ACC Coaches Teleconference Transcripts
Frank Spaziani – Boston College
Opening Statement: We started out the second half of the season, with game number seven, on the right foot. We are very happy to come away with a victory over a very good conference opponent. We did a great job from the coaches all the way down to the players, and now we are ready to move forward on to our next game.
Q: How would you evaluate Dave Shinskie’s performance Saturday?
Spaziani: I think he made some strides and showed some improvement in his seventh collegiate game as a quarterback. He did do some things on Saturday that I hadn’t seen him do. He made some good plays, but we know he has talent, so we just have to take the next step and keep moving forward.
Q: What did Shinskie do that you haven’t seen?
Spaziani: He was handling the game better, and his reaction time was a little faster so these things are encouraging. His instincts and game management are definitely improving.
Q: How do you feel the offensive line performed?
Spaziani: Our guys upfront have been getting better. Montel ran very well, and made some nice cuts, so the combination of those two things led to a very productive afternoon.
Q: How much has it helped the offensive now that the left guard position has been solidified?
Spaziani: Well it helps with the continuity and chemistry of the line. I am not sure if we are completely solidified at left guard, but I like where we are at right now. You need to just practice together as a unit to improve especially with the offensive line so I think we will get even better as the season progresses.
Q: What is your secret to turn things around after a tough loss like last week at Virginia Tech?
Spaziani: I think our kids just work hard, and we all believe in each other. You just have to move on from something like that, and work harder in practice to improve. There are always reasons for why things happen, and having said that we are going back on the road this week in a hostile environment. We are a young team, and this is all part of the learning experience.
Q: What do you think attributes to your struggles on the road this season?
Spaziani: It is very complicated. Early in the year we weren’t where we are now so that attributes to it. It also depends on the opposition and how they play against us can also factor in. Everything is new to this team because we are so young so we have to learn from it and move on.
Q: Will you use your winning streak against Notre Dame to help fire up your team?
Spaziani: That doesn’t really matter to me because it is a new year. Yeah, it is nice we have beaten them the last few times we have played each other, but we have to play our game and try to come out with another win.
Q: How is Shinskie different from other freshmen quarterbacks?
Spaziani: Well he is older. But other than that I think he is the same as any other freshman. I think his age can help him with certain things but he is still going through the same learning process as any other normal freshman.
Q: Why have people responded so much to Mark Herzlich’s situation?
Spaziani: He is a high-profile athlete who handles himself with such class. He is a great player and person so I think that along with what he is going through in terms of his illness catches a lot of people’s attention.
Q: Were you impressed with the defensive line on Saturday considering they were shorthanded?
Spaziani: I think we can build off that for sure. There are no excuses though if people get hurt we have to manage our way through it, and people have to step up and make plays.
Q: Did you sense that Montel Harris was on the verge of a game like that?
Spaziani: Let me say this- he is definitely capable of a game like that. I didn’t really sense it, though.
Dabo Swinney – Clemson
Opening Statement: There is no rest for the weary. We are getting ready to play a tremendous football team, a team that has been outstanding in all phases. They are probably the most athletic team we have played. They have been battle tested and are well coached.
I have a lot of respect for Coach Shannon. He is a really good guy and a good football coach. This is a big game for both teams. The biggest thing about them when you look at their team is they are good in all phases.
Offensively they are extremely balanced. They run a lot of formations, so you have to be able to apply all of your defensive calls and fronts and coverages to fit those formations. The other thing that jumps out is they are extremely physical, at running back in particular.
Their running backs get a lot of yards after contact. Obviously their quarterback and wide outs are very talented. Their quarterback has been the difference maker for them. He has made a lot of plays and is a very poised young man. We will have to affect their quarterback and we have to do a good job with our front four. Those guys have got to win some matchups and get after their quarterback. That will be a big key in the game along with how we tackle.
I thought we tackled our best against Wake Forest and that must continue. They have a lot of chunk plays where they pick up a bunch of yards on one play. They are averaging about 14 yards per catch and nine per pass attempt, which is outstanding. If we can minimize their chunk plays then we can have a good day on defense. Creating turnovers will be critical also.
They are a veteran defense. They don’t have a lot of seniors but they have a lot of returning starters and guys who have played a lot of football. They are fast and physical. They are a totally different style of play than what we just saw. We will have to do a great job at the point of attack.
The biggest thing for us is the same every week. We have to execute and make plays when they are there. We can’t beat ourselves. The play of our quarterback will be critical. Kyle Parker will need to play a good game for us and make good decisions.
Special teams will be a factor as well. We have given up a couple of big plays on special teams on the road, so we will have to do a good job to make sure that special teams will be a positive factor for us. We must have great focus in or preparation this week. They will be excited to play. This is our third top 15 team. It is a good opportunity for us. We are excited about going down there and hopefully we can play a complete game and come back with a win.
On Chris Chancellor wearing #6:
That is a really sad situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, teammates and coaches at UCONN. Chris came to me Monday morning. The young man at UCONN was a teammate of his in high school, and he asked if he could wear number six to honor him. I said certainly. It doesn’t seem to be a problem to have two guys with the same number on the field (laughs). Jacoby Ford (WR) and Chris Chancellor (DB) will both wear number six this weekend.
On difference playing a Ranked team:
We just really are trying to get this football team to focus on execution. I tell the guys nothing matters except for us. Nothing matters except us and how we play, because we are good enough. It is all about how we play and prepare. We are just focusing on execution. If we do that we have a chance to be a winning program.
Q: Do you believe the Clemson team we saw last Saturday was the real Clemson Tigers?
I hope that we can become a consistent team as far as what you saw last Saturday. We beat a good football team in Wake Forest. It really doesn’t matter about our opponent, it is about us. I think they have learned some great lessons so far this season.
We have played some really good opponents. We are one of three teams in the country to play three top 15 teams (Miami and Washington the others) and we have been in position to win. We must play smart, pay attention to detail, and understand it is critical to do things the right way.
On play of secondary against Wake:
That was a very critical aspect of the game because you can’t just blitz all the time against a good quarterback and scheme because they will get you. We had some four-man rushes where they went eight man protections and there was nowhere to go with the ball. I thought our secondary probably played the best game they have played all year.
Technique wise we were as good as we have been. We had some nice hustle plays in the game. Again I thought we tackled well, but coverage was very good. That will be important this week simply because Miami can hit the big play. We will have to do a great job holding up in coverage against some skilled guys.
On Professional influence in Miami’s offense:
In terms of the formations there has been some pro influence. They have done a good job with formations to create opportunities and matchups that work for them and then Coach Whipple has done a really good job with the quarterback. The quarterback has been outstanding for them. You can tell he really understands what is going on. He is well coached.
On Stopping Harris:
We just have to get to him and hit him. We can’t let him get comfortable because if we do it will be a long day in South Beach. The coverage has to hold up. We have to make him run and then we have to hit him.
On winning against a ranked team making a bigger statement:
With six games left it is an opportunity to go on the road and win on the road. We are in the middle of a division race so at this point it is like a playoff every week in this conference. We are trying to just stay in the hunt and get better as a football team. We have our hands full. This is a good team we are getting ready to play.
David Cutcliffe – Duke
On coming off an open date and getting back into the weekly routine:
Open dates are good and they serve their purpose, but it’s always a little difficult to roll back into a rhythm. I thought we were a little bit sluggish this morning, but it got a little better as it went on and we ended pretty well. You need to get back into a flow.
