ACC Football Coaches Quotes: Groh and Amato

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Chuck Amato is 1-2 against Clemson.
Chuck Amato is 1-2 against Clemson.

NC State Head Coach, Chuck Amato –

On preparing for the Thursday night game:

Today (Sunday) is going to be Monday. We're already having the press conference.
Tomorrow will be Tuesday. Tuesday will be Wednesday and Wednesday will be
Thursday. We'll actually do a little bit on Wednesday. It's what we've done the
last two times that we've played Thursday night games. We've got to be careful
in what we do because we had a very physical game against Connecticut and we're
banged up and bruised up. We've got to go on and that's what we'll do. We'll do
Connecticut real quick and jump right into Clemson. This afternoon we'll do
agility drills. We'll have a short practice outside and it will be good to get
some of the aches and pains out anyway. Tomorrow and Tuesday will be big work

On the players getting pumped up to play on national TV Thursday night:

Well it's another game. They all are (pumped up). If they don't get pumped up
for the other games then there is something wrong with them. The biggest thing
is the quick turnaround, but we both have that problem. We wouldn't be playing
this game (on Thursday night) if either one of us had an open date. It's
something that we've got to bite our teeth and go after it. We've got to go to
school and everything else like we do during the week, but we've got to go hard.

On Boston College joining the conference:

I understand that they've been issued a request to come, but it's out of my
hands. It sounds like we want to do something to get to 12, to get to a
championship, to get to more money, to get to where they wanted to get to to
begin with and probably the quicker the better. And why not, they were one of
the teams that from the very get go that were looked at and said that this would
be a great fit for the ACC. It's another media market and there's a lot of good
Italian food up there too.

On the addition of Boston College to the league improving the perception of
the ACC:

It doesn't if just having a championship game makes it appear that the quality
of your schools have gone up, but the teams that have already come into the
league, in Miami and Virginia Tech have already raised that bar quite high. With
those two and Florida State going into this past weekend we have three of the
top six or five teams in America, depending on which poll you look at. Adding
Boston College, who plays them all really good and have beaten teams like Notre
Dame, I think it's going to be good. As far as football is concerned it's going
to be something and it's going to make the rest of us look at it and we're going
to have to sprint.

On the speed at which the ACC moved to add a 12th team:

I really haven't given it a whole lot of thought because when you're playing
like we are right now we are worried about other things than that 12th team. You
know, really it doesn't surprise me because I do know that it sounds like, from
what I hear, that they want to get it done.

On the effect that the 12th team will have on the future schedule:

I would have to think that it would effect everybody's schedule because right
now, from the models I saw, what you guys put in the paper, we're in a five-team
division and that would add a sixth. So now we have to play all five of those
teams, our crossover rival is North Carolina so that's six. So now instead of
three others we'd just play two others. So everybody else I guess it's just

On the changes that Clemson has made offensively throughout the season:

They started out the year against Georgia in a more traditional two back set.
And they still had until the last couple weeks they went back to playing Tommy
ball. They've got three outstanding wide receivers. They're offensive line is
bigger than they've been since he's been there. They probably average around
6-4, three hundred eight, ten pounds. Those wide receivers, you've got Curry who
can fly. He's the motorcycle. You've got one who's just big and physical and one
is so athletic. All three are different. All three can beat you. They are all
doing the same things, they like to go vertical. We'll put a lot of speed on the
field that night. We put a lot of speed on the field against Texas Tech and it
didn't do any good. We're just one of four teams in the last four weeks that
Texas Tech has thrown for over 400 yards against.

On Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst:

I think that he's got it all. He's big, he's smart and he's got all the passes,
all the pitches. He can throw the short, the intermediate and the deep one. He's
a tough kid. He's not afraid to move out of the pocket and run for some yards.
That's not what he wants to do all the time because he's such a good thrower. I
think that he's one of those that is destined to be a big-time quarterback, not
that he's not already there.

