back-and-forths.
“Coach Spurrier’s only mean to me when he ain’t around,” Swinney said, drawing laughter at his Tuesday press conference. “He’s always really nice, he really is. I see him at different things throughout the year, he’s always got a golf outing down in Georgia, and he’s always very civil.”
At his own media session Tuesday, Spurrier spoke highly of Swinney’s family values; Swinney had similar, mutual compliments.
“His wife is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. She’s just a sweet lady. Our wives like each other,” Swinney said. “They probably get mad at both of us, but our wives swap gifts and all that kind of stuff.”
There have been jabs back and forth, like when Swinney asserted that “USC” was in southern California and “Carolina” refers to North Carolina, or Spurrier labeling LSU’s version as the real Death Valley instead of Clemson’s.
Water under the bridge, it would seem.
“He’s a competitive guy, I’m a competitive guy. They’ve got bragging rights, they’ve kicked our tail the last few years, that’s just the way it is,” Swinney said. “But I don’t take it personal. He doesn’t discriminate. He likes to say things from time to time that’s just him having fun. That’s Coach Spurrier. He’s been that way forever.”
Watch out for No. 7
USC junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had 4½ sacks last year of quarterback Tajh Boyd. He’s had two sacks in the Gamecocks’ 11 games this whole season.
“It’s not all about stats. That guy’s impacting the game every snap he’s in the game,” Swinney said. “Trust me. Whether he’s sacking a guy or making a tackle, he’s impacting the game. He is an elite football player.”
Without panicking or fretting over Clowney’s capabilities, Clemson coaches and players are just as wary of other USC defensive linemen like Kelcy Quarles (7 sacks) or Chaz Sutton, not to mention blocking effectively themselves.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Clowney, he’s a great player and he made some big plays in that game,” Swinney said, “but we had some big-time breakdowns. But you gotta give them credit.”
When Boyd was a younger player at Clemson, he said Clowney slept on his couch during a recruiting visit. That’s about as far as the relationship goes between each team’s face of the program.
“I’ve talked to him some after that, but in the past, there’s been no more conversation. Maybe after the game, man. But to this point, not at all.”
James or Mike?
Right now, sophomore USC running back Mike Davis’ career numbers can’t touch those of his older brother, James, who starred at Clemson from 2005-06.
In four full seasons, two-time All-ACC first-team back James Davis logged 3,881 yards (5.2 per carry) for 47 touchdowns. In his second season of action (and just 52 carries last year), Mike Davis is at 1,387 yards (6.0 per carry) and 12 scores, though he leads the SEC with 111.2 yards per game.
So is Mike better than his big brother? Swinney stayed politically correct.
“Uhhh, I don’t know about that,” Swinney said. “I’ll say this: I think he’s already a great player, but if he can have the longevity that James had, he’s on his way to being every bit as good. James Davis was a special player and a great running back here at Clemson. Mike is well on his way, no question about it.
“If he stays on the track he’s on, it’ll be interesting to see who has bragging rights around the turkey table when those boys get together.”