On Maryland and the threats they pose:
They’ve been unfortunate, like we have, often. A bad break here, a bad break there. I thought they played in tough conditions extremely well. They’re a big physical team; much bigger and much more physical than we are. They have some skill players on offense that can make a lot of plays and a defense that’s a very pressure-oriented defense. It’s a very difficult matchup for us, and like every week, we have to be at our best.
On his relationship with Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen:
I’ve known Ralph Friedgen a long time, and you talk about a really good football coach and a really good X’s and O’s coach, that’s him. If you’ve got weaknesses, he’s going to exploit them.
On Duke not facing Maryland for five years:
We gave a little education to (our players) about how Maryland is a perennial contender for championships and what they’ve accomplished there. They’re an annual bowl team, and those kids there are used to winning. Kids don’t see much past now, past today, so all they know is that Maryland’s had a difficult start. But when you put on the tape, they see that Maryland’s a good football team. You really don’t have to convince kids once they see tape. They’ve seen enough tape to know what a good team looks like and what a bad team looks like. Maryland is a good team.
On the rivalries that come with conference game:
The big thing is just to understand the intensity level. ACC games are annual opponents, and there’s energy and rivalry surrounding the game. You hope your team understands that this is an ACC opponent. Maryland, of course, is facing the same thing. Obviously, both teams should be pretty hungry for a win, and it should make for a football game.
On creating and overcoming matchups against Maryland:
That’s a big part of what I do, and my personal philosophy. That’s creating matchups in our advantage and trying to overcome matchups, whether it’s at left tackle, center, receiver. You can’t let those matchups dominate a game. You’re always working and looking, and to me, that’s game planning. It’s not just your X’s and O’s, it’s kinda within all of that. I tell you, they’re so big and so strong that there’s obviously some difficult matchups up front. They’re a very safety-oriented pressure team. They’ve got big, strong, fast safeties, so we’ve got a lot of issues that we’ve got to handle that way offensively. Defense is the same. They’ve got a big, strong front and an unbelievably strong receiver in Torrey Smith. That kid’s strong, and he’s a difficult matchup. Everywhere he goes, we’re going to have to be aware of where he is. I don’t what his strength numbers are in the weight room, but I bet, from just watching him on tape, they’re unbelievable.
On what Duke worked on during the open week:
You never know what you’re shoring up, but one of the things we focused on was running the ball and tackling. If we tackle a little better on defense and not give up the yards…we’re looking for every little thing we can, and getting people down on first contact is critical if you’re going to play good defense. That was an area that we worked hard on. We had a lot of tackling drills. We’re certainly doing everything we can to be effective. We’re not trying to run the ball for 200 yards every game, but we’re trying to be effective in the running game too.
Bobby Bowden – Florida State
On the week off and how that’s helped the team:
We probably needed it because since the first day of August that we started practicing, we never missed a day. That means every day we were practicing except maybe on Sunday and every other year I’ve been here, there’s always been lightning or rain that drove you off the field and the kids miss a practice and they get rest. So, we probably needed some rest so we gave them two days off, we gave them Monday and Tuesday off. They’ve got plenty of work in. The thing is, you can’t play a Saturday game and a Thursday game. You can, but it’s mighty hard to prepare.
On being at the half way point [in the season], discussing the season so far, disappointments and what the team needs to do in the second half:
Disappointed with the losses and yet we’ve done some good things. We’ve done something this year that we haven’t done before. Our offense against BYU took the ball and scored the first seven times they got the ball. Then against Georgia Tech, we took the ball and scored the first five times we got the ball. But defensively, we’ve had a hard time stopping the big play. We’ll go out there and stop a team, and stop a team, and stop a team and then whoop. So if they ever get that squared away we’ll be a pretty good ballclub. Another thing is, nobody’s crushed us. We haven’t been blown out. We’ve been right down to the wire with everybody, which maybe with one play less for them or one play more for us, we could be up at the top.”
And now you begin the second half and every year and season it seems FSU goes to the North Carolina area for a Thursday night game:
Well, that’s true. I think it seems like either NC State or the University of North Carolina. Of course this is North Carolina, their defense is number one in the conference, fifth in the nation and they’ve got a very solid football team. Butch has done an excellent job up there recruiting.
On FSU and UNC being opposites, FSU is number one in the conference in offense and last in defense, and UNC is number one in defense and last in offense:
That’s going to be interesting isn’t it? It’s going to be interesting. Can their offense improve enough or can our defense improve enough. Whichever one of those happens could determine who wins this game.
On the importance of the next game (not only because it’s the next game but to get the second half of the season on a good note):
Well, the way we have approached it, like anybody would, is “hey just forget the past, it’s the second half of the season.” Let’s take them one game at a time.
On playing North Carolina (they’ve been off of the schedule for a while):
We used to play North Carolina all the time; every other year we were up there or they were here. Then of course, the way our schedule, the way our conference is regulated, now it’s two divisions. They’re in the other division therefore we don’t play them as often. This is the first time in six or seven years we’ve played North Carolina.
On being the first time anybody on the team has traveled to Chapel Hill:
That’s true and it’s a beautiful place to visit. I’ve always enjoyed playing up there. There’s a great atmosphere there for anything really.
On the focus being playing football on a Thursday night, being that it’s the first time UNC has hosted a Thursday night game. Talking about the atmosphere and being the only game on that night:
The advantage of a Thursday night game is that the whole nation gets to see you. Our nation is acclimated to watching Thursday night games, just like professional football they’re all acclimated to watching Monday night football. So, it’s a prestigious game for both of us. Of course the big advantage they’ve got is it’s their home game. We have to spend our ways to going up there, but again once that whistle blows and you make that first contact, throw everything out… it becomes a football game.
On FSU’s defensive struggles:
Everette Brown led our team in pass rush last year and of course, he had another year but he decided to go pro. We really have been hurting in that area but again, we just keep working on it, working on it, working on it and see if we can’t do better. We’ve tried everything. We’ve taken linebackers and moved them to the rush end on both sides. We’ve blitzed from inside out. We’ve tried it all. Our big problem is that we haven’t been strong enough to get people in enough third and longs. We’ve got to start forcing people to third and longs. Our biggest breakdown this year is giving up the big plays. Our defense plays as good as they can play, as good as most teams can play, except we’ve been vulnerable to the big plays.
On getting things turned around:
I think the old expression that Lombardi said, that winning breeds winning and losing breeds losing and once you’ve lost, you have got to get your kids to have a positive attitude. Of course, if you’re winning, you’ve got to keep that positive attitude. With us, we’ve been in every ball game. Every game we’ve been in has come down to the last three or four minutes. If we score, we win. If we don’t score, we lose. Or if they score, they’re going to beat us or if we stop them, we win. We’ve lost four of those games that way. Against Miami, we’re on the two yard line with a first down but the time caught us and we couldn’t get in anything but two plays. Then we missed a touchdown in the end zone that would have won it. That might have changed our whole season if could have won that darn ball game.
Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech
Opening Statement: I was proud of our football team Saturday. I thought they competed hard and found a way to win. We came out in the second half and did what we had to do to win the game. I thought our defense played well in the first half especially, and gave us enough of a chance to get our feet under us and win the game. Having said that, winning that game makes this game the biggest of the year. I told the team in the locker room, we have to go to Charlottesville and play a team that is on top of our division right now. It’s an elimination game for us, if we go up and don’t win the game our chances of winning the Coastal Division are not very good. We stayed alive for another week and we have the same opportunity we had a week ago to play one more time and see if we can stay alive in the conference race.