On whether or not the preseason hype and expectations has worn on the team:

No. No, I really don't. I think they've handled whatever the word pressure
means. The thing I said from the very, very get go, are we just going to be
visiting or are we going to become a permanent resident? Usually before you
become permanent resident you become a renter. You rent a little bit and then
you get enough equity and you go get yourself a big house and become a permanent
resident. We've got to find out not how they would handle the pressure, but how
they would handle being put into that situation. That's part of it. That is
without a doubt part of this thing of getting into the top 20, top 15, top 10
and so on and so forth. Knowing that you're supposed to be there. We went from
nowhere a year ago and two years ago and three years ago, as far as preseason
stuff is concerned, to wow. And we're a totally different team than we were then
- as we've all seen.

That next step, that permanent resident, you've got to buck a lot of people now.
Guess what? You're gonna have to buck a lot of people who are in this
conference. The way are conference is going to look next year, going back to the
question earlier, there's three teams in our conference that are permanent
residents of the top 10. Even though Florida State wasn't supposed to be there
this year. That's the next step. That last step is tough now. Going from a
non-medal winner in the Olympics, to a bronze, to a silver, to the gold.

On how the two teams have done since NC State and Clemson met last:

It's a big game because it's the game we're playing this week. It's a huge game
because it's an ACC game. I don't look at what we did since we played them last

On the importance of establishing the run in this game:

I think it's always important. I like to be able run the football. The team that
probably wins the rushing stat in this game is probably going to win the
football game.

On the problems with the pass defense:

The problem is that we're not very good. I thought we played much better this
last game and we'll have to bring that up another level because of the wide
receivers that Clemson has. We played against a quarterback last week that was
second in the country for touchdowns thrown, behind somebody we played about
four weeks ago (Texas Tech's B.J. Symons). We have got to continue to get better
at our pass defense or we won't have a chance.

On what the defensive backs have learned this season:

What have learned? They've learned that we have to cover people closer than what
we do at times. These quarterbacks are getting so much better at throwing the
fades. If you play bump and run then people say quarterbacks have to execute the
fade and people are executing the fade. We have got to finish our coverage. We
just can't cover for five yards or eight yards. We have to finish the coverage
all the way until the whistle blows.

On how Philip Rivers stacks up against the best quarterbacks in the country:

We wouldn't trade Philip for anybody. Philip has already broken a lot of records
in this league and will break a lot more. He's a winner. He's a competitor. He's
got a lot of character. He's smart. He makes great decisions. He's just somebody
you'd want to go to war with when you have to.

On whether or not other teams have tried special defensive tactics to stop NC
State's passing attack:

We've seen people come here and drop eight or even drop nine. Cover with nine
and only rush two. They'll take away all the cuts. We've seen some people do
special things, but Philip, because of the number of games he's played here, has
seen about everything that you can possibly see.

On the health status of T.A. McLendon:

T.A. came out of that game a little sore. It's not his hamstring. His body is
sore, which is what he needed. We had a long talk about that I believe it was
Wednesday. He hadn't been hit in three and a half weeks - three and half games.
His body has to get used to it again. I'll tell you what. His performance the
other day was probably the hardest he's played at any time. It sure didn't look
to me that he had any indication that the hamstring was even tweaked a little
bit, thank goodness. His body is a little bit sore, but he'll be fine.

On Philip River's performance against UConn:

He didn't have one of best games yesterday, but you know what? The all-pro
quarterback has a day every now and again where it's not his best day. And he
still did good enough.

On Connecticut's defense and whether or not they did anything different to
stop NC State:

No, they didn't do anything we haven't seen before. They were covering our
people close. When you go to no backs in the backfield, you've got five to
protect and they've got four coming. That's one double team and three single
blocks. Those single blocks have got to protect.

Virginia Head Coach, Al Groh –

How does Florida State compare to Clemson in terms of athleticism?

Groh: Clemson was, in terms of athletic skill and speed, exactly what we
anticipated that they would be- the most athletic and fastest team we've played
this year. Until we were finished with that game, they were the leader in the
clubhouse. Now I think we're playing a faster team.

