A transcript of the weekly teleconference with the ACC’s coaches, courtesy of the conference:
COACH GROBE: We had a really
disappointing loss this past week against Boston
College. I thought Boston College’s kids played
really, really well. You know, we threw four
interceptions and fumbled a punt, so five turnovers
with us, it’s very hard to beat anybody. I think it’s
hard for anybody to beat somebody with five
I thought our kids played hard. I thought
we made some improvements individually in
different positions. As a team we played really,
really hard, but just weren’t able to overcome five
Q. You’ve talked a lot about
fundamentals and that is something that you’re
really focusing on right now with these kids,
not as much about wins and losses but
fundamentals. How much have you done from
a mental standpoint though to try to rebuild
COACH GROBE: Well, I think the thing
that we’ve tried to do, Taylor, is just work hard
enough that we’re not sitting around worrying
about our confidence.
I thought in the game Saturday against
Boston College we probably missed a couple of
opportunities by being a little bit too tentative. And
I think that’s what happens when you don’t have a
lot of confidence. You don’t step up and make
some plays. You’re a little bit more on your heels.
I thought that happened to us Saturday a
little bit. But I thought our kids played really, really
hard. So instead of trying to sit around and dwell
on not having enough confidence, which I think
only comes through winning, I think we’re just
trying to continue to work real, real hard. And not
give our guys enough time to sit around and think
about what could have been or about lack of
Q. I know in a perfect, ideal situation,
you’re probably preparing for the opponent a
lot, talking to your team a lot about N.C. State.
But right now are you focusing so much more
on your team than you are on any opponent
COACH GROBE: Little bit of both. Little
bit of both. I think if you take — if you’ve got a more
veteran team, I think sometimes you go more
toward game planning and next opponent. But I
think for us we’re having each day to coach our
own football team as far as fundamentals and
where you’re supposed to be in our scheme, and
then try to look forward to N.C. State, so a little bit
Q. What is your major area of concern
for preparing for N.C. State this weekend?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think you have to
say Russell Wilson. I think their defense is much
improved, and we’ve got a really tough job
offensively to try to find first downs against their
But I think the guy that stands out to you is
certainly Russell Wilson. I think from a defensive
perspective you have to worry about the schemes
that they run on offense, and how you’re going to
stop the run. How you’re going to stop the pass.
But ultimately you know the guy that has
the ability to improvise when things don’t go well is
Russell Wilson. So I think we’re trying to stop what
they do offensively. But you know the wildcard is
Russell Wilson’s ability to ad lib and improvise
when things break down.
Q. With just a handful of games
remaining in the regular season, are you
focusing more on getting your younger players
game experience and building for the future
COACH GROBE: Not really. I think our
philosophy is we only get 12 regular season
games, and we’re going to try as hard as we can to
win every one of them. So our focus is to try to win a game, and not trying to develop kids for next year. We’ve got to play these next three games as
hard as we possibly can.
As you know we’re already playing a ton of
young guys, so it would be hard to plug in more
young guys. But I think our focus is always in the
season trying to win.
Q. I was just looking at the numbers.
You guys made a quantity leap up on defense
this past week after some real tough struggles.
Was there any reason for that? Is it just finding
the accumulation of the fundamentals you’re
talking about or was there another reason you
guys did so much better this week?
COACH GROBE: I think we’ve thinned
our package down a little bit. I think we were both
sides of the ball, actually asking some pretty young
players to do some things that have really been
good to us in the past. But that involves being
multiple on offense and defense. I think we were
too multiple to be honest with you on both sides of
I think a couple of weeks ago we started
making a move toward simplifying our package
defensively and offensively. But I think one of the
things that helped us on Saturday against Boston
College is our offense helped the defense a little
Now it doesn’t sound like it when you
throw four interceptions, but I do think we balanced
the game out a little bit possession timewise. And I
thought our defense made a couple of great stands
with their backs against the wall.
I think probably a couple of things, we’ve
cut the package down a little bit, but I think also
our kids are getting late in the year.
Q. I want to ask you about Marshall
Williams. Is he your best passer. What did you
say to him?
COACH GROBE: Don’t tell him that too
much, he’ll want to play quarterback the last three
I guess Marshall was telling me he played
quarterback some when he was younger in high
school and as he got older they moved him to wide
receiver. But he’s got a great arm. He’s especially
got great arm strength to throw the ball down the
I tell you what, we probably should have
thrown it more with him, more gadget plays with
him throwing the ball because he really does have
a nice arm.
Q. When you look at the film every
Sunday or Monday, do you see anything that
you say we do this better, we do that better we
can turn it into a W? Is there anything that
you’re saying we’re almost there in this area or
COACH GROBE: I think so. From our
perspective, we had a good chance to win last
Saturday and didn’t get it done because of
turnovers. So I think from an offensive standpoint
we have to keep stressing taking care of the
football. That was something that was really
disappointing last Saturday.
I’ve got to give Boston College’s defense
some credit. They’re pretty good on that side of
the ball. But, again, in special teams we fumbled
the punt and that is something that you shouldn’t
do. Devon Brown fumbled the punt and he’s been
doing it for a couple of years now, so that is
something that you really hate to see.
And I think defensively, we’re getting a
little bit better. I think we just need to continue to
improve. I hope we don’t take a step back. We’re
going against a great offensive team and a great
quarterback in Russell Wilson this week. So I’d
like to see our young guys continue to improve.
But I think that is the emphasis for us right
now, is not taking a step backward and trying to
continue to improve on the defensive side of the
COACH BEAMER: Our football team has
taken a hit here recently. I think when you take
Dyrell Roberts and David Wilson out of the lineup,
you lose some real skill and some guys that are
very much competitors. So we’ve got to have
some guys to step up for those fellas, for sure.
Hopefully, I think we’ve got some guys with
the ability and hopefully that is going to be the
case that they’ll step up. I think Chris Drager on
the other side is a guy that is very important to our
defense. He’s a consistent guy, steady guy,
dependable guy. He’s affected other people like
that. So we’re missing some really good folks
there this week.
But we’re facing a team that is really good.
You know, I think the quarterback (T.J.) Yates has
played exceptional. Jones and several of the
receivers are going to get the ball. Defensively
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ACC – 11.10.10, part 1.doc 3
those linebackers are exceptional. Probably the
best defense we’ve played all year. So a
tremendous challenge this week. Questions?
Q. I just wanted to ask you first and
foremost why you feel this rivalry that it’s
become in the last few years is so evenly
matched? This game goes down to the wire on
almost an annual basis?
COACH BEAMER: I think we’ve both
been very good. I think we’ve both got players that
have played very hard. I think just both teams
compete very hard, and for that reason the games
have gone down to the wire.
Q. I was just talking to James Hopper
yesterday, and he told me that during spring
practice his child was born the night before
your spring game and he rushed back so he
could be at the spring game and participate. I
was wondering what that tells you about him
and his dedication to your program that he
would do something like that?
COACH BEAMER: Yeah, everything’s
right about James. He’s a good player, very
dedicated, very much committed to the football
team; a good person. The kind of guy you like to
have in your program.
Q. Were you aware of that situation and
did you guys try to help him out and say, yeah,
it’s okay for you to go and to be there for the
birth of your child?
COACH BEAMER: Well, I think he did that
on his own. I think that was his — he set his
schedule on that one.
Q. I was just wondering what was said
after the second game this season. How were
you able to turn this thing around as quickly
and as thoroughly as you have in the first two
COACH BEAMER: It goes back to you’ve
got to have good people. I think when you have
two losses in a week’s time as devastating as
those two losses were, that if you don’t have good
people you’re probably done. Everybody’s starting
to blame and point fingers.
You know, we didn’t have that. We had
senior leadership. I think it told us that we better –
we had some nice things written about us before
those two ballgames–and we better get back to
work to see if we can’t get some good things
written about us at the end of the year.
Then I do think that the relationships with
our coaches and players is very important. I tell
our coaches all the time that you work every day
for the crisis, and that was a crisis around here,
0-2, and looking at our schedule.
But I think if you’ve got good, strong
relationships and trust each other and care about
each other, then you can overcome. I think that’s
what we have in our players and coaches and this
football team is people that trust each and care
about each other.
You know, we’ve worked out the problem
and we’ve solved the problem so far. We’ve got
another big problem this Saturday that’s not going
to be easy to solve. But I’ve been proud of what
you’re football team has been able to accomplish
after two terrific or two really tough setbacks.
Q. What is it that’s allowed you to come
back from all these double digit deficits you’ve
faced? I know ideally you wouldn’t want to
have faced them, but you’ve been able to
overcome some of these double digits?