On keeping players focused after a big win:
I don’t think we’ll have a problem staying focused. We did enough things poorly in that game Saturday night that was pointed out to them on film. We can play better and we need to. We strive to get better every week and if we have to ground them the week we’re getting ready to play, then they’re not very smart. A year ago, we were 6-1 and a two-touchdown favorite against the same team [Virginia] and they came in here and smacked us in the mouth. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Virginia will come to play; they sit atop the division standings. We know where we’re at; our backs are against the wall.
On an improving Virginia team:
They [Virginia] have reverted back to what they used to do. They scrapped the new offense; they’re back to running the same offense they ran forever under Al [Groh] and they stopped turning the ball over. They were a turnover a minute earlier in the year. They weren’t giving themselves a chance to play, but the last three games they have created turnovers. They’ve taken care of the ball and that’s the difference between winning and losing. When you look statistically, they’ve been pretty good defensively the whole time, but they couldn’t survive the turnovers. If you look at last week’s game against Maryland, they forced five turnovers. One went for a touchdown; one was on the one-yard line. So, the offense took advantage, kicked some field goals and won the game. They had an offensive explosion against Indiana, other than that; it’s been defense and turnovers.
On struggles of the kick coverage unit:
We just have to keep working on it. We worked on it yesterday. It’s just like with offense or defensive, if you have three or four knuckleheads run the wrong way, you’re not going to be successful. It’s not because of a lack of effort, it’s just paying attention to detail and being accountable and responsible. It would also help if we kicked the ball better.
On last year’s Virginia game:
I don’t remember much about the week leading up. I remember that in the game we had a zillion chances to win. We had a lot of turnovers, we turned the ball over on the four yard line going in and we dropped a snap in the second half. We tied the game up at 17 all and they drove down and scored and we couldn’t answer. I remember their quarterback [Marc Verica] was pretty effective throwing the ball against us. He had a high percentage and hit a lot of short passes. The running back [Cedric Peerman] had over a 100 yards and ran the ball right down our throat. They have some good players. We have to play as well as we can play and see if we’re good enough. I tell our guys that all the time, go play your game and see if you’re good enough. The best way to win the game is not to lose it, don’t give them away and make them beat you.
On simplifying the defense against Virginia Tech:
Simplifying could mean a lot of things. When I say simplify, all I mean is, line up and run to the ball. You might not be the very best you can be against everything, but you should be sound against it all and you get to play fast. Now, if they find a little niche that is hurting you, you need to find an answer for it. There’s going to be weaknesses in whatever you do. We played well in the first half on defense and ok in the second. We have to play better; they scored three or four times in the second half. Are we better, yeah, but are we there yet, no. You can’t pat yourself on the back when you win; you still have to get better.
On Sean Bedford’s transition from defense to offense:
He was on the scout team and beating up the offensive line. I said why don’t you come over to the other side and beat them out, instead of beating them up. So, he moved over and has worked his tail off. He’s worked as hard as any member of our football team. He’s a great kid, a guy that is a self-motivator and achiever. All you have to do is look at everything he does. He has a 3.8 GPA in Aeronautical Engineering, so he does great in school. He’s solid off the field. He’s a great kid.
On what the defense did right against Virginia Tech:
I thought in the first half we limited their running game pretty well. We also forced a lot of punts; they only had a field goal in the first half, so that was a positive. We didn’t change anything in the second half. When they broke things open, it was on breakdowns. But, we did a lot of positive things throughout the game. Where we really got hurt was when their quarterback [Tyrod Taylor] was scrambling.
On the play of the linebacking corps against Virginia Tech:
We changed things up a little bit to turn them lose and let them play and I thought they did very well against the run. We still have some work to do in the passing game, but they played pretty well against the run. Sedric Griffin was our player-of-the-game, he made some great plays. Brad Jefferson made some great tackles and was very active and did some good things throughout the course of the game. Steven Sylvester played a lot better. They were productive.
Ralph Friedgen – Maryland
On being involved with the Wounded Warriors project:
It’s really an honor for us to be involved with this project. I think our kids are very excited about it and think it’s a very worthwhile project. We have a tremendous relationship with Under Armor and a tremendous partnership. We look forward to it and are hoping this is a really successful venture.
On looking ahead to Duke and the team’s attitude right now:
Going down to Duke, we have to play on the road. Another ACC game on the road – it’s never easy. We had a very good practice last night. I’m amazed at how resilient they are and the effort and attitude they have after a very disappointing loss to Virginia. It just amazes me how our kids hang in there and keep working. Right now, we’re just focusing on getting better and taking one game at a time. We’ll see what we can accomplish.
On whether back-up quarterbacks Jamarr Robinson or Danny O’Brien will see time later this year:
We’re going to do what we have to do to win games right now. I’m focusing on Duke. We’re not disenchanted with Chris. If we don’t start doing better, then we’ve got to look toward next year, but right now, I’m not doing that. I’m focusing on beating Duke. Chris is a very big and important part of that, but so is Jamarr. Right now, I don’t think we were planning on playing Danny, unless we really wanted to see where we were at with Jamarr, so that’s kind of where we stand.
On the progress of punter Travis Baltz:
He kicked last night and he did okay. He’s not 100 percent but I think he’s probable for Saturday.
On how the team’s mentality is right now:
I’ve kind of been looking for it, and I think this is a tough time for all of us. Coaches are struggling where we’re at. I’ve talked to our players and they’re just focusing on getting better. Quite honestly, I was really pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm we had last night in practice and I had to back practice down. It got pretty aggressive for a Monday night. I’m sure we’ve got some kids that are feeling that way, but I couldn’t tell you who they were. They don’t stand out to me. I’m looking for it and I haven’t seen it and I’m very appreciative of that. It just kind of restores the faith I have in who we have as players and what type of character the players have.
On if he’s found that the team still enjoys practice:
They enjoy practice – that’s the thing I like. We ran a two minute drill yesterday and Adrian Moten comes in the offensive huddle. He starts telling them, ‘I’m coming, I’m going to be over here.’ Then they talk back to him. With some teams that are more successful and after a loss it’s been doom and gloom. It’s not that way with this bunch. They like playing football. I think they genuinely like each other and they have a good time. That’s why I want them to do well. They work so hard and they’re fun to be around. You always hear how coaches affect players. I think this time it may be the players affecting the coaches. They come and pick us up.
On what the team needs to do to win:
I thanked those kids last night for their effort. Our guys played hard this weekend. They laid it on the line and played hard enough to win the football game. What we can’t do are the things we’re doing that prevent us from winning football games and that’s turning the ball over and not making a play when we need to make it. If we’ll start doing that, we’ll start winning football games because we’re playing hard enough to do that. Maybe we just need to go out and relax and just play and have a good time and let it go. Maybe that’s the way to approach this whole thing. We can’t do any worse than what we’ve been doing, so to me, let’s get out and go after people and have a good time and enjoy the day. That’s the approach I’m taking right now.
On how different Duke is from the last time he played them in 2004:
I don’t know how the scheduling goes, but I knew by the time I ever played Duke they’d be nationally-ranked. Now they’re really a good football team. It’s the first time we’ve played them since the expansion. David Cutcliffe is a very good friend of mine. I think he’s a heck of a football coach. They’ve got a veteran team. I’ve been admiring Thaddeus Lewis since he was a true freshman playing. I thought he was exceptional at that time. Now he’s a senior, he’s very polished. He has a nice release, he sees the field and he’s very elusive. I think they’re doing a lot of good things with their football program right now.
