Quotes from the weekly ACC coaches’ teleconference, courtesy of the good people at the ACC:
COACH GROBE: Thank you. We got whipped pretty good this past weekend by a good Florida State team down in Tallahassee. I thought we were in the game for quite a while, actually improved a little bit defensively, but couldn’t get anything going offensively.
For the past couple weeks now we haven’t played very good, so we’re hoping to play a little bit better this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Jim, what is your current quarterback status?
COACH GROBE: Well, we actually are not certain right now. With Tanner Price, he’ll be day to day. He did not practice yesterday. With this concussion stuff, you’ve got to be really careful. It’s possible he could get the green light by Saturday, but the issue becomes practice time. That is a problem.
The other three quarterbacks, Ted Stachitas, Brendan Cross, Sky Jones, all practiced yesterday. We’ll see how that sorts out. We’ve got to certainly find somebody that can get our offense going a little bit.
Q. No matter who winds up starting, what are you looking for to regain that offensive spark you had the first couple of weeks?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think we did a pretty good job running the option in the first couple weeks and have not done a very good job of that the past couple weeks. I think we’ve played a couple of pretty stout defenses these past couple weeks.
I think one of the things that has hurt us has been the inexperience at the quarterback position. Certainly with Tanner being a true freshman, he’s seeing a lot of things for the first time, really has been only practicing with us since August. The other quarterbacks are very inexperienced also. They’re older kids but don’t have any more game experience than Tanner Price. I think the biggest issue for us is lack of experience at the quarterback position.
The disappointing thing is that both Tanner and Ted have been injured and haven’t been able to develop any kind of consistency. I think we’re probably looking for somebody that can show us some consistency but also somebody that can show some durability.
Q. Coach, the past two weeks, y’all have given up more than 500 rushing yards. You’re facing a team that’s going to run the option exclusively. What are you going to do to improve the rushing defense for this game?
COACH GROBE: It’s a problem, there’s no question about that. Now we’re facing maybe the best rushing team in the country this Saturday in Georgia Tech. We know it’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.
Again, it sounds a little bit like a broken record, but inexperience has really hurt us. One of the things you always want to do defensively is you want to be pretty strong in one or the other, either rush defense or pass defense. We haven’t been strong either way. We’ve given up a lot of rush yards, but we’ve also given up a lot of passing yards.
I think the only thing that’s going to make us better is to keep playing games. But it’s tough on a coaching staff when you know the thing you need is more experience and the only way you can get it is to learn on Saturday.
Q. Jim, you saw Christian Ponder on Saturday. What about him as a passer caught your eye?
COACH GROBE: I was really impressed. We played Andrew Luck the week before. I was really impressed with him. With Christian, we felt like he and Andrew Luck are the same type kids. I thought the thing that Christian can do, especially with his feet, he runs really well out of the pocket. He made some pretty impressive throws on Saturday. A couple of throws we had them in third-and-long and thought we played pretty good coverage, and he just threaded the needle on a couple of pretty long throws.
I think his strength certainly is being a veteran in running their offense, his best strength. But I think his arm strength is really good. Like Andrew Luck was at Stanford, he’s a kid that when everything breaks down, he can beat you running with the football.
Q. Coach, not to dwell on the Florida State game, but one of their young defensive ends Brandon Jenkins has emerged this year, not just with sacks, but against the run. He came up big on the fourth and four. What jumped out at you? What did you think of him seeing him this past weekend?
COACH GROBE: We were very impressed. He’s got good strength and can really run. He’s got the real good foot speed. He gets off blocks really well. He has high energy and really chases the ball around.
But I think the strength, we thought all those four guys up front were really impressive. I think the real strength of any of those individuals is the group. Anybody you look at in that front four, there’s nobody you would think you would like to go at. They’re really talented.
What I thought was so special about them defensively, they didn’t need anybody to get pressure on you. They can play zone coverages or man coverages without bringing anybody other than that front four.
So we were very impressed, not only with him but with that whole defensive front.
Q. Jim, as you talk about the consistency at quarterback, obviously the inexperience, as you look back at the Skinner era, anything you would have done differently now to prepare quarterbacks, or is that just kind of the cost of having a four-year guy like that?
COACH GROBE: Well, the problem that we had when we had Riley was that all of our games were close games. We very rarely, when we had that kid here, got beat by a whole bunch of points and very rarely did we ever beat anybody by a solid margin. We won some games, but they were all nail-biter type games when we couldn’t take Riley out. That’s been our problem.
These kids that are playing right now never had the opportunity, while Riley was here to actually get in games and get some snaps, like you’d be able to do with a backup quarterback because all of our games were so close.
COACH BEAMER: We’re getting ready to play a team that’s really hot, really very efficient, very fast, very well-coached. a tremendous challenge for our football team.
Q. Frank, there’s a lot made of NC State’s offense, the way they’re playing. Their defense, at least from a yardage standpoint, probably held Georgia Tech in check as well as anybody has in a while. What were your impressions of their defense?
COACH BEAMER: I’m very impressed. I think they’re faster. I think they’re really flying around. I think Nate Irving coming back is probably not only from a playing standpoint, probably a leadership standpoint, means a lot to that defense.
I think they’ve got an impressive football team. Very, very impressive football team.
Q. It would seem your own defense has started to turn things up a bit. Is that just a matter of getting some game experience under their belts?
COACH BEAMER: We played better. Last six quarters we played better. Getting ready to face an offense that’s been very, very efficient, kind of certainly different from a quarterback’s ability to run than we faced last week. We have a different challenge here this week.
Q. Coach, NC State was not picked to finish high in the conference by the media. You can say that while the media doesn’t know what they’re talking about sometimes, what did we miss? What are they doing so much better this year that makes them 4-0?
COACH BEAMER: I think they added a couple of guys to their defense that’s really helped them. I think getting a linebacker back like Irving really helps them. I think their freshman runningback, Green to go with Haynes, that really helps them. Then they had the quarterback.
I think they did a good job coaching, but I think they’ve added some people. They had a lot of injuries last year. A lot of the people played. Now those people are back, plus some of the injury guys are back. They’ve got a good combination going right now.
COACH LONDON: Good morning. It’s been a great week of preparation. Looking forward to a home contest with Florida State, a program that everyone knows has been very good and is rebuilding with Coach Fisher at the helm there.
It’s going to be a great atmosphere. I think a lot of people will be at the game. We’re all excited and looking forward to competing against a good team as Florida State is.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach London.
Q. Coach, Florida State’s defense has played extremely well the last two weeks. Big playmakers on defense. Kendall Smith seems to be their linchpin. What were your impressions watching him on tape?
COACH LONDON: I tell you what, he is. There’s a lot of players that are very, very good players in their defense. No. 13 is their leading tackler. You look at Markus White, Everett Dawkins, Greg Reid, I could go on and on with the names of guys who are really standing out.
I know that’s kind of the way they expect the Florida State defense to play. So we definitely have our work cut out for us trying to not let those players wreck the game because all of them are capable of doing that in their own right.
