On Greg Ross
Greg’s done a really good job. He was a guy that when we got here, a lot of people were critical of. I’d say he’s managed his business well, his off-the-field stuff is really good, he’s really tried, he’s worked in the weight room, and so far, he’s played really well in the first two games.
On adjusting how players prepare vs. what they've done in the past
You go back to where we did not talk about last year; the only thing we’ve talked a lot with them about last year is finishing games in the fourth quarter. Other than that, we started with what we felt like was important in the process. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s change this, let’s do this better.’ It was, ‘Here’s how we’re going to win and you guys need to buy into it. if you don’t want to, that’s fine, but you should go do something else. The guys have really bought into the process.
It really helps you after two games that you’ve won that they feel like the process has worked, so they’re more invested now in what we’ve asked them to do because they’re understanding it’s working. I talked to them today about, a lot of people will not think they’ll play hard again because they haven’t won two games like this in a while, so can they handle success now? That’s just the next step of being a good team. Wake Forest is a good team; they’re 2-0, they’ve had very few penalties, they’ve had one turnover this year, so are we going to be a disciplined, focused football team on Friday night that we need to be successful and that’s still to be determined.
On how his team is handling success
I haven’t seen Tuesday's practices as good as I want them to be, either South Carolina or Miami, so we’ve got to learn that — you’re still sore on Tuesdays, that’s a physical practice and you’re putting new stuff in — but we’ve got to learn that we’ve got to start over each week
I think this whole thing is a process. We’ve had two games together, so we’re still getting to know each other and when people ask me what to expect Friday night, I expect them to play hard and play well because that’s what they’ve given us, but we’re two days in so I haven’t seen them in this situation yet.
You were doing TV at the time of the whole Wakeyleaks saga. What was your impression of that, and did you address that with Jay and Lonnie given their connection to it?
I’ve been doing this 43 years and I moved through that very quickly.
What's the challenge with a short week before a road game?
The biggest game is Wake Forest played Friday night, so they had all Saturday to rest and watch us and start their more-normal week on Saturday to get the same number of days.
We had the late-night game with a lot of energy on Saturday night then our Sunday becomes more like Monday, because you don’t have a Sunday and Monday off, so we let them have more free time on Sunday. Then, you practice hard Monday and Tuesday and a little bit lighter today, and it just gives less time to recoup.
It’s been a short week for us, but the guys have responded really well.
On Tomon Fox
First, he’s a guy who practices hard everyday. When you start talking about, ‘Did they practice hard?’ You don’t question him. Secondly, he’s really talented and smart and he’s very physical. He’s one of our best pass-rushers; he’s going to make plays every day.
Jay is so smart with our defenses that he tries to move him around and put him in positions – especially he and Strowbridge – put them in positions where they’re working against a lesser player some to give them more advantages. He’s really a good football player.
On student support
I was so excited when I heard that today. I thought the students made a huge difference on Saturday night, even from the beginning. They were there so early, they were having fun, they were enjoying; they were having a party long before we started. Then,they were very instrumental in the game and then so much fun for our players after the game, after the win.
When I was at Tulane, we brought in a sport psychologist and I said, ‘What do you have to do to win?’ Because Tulane was really struggling at that time. They said, ‘Your team will only be as good as your administration is to them and your fanbase is to them.’
When our players saw the Bell Tower walk and all the people there, they were like little kids at Christmas. They were so excited to see such a crowd, then they walked down those steps, there's another huge crowd that greets them and then when they come on the field, the students are already in their seats. They were just giddy before the game and I thought that it really made a difference before us because they know how much people care and want them to be good and want them to get back to where Larry had it three or four years ago.
On Javonte Williams
Javonte was the valedictorian of his high school, so he’s very disciplined, he’s very smart; obviously a leader. He’s 220 pounds and ran a 4.4, he’s got really good hands. He’s got such powerful legs he’s hard to tackle and in our offense, you get the ball to him in space a lot. When you throw those flares and you’ve got receivers blocking, sometimes those safeties don’t want to come up.
I remember when we had Ricky Williams, a lot of safeties would slip on the way to tackle Ricky because they thought it was better to slip or pull a hamstring before they got there. I’m seeing some of the same stuff in Javonte; a lot of people don’t want to tackle him in space.
On Jonathan Smith's return and the linebacker position
We’re deeper at linebacker than we’ve been since we’ve been here. It’s exciting to get John back. He’s worked really hard. He was on our scout team for the first two weeks and he wasn’t even here this spring, so he’s got a lot of catching up to do.
Chazz Surratt has come faster than, I think, anybody I’ve ever seen in the transition from quarterback from linebacker and he’s played lights-out two weeks in a row.
Then, Jeremiah Gemmel is two games into his career; he hasn’t played before. Then, you’ve got Eugene Asante and Khadry Jackson that are just learning how to play, and Khadry goes from nickelback to linebacker and vice versa, so we’ve got to figure out whether he plays long-term. I’m really excited about the possibility of that position getting better. It was our thinnest and weakest position when we started.
I thought the defensive line has picked it up and done better so the linebackers are now the group that has to keep coming, and now with Patrice out, we’re going to have to lean on young corners. Storm Duck, some of those guys are going to have to step up and start playing and they’re going to have to play like they’ve been around here for a while.
On leadership at running back
It’s the strongest unit we have, and all three of those guys have been really good. They’ve been really positive. Antonio hasn’t played as much as the other two and he’s maybe the most positive of the group, definitely the most vocal and maybe the best leader. All three of those guys are big-time backs and that’s still our strongest unit and they’ve protected the ball, which will be critical for Friday night.