Randy Shannon – Miami
Opening Statement: So this week we have Clemson, another conference game as we have been out of the conference for three weeks. Clemson is a very good football team and we have gone into overtime the last two times we’ve played them. They have some of the same types of athletes that we’ve had here at Miami and they even have some guys we recruited. Offensively, they have two of the fastest guys in the ACC in Jacoby Ford and [CJ] Spiller. Both are return guys as well and they are very dynamic. Defensively, they have a lot of guys up for awards including some players in the secondary up for Thorpe Award. Also, some guys up front that cause havoc because of how active they are. We need to control our penalties and take advantage on first down. We need to be sound and secure on doing the things we need to get done.
On Clemson running back C.J. Spiller:
He’s good. He’s one of the fastest and most athletic guys they have. He’s real good. That’s all I can tell you.
On preparing for overtime games considering the last two Miami-Clemson games went to overtime:
You don’t prepare for it. It’s just part of the game. You really never prepare for it in practice.
On kick off decisions:
It just depends on the coach and the situation. You can’t really tell what people are trying to do.
On Miami’s pass protection:
We need to get better. Everyone needs to be on the same page and Jacory needs to get rid of the ball when he is supposed to. Whenever you see sacks, it isn’t just the offensive line. It’s everybody.
On kicking off deep:
If you have fast guys who can get down the football field, you want to kick it deep and keep it around the 20. [C.J.] Spiller and [Jacoby] Ford are great returners. If we can get those guys trapped in the 10, 15 or 20 yard line, you have done a great job. If you pooch kick it, they get it at the 30 and if you kick it out of bounds, the 40. It’s more field position than anything.
On kicker Alex Uribe’s kickoff responsibilities:
He’s been getting better every week. His hang time continues to improve and that’s exactly what we want him to keep doing for us.
On Clemson’s receiving corps:
They do a good job of catching the football and blocking. They’re making big plays, while also running good routes.
On the return of senior safety Randy Phillips:
He practiced well today. He flew around and had some fun. He’s back into it. It always means a lot to get guys back.
Butch Davis – North Carolina
Opening Statement: Obviously it is a bit of a bizarre or unique type of week. For our player purposes it was a Tuesday. We kind of had to talk to the players to reset their biological clocks and really start thinking about it. One of the difficult things in preparation for a Thursday game is the classes do not change. We have had to make an adjustment with our practice schedule for today. Monday being traditionally a day off with our players, but Monday is a big day for labs and late afternoon classes. So we are actually going to practice earlier today to accommodate our players’ class schedules. That is the one schematic change we have had to make this week.
One of things watching film for Florida State and preparing, statistically their offense is playing lights out. One of the things our players and coaching staff has noticed, besides the fact he is leading the ACC in passing, is how athletic he really is and the things he can do to escape the pocket. He is very mobile, very athletic and throws extraordinarily well on the run. He is just about as dangerous when he gets out of the pocket and he is able to make plays. He reminds me of some of the preparation we made with Brett Farve when I was with the Dallas Cowboys. You have to stay in coverage and plastered to your guy because you loose your guy in coverage and all of a sudden he is scrambling around and he kind find them deep down the field. They have fast athletic backs and a very quick offensive line.
Defensively they have caught some criticism, but the biggest culprit we see is giving up big plays at some bad times. From a scheme standpoint and athletically I see a very good defense. Their defensive ends on the outside put a lot of pressure on the interior players to perform because they take away an awful lot of the perimeter. They are probably more sophisticated in coverage than they have ever been. So they are going to get pressure on the outside and give you coverage problems.
From a special teams prospective right now they have the number one punt team in the league. Field position is important. So this is going to be a good challenge and a good game. It will be an opportunity for us to make some strides. The three days before this week gave us an opportunity to work on ourselves and hopefully we improved.
On self-scouting his team during the bye week:
All the things that hurt you as a football team, those are pretty self-evident. If you turn the ball over, you really hurt your offense’s opportunity to find out what might work. If you’re going three-and-out and turning the ball over and not having success, you don’t have a chance to go out there and experiment and find a play that works and get the chance to call it again.
Tom O’Brien – NC State
Al Groh – Virginia
Opening Statement: About as good as challenge as we could look for this week in an opponent. Sure could make a pretty strong argument, the hottest team in the ACC with a unique system of play in two of the three elements of their team. Much is made of the uniqueness of the Georgia Tech offense, but they do some very, very creative things with their special teams that makes their special teams amongst the very most effective and the most difficult to prepare for any particular year. We had the same issue last year, and they were really kind of ahead of the curve on a lot of things that they’re doing with their special teams, and as a result they frequently gain a big field position advantage in each one of the turnarounds, which then puts this ground-eating offense in a very advantageous position to start with.
So it’s clear to see how they’ve tried to link the two of them up together, and it’s worked very effectively. So they’ll make it quite a bit of a different type of a week for us in many respects.
Q: Can you talk about their different formations?
Groh: Well, as you have seen from some of these other teams now as we’ve spoken frequently with the development of really — I would say if I use the word alternative punt systems, that would be incorrect. Innovative and progressing punt systems. In other words, it’s a new era in terms of punting the ball. And it continues to grow that way, just as with many of the different offenses.
Let’s say a few years ago when different elements of, A, the West Coast offense came up, it was one offense. Now there’s all sorts of things that fall into that category. We saw the spread offense; that was an offense. Everybody did the same thing that was in it. Now it’s really inaccurate to try to classify something just based on being a spread offense or a West Coast offense.
It’s the same thing here now with that shield punt. It’s inaccurate just to say they’re in a shield punt. It can go so many different directions based on the personality and the philosophy of the team, and they have been very creative and progressive with what they’re doing with formations, and as a result of what they’re doing they have a very good idea how to deal with it on the other side. So it’s not just the punt team but things they’re doing with their punt return and punt block teams to combat those other teams that have it. They have some answers to those situations while other people are still searching for them.
Q: A coach that faced them last year talked about how they use the fullback in a different way and that they’ve tweaked their offense.
Groh: It certainly is, but the core plays remain the same. That’s like saying that — I would say that they got a new set of shutters, maybe painted the front door, but the foundation is still the same and the structure of the house is still the same.
So without the effectiveness of the lead back inside, Dwyer, who clearly is a terrific player, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year last year, they’ve been very smart in what they’ve done with their offense, so I would say they’re certainly bright enough not to diminish his effectiveness in the offense.
What has increased is the overall contribution and effectiveness of the quarterback.
Q: How much of an advantage is it to use the film from last year when you won in Atlanta?
Groh: Well, certainly it is a smoother week than it was last year. At least we have a set of ideas going into the week, whereas last year it was really well into the week before, one, we had to just go to the practice field and see it. Well, now we can watch the game video and see things that worked, and we can also see things that were really an issue. It wasn’t all perfect. We had a lot of issues during the course of the game.
Some of those issues were solved frankly because we had an effective offense that day and cut down on time of possession. So we’ve looked at those things. We know where our problems are, and clearly they’ve got projectors, too, so we would expect a counter move on their part.
Q: How much did turnovers help last year?
Groh: Well, one, as happens, it’s the story of a lot of games, but we were the beneficiaries of some turnovers during the course of the game that clearly helped us out in some circumstances.
