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Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Duke's David Cutcliffe: Fierce competitors and close friends

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Who wants it? The ACC Coastal Division is completely up for grabs ... again (copy)

Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney have been friends for years. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

CLEMSON — David Cutcliffe is widely known for turning Duke into a winner and for developing quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning when they were in college.

Ask Clemson coach Dabo Swinney about his longtime pal and he'll explain why there is much more to Cutcliffe than just being a successful football coach.

For starters, Cutcliffe seems to have quite the dance moves. He put some of them on display just this past weekend when his 7-3 Duke football team knocked off rival North Carolina in Durham.

"I see him on the Nike trip every February,” Swinney said Tuesday, “and he's cutting the rug.”

Then, there is Cutcliffe's technological savvy, something he introduced to Swinney in February, when both of them were in Mexico.

"He was the guy who showed me the talking emoji — I didn't even know that I had that on my phone," Swinney said. "There's a little button and you select the character that you want. You can be a tiger, an elephant, a monkey, a unicorn ... he taught me how to do that. Cut's on it, man. He's with it."

And then, above all, there is his friendship.

Of all the years Swinney has been in coaching and of all the faces he has met along the way, there was a certain way he spoke about Cutcliffe this week that showed just how close the two of them are.

Cutcliffe's Blue Devils will be in Clemson Saturday night looking to pull off the upset of the season. The No. 2 Tigers are favored by four touchdowns.

The coaches' friendship dates back to Swinney's days at Alabama. That would have been more than 20 years ago.

"He's an old Alabama guy first of all, Banks High School. We never worked together, but 13 years at Alabama, you meet a lot of people that are connected to the university over that time and he was always at Tennessee for years and years and so we crossed paths many times over the years," Swinney said.

"Then, he was the head coach at Ole Miss and Marion Hobby was a mutual friend and so I got to know him even more through Marion.

"We've kind of been together the whole time in this league and so for the last 10 years I've gotten to know him really well ... He's all about the right things. He's definitely one of the good guys in this profession."

Cutcliffe, a mainstay at Duke who has built the historically-struggling Blue Devils into a respectable program, is known perhaps first and foremost for his relationship with the Mannings. He was Peyton Manning's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Tennessee, then was Eli Manning's head coach at Ole Miss.

Both born in Birmingham, Swinney (48) and Cutcliffe (64) have a good understanding of each other's past, which makes the 16-year age gap between them no big deal.

"I've kept up with them in the league, I've seen them through the years, I know Dabo very well," Cutcliffe told reporters in Durham. "When I say they're extremely well coached, they're extremely well coached."

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

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