COACH BEAMER: I think it gets back to
your quarterback. We have a quarterback that can
make things happen and can keep you in the
game, can bring you back. He’s got some good
people around you.
But I know for this operation to work, you
better have a quarterback that can do it. I think
we’ve got a guy that can do it. It means a lot to our
Q. I wanted to ask an a attendance
question. What’s been the secret at Virginia
Tech to continue to sell out all the home games
at a time when it seems the economy and
maybe some other factors are taking at least a
small toll, maybe a big toll in some other
places, in some of the league’s larger
COACH BEAMER: I think we just have
terrific fans. I think the game experience here in
Blacksburg is terrific. I think they get here. They
tailgate. They get in that stadium by kickoff.
They’re not going to be late because they feel like
they can help us win, and they do.
Our fans for sure help us win here at
Virginia Tech. They’re very much a part of the
success of this program. We’ve had some good
wins on the field, but they’ve been very much a
part of that, and I think they feel that. As a result they know they need to be there on Saturday to
help us out.
Q. I forgot to ask you, I wanted to talk
to you about Jeron Gouveia-Winslow. How
important is he on your punt unit? And just the
way he’s handled what’s happened to him on
defense, is he sort of emblematic of the
unselfishness this team has sort of shown,
especially since the first two games of this
COACH BEAMER: Yeah, absolutely. He
took over for Cody Grimm as the personal
protector there on the punt team, the pride team
we call it. He’s just been terrific. You know, he’s
the quarterback of that team. He’s a smart guy.
He understands football. He understands what
we’re trying to get done. He’s just been terrific on
And, you’re right, he’s just an unselfish
guy. I think our team’s made up of a bunch of
those guys. It’s not what my stats, it’s what can I
do to help this football team win, and you certainly
That probably goes back to why we’ve
been able to come back after two tough losses,
too. I don’t think we’ve got a selfish guy on our
Q. I just was curious. There are a
couple of different scenarios for you guys to
clinch. Either win two of your last three or win
this weekend plus help from Georgia Tech
against Miami. But are your guys aware of that,
or are they just — are you all just focusing on
just do it, just win, just keep winning?
COACH BEAMER: Yeah, I think if you
start trying to figure everything out in your mind
somewhere else, you’re probably in the wrong
spot. I firmly believe you better go play as hard as
you can against North Carolina and as well as you
can against North Carolina and hope to get a win.
Then let everything else sort itself out.
We don’t spend a lot of time talking about
the ifs, ands and buts. We talk about we’ve got to
play a great football game against North Carolina.
Q. Is there anything you can take away
from the UNC-Florida State game that help you
guys get the edge in the competition this
COACH BEAMER: Not other than they
went into a great place, against a good football
team and took it right to them. They’re playing
well. Their quarterback’s playing well. They’ve got
most of their guys back.
They’re very, very talented, very good.
And, like I said, starting the same thing, probably
the best defense we’re going to play — or up to this
time, I should say. So, you know, got to get ready
Q. What are you doing to help your
team focus on the one game at a time scenario
versus the handful of conference games you
have left and winning the conference — I’m
sorry, winning the division there?
COACH BEAMER: Well, again, it goes
back to your leadership. We’ve got some smart
kids that like to compete. I told them in the
meeting this week, when you get into hoping
somebody else loses or somebody else has got to
do this or somebody else does that, you know. I
think you better go play as hard as you can
yourself and hopefully take care of business. So
that’s what we’re going to try to do against a really
good football team.
Q. I have a quick question as a
follow-up from earlier. Given the way that your
team lost to North Carolina in the last year, do
you think that they want to exact some sort of
revenge on the Tar Heels?
COACH BEAMER: Well, I think last year
is last year. It was a tough loss; two good football
teams. Both of them played hard, and
North Carolina played better. We had a tough play
at the end and they capitalized.
I don’t think that’s got a lot to do with this
year. I think this is a new year for both of us. I
think every tough loss you certainly remember, and
every great win you remember and all those things.
But I think if you start relying on what
happened last year to help you this year, you’re
probably thinking wrong also. I think you better
study the film and look at how good the players
are, and how good they’re playing and get ready to
block them and tackle them.
COACH LONDON: Good morning, good
to be here back to practice after a tough loss against Duke. But getting ready for our last home
game for a bunch of seniors that have experienced
the highs and lows of their college career here.
Going to try to do whatever we can to help
them go out with a victory. So we’ve got a very,
very tough talented Maryland team coming in.
Q. Wanted to ask you concerning Duke
and the offense they run how difficult is it on
your defense when they change from Sean
Renfree to the running quarterback in Brandon
COACH LONDON: Like some teams
we’ve played, there are two different styles of
quarterbacks. They have two different systems
that you play against, and it causes you to prepare
for conventional styles and also a pistol style of
offense as they call it. Or much like Maryland’s
case, they have two quarterbacks and one O’Brien
does a great job with the offense that they run.
Then No. 11 comes in and does another
version of whether it’s the wildcat or whatever it is.
So it causes you to spend time in preparation and
practice for both of those.
The biggest thing is because that’s what
they do, they’re very adept and good at executing,
and that is one of the advantages they have. So
it’s tough, but you’ve got to play defense, and
whatever they put out, you’ve got to be prepared
Q. When they bring in Connette, how
did he seem to perform? He had a good game
against you Saturday, but he seems to be
getting better as the season goes along?
COACH LONDON: That’s what you hope
at this point of the season. You hope to be getting
better as the season goes on. You have a system
that you run. You hope the system and the
experience of the people that are in the system,
that they gain experience within.
And as a quarterback, that, you know,
particularly a running style quarterback he knows
where the holes are. He knows the challenges
that defenses have against defending it, so that’s
what happens. You hope that your quarterback
and anybody that’s playing, you hope they all get
better as the season goes on, and certainly he
Q. You’ve gotten great contributions
from a number of fifth-year seniors and guys
who are not going to be around really to enjoy
the fruits of this rebuilding project when it’s
done. How important was it for you to have
that class and those guys kind of buy in this
year to what you’re doing?
COACH LONDON: I think it was very
important, Jeff, because most of them or all of
them were here when I was here first. Then left
and came back, because there was a prior
relationship that was established as far as knowing
who I was and me knowing them. When you come
into a new situation, you always want the senior,
the senior leadership to buy in because they’re the
ones that set the tone and the pace for some of the
young guys that are in the program.
For the most part, aside from the guys that
are no longer with the team because of disciplinary
actions or academics or whatever it may be, the
ones that stayed helped provide some of that, hey,
this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to do it
in a classroom or the community or what we’re
going to try to do on the field and buy into it. So it’s
I’m very appreciative of those guys
because in turning the program around, you need
that type of leadership. Then when leadership
leaves, you need that type of imprint that they’ve
left on younger players.
Q. Attendance has kind of been an
issue recently. This weekend with it being
Senior Day, has there been any extra push to
appeal to the fans and the students to come
out or is it just, hey, it’s Senior Day, you know?
It’s our last home game, come out and see us?
COACH LONDON: I don’t know outside of
what I’m doing. I’m in bunker mode. I don’t even
put my head out. I’m trying to get ready for
Maryland. Any opportunity that I have whether it’s
through radio or media or television whatever it is,
is to urge fans to come out and support the team.
Let alone the seniors, but support the team.
So whenever any opportunity that I have
given the media access, then I make an appeal for
that on the grounds that I’m here, class checking or
whatever, when I run into students. So I know
about what I’m doing.
I can’t attest or speak to the efforts outside
of the marketing or the athletic department. But I
know they’re doing their best which we’ve been
doing to try to get people to come in Scott Stadium
watch a team that’s growing and developing.
You know, it’s a great time. A 3:30 start
time which bodes well for a lot of people, so we’re expecting and anticipating a fairly decent crowd.
Q. When I look at guys like Keith Payne
and what he’s done so far this season and
maybe somebody like Darnell Carter, those two
plus maybe a few others they were basically in
the dog house with the last coaching staff. Can
you just talk about this year and the fact that
you gave them a second chance and what
they’ve done with it?
COACH LONDON: I tell you, the term you
used, I mean, that may be very appropriate. But
when you give a person new life and new energy,
and you give them a chance to perhaps sometimes
redeem themselves. Then they go out and give
you everything they’ve got.
It’s just not, it’s Darnell, it’s all the guys that
for some reason or not have maybe not fit into a
certain style of play, whether there are personality
conflicts or whatever it may have been. Aaron
Taliaferro was a guy that didn’t play much, Keith
Payne like you mention.
So it’s gratifying that you see as they end
their career, that they’ve had a chance to
I think Keith is maybe leading the league in
touchdowns or something like that. Darnell, in the
last couple of games, has really played well. So
everyone wants their college experience to be
positive before they’re all done. Hopefully, this
year, although the record itself doesn’t indicate it,
maybe the experience, the overall experience for
this year will be gratifying for them.