But as I say, that’s the story of most games. Most teams that win are the beneficiaries of such, and most teams that lose, that’s part of how your team plays or standards or whatever. Sometimes it’s just a question of good fortune. So that was one of the real big factors, and that cut down on the amount of plays that they had, and then we were very productive on our end offensively, particularly in terms of ball movement, which allowed us to have the ball quite a bit.
We’re pretty decent in the points scoring area, so those two things combined gave us a good result, which is to say other than that we stonewalled them.
Q: How about Nesbitt?
Groh: Clearly that was a pretty — as in any system, the quarterback position is the key, and decision-making is one of the significant talents. Those things that are evident to observers from a distance, whether they’re throwing it overhand or throwing it underhand on options, people from a distance just see the physical skills. But the decision-making process is one of the primary skills in being a really good quarterback, and the decisions that the option quarterbacks have to make come so quickly, frequently within a split second of the ball being snapped, and right at the line of scrimmage as opposed to further back, I’d say that one is more difficult than the other, but one happens faster than the other.
And so accumulated experience in that type of system, fast decision system, option offense, it’s really critical to a player being able to play well. So it’s very, very evident that Josh is now a season and a half into this offense as opposed to a half season the last time that we saw him.
Q: Who gets to be Nesbitt in practice and is it particularly important this week that the scout team gives you a good week?
Groh: Yeah, it is. It’s not only different plays, but it’s a different blocking style. We have to get accustomed to not only the schemes, the tracks that the blockers are going on, but how they’re trying to block us when we get there. The players have been priming for it. They understand that they’re vital to the overall performance of the team, and we tried to get them started on it last night. So we have to teach them about these defensive players. Rico will be one of them, yeah, for sure.
Q: (Inaudible.) How do you go about teaching something that’s not necessarily a pla Turnovers have been such a big part of the last few games. How do you go about teaching something like that?
Groh: Well, it’s a fundamental. We’re a fundamental-based team. We drill fundamentals all the time. There’s fundamentals of block protection, there’s fundamentals of downfield blocking, and there’s fundamentals about how to secure the ball. We’re very resolute and determined in those things.
We try to coach it on every play. Every coach is responsible for it, but typically within a position coach coaching his players how to handle the ball, we’re as interesting in coaching how the ball is secured to how the player is running the play. You could run those plays beautifully, and those tracks, everything is real pretty. Fumble the ball at the end, then not only was the play not as good as it looked, it now becomes — what was a well-run play becomes a detriment to winning. So our attitude is why wouldn’t anybody be resolute and diligent?
We went through a stage there, I think it was either a two- or three-year span where we had less fumbles than any team in the country, Wali Lundy, Alvin Pearman, Jason Snelling. But we haven’t relaxed our diligence, but in some cases we didn’t get as much compliance as we needed. But we’re always working on that, and there’s some players here in the past that have displayed a significant running skill that we couldn’t play Russian roulette with. So we just couldn’t afford to put them out there where they could do something that might cause us to lose. The players understand that.
I know one particular year, I guess it was ’91, when the Giants won the Super Bowl, it was a very good team obviously to win the Super Bowl, but also had less turnovers than any team in the NFL. So those teams tie in — they don’t compensate for not having talent, but they certainly enable you to maximize whatever talent you have on your team.
Q: Your front seven does not have some of the big names that it has in the past but it has been playing very well. What has been the key to their success?
Groh: Sure. Well, that’s only with — we play definitely with that group, Zach and their predecessors, and that included another very athletic member of that front line, which was Jeffrey Fitzgerald. So we played in a different fashion with those players as opposed to when we had guys like Chris Canty, Andrew Hoffman, Brennan Schmidt outside. Copper inside, Brooks inside. That was a different type of looking front seven, not just in skill level but in body types and the different skills that they had. When we had these other kids we played in a different fashion with them, now we’ve adjusted to the players that we have right now.
So it’s just as Jay mentioned earlier about a coach that Georgia Tech has made changes in their system, probably without dramatic philosophical changes, you probably could say that about our team on a regular basis.
Q: If Zane Parr moves into the first group, do you have to give him relief in some of the sub-packages?
Groh: Yeah, he’s been such an effective player on the dime team, really inside, helped that be a more effective unit. We had some concerns about it coming in, and he’s helped it to be a much more effective unit. I’d expect at least the early part of the season he’s going to be really productive. We thought it would take a little bit of time for development because all of them except for Collins are really new in their roles, but it has come on pretty nicely. He’s been a good part of it. He did a very nice job the other day throughout the second half.
Q: Are you using the dime more than the nickel?
Groh: Well, we’re all dime this year, again, because of the personnel on hand, different guys to do different jobs.
Q: Two of your last three games have been real defensive struggles. When you play a team like Georgia Tech what is your strategy?
Groh: Sure, that’s part of the MO. You have to be pretty efficient with the ball, and that’s happened to a lot of those types of teams. The team might be having a fairly decent day with their offense, they just don’t have it long enough to outscore them, whatever that means, whether you need 17 or 47. You just don’t have it enough to outscore them. So you have to be very efficient with your offense, and this is every game. Try to get a pulse of the game, and it’s a matter of matching the other team’s efficiency with the efficiency — matching the other team’s explosive plays with your explosive plays. But it is a matching of those things that frame the game.
Q: How long does it take you to get a pulse for the game?
Groh: Everyone is different. Each one is different. Yeah, obviously you try to latch on as quickly as you can and make all the input. It’s certainly not a singular function. Take all the input from everybody who is watching, which is all the coaches on the sideline and up in the press box. Frequently we get some good information from the guys who are actually out there playing.
But sometimes when we’re talking to the players in between series, we’re getting input from them as well as giving them some instruction, or if we’re not doing that, we’re always getting some degree of input from the other coaches, not just standing there watching. We’re always getting input, and that’s why it’s a three and a half hour thinking session Saturday.
Q: It doesn’t seem as if Nate Collins has any adjustment moving from nose tackle to defensive end. How much is it similarity to both positions?
Groh: There certainly is a similarity. A lot of techniques. There wasn’t significant similarity. We would have to have a nose tackle coach and a defensive end coach. For example, you see that with some 4-3 teams. They have a defensive tackle coach, those guys who play over at guard and center, defensive end coach. Those players who play at tight end frequently play out in space. Big difference between playing out in space on the split end side and playing at guard and center, techniques, assignments and whatnot.
For us, block protection is the same, blocking schemes that the player gets have enough overlap that are unique to each position. But there’s a good carryover there. There are often players who play and do a good job at nose but not that many players, because of the uniqueness of the nose tackle position. But Nate is one of those. But he’s always had that type of overall athletic skill, because we have discussed that had the personnel situation been otherwise when he came here, he might have started at end.
Q: As a receiver, Vic seems to view each pass as a responsibility?
Groh: No, that’s a very good way to profile because when he playd corner, and he saw every pass as his responsibility to get his guy covered, not just to run the coverage. He did that on a couple of occasions the other night where when he played, he made a couple real good plays for us at safety or made a couple good match-ups that kept the ball from going in the first place. Vic is not — when he’s playing safety on the dime, he’s not over there as his other job and dictates his responsibility that that’s the most important job that he could have when he goes over and plays and does that.
Vic has held on extra points and field goals, he thinks that’s the most important job that he’s got. You described him very well. That’s why he’s so respected.