Is Florida State as powerful as it was last season?

Groh: Physically on defense, I'd say more so. Offensively, last year's
group was a rare college line in that they had a number of highly talented
players who were very veteran in their system. Now the line this year is about
how that line looked as it was beginning its developmental process. That is they
don't have four or five fifth-year seniors. In terms of talent, they don't have
the same level of experience as (last year's) line.

Were Clemson's speed and athleticism the difference in the game?

Groh: When I watch their defense play, there are a lot of players that
just look fast on tape. Then when I look over at the other side of the tape,
there are a lot of players in white uniforms (UVa) that looked fast on the tape,
too. Ahmad Brooks is a fast player. Darryl Blackstock is a fast player. Kai
Parham's a pretty fast player for his size. So, yes, it's looking faster. It's
getting more that way. Obviously, we don't have yet the vertical speed at the
outside receiver positions that team's like Clemson and Florida State do.

Will freshman WR Deyon Williams have that speed?

Groh: When he really learns how to use it, yes. If you were to look at
Deyon's high school tape, he would look much faster on every play than everybody
else on the field. That probably was a lot of times without going pedal to the
floor. In this league, you have to go pedal to the floor on every play, because
all of those slow guys he used to run past are in his past. He's not going to
play against them anymore. That's what he's got to learn. The reason he's
playing against the players he is now is because most of them were judged to
have been of similar speed to him or they wouldn't be playing in the game.

Does freshman WR Fontel Mines have that kind of speed?

Groh: Every receiver's about creating space some how, some way. Some guys
do it with vertical speed. Some guys do it because they're shiftier. Some guys
do it with size, but he's going to be more of a size-receiver. When he learns
how to use his size, then he's going to be able to create space just by moving
him out of the way or they can't move him out of the way.

Is WR Ryan Sawyer a dependable player?

Groh: Where ever you expect him to be, he is. Whether it's special teams-
he and Ottowa (Anderson) both. This is two weeks in a row that we've gone
against a team ranked at the time tops in the ACC in kickoff returns. From what
I read, Clemson was tops in the NCAA in kickoff returns going into the game. For
two weeks in a row, now every kickoff has been a touchback. Kurt (Smith)'s done
a great job with that on a percentage basis. Those that were returned, none of
been returned beyond the 20.

Ryan and Ottowa both had remarkable plays on kickoff coverage. Obviously, they
are two starting receivers and they are two of our very best special teams
players. They play on all the punt teams. They play on all the kickoff coverage.
Ryan plays on the kickoff return. Their contribution to the team is tremendous.
That's one area in particular that you can't have undependable players on
special teams. So he (Sawyer) is dependable is everything he does.

On QB Matt Schaub's second interception, to which receiver was he throwing?

Groh: He was trying to throw the in-cut. The in-cut was about at field
goal level. So that's where we were trying to go. Matt was a little bit high
with the ball all day. He was a little high on that one.

On Tom Hagan's punts:

Groh: I think that's where we lost the opportunity. We had three +50
punts (punts inside Clemson's 50-yard line) early in the game on Saturday. In
the first two games, we had six downed inside the seven. We had three
opportunities on +50 on punting the other day where we could have really created
a tremendously long field for Clemson. We were not as effective in doing that as
we have been in the past, so I'm more disappointed in those than I am in some of
the longer range ones.

On Kurt Smith's kicking:

Groh: Obviously he's doing less field goal practicing. His kicking duties
are concentrated on pretty much being a kickoff man. Whether it's working on
on-side kicks or kicking the ball away, not just for distance but ball location,
which he's also improved significantly. We're interested in where on the field
besides how deep. I don't think there's anybody on the team doing much better
job with their responsibilities than Kurt is.