Q. What does Smith seem to contribute from that middle linebacker spot? What are his strengths?
COACH LONDON: Well, I mean, when you look at the defense as a whole, they run very well. In space, they tackle. They get off blocks well. They use their hands well. But when you’re a middle linebacker, you’re kind of the quarterback of the defense, so to speak. I know he gets the guys lined up. He’s involved in the running game and the passing game, all those things.
He just brings the middle linebacker presence. When you have a good middle linebacker, you normally have a pretty good defense. So there’s no surprise the way they’re playing on defense. Attribute a lot of that to the guy that’s in the middle.
Q. Mike, with Tim out, do you expect one guy to kind of step forward and take all those snaps that Tim got, or are Jared and Matt likely to split it in some fashion?
COACH LONDON: No, outside of the first two guys, Inman and Burd will be receiver by committee because different guys can do different things. We’re going to have to ask them to do what they can do or do what they’re good at doing and being smart about what they ask them to do.
Next-man-up mentality; whether it’s Snyder, Green or Keys or Royal, whoever it is, to be able to do something to help us.
Q. Mike, how are you dividing the time between Taliaferro and Greer? How do you decide that during a game?
COACH LONDON: It depends on obviously what they’re doing to you. It depends on down and distance. Sometimes, listen, after about the first eight, ten reps, you go in. It’s a game-time adjustment. You look and see what they’re doing. Hopefully you can assess what your own players’ abilities and skills are, then what they’re trying to do, you want to try to match it up with a player whose skills and abilities, what the offense is trying to do to you.
We don’t go in and say 50/50 as far as reps are concerned. We go in saying, Both of you have to play, and it will depend on what they’re trying to do to us in situations that are current to the game as far as who will be playing.
We definitely have two starting middle linebackers, guys that can help us.
Q. Coach, I know you had a question about some of the Florida State defensive players. What do you see in their end, Brandon Jenkins, No. 49?
COACH LONDON: Well, I tell you, he’s one of those type of players that he plays well versus the run. Also, look at him, the way he rushes the passer. You have to have a good pass defense, guys that can come off the edge and rush. If you’re going to have good run-stopping defenses, then you have to have guys that can do that.
You look at Florida State, their outside rushers, four-man rush, they lead the country in sacks. When you have a guy like that, of his ability, that can put pressure on the quarterback, hit on him, sacks, things like that, then you don’t need to do a whole lot in the back end when you have four guys that can rush like he can.
I’m sure the other three players with him also make him better because all four of them demand constant attention and awareness. But he raises his game a whole other level.
Q. I sensed you were pleased with both Rocco and Metheny when they played the other day. Are you anywhere closer to having a number two quarterback based on what you saw the other day?
COACH LONDON: It’s what we saw yesterday and in today’s practice. Today is another padded practice. We do different things. It was good to see both of them manage the offense. Obviously, Michael threw an ill-advised throw anticipating, but there was no receiver in that area.
So today is another day of evaluating. The practices were pretty efficient yesterday. Ross has done a nice job of continuing to improve. I think competition has made both of them step their game up.
We’ll see probably by Thursday, we’ll let that guy know which guy will be the next guy in the game based on their practice performance this week.
Q. Coach, with your three non-conference games under your belt, as you step into conference play for the first time, what kinds of things about your team are beginning to reveal themselves as to what kind of team you have offensively and defensively?
COACH LONDON: Well, we try to emphasize playing hard, playing aggressive, not worrying about making mistakes, things like that. I think with the different schemes that have been implemented, for the most part our guys have done that. We played Richmond, a very good FCS, former national championship-caliber team. Then, we flew out to USC; a different venue, great team out there on the road. Came back, played VMI, another FCS team. We were able to do some things.
Now you’re back in the conference schedule, playing a high-caliber team like FSU. We’re trying to find out, what our identity is. That will bear out here as the season goes on as we get into the ACC schedule.
Right now, I just like the way we’re playing and handling things. I like some of the leadership that’s going on and the ability offensively to move the ball around to a couple guys, running game with Keith Payne, and Perry Jones, two different styles of backs. Quarterback for the most part is making good decisions. Receivers are catching the ball.
Defensively, very simple. We don’t do a whole lot of things, just try to get them to play fast and hard.
On special teams it was good to see Robert Randolph kick a 33-yarder, 44-yarder and in practice he kicked a 50-yarder. We have to get the special teams aspects back because it’s such a huge element. As you watch Florida State, I watch their No. 5, Reid, he’s an outstanding kick returner and punt returner. When he gets his hands on the ball, he creates field position for them. We’re going to have to be able to match that or gain field position by what we do on special teams.
So far we’re a work in progress. But going into the fourth game, I’m pleased. But there’s cautious optimism, but at the same time we still have work to do.
Q. Mike, the number two quarterback. Given that Mark is a senior and will not be around next year, would you look for opportunities in games to get a number two quarterback action kind of in the heat of the battle as opposed to just at the end of a game that was already decided? Is that not really something that appeals to you?
COACH LONDON: No. What appeals to me is having the best guy in there that, under the circumstance, can win the game for us. If it’s Mark and his ability because of playing, so be it. Not looking to put another guy in on a move-the-clock situation at the end of the game, coming out to give him experience at that particular moment. Just have to pick and choose the moments that you put him in.
We’ll stick with what we’ve got until we’re forced to do something different.
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, we’re certainly hard at work preparing for a very talented Virginia Tech team. Looking at tape, there’s not much difference year in, year out, all the years that I’ve played them from previous teams to this one.
In our opinion, they’re about a handful of plays away from being a top 10, top 5 team in the country. Very talented football team. Our guys are excited about the opportunity to play against them here on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Do you want to get the red leg stuff out of your system?
COACH O’BRIEN: No, we’re good (laughter).
Q. NC State fans are fired up, 4-0, first ranking in more than eight seasons. You’re not focusing on that with your team. You treat every game the same. But are you concerned at all about your players interacting with fans with how excited they are? Have you talked to your players about that?
COACH O’BRIEN: Certainly we spend a lot of time talking about them. I was reading one of the statements from R.J. Mattes. Coach said to him, “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”
I think the coaches, position coaches, hopefully we’re mature enough to understand that. I go back to Coach Welsh, who always had the great quote: “It’s like poison, it will kill you if you drink it. We might be smart enough but we may not know that answer until Saturday afternoon.”
Q. Virginia Tech in the last quarters has played like a top-15 team. What about them makes them so fundamentally sound?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, they’ve been in the same system, same coaching staff. The continuity of the staff helps a lot. Success breeds success. They have their way they’re going to play offense, defense, they have their way they’re going to approach special teams. Where the names and faces change, the players always look the same in the execution of what they try to do.
Q. If we could rewind to last week, can you tell me what y’all were seeing from Georgia Tech’s defense that allowed Wilson to throw for career yards?
COACH O’BRIEN: I don’t know if there’s anything we hadn’t seen. I think we did a good job, Coach Bible did a good job of anticipating some of the things. Made a couple adjustments here and there.
We’re very confident with our wide receivers. That’s the strength of our football team, the guys on the perimeter, big, strong guys. Tight ends, good pass catchers. Our backs can catch the ball in the backfield.
If we’re able to protect him, he’s going to find enough guys to throw to. For the second week in a row, he threw to 11 different guys. We’re playing a lot of people. But certainly, it’s Russell figuring out who is in his progression, saving some hits on himself by dumping the ball off.
