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Opposing words: Clemson Tigers talk 2021 season, playoff, NIL

The ACC Kickoff annually marks the start of a new football season. On Wednesday and Thursday head coaches and select players from each school met with media to address a variety of topics. Over the course of the next week the Osceola will take a look at what each of the Seminoles’ 2021 ACC opponents had to say in Charlotte. We will begin with reigning ACC champion Clemson with head coach Dabo Swinney, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, OL Matt Bockhurst and LB James Skalski talking about this upcoming season, the implementation of the NIL legislation and the expansion of the CFB Playoff.

Dabo Swinney – Clemson

Clemson’s head coach infamously said in 2015 interview that if college football was ever professionalized – players were allowed to get paid for play – that he would have to find something else to do for a living. On Thursday, Swinney offered up his thoughts on the NIL.

You were a little apprehensive about the NIL at first. Seems like your sentiments have changed. You are one of the top programs in the nation. Can you elaborate on how you’re going to help players, if your current players want to approach other companies, how you’re going to facilitate that?

Swinney: I’ve never been apprehensive about NIL. That’s not the story. People hear what they want to hear, then they write what they want to write, then people believe what they want to believe. My comments were I’m against the professionalization of college athletics. Always have been, always will be. I’m for education, graduating, equipping young people through the game of football for life. That’s what it’s always been about for me. That’s what it’s always going to be about in college football. This does not change the collegiate model. This is just common sense. To say that is inaccurate, all right? This is common sense. If a young guys want to go do an autograph signing, if a guy wants to go back and do a
camp in his hometown, I worked all through college, there was never a day I didn’t work on my time. I cleaned
gutters, umpired, cut grass, sold Cutco knives. I worked non-stop all through college. For our kids to not have the opportunity to work on their time, I’ve never agreed with that. That’s a common sense thing to me. I would have liked more to have been done through the scholarship, to be quite honest with you, because then everybody could participate.
NIL is going to be for some, not for everybody.

While in Charlotte all the ACC head football head coaches were given a chance to meet with Notre Dame Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick who is on the College Football Playoff Management Committee who gave a presentation to the coaches about the potential to expand the playoff.

Did you attend Jack Swarbrick’s playoff presentation last night? If so, did it allay or perhaps even affirm some of the concerns you voiced to your local media the other day?

Swinney: Yeah, I was there. Man, he did a phenomenal job. I will say this: the four people, I can’t remember who all it was, but the four people who I guess authored it, put the presentation together, spent two years trying to study and come up with something, research, take the charge that had been given to them I guess by the presidents or the committee or whatever, they did a phenomenal job. No, it doesn’t change my stance at all. Again, my opinion, it doesn’t mean anything because that train’s left the station. I think sitting around and talking about what this coach thinks or that coach is a waste of time at this point. I think expansion of the playoff is inevitable. I think the conversation needs to be, How do we get it right for the player, end of the day? How do we save the bowls? I think we’re past the point of – not that’s a foregone conclusion that it’s 12 teams or whatever. I think there’s a long way to go and a lot of conversation to be had on what’s going to happen. I think expansion is going to be inevitable. Money’s driving that. I assume that’s what the fans want. But I think most importantly what do the players want. To ask these guys to have to show up earlier, to have no open
dates, to have no break between the championship game and another game, to play more games, I don’t think – that
may be what’s best for the money, what’s best for the fans, but I don’t think that’s what is best for the player. That’s my opinion. Nothing changes. So I think if we’re going to expand, I think you should talk about the season as well. Maybe you go to 11 games instead of asking these guys to play more … I was not for a four-team playoff. It’s not like anything has changed for me.

Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei

What do you feel with Trevor Lawrence leaving, you now being the signal caller? What do you bring that’s unique from Trevor in your skill set?

Uiagalelei: Some things I feel like are definitely unique. I think I’m a little bit bigger, heavier than Trevor. About 250 pounds. That might be something a little bit more unique. Trevor does a lot of great things. But I feel like our games are a little bit similar. I like to throw the deep ball a lot. I like to see how far I can throw it in a game. That might be one big thing. I feel like for the most part there’s not a lot of differences, but we just both like to play football.

What did you learn from Trevor that you can take into this year?

Uiagalelei: There’s a bunch of stuff. I think the one thing I’ll touch on is how to become a true professional of
the game off the field. The way Trevor handled different things off the field, how he dealt with media, how he dealt going around town. He couldn’t be like himself, he had to uphold to a Clemson quarterback where he maybe couldn’t do the regular things that a college athlete or college student couldn’t do. He couldn’t go down to Chipotle and get some food or it
would turn into an autograph session, just different things like that, things about how to become a true professional of the game.

Clemson OL Matt Bockhorst

Coach Swinney said he would hate to ask you guys to play another game. You’ve been through the grind of playing 15 games. How would you feel about expansion, having to keep going as a player?

Bockhurst: I definitely share Coach Swinney’s sentiment, that I don’t necessarily feel comfortable adding another game. I think if we’re going to talk about expansion of the playoff, we also need to consider shortening the regular season. As an offensive lineman, when you start getting up to 14, 15 games, that’s quite a few snaps. Given the situation we were presented with last year with lack of depth, the snaps add up quickly. That’s some wear and tear on your body that’s hard to describe. I’m not here to get anyone’s pity, but it’s much easier said than done. That’s where I stand.

Clemson LB James Skalski

People are accustomed to player turnover at Clemson. Your defense this year is unusual in that you hardly lost anybody. What are your expectations for your unit this year?

Skalski: It’s the same every year. It’s play good team defense, be in the top five in most of the categories. But for me, this year, I just want to see all three levels playing together. I think last year was just a little dysfunctional at times. I think we have all the things we need to glue it all together and have a great defense.