Q. What went into the decision to put,
what were the factors or factor that caused you
to put Landon Bradley on the right side when
COACH LONDON: Basically because of
his hand. When you bandage up a hand like that,
you can debate about what hand, inside or outside
hand, is the one that you need the most to stop an
ongoing pass rusher.
So we try to do some things that would
maybe give him an opportunity to not have to use
his dominant hand. Being on the left side, give him
a chance to play on the right side. That’s what he
and Coach Madison talked about.
For a while it seemed like it was working
until he came down with another lower leg injury.
So we’ll see how things go. And how
things go for him, but that was the reasoning.
COACH O’BRIEN: We look forward to
Wake Forest coming here to Carter-Finley. It’s our
Senior Day, little bit early for Senior Day, but that’s
where it is. There are going to be 19 kids playing
in their last game here at home. So it will be an
emotional day certainly for them.
But it’s an opportunity for our football team
to continue to try to get to Charlotte. So each and
every game now is do or die for us.
So I think we understand the task ahead of
us, and we’ll play at an ever getting better Wake
Forest team. They certainly improved with their
performance last week, and looks like they’re
getting a little confidence about them. They are a
bunch of young kids playing and playing awfully
Q. There’s no reason to have to try to
get your team fired up for Virginia Tech or
Florida State or North Carolina. When Wake is
struggling, do you have to tell your team
basically what you just said there: These guys
are dangerous, be careful, take them seriously.
Do you have to say those sort of things?
COACH O’BRIEN: We say them, but I
don’t think we should have to. We’re a fortunate
football team that still has control of our destiny.
We let one get away from us last week. Certainly
as I told the team, you don’t get do-overs. But we
got one. We got another opportunity, and we
control our destiny and shame on us if we don’t
take advantage of that situation right now.
I think they’ve taken that message to heart.
They understand that it doesn’t matter what name
is on the jersey, anybody’s capable of beating
anybody else, and that’s been shown week in and
week out in college football this year. So we’ve
prepared as we have for the past three or four
weeks, so it hasn’t changed our preparation
looking at it so far.
Q. You mentioned do-overs. First I
know the team was listening to the
North Carolina game on the way back. Jake
Vermiglio mentioned that. Tell me how surreal
that was to be listening to the Tar Heels, and
N.C. State is pulling for North Carolina to win
so they can be back in control of their own destiny?
COACH O’BRIEN: I wasn’t on the bus
listening with them, so I don’t know what it was like
there. But certainly after the game as I talked to
them, I didn’t — you know, one loss would definitely
get you there. But most cases two losses in your
division will get you the championship game.
Our favorite team, other than N.C. State,
had to be anybody playing Florida State at that
point. Certainly North Carolina gave us the
opportunity to stay alive.
Q. Any update with kickers, coach?
COACH O’BRIEN: No. We’re in a
competition situation right now. I had a pretty good
session today, and we’ll continue tomorrow and
decide what we’re going to do by Saturday.
Q. I was talking to Michael Lemon
about what his plans are after he graduates.
Do you anticipate that there’s a chance, based
on your conversation with scouts, that he
could have a chance to play professional
COACH O’BRIEN: Yeah, I think there is.
Certainly they’re taking a good, hard look at him.
He’s got to continue to play. Every time he makes
a play it’s going to help him if he wants to do that.
I had talked to him prior to the season.
That wasn’t the number one thing on his mind
coming into the season. So I think he’s pretty
grounded and has a good grasp of what reality is
Q. Coming off last week’s game, what
has been the focus in terms of the offense
revving back up again?
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, certainly red
zone offense. We had a little trouble the week
before when we lost to East Carolina. Turned the
ball over and didn’t get it in the end zone. We
seemed to solve the problem against Florida State.
Then weren’t able to convert there in the first half.
It made a huge difference in that football
game. So that’s getting into the scoring zone.
That’s been a little bit of a problem for us all year.
We have to take advantage of the opportunities–
defense gave us a lot of opportunities–and we
didn’t take advantage of them last Saturday.
Q. So is that a question when it comes
down to the red zone, the short passing game,
the running game? What do you think needs to
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, nothing worked
on Saturday. We couldn’t do anything down there.
Clemson just shut us down. So it’s we. It’s a
collective we. We the coaches, we the players, we
have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone.
Q. You didn’t play Dean Haynes in the
previous game. What is his status this week,
and what are you looking at as far as your
COACH O’BRIEN: Well, he’s coming off
the head injury from the week before. You know,
even though he was cleared, he didn’t practice
until I think Wednesday, and Thursday there was
no contact. I’ve always been pretty leery,
especially if it was a serious blow to the head. It’s
not just a headache walking off and you’re a little
I had a similar situation with Russell his
first year playing. The same thing happened on a
Thursday night game at South Carolina. He was
cleared to play the next week medically by the
staff, but we held him back just in case. Because
once you get a head injury, if you get another one,
you’re talking months out. So I just wanted to be a
little safer in that situation.
Right now he’s back in the mix, and we’re
still, because of some situations, looking at — well,
not sure who is going to end up starting, but all
three of them will be available to play Saturday
Q. You expect him to practice and you
expect Dean to practice full speed this week?
COACH O’BRIEN: He’s full go this week,
Q. Another guy who I think didn’t play
on Saturday, Darrell Davis. Do you have an
update on his situation?
COACH O’BRIEN: No, I don’t. Not right
Q. On your running game, Mustafa
Greene, what have you seen from him this
year? Just seems like, for a guy that’s a true
freshman, he’s had some explosive moments.
Then other games it’s been more like he’s more
of a freshman it seems like where he’s
adjusting to the speed and pace of the game.
What do you see and what do you expect of his
role down the stretch here?
COACH O’BRIEN: He’s going to continue
to be in the rotation. I think you appropriately
described the play of a freshman.
Consistency is tough to get out of
freshmen. There are so many different things that
go into playing and participating. Not only
football-wise, but also campus-wise, and grades
and everything else. They’re not used to the pace
and everything that they have to do to be able to
be the consistent performer.
We’ve gotten a lot of good football out of
Mustafa, and I think he’s still got more to give. But
certainly he’s going to be much better as he goes
on and matures and grows in age as a football
Q. Is he, as far as picking up the
blocking schemes and those types of reads,
has he progressed pretty quickly along those
COACH O’BRIEN: He’s better certainly
here in November than he was in September. I
think that’s a fair statement to make.
COACH DAVIS: I think one of the things
that our football team obviously always recognizes
is that when you play against Virginia Tech, it’s
probably one of the most challenging teams to
They’re always clearly a talented football
team, but they’re very good in all three phases.
Sometimes when you prepare against certain
teams, they’re really, really good, and maybe
offense or defense, and they’re average or okay on
But when you play against Virginia Tech,
you better be very, very prepared in your
fundamentals and your execution in all three
phases. I think our kids have learned that over the
last couple of years. You’ve really got to execute.
You’ve got to watch a lot of film.
You’ve got to really understand because
the nuisances of what they do offensively with
Tyrod Taylor and the running game is certainly
something that you have to prepare for. Bud
Foster’s defenses are always very good, they’re
very aggressive, very fundamentally sound.
And it’s unique, the scheme itself is
unique, and certainly special teams has had its
own reputation for how good they were. You can
go back to last week’s game against Georgia Tech
and look at the effect they had special teams wise
in helping them win the game.
So it’s a challenge for our team. We’ve got
a lot of work to do this week to get ready for it.
Q. You were talking earlier in the week
about Ryan Houston and whether or not he
would play and how you’re trying to evaluate
that. Do you anticipate him playing in this
game on Saturday? What do you anticipate
your running back rotation to be?
COACH DAVIS: Well, you know what, we
haven’t decided any of those right now. Certainly
I’ve had some conversations with Ryan and that
will probably be a potential game-time decision.
The other running backs, obviously, we’ve
lost Johnny White for the remainder of the regular
season and we’re working with the guys that
played in last week’s game.
Q. So is Shaun Draughn, is he cleared
and healthy for this game?
COACH DAVIS: Again, we’ll release a
medical report on Thursday that will give
everybody an update on everybody’s health.
Q. We talked about T.J. and the check
down routes earlier in the week. But he seems
to be throwing the ball away more and living for
another down, which is something that you
emphasized this off-season. Is that something
that you’ve noticed in particular at the line
there before Casey’s field goal?
COACH DAVIS: I think again, Joe, I think
T.J.’s making good decisions with the football. You
know, he had some growing pains a year ago
where, obviously, he was criticized by a lot of
people for trying to squeeze balls in that maybe he
wishes he had certain throws over.