Q. Would it be safe to say Russell has shaken off all the baseball rush?
COACH O’BRIEN: I would say he’s back to where he was. Certainly, he started to show at the Cincinnati game and carried it into last week.
Once again, each week there’s a challenge. Certainly this defense is as fast as any defense we’ve played. They play a lot of man coverage. They’re going to get after the quarterback. We’ll see if we progress to be able to play a defense like this week.
Q. He played at a really high level during his career. These last two games, has he played better than he has the last two games?
COACH O’BRIEN: I think the last game of last year he was awful good, too. That was against an NFL defense. So certainly he’s been the reason for a lot of our success.
We still have a lot of young kids playing, especially on offense. You know the thing about the offensive line, the running backs, your good guys have to play really good. Saturday we got great effort out of Nate Irving on defense and out of Russell on offense.
Q. Tom, not pertaining to this week’s game, but this week Virginia is going to take on Florida State on the 15-year anniversary of Virginia beating Florida State. I know you were offensive coordinator at Virginia at that time.
Could you take me back to any specific recollections you have of that game, what stood out to you. I know there was a lot of offense in that game. What did that win mean for Virginia and the ACC as a whole?
COACH O’BRIEN: I can still remember Tiki Barber going down the sideline on an option pitch. Florida State played a lot of man coverage. We got them in man-to-man and out flanked them. We threw the ball deep. Had a lot of big plays on offense. We needed every point we had. They were still prolific on offense.
I think Rick Lantz did a great job with the defense. First time a lot of people ever saw three-man rush, six underneath and two deep. Then Warrick Dunn did our first game here this year. Saw him after the game. I remember Skeet Jones was our linebacker, and Anthony Poindexter, who is on the staff now. I said: “You were looking at the center. It was a trap play. They saw your eyes looking at the center and guessed it was the play.”
He still almost got it in, the great player that he was. Those are the things I remember that night. Then the student body rushing the field; I think it was the first time they rushed the field. My kids were young then. They rushed the field. What they did, every game after, they went to the game ready to rush the field if Virginia won.
Q. Going back to this week’s game, Russell has always been a fairly accurate quarterback and a real threat to run with the ball. What do you see as the difference between this year and, say, last year when he came to play Virginia Tech? Is it the supporting cast, not having as many injuries as you have in years past? What do you see as the difference?
COACH O’BRIEN: The supporting cast is definitely part of it. We weren’t devastated. We had 16 guys out last year. A lot of them were starting players, good players. That was the day, Friday before the game, Dana Bible found out he had leukemia and didn’t make the trip with us. By the time we got to Blacksburg, he was already in the cancer hospital in Chapel Hill.
We were discombobulated going into that game last year. There was the sense of loss without Dana being there, and certainly some of our shortcomings because of our depth problems.
Hopefully that will be resolved this year and we can play them much better this year than certainly we did last year.
Q. What have you noticed about their defense, which has played well the last six quarters especially? What have you seen in their turnaround from the first couple games of the year?
COACH O’BRIEN: As I said, the names and faces change, but the way they play defense is the same. With their system, with their success, they continue to recruit really good players – great players in some instances. There’s a lot of new guys there. You don’t become a great defense until you experience some things and you play football games.
Now that they’ve got some games under their belt, they never back down from a challenge. Playing the Boise State game was a huge challenge, especially going in with a young defense. As I said before, you take half a dozen plays out of that game and they’re probably a top-five team in the country right now.
Q. Tom, curious as to whether Russell is reminiscent of any quarterbacks you coached previously. The one that pops into my mind is Sean (phonetic).
COACH O’BRIEN: No. I think he’s really unique. Sean was a bigger and I don’t want to say more powerful. Russell is more shifty. He’s got enough quickness to get away and enough speed to do it.
The way he plays and approaches the game is different than I think a lot of people do. Part of it is his baseball. I’ve never been around such a positive person. He thinks he can do anything. Certainly he’s proven that he can do a heck of a lot.
I don’t want to trash Sean (laughter).
Q. Nate’s numbers from Georgia Tech would indicate that he is not only back to 2008 form but probably better. Is that what it looks like on tape to the coaches?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, I think what you have to do when you play Georgia Tech or the Navy offense, your middle linebacker has to be able to make plays. Your linebackers have to be able to make plays.
He was put in position to make it. I think it was a huge game for him not only confidence-wise but the fact that to feel comfortable in the middle, to get involved as much as he was, hopefully it will be a huge boost for him going forward being more comfortable being at that spot and being able to go from sideline to sideline and make plays.
Q. Tom, obviously you were a highly regarded offensive coordinator at Virginia. You had experience calling plays. Last year, how awkward was it to be calling plays in that game? How much of a difference has Dana Bible meant this season?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, I didn’t call them. I wasn’t ready to call them in Blacksburg. So we used Jason Swepson and Jim Bridge. Basically the two of them were upstairs and kind of collaborated to get it done.
I called them the next week at North Carolina where I had a week to prepare for it.
Dana has been part of this staff going on 10 years now. One thing that I did learn last year is we’ve relied so much on him to do all those things that coordinators do, and we weren’t prepared. You prepare if one of your players go down, but I didn’t properly prepare in case one of my coaches went down.
We have shared the load. Dana is not back to full strength. Don’t expect him to be. Every test comes back that he’s cancer-free. Every time that happens, it’s a big relief for all of us.
Certainly his success through the years as an offensive coordinator and the success he’s had with our players is a big contributing factor to any success we’ve had as a team.
Q. You said baseball had something to do in terms of Russell with his approach. What do you mean by that?
COACH O’BRIEN: By playing professional sports, and now that he’s playing at the professional level, I think anytime you play and compete at a higher level, it makes you better at anything you do. One of the things he concentrated on this year was getting from home to first faster this year. He’s come back faster than he’s been.
I just think the competition level raises. When you play higher competition, you come back and you’re able to increase the level at which you compete, the level which you compare to compete.
COACH DAVIS: Well, obviously anytime you play an in-state football team, it’s a big game. Significantly, the question people always ask is, How many of your kids know the other kids? I think that’s kind of part of the in-state rivalry aspect of any football game. A lot of these kids played against each other in high school, they know each other. Some of them played on the same teams with each other. Anytime the fans are in such close proximity in the state of North Carolina, where there’s so many schools, it obviously adds added excitement and hype.
Just watching their football team, they’ve been extraordinarily explosive. They’ve scored 40 points a game. Their coach has done a really good job getting the kids to buy into the new schemes and the philosophy and what they’re doing. The way they’re scoring points and are playing, it certainly is evident of his impact. It will be a big challenge for us this weekend, different than some of the teams we play out of the conference.
East Carolina has an awful lot of speed on their football team. Probably none of it is more evident than Dwayne Harris. Dwayne, not knowing him as a young man, but just watching him over his career, he’s one of the real gifted athletes that we’ll play against in the last couple years.
He can score on punt returns, kickoff returns. He’s an excellent receiver. He does a lot of stuff for their football team. He’s definitely somebody that’s playing extremely well.
