ACC Football Kickoff coaches notebook

by - Senior Writer -
ACC coaches at the ACC Football Kickoff on Monday.

PINEHURST, N.C. – Atlantic Coast Conference football coaches were at the mercy of the ACC media Monday afternoon at the Pinehurst Resort as part of the ACC Football Kickoff.
New coaches Randy Edsall at Maryland and Al Golden were grilled about the transition to their new schools. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis fielded more questions about NCAA violations than they did about what happens on the field.
Florida St. head coach Jimbo Fisher was asked about heightened expectations for the Seminoles, and whether the program was indeed back as a nationally-prominent player. Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe was asked if his team’s two-year slide was a hiccup or a growing trend, while N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien spent a good portion of his time answering questions about former quarterback Russell Wilson and new quarterback Mike Glennon.

Here are some excerpts – some with a Clemson slant – of what the coaches had to say.

*UNC’s Butch Davis on the hiring of John Blake, the defensive coach at the center of the Tar Heels’ recent controversy - “I take full responsibility for the hiring of John Blake,” Davis said. “I made the best decision that I could based on what I knew at the time. I made that decision based on what I knew John had done during his high school career, and from the year-and-a-half I spent coaching with him on the Dallas Cowboys.

“I did all of the due diligence and we checked with compliance to make sure there were no red flags. I don’t like that our program has fallen, and we are going to be even more diligent in the future when people are added to our staff.”

*Johnson says Clemson rivalry a result of mutual respect – Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson was asked about the growing rivalry between his school and Clemson, and he said he has a lot of respect for the Clemson program.

“We have a lot of respect for Clemson, and they have some great players,” Johnson said. “It seems like every time we play them it is a tough, physical game. I have a lot of respect for Dabo and the players he brings in and what they do.”

The teams are not in the same division within the conference, yet play each season because they are deemed natural rivals because of the proximity of the two schools to each other, and Johnson was asked if he likes playing the Tigers every year.

“Some years I do and some years I don’t,” a laughing Johnson said. “Both of these schools have a lot of tradition, and they are proud of their accomplishments. Both schools also recruit good kids. I think it is good for the conference that we play each other.”

*Tom O’Brien on paying players – ACC Commissioner John Swofford addressed paying players during his remarks at the Kickoff on Sunday, and Pack head coach Tom O’Brien was asked whether he thought players should be paid.

“The cost of a scholarship for a player in the ACC is just about the same as an Ivy League education,” O’Brien said. “You don’t want to get into a bidding war over who has the best package. But I do think we need to go back to the old model of giving a player some laundry money, whether that is $50 or $100 per month. Just so they can have some money in their pocket. You just hope they don’t go and spend that money on tattoos.”

Another hot topic that O’Brien was asked about is oversigning, where college coaches give out more offers than they have slots, and whether he would ever oversign.

“I would never do that,” he said. “In fact, I don’t know that I have ever given out 85 scholarships in one year. I am afraid that if I give out more than I have, then they will all show up and I have to start cutting kids. And I am not going to do that.”

*Edsall says biggest obstacle has been APR - New Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said the biggest problem he and his coaching staff have had to face has been in trying to raise the school’s APR score.

The Terps lost three scholarships because of a low academic progress rate score, and then were told that they could only practice 17 ½ hours per week as opposed to the normal 20 hours.
The Terps' Academic Progress Rate, which measures teams' eligibility and retention rates among student-athletes, fell below the NCAA's prescribed mark during the 2009-10 season, when the team finished 2-10. Their four-year APR for football was 922 out of a possible 1000, three points below the cut-off for penalties. 

“The biggest obstacle for us has been that APR score,” Edsall said. “We lost the scholarships and then we had our practice time reduced, so we are already behind our opponents. We are trying to get some things that needed cleaning up, cleaned up. We had some young players that we held out of practice until they got their academic situations changed. We are going to be in good shape, and we are going to do this the right way.”

*Jim Grobe says redshirting players an inexact science – Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe has been known for red-shirting all of his freshman players, and then depending on his fourth-year juniors and fifth-year seniors to be the cornerstones of winning teams.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney also redshirted a ton of players a year ago, and Grobe said that was a gutsy move by Clemson’s coach in today’s “Win Now” mentality.

“You don’t have a lot of time to win these days,” Grobe said. “I am in a unique situation because my athletic director and I are on the same page. He agreed with my plan then, and we built something. But it is definitely an inexact science. You can redshirt 15 players, but if you only have seven left when they get to be seniors, then it didn’t work at all. Players fall in love and leave, or they don’t want to put the work in.”

*Jimbo Fisher on early season tests versus Oklahoma and Clemson – Fisher said that the schedule makers didn’t do his program any favors when they scheduled Oklahoma and Clemson in games three and four.

“Playing Oklahoma and Clemson back-to-back early in the season will provide an early test for our team,” Fisher said. “Our guys will be focused on those two teams and know that they have two difficult environments to play in. Clemson is a very tough place to play. They have great players, a great coach, and a great program. It will be a tough test for our guys to play them early in the year.”

The Seminoles and the Tigers are in similar situations with their backup quarterbacks in that both schools lack experience, but Fisher said that knowledge can't affect play-calling.

“When Christian Ponder was injured last year and E.J. Manuel had to go in, I had 100% confidence in E.J.,” Fisher said. “We haven’t seen the two and three guys play this year, but I will have confidence in them, too. Do you think Auburn was worried about their number two guy when their quarterback [Cam Newton] was running around? No. You just have to go out and play. Guys get hurt more in the pocket than they do when they are running around. If they can see the defense coming at them, then they know they are going to get hit. It’s the blind side hits that you have to worry about.”

*Frank Spaziani on the lack of respect for his Boston College program – Boston College’s head coach says he doesn’t worry about the lack of respect his program receives.

“Boston College has been voted middle of the pack for the last few years now,” Spaziani said. ”I guess it’s because BC is so far north and removed from the mainstream media and the rest of the conference. We are also relatively new to the conference. If the media doesn’t vote for us pre-season, then so be it. The score starts 0-0 no matter where you are ranked.”

Beamer on the spread – Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer was asked if he would take a look at Clemson’s new offense before the season starts, or would wait until the week before his Hokies play the Tigers in week five, and his response was typical Beamer.

“I think it is more about the pieces they put into the spread,” Beamer said. “What you are doing is spreading out the field and the better the piece you have, that makes things more dangerous. There is so much spread anymore, and that is just part of the defense. It isn’t always the same personnel with the spread, and Cam Newton made that spread [at Auburn] pretty good last year. People talk about offense, but it’s like the defense. It isn’t the scheme so much as it is the players and how they fit into that scheme.”

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