I think that obviously you’re always a
byproduct of the experiences that you go through.
You learn about things and people make mistakes
and you learn from them. He clearly is much better
at a lot of that stuff this year.
He’s making really wise decisions either,
like you said, checking the ball down or going to
the second or third receiver and maybe not feeling
like you have to get everything all in one chunk. If
the smartest decision, and John has said this for a
couple of years, sometimes the best passes that you throw are the ones that are incomplete or you
throwaway and live to have the next possession
you don’t turn the ball over. And T.J.’s done that
pretty good all season long.
Q. For someone who hasn’t followed
the team closely all year, could you talk about
the resiliency this team has shown in light of all
the injuries you’ve had to suffer through and
the NCAA investigation? And I’m curious if
you see any similarities between what you’ve
shown and what Virginia Tech has done this
year after starting the year 0-2?
COACH DAVIS: Obviously, I think that for
you to be able to handle distractions and issues
that they pop up with every team. Some teams
have it a lot worse than others, but just about
everybody’s going to be faced with challenges and
And there are a lot of factors that play role
in a team’s ability to deal with that. Certainly
talking about it, and communicating about it before
the season ever starts, you kind of lay the ground
work that there are going to be things that are out
of our control. Whether it’s an officiating call or
how the other team plays and prepares. So that is
part of it.
I think your coaching staff and their ability
to maintain a positive attitude and kind of a
commitment to the kids that no matter what’s going
on, we’re going to keep working to try to improve
every single practice and every week and every
game for the entire season.
Then ultimately a lot of the credit has to go
to the leaders on the football team. Those are the
guys, the unspoken voices in the locker room away
from the football facility. Those guys helping
younger guys that could get distracted or dismayed
because of circumstances that are going on.
They are kind of the rallying point. There
are guys that talk to people like, hey, look, hang in
there, we’ll keep fighting, competing, playing hard
and preparing. And we have been fortunate to
have had some guys that have been able to do
that for us.
Q. I wanted to ask about Quintin
Coples. What’s made him so effective moving
from the inside to the outside? Is it his speed
and quickness from playing defensive end
COACH DAVIS: Well, it was a transition.
He was groomed to be the starting defensive end
after E.J. Wilson graduated and went to Seattle.
Then we moved him to the defensive tackle
position, and it was baptism under fire.
But he’s a good athlete. He’s competitive,
he wants to do a good job. And there are a lot of
growing pains. Sometimes when you go from an
exterior outside on the edge position to now you’re
in the middle of the fire.
But every week his fundamentals and
technique continues to improve. He’s got a lot of
pride. He wants to do a good job. And he realizes
how important his role and his performance is to
the team. I’m very proud of the way that he has
handled that. We’re hopeful that he’ll continue to
improve certainly for the rest of the season.
Q. I was wondering how surprised you
were with Hunter Furr being thrust into that
situation last week, and how he responded.
What does he bring to the table that may be
different from your other backs?
COACH DAVIS: Well, obviously, I think
the whole team was very ecstatic for Hunter. He’s
been very unselfish in his willingness to play
whatever role we’ve given him.
And he’s played on a lot of special teams
this season. Because we had four senior running
backs he knew this probably wasn’t going to be the
year that he was going to get an awful lot of
opportunities at running back.
He continued to practice hard, and study
and know the game plans. As I said in the
postgame comments after the game, he had spent
predominantly the last four or five weeks as the
scout team running back.
But I think it’s a tribute to him how hard he
worked to know everything that was going in.
Then when he went in, he did a lot of the things we
thought he could do. We had seen evidence of
that in our spring practice when he got the
opportunities to do it, and clearly the team was
very happy with what he did.
Q. How much practice time has
Hunter’s role jumped up this week so far,
COACH DAVIS: A lot.
Q. A lot?
COACH DAVIS: Yeah. He’s no longer –
let’s put it this way, he’s no longer on the scout
Q. Can you put any type of percentage
on the snaps he’s getting now then?
COACH DAVIS: I don’t know, probably
20, 30%, you know?
Q. James Hurst playing left tackle as a
true freshman, are you surprised at all, sort of
what he’s given you this year and how he’s
played? Could you assess that? You just
don’t see a lot of true freshmen linemen
COACH DAVIS: Yeah, he’s played
remarkably well for a freshman. I think he would
tell you that certainly some of that is a correlation
for coming in at midterm.
I think it’s one of the biggest advantages
that kids that are able to come in and go through
an off-season conditioning program, go into spring
practice with no pressure to have to actually play
games just work on fundamentals, learn how to be
a student. Get involved academically without all
the travel and the hoopla of games.
Then the two summer sessions and stuff,
he would tell you that was an enormous advantage
for him to get familiar with just his teammates.
Then clearly having said all of that, he’s an
outstanding football player in high school.
He’s got great work ethic. He’s a smart
kid. He takes a great deal of pride in being good.
And I think he’s gained confidence from week one
from LSU throughout the rest of the season, and
he continues to work to improve. He’s clearly
going to have an outstanding career here.
Q. I’m no expert offensive linemen, but
when you watch him, it seems he’s got
particularly good feet. You see him sort of
moving and standing in front of guys and that
sort of thing. Is that natural? Is that something
that’s taught? Is that about right?
COACH DAVIS: Well, no, I clearly think
you can improve on their fundamentals and skills.
But fundamentally kids have to have good athletic
background, and good agility, change of direction,
feet, balance and a lot of those things. And that
clearly will eventually separate the great players
from just the good or the average players.
COACH SHANNON: This week’s
opponent is Georgia Tech. It’s going to be a very
tough opponent. Playing Coach Johnson it’s a
team that’s always been very sound in what they
do offensively, and especially defensively.
They’re doing a great job of running the
football and also ball controlling the football game
with their offense. Coach Johnson has done a
tremendous job of coaching his guys with what he
wants up front and what he wants as a quarterback
to execute and what they’re trying to get done.
I don’t think much of the offense will
change. They’ll run the offense exactly what he’s
been doing at Georgia Southern, Navy, and what
he’s been doing at Georgia Tech. So it will be vital
for us to start off fast on defense and get the pace
of the football game. That will be the key to our
Defensively, it’s going to be a team that we
haven’t faced all season long with the three-four
attack. They’re going to do a lot of different blitzes,
lot of different drops and zone drops, cover two,
cover three. It will give us a different kind of look.
We haven’t faced this type of defense all
year, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us to be
able to establish the run game and throw the
football in certain situations and key situations. It
will be a vital game for both teams and both
opponents because it’s always in this division it’s
coming down to the last week.
Q. Last year you guys did a good job of
controlling Nesbitt in the option. Is it different?
I know you haven’t seen a lot of it with the
Washington kid running. It seems he has some
skills but he’s maybe not the same guy in the
option. What problems does it present facing a
guy like that?
COACH SHANNON: Oh, it’s going to be
tough and difficult for us because he’s an athlete
from what I’ve seen on film and watching clips in
high school. But he’s a very athletic young man.
He’s going to run the offense and has
been in the offensive system for a little bit. Just
haven’t gotten the snaps in game time. But I know
they’ve worked very hard to get him all the snaps
he needs and his reads down.
So I don’t expect anything different from
him than Nesbitt. Two good athletes at
quarterback that can do some good things to effect
what you’re doing on defense.
Q. How does it affect your offense to
game plan when you have an inexperienced
quarterback like Morris as compared to Harris?
COACH SHANNON: Well, you know
what, Morris is our four string quarterback coming
into this season. So he just got here in January,
so he didn’t get the reps of being a second-team
guy. So you know we have to go back like we did
last week and evaluate what he did in camp, what
he did in the times that he had the opportunities
and what he was successful at. So we did those
things and tried to bring it along that way.
The difference with their quarterback was
he was the second team guy. He knows the
offense well, he’s getting a lot of reps at it. There
will be two young kids going in there and trying to
compete. Making sure that they give both teams
opportunities to win the game.
Q. On the transcript from the ACC
yesterday, you were referring to Tech using
chop blocks. That was something they do?
COACH SHANNON: No, you know what
they do, Coach Johnson does a great job off the
back side. What I was explaining that our guys
have to do a great job of standing on their feet,
because backside they do a good job of getting
guys on the ground.
Chop blocks to me are not illegal. It’s
getting guys on the ground within the scheme.
They do not high-low you. They just make sure
they get you down on the backside.
So sometimes you know when people hear
the word “chop block,” they’re thinking it’s
something negative. No, you do a good job of
coaching what he wants and trying to get done.
And I think that’s something that we have to work
on. I’m just working on something that we don’t
see very much and our guys know it.