Obviously the quarterback situation with Dominique Davis transferring from Boston College, we got a tiny glimpse into him when he was at Boston College, but not a great deal. But now in the three games he’s played, he’s very athletic, throws the ball extremely well. You can see why they were so anxious to try to get him to transfer.
Q. Coach, is your biggest concern facing East Carolina Lincoln Riley and how much he likes to throw the football so much, with the issues you’ve had to deal with your secondary?
COACH DAVIS: Clearly that’s got to be one of the concerns. I think as they’ve installed this offense, what we’ve been able to see in the games, every week there’s added wrinkles.
Obviously, having an open date gives them the extra week of preparation to try to continue to grow their installation.
I’m sure like any new coaching staff, new coordinators and stuff, they have core things they want to get installed during training camp. As the season goes along, they want to attack the other team. They also want to grow things they have in their package but haven’t had a chance to implement them.
Clearly all the throws, but they’re going to run the football. I think that’s where you have to be very, very careful. Williams and Ruffin have kids that run the ball well. They make you play honest, the mobility of the quarterback certainly adds to that.
Q. We’re about to have Bruce Carter on the show. Did you have to teach all these just incredible football instincts that he has when he first got there or is this something he’s always been gifted with?
COACH DAVIS: He’s a great athlete. In high school, you could see it on tape when you looked at the tape prior to him coming here. You could see that he just had real, real good athletic ability, although he had never played linebacker before. There’s a certain element of coaching that goes into it. But our coach, Art Kaufman has done a great job with him, anywhere there’s a defensive coordinator, you have to have great raw talent to be able to get to play to that level.
He’s an unbelievably hard worker. He’s one of the best workers in Jeff Collins’ strength and conditioning program. He maximizes everything he does. He studies film. I think he’ll tell you, when he came in as a true freshman, he was surviving on athletic ability. I think every year the experience has really helped him and he’s a terrific football player and a great kid.
Q. In the past some of your fans haven’t been real happy playing East Carolina because they always felt like they didn’t have anything to gain. How do you feel about this series, playing yet another in-state rival?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, East Carolina, when I took the job, they were on the schedule for multiple years in the future. It’s a heated, big rivalry, like all in-state rivalries are. We’ve gone there once and they’ve come here one time since I’ve been here. I know they’re still on the schedule in future years.
We’re going to continue to play them when it is scheduled. There will be some years that I think there’s some voids when we don’t play each other just because of scheduling. I’m sure that we’ll play them continually in the future.
Q. Butch, we’re all familiar with names like Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant, standouts to you this season. Can you talk about some of the guys who have surprised you that have been thrown into roles that they weren’t probably slated to fill and have really come up big for you?
COACH DAVIS: Well, almost everyone in the secondary. I think we’re missing seven players in the secondary from what we anticipated would be guys that would be playing this year. So you could just about pick any of those guys.
Obviously Tre Boston and Jabari Price have played some. LeCount Fantroy, Matt Merletti, Gene Robinson have played pretty extensively for us at safety.
But some guys that we really needed to kind of come through, even if we hadn’t had some of the suspensions, obviously Quinton Coples has continued to improve each week in the defensive line as has Jordan Nix, Tydreke Powell, Donte Moss is a young man, the more that he plays, the more experience he gets, the more opportunities in games, you can just see a little bit of added confidence in his play and his awareness.
Certainly Bruce and Quan are playing a great deal. But we’ve had to rely an awful lot on Dion Guy and Herman Davidson. Kevin Reddick is playing real well at middle linebacker.
We added some guys, some we hoped would, some we thought that they would, and some have gotten opportunities because of the some of the things that have happened with some of the other players.
Hopefully they’ll continue to improve throughout the season.
Q. Do you have any more of an indication about the availability of Quan and Johnny this week?
COACH DAVIS: No. They’re getting treatment. They’re much, much improved from what they were Saturday night after the ballgame.
Q. Are you optimistic or hopeful?
COACH DAVIS: I’m the eternal optimist.
I’m optimistic all the time.
COACH SHANNON: Thank you. This week’s opponent against Clemson, at Clemson, is going to be a pivotal ACC game for us, first ACC conference game. Kind of excited about it, like always. Then you have an opportunity to play on national TV, a great opponent, great team like Clemson.
They have some really good players on their football team. They have the defensive player that is a safety, which I think is probably the best defensive player in the conference, (DeAndre) McDaniel. He’s a very exciting player, a player that lines them up, makes the corrections and fixes the problems that if somebody else makes a mistake he overcompensates for them.
They also have a defensive end (Da’Quan Bowers who has done a great job of improving since last year. Watching him on tape, he’s a dominant player now
Offensively, the quarterback (Kyle) Parker has done a great job of orchestrating their offense. He doesn’t make many mistakes. He’s the kind of a guy that nickel and dimes you and executes the offense. I think it’s going to be vital if we can get some pressure on him some way, in some form or fashion. You always have to be concerned because they’ve got a very good screen game. They do a lot of screens with the running backs and receivers which we have to work on all the time.
I think this game is a great opportunity for both teams to bounce back and play, have a great time on a 12 noon nationally televised game.
Q. We understand what happened in last year’s game against Clemson. Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller had a huge part in that. Clemson is not as talented this year without those two guys. What is it like looking at Clemson this year versus last year? Is it good not to see 28, 6 on that film?
COACH SHANNON: I think Clemson is very talented. Like I said, they’ve got two good runningbacks, (Jamie) Harper, I forget the other young kid’s name (Andre Ellington), but he does a great job of running the football. (Dwayne) Allen, the tight end, is unbelievable. The offensive line does a great job of blocking.
Defensively they’re big, fast, a very physical football team. Like anything, you watch them on film, they get after you. I think they’re just as talented as any team we probably faced this season.
It’s going to be a tough game for us, a big game that we have to play at a level that we’ve never played before.
Q. Randy, JaKouri’s interceptions, have they been the product of good defensive plays, bad decisions, or one theme that has highlighted it?
COACH SHANNON: Basically when I watch the interceptions with JaKouri, he really had one interception, that was the first one we had against Ohio State. The other three against Ohio State, two of them was the receiver running the wrong route. One receiver ran the wrong route, the next time it went through the receiver’s hands and went to a defensive back. And another was cut short.
The two other interceptions we had last week, it was one-on-one with the receivers. I feel like any coach in America, anytime you can get a receiver one-on-one with a safety, you have to throw the ball to them. Your receiver has to make those plays or get the ball out and you line up and play again.
We’re fine with JaKouri, those things he understands. He works on it. Receivers understand we have to run the routes like we need to and be on the same page.
Q. The interceptions don’t concern you that much at this point?
COACH SHANNON: Anytime you turn the ball over – you asked about JaKouri. I’m explaining the situation with JaKouri, turnovers, interceptions. Anytime those things happen, they concern you all the time. Sometimes you can lose games that way.
Q. Randy, your defense is playing at a pretty high level right now, certainly coming off that Pitt game. In preparing for Kyle Parker, what kind of challenges does he present that you haven’t seen so far this year?
COACH SHANNON: Well, Kyle does a great job. When you watch him this year, he gets the ball out quick. He’s not going to sit back there in the pocket, try to take an 18-yard run. He’s going to take a eight-yard, 10-yard route and let my athletes that I have around me make the other four yards to make the plays. Those are things we have to concentrate on this week, make sure we get him off rhythm of doing those types of things. We’ve watched him a lot. The players understand what he can do and what he possesses.