Q: Nate said at Southern Miss the physicality was something they had not seen yet this year and they knew it was something they had to match.
Groh: Well, if he said it, I’m sure it’s accurate. Played in some pretty physical games over the years. But sometimes players and teams have to get reminded of that year after year. There’s just nothing that approximates it until you play against the first one and some teams are more physical than others. Until you play against the first one of those each year — certainly I remember that we always used to talk to players about there’s a difference between playing in the preseason and regular season. Preseason was different than training camp. Regular season was different than preseason. Playoffs were different than regular season. It does get ratcheted up, and it’s important for coaches, players and teams to understand that don’t get left behind.
Q: Verica had a great game against Georgia Tech last year, does that give you comfort should you need to call upon him on Saturday?
Groh: Sure, no, we would be very comfortable with Marc, we are very comfortable with him in any circumstance.
Q: At this point in the season where the injuries are setting in do you change the way you practice and what is the value of depth?
Groh: Well, one, whether we change it or not, we assess just what are our circumstances, because the week that precedes the game, the word practice is certainly accurate, but it’s not just practice like going and practicing the piano. It’s preparation for what’s coming on Saturday. So we’re trying to do whatever has us best prepared on Saturday. That might mean scrimmage every day. That might mean go bowling. I’m not trying to be smart, but whatever. But sometimes it might mean more contact, take 15 minutes off, add another period in and blitz protection, whatever the case may be. So we definitely do. We have a little bit of that circumstance on our hands right now.
And while every game has to be addressed, it needs to be addressed to try to keep in mind that you want to be playing well at the end of the season, and there’s some things that have to be factored into the weekly routine to give a players a chance to be there at the end of the year.
Depth is very important. It’s one of the reasons why in order to try to replenish your depth, that’s why we continue to actively coach, do things at practice with lots of players who we don’t anticipate to play that week, because as the season goes on, if their development can keep up with the events, then they might very well be your new depth. We’ll see that with some players, some of those young players who are seeing some substantial time early, they’re moving into the stage of being a little bit more veteran players.
This deal of being young players, young team, first of all, in college football, 50 percent of your team is freshmen and sophomores. So everybody is a relatively young team. But that can only last so long. After a while guys got to grow up and move up. When do you become a sophomore? On the first day of classes your second year, or should you be playing at a higher level than true freshmen, or when do you become a senior veteran, the first game of your senior year, or should you be evolving into that during the course of the preseason? Certainly the team progresses because players get better and they move out of that classification that they have.
So those guys who play, they ought to be moving into more established circumstance. Those guys who haven’t, hopefully they’ll move into a circumstance where they can go in the game and then be more on a college level. So we’re moving into that stage, and we’ve addressed that with some players, hey, we’re looking for more out of you, than what you’ve done.
Q: Could you talk about the origin of the Next Man Up philosophy?
Groh: We have pretty much. I think the players — that really kind of links on to what Zach and I were talking about there. It’s a reality of the season. It’s going to need to be the case. Like so many things that we think that we do that are positive for the team, very few of them are internally created. We’ve learned all these things from somebody else who has exposed them to us or have been willing to share them.
I guess the first time I was really deeply involved in this type of team attitude, I don’t remember the next man up or the words that we used, but it was certainly the attitude. Coach Parcells with the Giants and progressively through the other stops that we made, and we understood that everybody on the team was expected to perform and be ready to do so.
We had some good examples of that the other night.
Q: You don’t take the whole team to road games. Do you do anything with them on Fridays or Saturday or is that not allowed?
Groh: No, we’re allowed to as long as it fits within the NCAA allowable practice hours, which because we’re doing some things with the guys that we travel with that morning or that afternoon and whatnot, it could possibly do so. But our major event is a little weekly Friday program that we call Freshman Fridays. That’s more of a — not completely so, but more of an off-season type strength development program than what we’re able to do on one of those days during the course of the week. So those players who need more physical development for next year, we’re trying to get a head start on the off-season program.
Q: The last three weeks you have shut down some dangerous receivers and kick returners. Could you talk about how you have done that?
Groh: Well, this defensive secondary is coming together nicely, so they certainly deserve a great deal of credit. Their skills and how they go about preparing for those type of players then gives us the latitude and the confidence to try some things, scheme up, do that, realizing that most levels, that’s where your home run hitters are.
I didn’t have time to pay attention to it, but I learned from watching how very successful managers or coaches handle their teams and deal with situations, and obviously Joe Torre has had a remarkable level of success. So however he goes about things, I try when I can to learn a little something and notice how — I didn’t have a chance to watch any games, I just try to keep up.
The series with the Cardinals, it didn’t matter what the trade-off was, Albert Pujols wasn’t going to take the series over the Cardinals. A lot of people say he’s the best hitter in baseball, so you have to always determine who and what could cause a game to go the wrong way. You have to address those things specifically. Clearly the Dodgers did that. They addressed it specifically, and as I understand it Pujols wasn’t a factor in the series, so the Dodgers are still playing.
I can’t tell you exactly what he did, but I asked somebody who’s been following it and he kind of told me what was going on. But I guess there was one circumstance where they were willing walk him and to load the bases just so he couldn’t empty the bases. So that type of mentality.
And again, I learned that just from some of the people that I got all this idea about next man up and depth and developing players, and we got some ideas from the same people.
Q: You talked a little about Robert Randolph and getting the ball up quicker. Is that something you can see progression on?
Groh: It’s pretty easy, either the ball is down here or the ball is up there. You can see the arc of the ball.
Q: But how do you teach someone to do that?
Groh: Get it up higher. It’s like a guy with his golf shot. You’re either going to hit line drives or you hit the ball with a little bit of an arc on it. It’s to your benefit to get a little bit of a trajectory on it, then unless a golfer is stubborn or a kicker is stubborn, they’re going to change to what’s effective.
Q: But golf you have multiple clubs to use.
Groh: In that case if they give you one club to go around with then you’ve got to hit it differently for what’s required. Mike knows about all that stuff, right, Mike?
It’s a kick-by-kick thing with all kickers. But so far the results say yes.
Q: Rashawn Jackson seems to be a guy who embraces the Next Man Up philosophy. Could you talk about your confidence in him?
Groh: Well, Rashawn, we’ve been able to — we talked about this last night. We had a little break in the action when he got hurt. But his role going into the season was probably as clearly defined as it has been. A lot of that is as a result of Rashawn defining that role for us with his performance. Through the course of the game the other night and then as we went through those final five or six minutes, it was very apparent that he had that “give me the ball attitude.” So they factored into the thinking there. It wasn’t so much about the plays first or run this play; it was, hey, this guy wants the ball, and he wants the game, so give it to the guy who wants it.
Q: Does his size factor in as far as his ability?
Groh: Well, it does make him unique, to have that kind of size. When you try to combine the two, ability and size, that’s why there are less big people who are really athletic. He’s got a real nice combination. I still remember standing in the gym at St. Peter’s prep, and as I walked in, all the gym, they’ve got one of those tracks around it, and he was downstairs and I was in there for one of our recruiting visits, and he was waiting for us and he was playing some baseball and didn’t really know we were there, and he did a little 360 and went up and dunked it, and that’s pretty good for a player that size; it’s not as if he’s 6’4″. That gives you a good idea that he’s got really good overall athletic skill. He’s really grown into his position and grown into his role.
Q: It seems the moves you made prior to the Southern Miss game have benefited him.