Q. You had said last week that you just
wanted Stephen to manage the game and not
win the game and have people around him step
up. But seemed like he did a good job of not
just managing the game, but doing his part as
well. Did you kind of think he did even better
than you expected last week?
COACH SHANNON: No, you know, it’s
what he did against Virginia. He did a great job of
this game of throwing the football and getting the
ball into guy’s hands to get first downs and getting
us into third down in five and six situations. Also
giving an opportunity at the end of the game of
completing some passes, but also making a
big-time play to throw to Hankerson.
When you watch the way he managed the
game, it’s exactly what you want from a young guy.
He threw two interceptions. One of them, the guy
made a great read on it and got him. But what he
did was the second one he went after the guy and
got him on the ground to give us an opportunity to
defense lineup and play and a big play came of it.
He stayed calm and collected in that type
of game, and did a lot of great things. I’m really
proud of him. Very happy to have him on our
football team. And very, very excited to see how
much he’ll grow and get better from this Maryland
game to the Georgia Tech game this week.
Q. Do you ask him to do even more this
week or build upon that in any way?
COACH SHANNON: No, we’re just
building upon what he can handle. What he can
do, what offensive part he can throw and what
routes he can throw, what kind of concepts that he
understands. And that is our job to find out what
he can do.
It’s not, sometimes in coaching, it’s not
what you want to do as a coach. Sometimes what
the players can handle, and what they can do to
make you successful.
Q. How important was, though you
don’t want to be trailing in the last two minutes,
how important was it to have a true freshman in
there under such circumstances, and do you
think he benefited from throwing a clutch
touchdown pass to win the game in the final
COACH SHANNON: Well, I think from the
overall picture it was good to see him have that
success and come up with a win for us for a start
at the University of Miami; for a tough throw like
that, taking the hit after making the throw, standing
in the pocket knowing that. We told him when you
see this front now, this blitz is going to come and
here’s the hot guy. If you can spin away from it
and stand up and throw it, throw it. But you have
to make sure this is the guy that’s coming down
and bearing down on you.
He stood in there, made a great throw.
Kept his poise, and that is something that tells you
about a young kid that is trying to get better each
week and give us a chance to win and he did it.
COACH FRIEDGEN: We’re actively
preparing for a very big game against the
University of Virginia. I think they really are coming
on in their season. We know it will be a very
I’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Coach, when you look at the film of
Virginia’s game last week, they had career
highs in passing, second best receiving day in
Virginia history. Is that a function of them
finding something or maybe the flaws in the
defense they were going up against?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, I think they’re
playing very well right now. I thought they played
extremely well against Miami. I thought they
played very well against Duke. They had a very
disappointing loss, very similar to one we had.
Situations were almost parallel.
They have a very good balance between
run and pass. Payne and Jones are two very good
runners, very good up front. Verica is a senior
quarterback who has a very good idea of the
passing game with Inman and Burd, their other
receiver. They have a very balanced attack.
Whenever you can run it and throw it, I
think you got a chance to have a pretty good
offense. They’re second in the conference, so
they’re pretty good.
Q. Payne had a pretty good day. A
back that size, what kind of problems does he
COACH FRIEDGEN: Tough to bring
down. I mean, he can move the pile. He’s a big,
strong kid. Looks like he has very good vision. He
runs extremely hard. I’ve been very impressed
with him all year long watching him. He’s a force
to be reckoned with.
Q. Ralph, what were your early
impressions of (Quarterback Danny) O’Brien
dating back to his recruiting? Was he a “can’t
miss kid” at all?
COACH FRIEDGEN: I don’t know if there
is such a thing. We were very impressed with him,
not only as a player but as a person. Said this
numerous times, he’s a very bright individual but
also has a tremendous work ethic, exceptional
poise for a person his age. I think that’s a rare
combination to have all of those things and I think
he has a bright future.
Q. Was he a bit of a sleeper in
COACH FRIEDGEN: No, actually I think it
came down to us and Duke. There were a lot of
people recruiting him. I was concerned about
losing him to Duke. I think his stepdad went to
Duke. We recruited him very hard. We were very
happy we got him.
Q. Curious how last Saturday went in
general. You lose a tough game, got on the
plane. Where and when did you learn that
Florida State had lost and what was your
reaction to that?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, I had learned
about it when I got on the bus after we got back
from the plane. I guess a couple of my other staff
members knew before then. Wasn’t a whole lot of
talking going on on the plane. We were very
I learned about NC State losing while I was
on the plane. So keeps us still in the game. We
just got to continue to win.
Q. You have hit 60 twice this year.
You’re playing a team that just played a game
with over 100 points scored. Does that say
anything about the explosion of offenses in
this day and age, how tough it is to defend?
COACH FRIEDGEN: I tell you what, if you
want to go out and start matching scores and stuff, I don’t think you can tell. I mean, East Carolina
beats NC State. Navy hangs 76 points on them. I
mean, you can go up and down the line every
Saturday. It’s who’s ready to play, what the injury
situation is, I don’t know, what your biorhythms are.
Q. I’m not trying to compare scores.
I’m trying to talk about the explosion of scoring
in certain games. How do games get to the
point where offenses just take over?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, again, with
Wake Forest, we got a couple of gifts, a couple of
defensive scores. Really kind of got out of hand.
Injuries play a part in it. This time of the year,
everybody’s nicked up some. You lose a key guy
or two, it can really affect you on defense. Same
thing on offense, it can affect you.
We’ve had some issues with our offensive
line. They’re not easily solved. I think it’s also
tough, what emotional state is your team at, how
many Saturdays can they keep a certain level in
order to be ready to play.
So all of those things factor in. I don’t think
it’s something that you can make an exact science
Q. Ralph, it seems as if these two
programs have been pretty evenly matched
over the last 20 years or so. Yet it seems as if
one or the other school continues to put up
winning streaks against the other school. One
is always dominating the other. Is that kind of
odd, do you think?
COACH FRIEDGEN: Well, I don’t know.
They’ve won the last three. I know two of them
were pretty close games. We won a few early in
my tenure here. Before we got here, there was a
streak the other way.
It’s a rivalry game. A lot of that determines
how things go in the game. I don’t know if you can
read a whole lot into that.
COACH JOHNSON: Good morning. I tell
you, we’re excited to be back home this week. I
think we’re coming off two very tough road games
where the results didn’t turn out the way we would
have liked. It’s not going to get any easier this
week. We’re playing what might be the most
talented team in the league, for sure.
It will be a big challenge for us to try to get
this thing turned around and get the ship sailing in
the right direction. Anytime you lose a game,
you’re always looking forward to the next one so
you have another chance to play.
Q. Coach Shannon talked about going
back and looking at high school tape of
Washington to prepare for this weekend’s
game. Did y’all do the same with Morris?
COACH JOHNSON: No, no.
Q. Do you have any comment on
Shannon talking about y’all using chop blocks?
COACH JOHNSON: No. I think that’s
illegal, isn’t it?
COACH JOHNSON: We’ve been called
for one this year, so we must not be using them a
lot. Some people don’t know the difference
between cutting and chopping, I guess.
Q. How complex offenses and defenses
are these days, how do you avoid chasing
ghosts, things you’re not going to see when
you prepare for opponents?
COACH JOHNSON: I think what you do is
you have a system and you try to work off what
you do. The same thing on both sides of the ball.
You have to prepare. But it doesn’t matter what
you know, it’s what the guys playing know. You
can have every tendency. I’ve worked with guys
that can sit in the press box and can call the plays
before they’re run, two seconds before the ball is
snapped. It doesn’t do you any good unless the 11
guys on the field know that.
So you just prepare for what you can do,
what they do best, get a game plan and go play.
Q. Who is the guy, the Nostradamus
guy you were in the press box with?
COACH JOHNSON: Rich Ellerson, when I
was defensive coordinator in Hawaii, was good at
that. He couldn’t tell you when they were in the
huddle, when they broke the huddle. I’m saying,
once you saw the formation, the set, this, that and
the other, he knew.
Trying to get all that information to
somebody else was overload. Just like we have
guys on our football team, there’s some guys that
learn by a million reps, there’s other guys who are
a little more worldly. I’ve had guys that played right
guard that couldn’t tell you what anybody else did
on the team but the right guard. I’ve had other
guys who could tell you what other 10 guys did on
It’s just different people.
Q. Against the Hokies, where Tevin
made a touchdown, did that show you this guy
has what it takes to be productive in the
offense, working that series shows how you
can win with this guy? What did that kind of
drive tell you, if anything?
COACH JOHNSON: I thought Tevin did
an admirable job to be put in a tough situation. We
were disappointed we didn’t finish the game. I
think we had a lot of chances to win that game and
we didn’t get it done.