Q. Also their running game is different this year. The two guys that they’re using seem to be providing quite a spark for their running game. What are your impressions of them?
COACH SHANNON: They’re physical, fast guys. Both of them are very fast. One, (Jamie) Harper, is a little bit bigger. But they can still do the same thing that Spiller did. They can get on the edge, one-on-one with the linebacker, run some Will routes, like I said, run some screens to get the balls in their hands. We know it’s going to be a short, quick passing game. They may go deep here and there. But the key to their success has to be their screens and throwing to the tight end on the option route. Those are things we have to prepare for and get after.
COACH FRIEDGEN: We had a good win last week. And we’re preparing to play a Duke team that’s very dangerous, and has a very good offense. And I’ll open it up to questions.
Q. When you look at film of Duke’s offense, Conner Vernon is off to a good start this year at wide receiver, what are you seeing that’s making him have so much success?
COACH FRIEDGEN: I think they have three very good wide receivers. I think last year he played very well against us. He has good speed. He has good body control. He runs good routes.
He’s very dangerous. And the quarterback is also very dangerous. So that’s a dangerous combination.
Q. Do you consider that Danny O’Brien is now your starting quarterback, or is it just to sort of clear up that situation there? I know you’ve had some injuries there, and he certainly responded well for you. But is he your starter?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, we’re going to wait and see what happens later this week. Jamarr’s (Robinson) much better than he was last week, but he’s still not at full strength. We’re just evaluating him on a day-to-day basis. So Danny had a very good game last week, and we hope he continues to grow. But we’re not ready to make that call right yet.
Q. What are the things you like about O’Brien and what he brings to your offense?
COACH FRIEDGEN: First of all, he’s a very bright kid who also has a tremendous work ethic. And I think he sees the field very well, makes good, quick, fast decisions. And he was very accurate last week.
I think he’s got a chance to be a very, very good quarterback. He’s still a redshirt freshman and every day he’s growing and getting better. I think he has a bright future.
Q. If people begin to start kicking the ball out of bounds to prevent your punt returners from taking it back, how do you teach great returners to maintain the level of intensity necessary under the off chance that someone does kick it in fact so they can return it?
COACH FRIEDGEN: We haven’t had that problem yet. But if Tony keeps playing the way he is, I’m sure that’s going to happen. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. A lot of times when you kick it out of bounds you don’t get the length that you want on the kick.
So our main purpose is to establish field position, and I think Tony has done a very good job of that. And eventually I think they’ll have to kick to him.
Q. I just wanted to check on Torrey Smith. I saw that looked like he kind of tweaked his ankle. And then went back in and had that big touchdown catch as soon as he got into the end zone and started limping. How is he feeling this week?
COACH FRIEDGEN: He’s been limited in practice. But we anticipate him playing. It’s more of a thing that hurts him when he slows down. But we’re hoping he’ll be ready to practice today or tomorrow, and we’ll have to see. He didn’t practice yesterday.
Q. What does that say to you about the kind of kid that he is? His character, that obviously hurting but still went out there and trying to get it done for the team?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, I think I’ve been on the record of how much I believe in this young man and think of him. Not only as a football player, but as a person.
And I think he’s definitely a team player. And I showed some of the highlights of our film to our team the other day, and I didn’t show his touchdown pass. I showed his block that he had for Da’Rel (Scott); that he actually had the main block that sprung him for the touchdown.
So Torrey’s just an understanding person, and he’s going to do very well in life.
Q. Just wonder what your impressions are of Duke’s passing game; that you watched them on tape with a good, young quarterback and looks like receivers that almost come out of the stands. They’ve really got a fleet of receivers. And what your defensive challenges are against them?
COACH FRIEDGEN: First of all, they’ve got two quarterbacks. But (Sean) Renfree, he’s a big, strong kid, gets the ball out quick and he’s got three receivers to get it to. He caused us problems last year in the rain. And I know David does a great job with quarterbacks and with the passing game.
And I have just been impressed with their ability to spread the ball around evenly and get it to the open guy. And they can get it to him pretty quickly. That usually results in a pretty good passing attack.
Q. Could you tell us how you came about recruiting O’Brien, and when you first saw him and what sold him on Maryland?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Actually, I think it came down to Duke and Maryland. And I think Danny’s step dad went to Duke. So we really recruit nationally for quarterbacks just like Duke does. And we were very impressed with Danny, not only as a player, but because he was a very good student also. The thing we got to learn more and more about Danny was what a great work ethic he had.
You don’t usually find that in kids that are very athletic and very bright. And so he really has the whole package. And I think he’s going to develop and be a very, very good quarterback.
COACH JOHNSON: Good morning. Well, we’re looking forward to trying to show up and play a little better than we did a week ago. I think that we got whipped pretty good last week. NC State played very well, and we were disappointed with the kind of effort that we put up against them.
So, this is a chance to go on the road, play a football team that’s had some success. They scored a lot of points. And last week they played really good on defense. Anytime you play Jim Grobe’s teams, they’re going to be well coached. So we know we’ll have a tough time sledding. So hopefully we can get things squared away and play a little better.
Q. Not to bring back bad memories but if you could look back to last week for a second, I’d like to get your impressions of Russell Wilson and what makes him so good.
COACH JOHNSON: I thought he played a great game. I mean, he was very accurate. He kept plays alive. His percentage on third down was really good.
You know, he played a really good game. He’s a good player. We knew he was very good going into the game.
Q. Coach, what are the things that look like defensively that you would like to get fixed? I know that you lost a lot of talent defensively. I wonder if the new guys are settling, are starting to settle in, or just where things are on that side of the ball?
COACH JOHNSON: The first thing we have to fix is 43 missed assignments. That would be a good place to start, which is what we had defensively last week. We also had 42 missed assignments on offense.
So we clearly did a very poor job getting them ready to play the football game. I think that’s the one thing you can clean up, because that has nothing to do with physical ability.
And if you clean up some of that, you give yourself a chance to win.
Q. Do you sort of take that on as a — that was as much on the coaches as it was on the players?
COACH JOHNSON: Sure it is. Anytime you have that kind of missed assignments, it’s got to go both ways. We didn’t have them coached up. And I think there’s enough accountability to go around everywhere. They also have got to care. You’ve got to care enough to know what you’ve got to do. Understand that it’s not going to be easy.
Q. What’s an acceptable number of missed assignments? In turn, historically speaking, with a good team?
COACH JOHNSON: Normally, if we’ve played well, we’ll have somewhere between 10 and 20.
Q. How do you define — do you think most coaches for definition of “missed assignment” is it pretty cut and dried for most coaches or are your standards — do you expect they’re any different than any others?
COACH JOHNSON: I wouldn’t have any idea about that. But when we’re talking about missed assignments I’m not talking about something physically that didn’t happen, like if you didn’t block the guy but you went to the right guy and you couldn’t block him, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about like when you have a slant on defense and three guys go one way and one guy goes the other. When you have three guys playing two deep zone and two other guys playing three deep zone and those kind of things. That’s what are missed assignments.