Groh: It is. I wanted to get him in the game. I wanted to get him in the game. As I said, starting training camp and we were thrown off a bit when — I think before he even went to the full pad stage, somebody fall on the side and he missed quite a bit of time at training camp, so all that time that was really there to get Rashawn in had to be set aside, and that was a big factor. So getting him back, we’re real anxious to get going with things, and he’s really come on very nicely, had two real productive days, and now we need six more from him.
Q: It looks like the guys are hitting harder. How much of that is Anthony Poindexter’s influence?
Groh: Well, I think the players, certainly Anthony’s attitude back there is beneficial to have. But a player has got to be a hitter on his own. Probably have a few back there that given the opportunity wouldn’t hit as hard as some of the ones that are.
But that is an area clearly different than any other place on defense. They get a chance to run the furthest. They can generate the most speed. They get the most open shots. So they have that opportunity.
I wouldn’t say that there’s anybody back there that’s any tougher than Nick Jenkins or Matt Conrath, but the positions they play, they don’t get the opportunity for too many of those. These are players who play in that fashion. They enjoy the contact level. They can generate some speed, but we spend a lot of time working on the proper way to tackle. That’s all well and good. But when you’re tackling in the open field, the job is to get them to be a good open field tackler. We don’t ever say be a hammer; be a good open field tackler because the misses there is when things are going to be very traumatic. They understand the importance of it, had a couple of guys who had some issues with that, and they’ve worked hard to improve those things. And as a result now here of late our tackling has improved.
Q: A couple players were talking about team attitude and were fed up after the Southern Miss game. How have you seen them change and really unite as a team?
Groh: Ultimately on every team players have to take ownership ultimately. Some teams do it earlier than others. There was a circumstance that characterized what was the ’07 team, but they made that step in March. That’s very early. That’s very early.
But they made that step and took ownership of that team in March.
I think back to ’02, I think players took ownership there about the second or third week. It doesn’t mean everything got perfect, but they just said, okay, this is the way it’s going to be. We’ve had enough instruction, direction. We can see where the coaches want us to go, but ultimately the players have to take ownership. It’s a collaborative thing out there, give them direction and take your form and articulate with the model is supposed to be, and eventually they have to buy in.
We’ve been very appreciative of the fact that we talked about Zach and Nick, just reflective of their teammates and their predecessors and being unselfish and giving. Teams along the way, teams have been willing to embrace what was asked of them and buy into it and eventually take ownership of it. It comes at different stages with each team, but in any respect it’s vitally important.
Q: Is that something coaches can’t prompt, where somebody just has to stand up and do it?
Groh: You can promote it. Sometimes nobody stands up. Sometimes nobody stands up, it just happens. Yeah, you propose all those things, you promote all those things, reinforce all those things, teach them. That’s the coach’s job. But in circumstances where you have that collaborative attitude, or as it’s sometimes referred to as team chemistry or unity or whatever, there’s always a leadership-followership circumstance. Those roles go back and forth for people to be — to have success in the leadership capacity. It’s not all about the leader. It’s a lot about the followers, too, that they have equally good at grasping what’s being put forth there and buying into it and doing it because they’re the ones that actually — they’re the doers. You look at military leaders or industrial leaders or for that matter parents, and certainly football coaches, people who try and lead, they’ve got to believe, they’ve got to believe in leader, they’ve got to buy in, they’ve got to see the value to them. That’s why if you go down to Barnes & Noble, you can probably spend the next three or four weeks just walking up and down the section of the stores that have books on leadership and management. Many people recognize that the best secret to increased performance, that’s what we’re interested in, performance. So it’s about a lot more than just the schemes that you put out there.
Q: On Saturday night, several of Virginia Tech’s players said Georgia Tech switched a lot of their blocking assignments. In your early studies, have you seen anything that is particularly deceptive?
Groh: No, they were giving you a pretty good clinic on what happens with this. There’s a lot of plays where the backfield action — so if you’re trying to watch it initially, if you’re just watching a video or you’re watching from the press box or the stands, you say, oh, well, they ran that play six times already today. So the backfield action looked very similar. What gets switched up is the tracks and the patterns that the blockers run, and that’s the really tricky thing for defensive players.
Over a long period of time, Coach Johnson and his staff have run this offense. There’s only so many things that defensively you can propose to them, and so it’s almost as if, get the manual out. Oh, yeah, we saw that in 1998, and this is the scheme that we ran against it, so let’s just dial that one, just go to the formula and pull that one, whichever one is there, because they’ve had such experience with it on a multiple game basis per year, those things keep recurring, whereas it’s always a one time a year experience for the team that’s playing against them. So that’s the really tricky thing is their ability to stay one jump ahead.
And then the defensive team is always trying to counter. They ran this play with this scheme for a quarter and a half, then they changed the scheme. Okay, how are we going to counter that? No sooner do you counter it and they’re countering again. Those players told you very accurately, and that has a lot to do with it.
Q: Obviously they are based in the run, but could you talk about Thomas and his big-play ability on the outside?
Groh: Yeah, he’s really almost tight end size. He’s in the 230-plus range, has good jumping ability so he plays high, and with the size of his body and his natural height of 6’3″, the ability to jump high, there’s been a lot of plays where he’s boxed that defender out. Clearly a lot of teams are playing with corners that certainly aren’t 6’3″, so he just — they can be pretty close, but not close enough to make a play. They have a high number every game. Every game they’ve had a real long pass play for a touchdown. Or if not for a touchdown, to take them way down there on a much more frequent game-to-game basis than teams that throw the ball a lot. He really gets lost. He’s caught almost 75, probably 70 percent of all their passes this year. He caught over 50 percent of their completions last year. So that’s an issue unto itself.
Q: You are perfect in red zone scoring this year, can you talk about that value to the team?
Groh: Well, the way red zone statistics are compiled, there’s a little bit of an inaccuracy because field goals are included in that. That’s not to say that that’s a bad thing; that’s a good thing because you got points and that says that your kicker is giving you a good year.
But the telling statistic in there is red zone touchdowns. It’s a little bit more telling if you take that number and say possessions between the 20 and 30. You’re not quite in scoring territory yet, so maybe your kicker has gotten you three more points than what you otherwise might have gotten. But when you’re down there on the 12 yard line and that field goal adds to your red zone thing, that’s a little smaller victory than you would like to have.
To answer your question directly, the fact that Robert is doing a nice job for us is certainly part of it. But we would like to add to our touchdown scoring percentage down there, I think, as every team would.
Q: Where is Torrey Mack fitting into the run game?
Groh: Just the fact that he’s eligibility wise a freshman, been in six games. One of our really favorite players and one of the best players we’ve had, Alvin Pearman, was an All-ACC choice his senior year. He wasn’t that same runner early in his career. He shared time with other runners, and by the time we got to his senior year there, he was the feature guy. Probably part of the same process, back to the conversation about Rashawn earlier. If Rashawn had been running like this three years ago, then Rashawn probably would have about 450 career carries at this point. So it’s a developmental thing for carries. It comes sooner for some than other others.
Q: Is the team’s development where you want it to be at the midway point of the season?
Groh: I wouldn’t put it up against the scales yet and say we’re there, but I’m pleased with — that’s what teams are supposed to do. Teams are supposed to get better. Players are supposed to get better. That’s what we go out there every day for. Practice and preparation is part of every week, but also obviously practice, development of skills. That’s what players are supposed to do, that’s what coaches are supposed to do for their players.