We didn’t do anything different in the last
drive than we did in the others. We missed some
reads in the other drives. Virginia Tech made
some plays. But it wasn’t anything totally different
than what we’d done the whole game.
Q. Did that give you any
encouragement that this guy can get the job
COACH JOHNSON: I have confidence in
Tevin and David Sims, the other quarterback.
Tevin was our quarterback all spring because Josh
set out. We got a chance to watch him play a lot.
He ran with the ones. If everybody around him will
do his job, I’m sure Tevin will do his.
Q. Can you talk about the differences
Washington presents than Nesbitt? Nesbitt
was one of the great quarterbacks in ACC
history. What does Washington do?
COACH JOHNSON: I don’t know that he
does anything better. We haven’t seen him play.
If he did a lot of things better, he probably would
not have been the backup.
I think until he gets a chance to play a little
bit, we’ll find out. He’s not exactly a freshman.
He’s been in the program for a couple years. He’s
had a million reps doing what we’re doing. He’s
not any faster than Joshua. He’s probably doesn’t
have as strong an arm. He might have a better
touch on the ball when he throws it.
He hasn’t really played enough for us to
know what he can do, but in actual live games.
I’ve seen him against ourself in the spring,
whatever, and he can be adequate. He’s a
slippery runner. He can make people miss. He
can run through some tackles, as well.
Q. Obviously with Joshua Nesbitt’s
career at Georgia Tech ending, he just
managed to get the ACC all-time rushing
record. Can you sum up what he’s meant to
the program over his career.
COACH JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, he’s
been the only quarterback we’ve had since we’ve
been here. I mean, he’s been the starting
quarterback since we’ve been here. I think he
brought a lot of leadership, a lot of toughness to
the program. He’s helped us win a lot of games,
no question about it, with just his competitiveness
and his toughness and his desire to win games.
He’ll be a tough guy to replace.
Q. Coach, a few false start penalties
last week. To what extent are they governed by
or created by the sound of a new voice calling
signals with a new cadence?
COACH JOHNSON: I don’t think it was a
new voice. I think it was noise. We weren’t very
disciplined. The defense for Virginia Tech was
yelling calls, it was defensive calls. They were
yelling their defensive calls out. The stadium was
so loud. A couple of times, we just couldn’t set in
there, couldn’t hold our water, so to speak.
It really hurt us. We had seven of them.
They killed the drives. They did as much killing the
drives as anything else. It was disappointing. We
need to do a better job coaching it.
But it was pretty loud. Thursday night in
Lane Stadium can get pretty loud.
COACH FISHER: Looking forward to
playing Clemson this week as Clemson came off a
great win. We came off a very tough loss to a very
good North Carolina team who played well. Our
kids have responded very well this week. We’re looking forward to the challenge.
As I said, we have a lot of ball left to play.
We’re one of the teams still left in the country that
November can mean a lot. We’re looking forward
to the challenges ahead of us, and hopefully a
good week. Looking forward to a great game
against Clemson this week.
Q. Coach, could you address a little bit
the job that Everett Dawkins has done for you
this year as far as moving inside on the line
full-time? Seems like even though he’s a
young guy, he’s done a very good job of
emerging as a leader for you this year.
COACH FISHER: He really is. First thing,
Everett is an outstanding young man. High-quality,
high-character kid. Pushed his weight up to 283
pounds. Has great body quickness and has
played very solid football for us this year. We think
he’s going to be a very fine player as he continues
here at Florida State.
Q. Jimbo, defensively are there certain
things you’re focusing on you want to get
better after the recent weeks?
COACH FISHER: We still have to stay
physical up front, be able to stop the run, and get
pressure consistently, correct some mental
mistakes in the back end. We had some
breakdowns mentally in some coverages that
normally doesn’t happen, quit giving up the big
plays. That’s been a thing that’s hurt us here the
last week or so. We have to continue to grow in
We have to get better all the way around
as a football team. On defense we continue to
grow, can play with more consistency, not give up
those big plays. As we say, we have a lot of
meaningful football to play. I’m anxious to see how
we respond to the challenges.
Q. You looked so good after the Miami
game. Are you surprised with what’s happened
the last two or three weeks?
COACH FISHER: I’m not surprised. I
think BC is a very good football team that played
well, did a great job on defense. I think North
Carolina State played a great second half against
us. North Carolina played a great game.
Hopefully we can play better.
Like I said, we had opportunities to win
both football games. But like I tell our guys, we still
would have the same problems. We’re still a team
who is learning to win consistently. It’s a process.
We’re a young football team. I know a lot of
people have picked us to do a lot of things. You
have to remember we are still a young football
team. Guys are learning to win, have consistency.
Like I say, I don’t know if things were as
great as everyone thought they were after the
Miami game, and I don’t think they’re as bad as
they are now. I like where we’re going. I like the
attitude and character of this team, the work ethic
of it. It’s a process in which we have to continue to
push on with.
Q. Coach, I saw Christian (Ponder) had
fluid drained from his elbow this week. How is
COACH FISHER: He seems to be doing
well. I think most of it has gotten out. Trainer gave
me a report a little just a little bit ago that he was
doing fine. Everything is coming out very nice.
It’s happened already this year once.
We’ve kind of been through it. We kind of know
what to expect a little bit. It seems to be
progressing very nicely.
Q. Where are you at in terms of
Christian’s availability for practice tonight?
Will he be able to practice at all?
COACH FISHER: I don’t know. This
afternoon, the doctors will be in around noon to
examine him, look at him again. There’s a chance
he could practice again today. There’s a very solid
chance because I think they were going by the
amount of fluid drained daily. It’s come way down,
extremely way down, to where it’s almost
When they say that happens, he would be
released to go back on the field just like he was
before. I’m hoping for that. If not, we’ll move on
with EJ with this practice and make a judgment
Q. That is an injury that can worsen, is
COACH FISHER: There’s no structural
damage of any kind. It’s just an issue of fluid
which builds up the tightness of the arm and all
that. But he had MRIs on it. There’s no structural,
ligament damage as far as that goes, or anything
that could be permanently restricting to him. If it
was something like that, I wouldn’t even think
about playing him. That would be unfair to him.
He’s got a great future ahead of him, even farther
beyond college, and I would not do that to him.
Q. Coach, just looking at the standings,
there are five teams in the league with two
losses, another two with three. ACC parity, it’s
been this way for several years. No team has
been able to establish itself as a dominant
power. Can you talk about why that hurts the
perception of the league that we don’t have a
top-five top team, but competitively this league
has been as competitive as anybody in the
COACH FISHER: It is very competitive.
You have to play every week. Like you say, the
standings prove that. Environments, where you’re
going into play, home-field advantages throughout
the league. It’s a very well-coached, very athletic
and very good conference. It really is.
I mean, as far as the national limelight, like
you say, we haven’t had the one team that’s
jumped up in the top five consistency. I think that’s
because of the parity we have. That will happen.
That goes in streaks I think at times. I really do. I
mean, it will happen. There’s some really good
coaches, really good programs in there. I think as
other programs and coaches get more stability in
their programs, I think some of those situations can
I know what you’re saying as far as from
the national spotlight from what they say. If you’re
not in the title hunt, they push you aside because
that’s what all the national news is about. I
We’re playing great football down here.
Look at the number of people drafted out of this
league. I think that shows the parity and strength
of the conference.
Q. I was wondering if the league might
be better now without a national championship
contender than in the ’90s when Florida State
was going 70-1, dominating the league every
year. They were always in the national title
COACH FISHER: You’re right. That’s a
good point because when you talk about a league,
to me as a coach, I think from A to Z. I don’t think
from A to B. I think a lot of people nationally, you
get caught up A to B that you have a national
champion, which is great. But as a coach, what
you fear is having to play teams A to Z that are all
equal. You need to be totally on your game every
week to have a chance to win.
If you’re A to B, sometimes you can get by
not being the best you can, and that’s a very good
Q. Jimbo, with all the complexity and
multiple formations, the computer systems you
have to break down teams, how do you avoid
chasing ghosts when you’re preparing for
teams, things you may or may not see? How
do you anticipate that stuff?
COACH FISHER: Well, I mean, you have
to be sound. That’s where in the off-season, the
things that go on, you try to create as many
situations, formations. You have base rules. You
are teaching concept based off of three-man side,
two-man side, two-man bunches, three-man
bunches, all those different empty sets, all those
different things. I think conceptually when you do
see something that somebody hasn’t shown you of
that nature, you have base rules that can apply
until you can make an adjustment in the game.
People are always breaking out things that you
haven’t seen, different blitzes that go on defense.
Guys come in different formations, bring different
pressures. If you have rules that apply, you ought
to be at least sound, then you fix it when you get
back to the sideline.