Q. NC State and North Carolina both were playing some hurry up on offense. How did that affect your ability to get different packages into the game? And did that at all affect some of the missed assignments?
COACH JOHNSON: I don’t know. I don’t think it did. I mean, it wasn’t anything that caught us by surprise or that we didn’t practice against.
Who knows. It could have. We didn’t have the missed assignments like that against North Carolina. So I don’t know. It didn’t affect us as much that week as last week. So I don’t know what effect it might have had.
Q. I was curious about the comment you made just a second ago about caring and thinking that it would be easy. After winning the championship last year, do you feel that may have some of your guys may have gotten a little complacent? Is that what you mean? Could you explain the comment a little bit?
COACH JOHNSON: I just think that as I’ve told our football team, and I said before for us to be successful, we have to play really, really hard. We’re not overly talented. I mean, we have talent — we have some talented kids but we don’t have droves of them. We’re not going to — nobody is going to ooh and aah when we trot on the field.
And the trademark of the things that we have done, I think, is we played hard and really competed. And physically we played fairly hard. I don’t think it was a case of physical — it’s just mental, being into the game.
And we’ve got a lot of guys who are playing who haven’t played, and we won 20 games in the last two years and sometimes I think they think it’s easy, you know, that you just go out there and you play and you’re going to win.
And we all know that doesn’t happen. You have to make it — you have to will it to happen and you have to be totally committed. And I don’t think that anybody is — nobody ever does that intentionally. I think it’s just a mindset you have to get into. You have to understand what it takes to win.
Q. What are the trademarks of a Jim Grobe-coached team on both sides of the ball? No matter what his personnel are — and they’re of course quite different from last year — but what do you expect from them?
COACH JOHNSON: I think they’ve changed offensively with philosophy. I mean, they’re back to — I would categorize them as a running football team. I think they’re an option team. Misdirection, counter, try to fool you with a lot of motion and a lot of formations.
They’ll throw some play action passes and some stuff. But when they had Riley, I think they were a pass-first team. Last year, they played us off our feet. Down here a year ago, the game went into overtime and they rushed for 25 yards. Now they’re rushing for 230, 240 a game. So I think they’ve changed their identity on offense.
Defensively, I think, you know, they’re sound. They don’t beat themselves. They play hard and they play good fundamentals. And you’ve got to beat them. They’re not going to give you anything.
Q. Did you play them at Navy in the pre-Riley Skinner days and get a taste of what they like to do with their running game?
COACH JOHNSON: I think that when we played Riley was playing when I was there. We might have played them one time, maybe my very first year at Navy. But I don’t really remember.
To be truthful, we were so bad that first year I was at Navy I tried to block that out. But I think we might have — we did play them my very first year at Navy, I think, down at Winston. But it was a close game and I don’t remember what they were doing. I think they were mostly I formation then. A lot of two-back stuff. More of a running team even then, back then.
COACH FISHER: It was great to get our first conference win. We’re very excited for that. And it was against a very good opponent in Wake Forest. They’ve always been a thorn in our side at Florida State since I’ve been here. They’ve done a great job. Coach Grobe had a great program. Our defense played pretty good in the game. Offense played well. Kicking game was well.
Like I said, we didn’t play perfect, but we had a good win. And we’re very excited to get our first ACC win. We’re looking forward trying to now go on the road against a very tough opponent in Virginia and try to continue our success. We know we definitely have our hands full.
Q. I know that you have a lot of playmakers on defense, but the guy who seems to be the linchpin of everything revolves around Kendall Smith. And I just wondered if you’d talk about him and what his role and the whole defensive scheme?
COACH FISHER: Kendall’s our middle linebacker. Generally your middle linebacker is a great leader on your team. He’s a senior. He’s been around. He understands our defense. He’s done a great job at transitioning into the new defensive scheme which we put in. And he’s just a hard worker. Athletic, physical, makes plays, is seeing all of the field well right now. He’s hustling everywhere he’s been, really is playing great football. He’s doing a great job of that and being a great senior leader for our guys.
And he’s a big guy, physical guy. And he will definitely have to be physical this week going against Virginia. But we’ve been pleased with his play and also his leadership.
Q. How much difference defensively, and in the defensive scheme change, a middle linebacker is pretty much the same in a lot of schemes. What I wonder how his role changed and what the things were that he had to adapt to?
COACH FISHER: I think your gap filling and how we were reading things, and we’re reading things a little bit differently and how we fit our runs. And also when you’re in a man-to-man scheme, you have to be very careful.
You’re in that box. But when you know you’ve got play action, sometimes you’re responsible for the back end of the flat or you’ve got to carry a tight end vertical, whatever it might be, when you’re in a man scheme. Sometimes that can make you a little hesitant in what you’re doing, when you know you’re in zone in the areas you have, and you’re feeding off two to three and how your angles change and all that, I think it gives you a lot more comfort and allows you to play a little faster, be more physical in the box.
Q. If I’m not mistaken, these teams haven’t played since 2006. I was curious whether you’ve ever been at Scott Stadium, whether this is going to be a lot of new stadiums for you?
COACH FISHER: I’ve been at Scott Stadium, there iwhen I was at Auburn. We played them in 1997, when I was the quarterback coach, helping calling the game when I was at Auburn, in ‘97, when they had Aaron Brooks, earney, Crawell and Poindexter. That was Damian Craig, our quarterback coach’s senior year, we opened up the season there.
Q. Is the fact that you haven’t, that Florida State hasn’t played Virginia since 2006, does that make it any more difficult to prepare for them, or do you prepare for all the teams the same way?
COACH FISHER: I think in your familiarity with what’s going on, I think it is different, because you don’t know their players. I mean, you don’t know their physical abilities. You can see them on film, but until you see a guy in person, his actual size, how he plays, the things he does, the teams you play year in, year out, I think it definitely does help you in your preparation in what’s going on.
But now schematically, about being a new coaching staff there this year, we wouldn’t — either way we were playing them, it wouldn’t give you any advantages, because it’s a totally new scheme from what they’ve been doing.
But the advantage it would give you, just the familiarity of their players and their athletic ability and their sizes and their speeds and all those types of things I think it would give you, they would know us more than we would know them.
So I think that’s where that comes into play to me.
Q. Interested to know how Christian has improved as a passer from sophomore year to this year?
COACH FISHER: Just his overall knowledge of what we’re trying to do in the passing game, his familiarity with understanding defenses more, understanding where the holes are, understanding how to attack each coverage and the leverages of how the players play things.
I think just general knowledge of the game has helped him. Physically, he’s developed himself into a bigger, stronger guy. His arms have gotten stronger. His footwork and balance, and he’s worked his core to keep that great balance so keep doing a good job in decision making. But just his natural growth and his ability to progress as a player just from work ethic, film watch and experience, I think, has been a big thing. And physically, I think his arm strength and his footwork and really understanding the use of his hands, too. He’s really developed his hands where he can place the ball and has great touch on the ball.
Q. What is the best thing that your pass rush has done and the best improvements that people have made technically in the last year that explains in part why you have 19 sacks so far?
COACH FISHER: I think our guys have matured physically. I think we’ve gotten bigger. And we’ve kept our speed and our strength.