On LB Rich Bedesem's return vs. Clemson:

Groh: He played a couple (plays) on the goal line. That's little bit of
short-ranged stuff where I thought he could function very well without
necessarily having all his speed back. Now we're another 48 hours removed from
that and we're anticipating a pretty good leap forward. He was good yesterday
(Sunday) when I spoke with him. It's our hope and his expectation that by
Saturday he'll be zipping along pretty much like normal. Then we'll probably be
back in the three-man rotation like we've had in the past. Obviously, (freshman
LB) Kai (Parham) has earned more playing time. He played very well the other

Do you have to do something to balance the adrenaline and keep things in
perspective for FSU?

Groh: No, I don't think about trying to balance it or settling them down
too much. It's a challenging opponent. It's going to be an exciting environment.
I think human nature being what it is, they're going to be excited to play. I'm
going to be excited to play. I think the environment will excite Florida State.
That's good.

On LB Raymond Mann:

Groh: Ray's been a really good, solid player for us. I'd say tackles,
assists, the sack on the stripped fumble that he had, that's one kind of
game-changing plays for him.

Clemson ran for 194 yards. What are the main reasons?

Groh: That's a good point. Clemson was averaging 2.9 yards per play
(rushing) coming into the game. This is fantasy football. What occurs in the
game is real. I always get a kick out people who say, 'if you discount this play
or discount that play.' That's like saying if you discount the fact that Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar was 7-2, he would have been an average player. The reality is he
was 7-2. It doesn't make any difference how the ball moves. In our evaluation as
to the effectiveness of the run defense, if you subtract the reverse (play),
which was a crap play the way we played it, it's all our fault. Three terrible
plays on it, but it still counts 52 yards. It's not an every down play. If you
subtract the 52 yards on that and the 13 yards on the recovered fumble, guess
how many yards per rushing play Clemson averaged? (2.9) I already gave (you) the
answer. As the coach of the team and the defensive coaches in evaluating how the
interior seven performed against the run, on a play-by-play basis, the average
was 2.9 (yard per rushing play).

On NT Andrew Hoffman:

Groh: It's nice you asked about him. It gives us the chance to talk about a guy
(who) he plays a position that doesn't get discussed much. He's had three very
good games in a row. I think he's really hitting his stride in his position.
That is before we got here, there was no true nose tackle. He became one,
Monsanto (Pope) was the nose tackle the first year (2001 under Groh), and that
was the position Andrew was going to play. He was redshirted and didn't major in
it like those guys who were going to play in the games. Last year was really his
first year competitively in his career playing the position. He did a nice job
with it. Probably this game marks the halfway point of his career as a nose
(tackle). He is really hitting his stride. He has a good understanding of his
position. His technique's real good. He's seen all different types of noses.
He's seen all the schemes. His pass rush was probably as productive for us the
other day as he had. He's had some real good games for us at the position.

Are you better prepared up front this year for Florida State's running game?

Groh: I hope so. Maybe the cycle is turning a little bit. We played
against five seniors last year, most of them fourth or fifth-year seniors. Of
(our) front seven, that includes the four linebackers,

four of front seven were freshmen. That was quite a disparity. Those players
certainly have a lot more experience. They've improved their skills. They do
have more size and strength. More is yet to come, but they're well into their
careers. We'll see, but it certainly has the potential to give us a better

On LB Mark Miller's sack near the end of the Clemson game:

Groh: That was a good play for us. I thought we had four times in the
pocket with real good pocket penetration, most of them on sacks. We had a
legitimate opportunity to get the ball. And we didn't do that. Now that's a
sack, and that's really positive play for the player. But I think we certainly
would have liked to have played better offensively than we did in stages of the
game. We can also say, 'we need to do more on defense.' Teams that have a lot of
fumbles recovered, if you trace that back, you'll probably find that most of
those fumbles recovered occur in the pocket rather than on inside hand-offs.

Has the gap in the ACC between Florida State and the rest of the teams closed

Groh: When we go a few years at a time- two, three four years- and other
teams other than Florida State have won the conference championship then I think
it would be fair to say things have changed. That hasn't happened yet. Until
that happens, things look pretty much the same.

What's going on (with personnel) on punt returns?