I was thinking about — there was a topic of question last night, which seems to be the current question, to what do I attribute the team playing well here the last three weeks and during this time span last year and during the time span the year before. I’ve got to say, well, it’s very simple. The team is doing what it’s supposed to do; it’s getting better. So we’re a lot better each one of those years than when we started. Maybe we’re exactly where we should have started. So the players deserve a lot of credit for practicing and training and going forward and getting better. If we can continue to do that, then maybe we can — then I think the players understand that the results that we’ve gotten are a direct result of what we’ve done. What we’ve done Sunday through Friday put us in a position on Saturday. If we continue to do that, then hopefully we’ll continue to develop and show progress. That’s what teams are supposed to do, and the players have done a real nice job with it.
Q: At the halfway part of the season, where do you go from here?
Groh: Well, I think we look forward — I think the team this year and the teams preceding them, and the reason I cite them is because a lot of things that go on with a team, you don’t do it this year. It’s a result of the overall culture and environment that’s created around the team. And then players grow into that as they become part of your organization. And you’re older players help send that message down. That’s what you get through continuity in a program.
Teams here and the players that have made up the teams I think are pretty strong believers that this is about one week at a time. And if you do the right things during the course of the week to really prepare yourself for a peak performance, you’ve got your best chance to get the result you want. So in that respect there’s a lot of continuity. It’s a lot the same. There’s a new challenge every week. There’s a different mission that we have to be on.
As we have said, the reason why God put eyes in the front of our head and not in the back. So you can make progress by looking forward.
Q: Do you look at the standings? Georgia Tech has played five ACC games already.
Groh: I didn’t know that. No, I don’t. Again, I learned that from — I learned the value of that from some people who used to be pretty successful. I didn’t even know they played that many games.
I know that we haven’t lost any games, but I don’t know if there’s — I don’t think anybody else has, but then again, they’ve passed a lot more tests than we have.
Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech
The plans for this week:
We’ll practice [Tuesday] and the next day, then take a couple days off and come back Saturday to start our preparation for North Carolina. It was a tough loss. Give Georgia Tech credit again. They did a nice job, did a good job. I think for us right, it’s go on and be as good a football team we can be and see what happens. I think there’s a lot of football to be played and we need to take care of what we can control.
On the timing of the off week with injuries and sickness:
I think from that standpoint, it is good. It’s kind of midway here. Rest our bodies a little bit and rest minds a little bit and get ready for a tough five-game stretch coming up.
On Tyrod Taylor’s development:
He gives you hope. There’s no question about that. The first interception (against GT), the ball got tipped. The second one, he’s just throwing the ball up and hoping we can come down with it on the last play of the half. But he’s really played well. He was 10 of 14 for 159 yards … had 13 carries for 63 yards. I think this football team can be one of the very best we’ve had. But we’ve got to continue. I felt that way last week, felt like we were coming along. Saturday wasn’t lack of effort. It was lack of execution at times, but I don’t think it was lack of effort by anybody on our football team. Our goal is to come on and be one of the best football teams ever to play here at Virginia Tech.
On whether there’s a common denominator when the defense doesn’t play well:
Saturday, Georgia Tech did a very good job of executing. The fact is that they’ve run that offense for a long time, have seen about every defense and for us and the teams that’s playing them, you usually see that thing one time a year. But I do think this: We looked hard at the film yesterday and there are some things that we’d do differently. The more you play against that offense and study it, the better everybody will be against it. But when you try to get ready for it in one week, it’s difficult. The name of the game … is executing what you’ve got.
On Dorian Porch’s comments that Georgia Tech changed its blocking schemes at the half:
I’m not sure if Dorian’s talking about the way their slots were reading our people and according to how we reacted, they would block one or the other guys. Or the last play that went to the end zone, they came back and cracked on our quarterback support. They hadn’t been doing that. But we were taking the pitch a different way, too, so then they adjusted and came back and cracked on the guy that had the quarterback and freed him up to run. So I’m not sure which one Dorian’s talking about.
On punter Brent Bowden’s big season so far:
I think he’s really concentrated on his height, and as he’s concentrated on getting the ball higher, the distance has been good. And it really helps the coverage when you get the ball up in the air and get the head hunters on down the field. He has really studied punting. He’s studied the pro people. He gets the ball out of there. Hopefully he’s got a future in the NFL.
Why the team moved the ball so well at the end after struggling early:
I think, certainly, Tyrod made some big plays and got things going. Whether it’s offense or defense or special teams, it’s execution. Executing what you’ve got.
Jim Grobe – Wake Forest
On regrouping after Clemson:
Different position coaches have handled it differently. Some watch film to correct mistakes. Others felt like it was better to go ahead and get ready for Navy. Overall we were just embarrassed. We didn’t play very well and Clemson played really well. It didn’t feel very good. Coaches are typical a little slower than the players to bounce back, so we’ll see.
On keeping last week’s loss from negatively effecting this week’s game:
There’s no sure-fire remedy. You’ve got to try and go back to work. The key is for the players to realize that the coaches are going to give them another plan that’s going to be good, we’ve just got to execute it. They’ve got to be ready to execute the plan. We’ll do some good things scheme-wise, it’ll just depend on whether we can execute it as well as we need to.
Thoughts on Clemson game:
Clemson is very talented. I think they played probably their best game of the year. We didn’t play as well as we needed to. We had four or five guys that we thought played pretty well down at Clemson but for the most part most of the players didn’t play as well as they needed to, to be a competitive football team. The coaches have some responsibility, it’s not all on the players. So the coaches have to look at themselves too. But overall we didn’t play well enough to win.
On the ACC standings constantly changing:
I think it’s very amazing. Throughout the course of the year you are going to have some injuries, some ups and downs, who you’re playing, whether you’re home or the road. But I’ve got a feeling it will be up and down the rest of the year.
On taking a break from ACC play:
We’re playing another really good team. I think that’s the key for our players. In or out of conference. There are no teams left on our schedule that aren’t really, really good. We’ll have to play really well each week. I think our players realize there’s a challenge there. It’s tough. Like most teams midway through the season we’re beat up a little bit. We have no breaks in sight, just really good football teams. Whether you’re in or out of conference you know you’ve got a good team to play.
On Navy’s discipline:
They run the triple option to perfection and do a great job defensively. Their special teams are good. You’ve got a group of guys that are very motivated, very disciplined. You’ve got a great scheme. The coaches do a really good job. You watch these guys game in and game out, you don’t see anybody better coached and you don’t see anybody execute better than these guys.
On facing Navy multiple times in the last few years:
We’ve got a lot of new guys playing them this year. Offensively we’ve seen some the things they do, but they are so sound defensively. They don’t give you many things you like. It’s going to be a tough execution offensively. Defensively, we’ve got some thoughts but whether we can execute that or not we’ll have to wait until Saturday to find out.
On playing during Navy’s Homecoming:
I think any time you play an academy, whether home or on the road, you’ve got your hands full. The guys love to play, they play hard. You really don’t see ups and downs with academy teams, they play hard every week. Whether it’s homecoming, whether it’s our place or their place, you know you’ve got your hands full with them.
On Navy QB Ricky Dobbs:
Dobbs has the ability to throw the football, he’s got a really nice touch on his passes. I think he’s picked the offense up incredibly. He carries it twice as much as any player on their team. So he’s a durable guy. He makes really good decisions. You very rarely see him make a mistake in reading a triple option. He just stepped right into the line of great quarterbacks that they’ve had for a long time.