I think our strength coach has done a great job. I think our guys’ knowledge of how to rush the passer and they’ve put more time in the film study and their individual responsibility of how to get better.
And I think the other thing is we’ve done a good job of getting teams in second and long and third and long, and enable those guys to be free in the rush. In the pass we have, too. But I think mainly experience.
We’re also doing a better job in the secondary, too. I think zone scheme sometimes can help you, make a quarterback hold the ball longer and help him — and when guys are having to get off their second and third receivers, because sometimes when you’re in man you know where you’re going and it gets out quicker.
So I think sometimes our coverage has helped also, I think just in general. But I think our guys, and all three of those phases have just gotten better and maturing in what we’re doing, and they believe in how we’re playing defense.
Q. I was just wondering, after — you had a long day when you played Oklahoma and how you got your defense to rally back from that and to — I don’t know if it was exactly a circle-the-wagon type of thing or whatever, because the last two defensive performances have been so strong. What did they take out of that game down there?
COACH FISHER: Well, I think, like I said, after that game, you can’t let Oklahoma beat you twice. We were not as bad as that score indicated, but Oklahoma played very well that day. It was their day. We were a step off. They got us into a no huddle.
Like I say, a lot of the plays they got came from the speed of the game and us not being in position of alignment, and then you couldn’t do your assignment. So you weren’t able to use your ability.
And I think we learned from that, got a little more urgency in the no huddle situation because the teams tried to do it the next two games and we’ve handled it a lot better. We just explained to them. We didn’t change. We didn’t blow up and go crazy and make a lot of changes.
We knew we had some good guys in there playing well, but there were some young guys, it’s going to be a growing process. We explained it to them. We kept coaching them the same way, kept doing things the same way. As defensive coordinator and head coach we didn’t change how we were approaching things, and we believed in what we were doing. And our kids have bought into that and they’re doing a great job of just playing it one play at a time and understanding how much preparation is a huge key.
And that they’re trying to prepare even more to make sure they understand what they’re trying to do and where they’re trying to be and that will be huge this week against Virginia, because Virginia shifts and stems, moves around a lot and can cause you some problems.
Q. Mike London has three games under his belt there at UVA, the Richmond, Southern Cal and VMI. Three chances to see those game films. I was wondering what your impressions are of what you’re seeing from UVA from those three games and what’s impressing you from their standpoint?
COACH FISHER: I think, first of all, they’re very well coached. They’re playing with a lot of intensity. They’re playing physical, a lot of enthusiasm. You can see they’re very sound in all their schemes and the things they’re doing, getting leverage on the ball and defense. They mix it up. They jump in different looks. They press you. They bail on you. They’re zone. They’re man. They’re blitzing. They’re doing a great job there.
Offensively, they’re being physical running the football. Great play action. Can spread it and throw when they need to. Big backs. Kicking game being very sound.
They’re a very good football team. Like I said before, they easily could have won the Southern Cal game. It was a great job going out to LA in a tough environment and playing a very good football game. They could be sitting there 3-0. Now all they are is 2-1.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: We’re excited to be back in ACC play, our second ACC game, second one on the road. We have a big challenge. First thing I would say is my hat’s off to Ralph Friedgen and his staff. Certainly have done a great job to this point and getting back on track.
They’re a good football team. They have all the elements that it takes. They have weapons on offense and are using them well. Big, physical people and weapons on defense. And certainly weapons in the kicking game and their return game and otherwise.
So lots of big play potential in dealing with their offense. So it ill be a very difficult matchup in our regard.
Q. Did you expect this to be such a difficult year at this point? Did you figure you would be taking a step backwards, I guess? Are you surprised at the struggles this year?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I’m an optimist. And always believing that we can, and we certainly are not out of anything at this point. But I knew this was a transition year. Looking at it two years ago, I knew we would go through this somewhat of a transition, kind of turning our team over completely as far as numbers into a youthful team.
We had 99 guys in August working on our squad. Counting all our walk-ons and everything. And 51 of the 99 were redshirt or true freshmen. So it gives you an idea of the youth. I still think this team — well I don’t think it. I know this team has more talent than we’ve had. We’ve just got to get it all pointed in the right direction, and we’re working every day to do that.
Q. Ralph Friedgen was saying that if he recalls Danny O’Brien’s recruitment came down to Maryland and you. I wonder what you recall about that and what your impressions of O’Brien were when you were recruiting him and what they are now?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: We really liked Danny. I was around Danny a lot, thought he was a high character young man. He’s a really good athlete. A big, good athlete, with a tremendous arm. And certainly he was a youngster at North Carolina that we wanted very badly.
And they won the recruiting battle. And a year ago, when we played Maryland, I asked Ralph then how Danny was doing. I was just interested. And he told me then that he was doing well, which I felt like he would.
And certainly, with his display in the ball game Saturday against a good Florida international team, by the way, he played extremely well.
Q. What’s the most important thing you guys want to accomplish defensively in practice this week?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, we have to limit the big play. It’s killed us. We’ve played good five to six snaps and then we give up a monster. And Maryland specializes in the monster. So really difficult matchup. So certainly we have done that. And in any game we go into, week after week after week, particularly against the fine backs that Maryland has, you’ve got to stop the run with them. They get to go both ways on land and through the air, they’re very difficult to defend.
Q. You guys have a few big plays of your own. Do you anticipate that sort of thing could — does it almost become, I don’t know if the word is “contagious”, but as happened in your Wake Forest game, one team goes for 60 yards and the other follows suit. Is that a pattern you’ve noticed over time, or is that just a strange occurrence confined to that game?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, that game was the strangest one I’ve ever been in, particularly the second quarter. But I do think that happens at times. I don’t know if “contagious” is the word, but momentum swings in funny ways. And it just starts happening.
And in our case, obviously the last couple of weeks we’ve had a couple of big plays. But we’ve continued to give up more and more on the other end. And so our focus right now, certainly offensively, is we love big plays, but it’s about execution. We just want to execute on that end. Defensively, it’s very critical that we stop giving up home runs. We’ve given up way too many explosives, even in the Elon game. Even though it’s become a real point of emphasis, we still haven’t accomplished what we need to accomplish in that regard.
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you guys again this week. It’s been a good open date for us. I think our team has practiced well and everybody’s excited about getting back at it Saturday against a really, really talented team in Miami.
We’ve got a fairly healthy team. We’re missing our starting left guard David Smith, he’s definitely going to be out. It’s homecoming. We’ll have a lot of former players here. It’s the first ACC game. So it’s a big game for both teams and a lot at stake.
So they’re really, really talented in all phases. We’ll have our hands full but excited to get back to work on Saturday.
Q. Obviously Miami looked pretty good against Pittsburgh last week. What do you think you’ll have to do better on offense than Pittsburgh did to contain Jacory and company?
COACH SWINNEY: We have to try not to give up big chunks of plays. They like to get their offense in chunks. They’ll throw it up and they’ve got really talented wideouts that we’re going to have to do a great job with.
And the biggest thing is just getting pressure on the quarterback. We’ve definitely got to affect him, not let him get comfortable in the pocket. He likes to be in the pocket.