How you teach conceptually and how you
install things is a big factor.
Q. Coach, for the first time in an
awfully long time since you were seven or eight
years old, there will be no Bowden on this field.
Secondly, there’s no C.J. Spiller in this game.
COACH FISHER: You’re right. It is ironic
because Bowden, Clemson, Florida State, the
great history. That is ironic that there won’t be one
in there. The Bowden name won’t be forgotten
because what they’ve meant to college football,
meant to a lot of people.
C.J. Spiller, I’m all for him not being in
there. I’m all for him. I’m glad he’s gone because
he was a very dynamic player. You can see that at
the next level. He’s doing a great job. Jamie
Harper is banged up. But Jamie Harper and some
of the guys they have up there are excellent
players, too. They’ve still got a bunch of great
players, that’s for sure.
You know, Boston College is coming in
here playing I think probably their best football by
far. Typical physical Boston College team with a
leading rusher in the league, a young quarterback
that just is playing better and better and better,
with weapons around him. Defensively, like they
always are, they’re as good as anybody there is in
the country. They know what they’re doing, how to
do it, and they do it with good players. Very
physical defensively. We have our work cut out for
us to match up with this physical Boston College
Q. Building depth on the offensive line
has been one of the things you’ve been
working for since you got there. Can you talk
about how well you think you’ve succeeded to
have a David Harding in place to play when
Brandon Harper can’t play, to have other
options there? I know it’s not where you want
it to be, but can you talk about the progress
you made there.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think we’ve
brought in quality players. They’re young. We’re
starting a sophomore and two freshmen along with
a senior and a junior. We’re redshirting some
players that I think are going to be excellent
offensive linemen that could probably be helping
us now. That bodes well for the future.
The problem we have is currently we’re
just a little light in numbers in that area. People
forget that we lost Mitchell Lederman to start the
season, who was a returning starter. Never was
able to make it to practice because of an
off-season surgery and had to give up his playing
There’s challenges there. But thank
goodness we have some good young players. I’m
real proud of Perry Simmons, Dave Harding, John
Coleman and Joey Finison, a lot of those guys that
are giving us quality snaps as young players.
They’ve been very encouraging.
Q. You talk about a couple of guys who
you’re redshirting. You did that last year. You
had the same kind of situation. You bit the
bullet and redshirted Harding, Simmons,
Coleman. David Harding said he felt like he
should have played last year. Now that he
looks back at it, he’s happy he wasn’t ready.
But he thinks he’s better prepared now. Can
you talk about it, is it sometimes tough on
biting the bullet to play Laken Tomlinson or
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, it’s hit us on
both sides of the ball. But we’re not in this for a
short fix. We’re building a program. It was in the
best interest of the program, as well as those
youngsters. Dave Harding is exactly right, he
wasn’t ready. He would not have been able to hold
up in there a year ago.
We’ll certainly play a freshman when
they’re ready or they’re by far the best we’ve got at
any position. But those guys, they do much better
generally up front when they have a little time to
soak, so to speak.
It is difficult. It’s been tempting this year.
But I think it’s in our best interest as a program to
continue to try to do this where we can.
Q. In terms of your last few weeks here,
what has been the biggest difference in your
offense in terms of where you’ve seen some
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, we’re
executing and not turning the ball over. We had
executed at times all year long. We’ve had some
poor games offensively where we really shot
ourselves in the foot turning the ball over. We’d
have a different record right now if we didn’t do
anything different but take care of the ball. We
wouldn’t have any more yards or any more
anything. So protecting the ball is the biggest
When you got a lot of young players out
there, sometimes it takes a little experience to
understand that. Hopefully that will be a trend we
continue. We’ve never turned the ball over – knock
on wood – at a high rate. Florida just kind of came
out of nowhere. Hopefully that’s past and we’re
Q. How much more of a challenge will
it be from when you watched the BC defense
on film to put up points this week?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, they’re very
good. Every week in the ACC is a new battle, a
new circumstance. You have to just try to find
matchups. You’re hunting matchups every week.
Unfortunately, with a team like BC, they’re not easy
to come by. You just pick and choose the right
places. The most important thing we can do,
again, is take care of the ball, try to be
opportunistic when it presents itself, because it’s
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ACC – 11 10 10, part 2.doc 7
not going to present itself all that often with a team
as sound as BC is.
Q. When you recruited Brandon
Connette, did you envision using him in the
manner that you’re using him or is that
something that sort of evolved as things have
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, football’s
changing a little bit offensively. So with all of our
young quarterbacks, we’ve kind of gauged their
ability to run, even Sean Renfree. His athleticism
was high. He’s a good all-around quarterback. It’s
just this year, at this point in time, he’s been very
beneficial to use him that way, plus it’s a great way
to get him experience.
When you came back to the 2010 season,
we had one quarterback on our team that had ever
played any college football. It was going to be
necessary to get somebody else experience.
Much like University of Florida did with Tim Tebow.
It’s a very good way to get a young quarterback
some experience in situational football. It has just
But we did know that we were signing an
excellent athlete and runner as well as an excellent
Q. When you game plan, do you look to
get him a certain number of snaps in a game or
is it usually developing into a situational type
COACH CUTCLIFFE: It’s more
situational. It’s not going in saying we’re going to
play him this many snaps or anything else. It will
Also some of it is based on what a defense
is doing to deploy against us, the kind of success
we’re having in other areas. It’s always there. We
have grown that offense, grown that system, and
continue to do that. It’s something we’re going to
do. So we’re kind of liking where we’re headed
Q. How has he adjusted to the way
defenses are adjusting to when he’s in the
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, he realizes
the line of scrimmage is getting a little crowded up
there. He’s like most quarterbacks, he wants to
throw the football, and he can and will. He was
very successful all the time in practice. We got to
give him some chances to make plays in that
You give a quarterback that opportunity,
they’re going to take it, I guarantee you. He’s like
any of them, and I’m glad he is. He believes he
can beat you throwing the football.
Q. What is the most important thing
you hope to accomplish defensively in the next
couple of weeks?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, we’ve been
beat up defensively, pushed around a bit off and
on all year long. You know, the thing you want to
do is we’ve had chances to make some big plays,
and dropped an interception. What I want to see is
to be a little bit more opportunistic. We have to
create some turnovers, continue that as a trend,
always looking to tackle better.
If I had to pick one thing, it would probably
be our ability to play blocks, get off blocks. That’s
how you have to win. Hard to tackle people if you
get stuck on blocks. That’s one of the things we’re
working very hard at. We basically have gone live
defensively the last two days in practice up front
trying to improve our skill in that regard because
we know that Boston College is going to be a huge
challenge when it comes to stopping the run.
Q. The game-winning play last week,
was that intended really just to get about 5 to
10 yards and facilitate a field goal or did you
think it could break?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Oh, no, you don’t
ever know. We were calling it to improve our field
position. We were out of timeouts. But it’s part of
that two-minute package because it’s a sideline
run. You’re always hoping to go. But they got
caught in a substitution situation. We teach them,
we’re going to snap the football. When you get the
ball outside, which is what we did, it’s a toss, when
you get the ball outside, a lot of good things can
Our left tackle flipped a safety off his feet
and opened it up. It was a sprint to the end zone.
But we wouldn’t have been unhappy had it gained
15 yards and set us up in field goal range.
COACH SWINNEY: Good to be with you
guys again this week.
Well, this is another opportunity for us to go on the road. We have not been a road team
this year. Tough task to go down and play in
Tallahassee. It will be a night game, a great
atmosphere I’m sure. We’re going to have to play
our best game to be able to win down there.
But our focus is just on trying to get better
as a team and try to have the best finish as we
possibly can. It’s the biggest game of the year for
us because it’s the next one, and we’re trying to
have that good finish. Gets us eligible for a Bowl if
we can win this one. Certainly keeps us alive in
our conference. Same for Florida State. So a lot
on the line for both teams.
We’re going to have to play very well. But
we’re looking forward to it. So far we’re having a
good week of preparation.
With that, I’ll take whatever questions you
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about
Da’Quan Bowers. He’s putting up remarkable
numbers as a pass-rusher. I’m correct, he
blocked the kick earlier in the game, right?
COACH SWINNEY: I believe it was Jarvis
Jenkins that got his firsthand on it, but Da’Quan
was right there as well.
Q. Can you talk about him as a
pass-rusher, what he’s brought? His numbers
are out of sight.
COACH SWINNEY: Well, he’s come into
his own this year. He’s been a good player his first
two years here. But this has been a year, like a lot
of players, the light kind of goes on for him. Not
just on game day, but just the off-season, how they
prepare, take care of their bodies, the commitment,
all that type of stuff, knowledge of the game,
studying the game. Those are the areas where
Da’Quan really grew up in. He played at 290
pounds this year. He’s been playing about 273 this
year. He’s a very smart player, but has worked
really hard in studying and preparing every week.