Groh: You'll notice that in many of the games we've played, there have
been very few punts returned- both ways. That has something to do with our punt
protection and coverage style.

Florida State's defense allows few points. What have they done differently?

Groh: Nothing. They went through a run there, pretty remarkably. There
are four or five of the guys that played that position who went on to become
first round draft choices- (Andre) Wadsworth, (Peter) Boulware, (Reinard)
Wilson. They had good players there. They have (Kevin) Emanuel who's a pretty
dynamic pass rusher right now. It kind of looks like what it used to look like.
I can remember going down there, doing a film study and workouts with those
players. While I didn't have to coach against them, I have first-hand
recollection of what they can do. They were just guys on the college level that
were too much to handle.

Has LB Dennis Haley become more dependable?

Groh: Yes. In every respect. In special teams play- he's doing a lot
better with it. He made a significant play for us (partially blocked punt). As I
said after the game, one of the things we wanted to do twice was to
significantly change field position with special teams. We were really able to
do it three times, and his play was one of them. He had some good plays in the
nickel. He's getting a lot of turns there. He's getting a good background in it.

Any advantage to playing Florida State after its loss to Miami?

Groh: None that I can imagine.

On Virginia's defensive backs vs. Clemson's big receivers:

Groh: It's either built their confidence factor or their fear factor. I
can't tell yet which one.

On Florida State's talented tailbacks:

Groh: (Greg Jones) looks the same. I've seen his famous run to open the
season down at Chapel Hill. That's why I said he looks the same to me. The
difference a little bit here is that they have the most acclaimed running back
in the class of two years ago in (Lorenzo) Booker from California. You know
there's a lot of great running backs in Florida and the Southeast. So if they
decide to go all the way out to California to get one, then it's pretty safe to
assess what his ability level's going to be. He's a very sudden, very dramatic
player. He redshirted last year when they played a lot of other freshmen. He
would have gotten the ball in the games but not enough to make it worth it with
(Nick) Maddox and Jones already ahead of him. I know they're anxious to get him
the ball. Dramatic things happen with him. He's getting some of the carries that
maybe would go to Jones if he were the only tailback.

On staff members that played on the 1995 UVa team that upset Florida State:

Groh: I'm glad you reminded me of that. I'm getting so old. They're
getting to be ancient history. I'd forgotten about them in that respect. That
will be up to them (to discuss with the players). All the players know what both
(Mike Groh and Anthony Poindexter) of them did. But it certainly is nice to have
some living legends around here as models of that.

Did you watch that 1995 game on TV (son Mike Groh was the UVa quarterback; Al
Groh was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots at the time)?

Groh: Oh, yes. It was very exciting. I remember planning the whole week.
The kickoff didn't quite match with when I usually got home on a Thursday night.
So I remember trying to start every day about a half hour or 40 minutes earlier
than usual. So that by Thursday, that would accumulate up so I would have an
extra two hours or so ahead. I got home at 30 seconds before the kickoff. I
paced around the floor in front of the television set for most of the next three
hours. Pretty exciting. Between getting up early and going back in Friday, about
2 o'clock in the morning I received a telephone call (from Mike), so I got to
live through all of that.

Are some games largely more important than others?

Groh: Well, when you play another contender. This team (Florida State)
someone's got to beat them, or they'll win it (the ACC Championship) again. Most
people aren't going to beat them. If you have designs on finishing ahead of
them, somebody's got to beat them. You have to say, 'if it's not you, who's it
going to be?' I don't know if it's us. But the other teams that have the same
designs of trying to move up, they have to have the same attitude, too. They're
going to say, 'if Virginia doesn't win, these guys don't have too many
conference games left. Someone's going to have to beat them soon, and it's got
to be us.' Maryland didn't beat them, so it's not them. In that respect, sure,
when you play the team picked to win it (conference championship) and is
currently in the lead, if you anticipate finishing ahead of them, yes, it means
a little bit more.

On ACC race after Saturday's loss at Clemson:

Groh: The race is still on.

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