We’ve got to make him get on the run, so to speak. And against these guys you better tackle well. Because if you don’t, there’ll be a lot of yards after the catch or some type of home run score. So we’ll have to do a super job of that.
They’ve got an excellent group on offense. And they like to be balanced. They do a lot of formations and a lot of unbalanced type of alignments, which can create some issues for you as far as getting lined up on defense and stuff.
So hopefully just getting after the quarterback.
Q. The fact you hung so tough with Auburn in the last game, do you take some encouragement from that game?
COACH SWINNEY: Well, we’re really disappointed we didn’t win the game. We went down there to win the game. We thought that we were good enough and we could. And so that’s really disappointing that we didn’t accomplish our goal.
But certainly, there’s a lot of positives in that game that we can build upon. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. Our guys — we watched that film and I think we’ve learned some things. But they know that we have a chance to be a good team. I think we’ve got the right personnel and chemistry to be a good football team.
But we’ve got to take the next step and we’ve got to make some of those plays that are there and you’ve got to win games like this.
Q. Coach, could you just talk about the uncertainty over the offseason when you knew there was a possibility of losing Kyle to baseball?
COACH SWINNEY: What was the first part of that question?
Q. If you can talk about the uncertainty.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, it was a situation that was very unusual. I’ve never dealt with that. And not only there was some uncertainty, but once he got drafted, 26 overall, then our baseball team goes to the World Series. So we had to kind of wait all that out.
But Kyle and his family, they had a plan.
And they stuck to the plan. They were great as far as keeping us in the loop and keeping us informed. And they set a date of July the 20th and said, hey, we’re going to have a decision. And that was like two weeks after the World Series.
So I was very thankful that we were able to get it resolved then. Because we needed to move on: One way or the other. We had to get everybody dialed in on what we were going to do. When he decided he was coming back on the 20th, it was pretty much no problem for us, even though there were still negotiations going on with baseball all the way until August I think the 16th or something.
But he’s done a good job. He came in, went right back to work. Had a good camp and he’s off to a good start.
Q. Can you talk about the relief of the moment knowing that once he informed you there wouldn’t have to be any drastic changes or back-up plans being enforced?
COACH SWINNEY: That was the real critical thing for us because we were going to have a freshman (Tajh Boyd) that’s really talented that we’re extremely excited about, think he’s going to be a great player, but he’s a freshman. And we just lived through that last year with Kyle Parker being a freshman. And really didn’t want to have to do that. That’s what we were going to have to do. Once he said he’s coming back, all of a sudden now, you’ve got a guy that’s very talented but also he’s been a starter for 14 games. He’s taken your team to a championship game. He’s won a bowl game.
Now that has just helped us be a little bit more of an explosive offense earlier than we might have been without him early in the season.
Q. I presume, did you watch the Miami-Pitt game live last Thursday and what if anything did the coach’s film show you about their defense that maybe you didn’t see live on Thursday?
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, yeah, we watched. I watched it, the second half live. I have my radio show on Thursday nights. But I got a chance to see the second half. When you’re watching live TV you don’t see all the alignments and the techniques and things like that.
You’re watching kind of the TV copy, so to speak. But when we get the game film, the coach’s copies, you’re looking at an end zone copy, a wide copy. You’re looking at tendencies and all kinds of different stuff. But the one thing that jumps out at you, first of all, they’re in year two on John Lovett’s system on defense. You can tell. They’ve just got more in their package. They’ve got seven starters back. They play a lot of people. That’s one of the things you may not catch when you’re watching a TV copy. But they play a lot of people.
And they’re pretty much what you see on TV. They’re fast and athletic. And they’re number one in the nation in tackles for loss and number two in sacks.
And they’ve played Ohio State and Pitt. They played some pretty good people. And they’ve got great stats to back it up: No. 1 total defense in our conference. We’ve got a ton of respect for them.
Q. What is the most important thing offensively you have to stress to make sure you don’t wind up in second and third teams?
COACH SWINNEY: Our offensive line has got to win at the line of scrimmage; just no doubt about it. We cannot let them tee off on us. We’ve got to do a great job at the point of attack, whether we’re running the ball or throwing the ball.
And that’s a big matchup. We’re not giving up a lot of sacks. We’re one of the better teams out there. And they’re obviously one of the better teams in getting sacks. So that matchup is going to be critical throughout the game. And then for us it’s about execution. It’s about making the plays that are there.
We’ve left some plays on the field that are things that are totally within our control, which is what we focus on. The things that we control. And that’s going to be critical. Because you don’t get — your margin for error is not very big when you’re playing a team like Miami.
So we’ve got to make the plays that are there. And we’ve got to win at the line of scrimmage.
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, we’re out of conference, and we have a national program coming in. Obviously we’re finishing our four-game home stand, so we’re looking forward to a tremendous ball game Saturday night on national TV.
With that, any questions?
Q. Obviously you’re making a starting quarterback change, I guess. What do you hope your new starter will bring you, I guess? Is it just a question about getting a spark on Saturday or did you see something in practice this week?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, we’ve made the change because we weren’t satisfied with the production we were getting at that position. So we decided to go in a little different direction here. And what we’re expecting is winning performance.
Q. And obviously you’re going with Chase, I understand. What do you like about –
COACH SPAZIANI: That hasn’t been announced. We don’t know who we’re going with yet.
Q. When you look at Notre Dame here on film, what are the big concerns they pose for you?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, Notre Dame is, despite their 1-3 record, they’re a very good football team. They’re big, strong, fast, extremely well coached. They have all the pieces in the puzzle there. They just ran into a little bit of a buzz saw early on with a new regime. So we’re looking for a very good football team coming in here and a very hungry team.
Q. Whoever you’ll have at new quarterback out there, what do you have to do with the offense to kind of ease them into it facing a pretty good Notre Dame defense?
COACH SPAZIANI: What we do with everybody at every position is we try to put them in the best possible position to succeed. So that never changes and that’s how we’ll handle it.
Q. I know you haven’t officially announced anything on this. With reports coming out about Chase being the guy, how do you handle this with the guys who were involved in the competition for the spot?
COACH SPAZIANI: Handle it like we said we were going to do last Sunday. We were evaluating guys daily. And today’s Wednesday. And that’s what we’re doing.
Q. You don’t have any kind of timetable for when you want to –
COACH SPAZIANI: I know this, on Saturday night at 8:00 we’ll have one of those guys out there. That’s the timetable.
Q. Tell me, do you have any relationship with Brian Kelly, do you know him at all?
COACH SPAZIANI: My relationship with Brian is coaching against him once when they were at, when we played, I believe, Central Michigan and watching his career and following his teams and seeing him on tape. So that’s about the extent of it.
Q. No ties from his –
COACH SPAZIANI: From Everett?
Q. No ties?
COACH SPAZIANI: I’ve been in Everett, and he grew up in Everett, so I guess that’s a tie.
Q. Frank, I was wondering, all things being equal, would you rather play Notre Dame at 1-3 — 1-3 Notre Dame or 3-1 Notre Dame team?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, let me say this: When you’re playing Notre Dame, it really doesn’t matter what the record is. I think Notre Dame is Notre Dame, and they’ve got good players. They have good coaching. They have obviously tremendous tradition. And it’s Notre Dame.