On his scheduling philosophy
What we did at the previous place I was and even I think here before … we had somebody we should beat, we had a mid-major then a national game and our conference schedule. That’s kind of what we’ve always been.
I haven’t really had enough time to sit down with Bubba and Rick Steinbacher to talk about it. I think, what Larry wanted was a game with an opponent he thought he could win…before N.C. State. We had normally gotten that type of game in the opener.
That’s something that Bubba and I and Rick will talk about, but scheduling is usually out there five years and sometimes 10, so it’s hard to make a lot of changes.
On Dazz Newsome's improvement since getting contacts
He's catching the ball much better now than he did last year and if he hadn’t stumbled, I think he scores on the first one he catches, the deep ball. The catch in the end zone, I thought it was so cool that he didn’t know where his feet were so he got kind of in a crunch position and made sure he got the knees down, the feet down; he wanted to touch with everything before he was out of bounds. What a great catch to win the game.
On Jonathan Smith's role on Friday
We’re going to play him. It’s going to be 88 degrees when the game starts and heat index in the 90s … we’re going to need to play a lot of guys and we’re trying to do a better job with our special teams, so John will be on a lot of special teams. He’ll play during the game.
On Brian Anderson taking over as starting center
Brian is a good player, it’s just we lose leadership with Nick, we lose a lot of confidence without Nick. The fact that he’s seen anything in his five years, he can play guard or center; it really hurts us.
Brian is going to have to step up and take that role now and also, Ty Murray’s got to step up. Ty missed a week or so in the preseason with an injury that set him back, but now Ty’s got to be ready to play. Now, he’s one snap away from playing with Brian, so what we’ve got to do is make sure now who the third guy will be.
Avery Jones has been hurt because he had his knee hurt in the spring, so we’ve got him coming back and he’s playing center, but we still would be in a bind Friday night if we have to go to a third center.
On Jeremiah Gemmel's strong start
Jeremiah’s got great instincts at linebacker and he’s real fast. He’s a guy that needs to get stronger, needs to get bigger, because we’re using him a lot to blitz and try to penetrate and get some tackles for loss, but he’s a guy, all he needs is to get bigger. He’s real smart, he plays real hard, so I’ve been really pleased with him.
On playing two undersized cornerbacks
I’m sure I have. One of them was named Dre Bly, and he should have won the Thorpe and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Coach Royal, the legendary coach at Texas used to say (it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog).
Small guys like Trey Morrison, he’s not very big, but he covered the Miami guys really well on Saturday night. We have our hands full with 6-3 and 6-5 this weekend. Those guys are tall, they’re fast, they’re athletic, they’re both basketball players, so that’s a real issue for us.
It’s hard to stop their run. Carney’s a really good back and he’s physical and he takes his time and he’s really patient and they can run the ball well up inside. Then, you’ve got their quarterback that’s 6-4, 230, and he can, so he’s like a running back out of the backfield. Then, you spread the big, tall guys out and you put a tall guy on a short guy and you try to throw it. That’s why Wake Forest is 2-0.
On keeping an underdog mentality
When you have struggled like they have the last two years and people have been so critical of them, I think every day is a ‘chip on your shoulder’ mentality. I told them, ‘You were told you couldn’t beat South Carolina and you did. You were told you couldn’t beat Miami and you did. Now, you’re an underdog to Wake Forest; everybody is saying you’re not going to play hard, you’re not going to be good.’ That’s the challenge.
One thing we don’t do is we don’t duck with these guys. We tell them exactly what’s out there, we tell them the truth and we tell them what we think and, ‘Can you handle success?’ We’ll see.
On whether he knows the point spread before a game
People always bring them up to you. Obviously, we don’t gamble, we don’t touch it. I never think about a point spread during a game — people have asked me that before — because you can’t; it’s just not the deal. Usually, you’re aware.
What we talk about is who the experts think are going to win more than the point spread itself. You always look to see who do the people out there like? Kenny Browning, coming in this morning, heard Mark Packer and Mark Richt pick Wake Forest, so I told the team that today; ‘Here’s Mark Richt, who's a really good football coach and he’s done a lot of great things and he saw you beat his old team last week and he picked Wake Forest.' I hope he’s wrong.
The biggest thing we try to do is, I tried to explain today why the Mark Richts of the world would pick Wake Forest and let them understand this is real stuff, ‘People don’t think you can play with that much energy and toughness three weeks in a row. Wake Forest is a team that has very minimal mistakes; they do a great job of coaching. So, if you’re not as ready to play as you were the last two weeks and you make mistakes, that’s how you get beat in this game.’
We even went back and told them after a successful year, you win a championship, very few people repeat. Why do very few people repeat? They can’t continue to do the things right to win the championship because you take a little bit of a deep breath and you back off a little bit and we’ve got to start the season over and make sure that Wake Forest is our first game.
On Friday night college football games
I would rather not play a Friday night game because of high school football. We had one, I think, at Texas and that was Iowa State. If we were going to play one, I wanted it to be on the road; I didn’t want it to be at our place, so we played at Iowa State on a Friday night and it gave us an extra day to prepare for Oklahoma the next week, so that was a positive.
In this situation, I’d rather never do it and I’m sure Dave would feel the same way. When I was calling games for ABC and ESPN, they wanted me in the studio on Saturday, so they only would let me call Friday night games and I felt bad about it but again, it was my job and I had to do it.
I wish college and pro would take Thursday night, college take Saturday, pros take Sundays and we leave high school football for Friday night.