He’s playing like a man on a mission.
When you put great work ethic with great talent,
most of the time you get a great player. That’s
what the case has been for Da’Quan. Awful proud
of the season that he’s had. If he continues to play
and finish the season like he started it, he’s going
to put himself in contention to win some of those
Q. I know it takes a combination of all
these things to make a guy that successful.
Out of strength and quickness or technique,
what area does he really excel in?
COACH SWINNEY: Size, speed and
explosiveness, the combination, athleticism to go
with it. I mean, you just don’t find many guys 274
pounds that can run like Da’Quan, can change
direction like Da’Quan, and have the power and
explosiveness in their hips like Da’Quan does.
That’s what makes him special. He can speed
rush you or he can turn that speed into power and
get up underneath you. He’s strong enough to bull
When you put a high motor with it, you got
a tough day’s work. He’s just put it all together. In
the past, he has shown flashes of that, but then he
would not be consistent with his effort, things like
that. This year, he’s been at a different level.
Q. Coach, I’m sure you’ve seen reports
that Christian Ponder has had to miss a little
practice time at the start of the week and is day
to day. I guess you have the luxury of having
some film on EJ Manuel. How much are they
alike or different to prepare for? Are you
preparing as if Ponder is playing?
COACH SWINNEY: We’re just preparing
what they do offensively because it’s not going to
matter who’s under center. They’re going to do
what they do regardless. They’re similar players in
that regard. I mean, they’re both big guys. Both
can run well. We played a little bit against Manuel
last year. We certainly have watched their Bowl
game from last year. He was the MVP of that
game, I believe, and a good player.
He’s played a little bit this year. But
Ponder is the leader of their team. That’s an
obvious thing you’re going to keep up with day to
day. Here is a guy, he’s a redshirt senior. He’s got
a tremendous amount of experience, a lot of
success. I think this is the best offense we’ve
played all year.
So definitely he’s the starter for a reason.
But Manuel is a very good player, and he’s just
waiting his time. If he plays this week, they’re not
going to change what they do or become
something different. We have to prepare for what
Q. The play last year where Ponder was
hurt after the interception, some guys might
not have gone out there and tried to knock
DeAndre out of bounds. What did that say to
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ACC – 11 10 10, part 2.doc 9
you that I don’t think it crossed his mind to let
it go at that point in the game?
COACH SWINNEY: Christian Ponder is a
guy that every coach would love to coach, I can tell
you that. He’s a true competitor. I have a ton of
respect for him. He’s been a very good player,
handles himself the right way. He plays the game
the way you’re supposed to play it. He may make
mistakes, do this or that, but that sucker plays hard
and he competes all the way to the end.
That particular play, the game was over at
that particular point. He is still laying it on the line.
There’s a lot of guys that kind of would have gone
over there, dove at his ankles, gone over and tried
not to make the tackle. Not surprised at all that he
went over there and tried to take his frustration out
Q. Offensively are you looking for any
certain things to improve upon after the last
COACH SWINNEY: We just got to finish
in the red zone. That’s our big Achilles’ heel. We
really were doing very well for most of the year.
We’re really struggling with our kickers right now in
putting it between the pipes. That’s the big thing.
When you have long drives, 12-, 15-play drives,
you get no points, it’s very deflating.
We have to execute a little bit better as an
offense. We’ve done some good things, but we’ve
been shooting ourselves in the foot. This past
week we put it on the ground five times. But we’re
growing up in some areas. KP played a very good
game this past week. We’re going to need him to
play well. We’re growing up at receiver. We got a
couple of freshmen that are stepping up big-time
for us and are continuing to get better.
So we’ve made some progress. But for us
on offense, it’s about executing, getting 11 guys to
do their job, stop shooting ourselves in the foot.
We need to get a little bit of help from our kicking
unit, as well.
Q. Coach, probably for the first time
since you were a preschooler, this game is
going to be played without a Bowden on one
sideline, or two for that matter. There’s
probably a little bit of that influence from that
family in what goes on with your coaching.
COACH SWINNEY: Oh, yeah. I got a ton
of respect for the whole Bowden family. I had the
privilege of working for Tommy, also played for him
for a year. But Coach Bobby Bowden, he’s a guy
that I’ve respected for years and years and years,
even when I was a player, got into coaching,
started studying the coaching profession, all that
stuff. He’s just an icon.
Real privilege for me to have been able to
get to know him first through Tommy and then
obviously with the transition here and all that. He’s
just been first class all the way. Been good to my
family. It’s going to be different.
One of the things I’ll never forget is being a
part of that game last year here at Clemson, his
last game as the head coach here at Death Valley,
that’s something I’ll never forget. I was just visiting
with him before the game and after the game. Just
a gracious man that’s given this game, the game of
football, so much.
His influence will still be greatly felt down
there in Tallahassee, there’s no doubt about it.
Even though he won’t be there, he’ll be in a lot of
people’s thoughts, I’m sure.
Q. Can you tell me what your time with
Tommy, any particular influence he had in what
you do every day as a coach?
COACH SWINNEY: Coach Bowden was
just a great person in how he dealt with the staff.
He really treated everybody with a lot of respect.
Genuine guy. Loved his family. Really set a great
example to me as a father, how he dealt with his
children, how he dealt with adversity. He was a
great example of applying your faith to your daily
walk. Also just seeing his relationship with his
father was very inspiring to me.
A lot of the things that Tommy did and
brought into the program were obviously things
that Bobby Bowden, he grew up watching his dad
do. Some of those things we still keep as a part of
our program and always will, some of the things we
may do in pregame, things like that. There’s a lot
of things that I learned from Tommy Bowden and
COACH SPAZIANI: We venture back
down to North Carolina our second week in a row
to play a very well-coached Duke football team.
We need to make sure we improve and play as
well as we possibly can play.
So with that, we’ve got ques-ti-ones.
Q. Frank, Duke uses two quarterbacks with different styles, which seems to be a bit of
a growing trend in college football. How
difficult is it to prepare on the one hand for
Sean Renfree’s passing and then when they
change up to No. 18 when he comes in the
game? Defensively how tough is that to get
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, it poses some
problems obviously. They seem to have two
packages. Of course, Connette is the backup in
the other package. He can do both.
You have to address it. It certainly
complicates your practice time.
Q. Just watching Connette on film,
what have your impressions been of him?
COACH SPAZIANI: Seems like a very
good athlete. Seems like a very good quarterback,
Tim Tebow-ish. Looks like he fits exactly what
they’re asking him to do.
Q. Frank, your defense of late, what
has been helping that defense to be so stingy
in recent weeks?
COACH SPAZIANI: There’s a lot of
factors. We’ve tried to simplify a few things and
tried to focus in and coach it a little bit better, make
sure we’re not asking our players to do things that
they’re not exactly equipped to handle.
Then our guys have been working hard. I
mean, every week they come out there and they
work to get better. It certainly has shown in the
last couple of weeks.
But having said that, they will have their
work cut out for them this week.
Q. Obviously your running game has
been there the last few weeks. Montel has
been there all year for you. Is it the offensive
line has been blocking better in the recent
COACH SPAZIANI: Once again, there are
a lot of factors to that. One of the biggest factors
has been that the offensive line has been intact
practicing during the week. Now, that wasn’t the
case last week. We missed someone, then we
have some other issues again. But that helps, to
have the same guys blocking. Certainly Montel
can feed off of that.
Q. I think it’s interesting you’re playing
Duke for the first time in a while. I know Montel
Harris originally committed to Duke and
opened up again after the coaching change.
Were you involved directly in his recruiting?
Can you fill us in on what went on there, how
you got in it?
COACH SPAZIANI: No and no (laughter).
All I know is that he showed up on our campus.
Q. Can you talk about going down to
Duke. It’s a place that none of your guys on
your team, I don’t think your staff, has ever
been. Location, does it matter at all in college
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, we have guys
that have been down there. Coach Brock has
been down there. Coach Tranquill has been down
there. I certainly have been down there. So we
have a familiarity with going into Durham.
Q. Coach, can you explain how Luke
Kuechly’s excellence makes life easier for
some of his teammates, and in particular which
players benefit the most from his ability to be
all over the place?
COACH SPAZIANI: Well, let’s see, we
have 85 guys on scholarship, we got 84. I can’t
name them all (laughter).
Luke is a very good football player as I
said over and over again who instinctively plays
and he just loves the football game. A lot of times
players like that make up for other errors. We’re
certainly glad to have him over there.
Having said that, he’s had a couple issues
himself, too. He’s not by any means a finished