Virginia Head Coach Al Groh Weekly Press Conference Quotes


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Virginia Head Coach, Al Groh


 


Do you like Thursday night games?


Yeah, I think they're fun. I think Tuesday is the only
night now that there aren't games. You can watch a football game on television
every night except Tuesday. There was a Wednesday night game last week. There
are Friday night games. But, the Thursday night game really kind of officially
kicks off the football weekend. If people want to start their football weekend,
it's on Thursday night. There's infrequently Tuesday and Wednesday games, so
Monday night kind of ends the football week. Thursday night starts the football
week. I know how much teams in the NFL and players look forward to being on
Monday night, so I'm sure this is the same thing.


 


You talked about the logistical difficulty of it with
the students. It's harder for the traveling team than for the home team. How
much of a recruiting tool can the exposure and the environment and all that
stuff be?


I think it certainly is a powerful way to get exposure for
your university and your school. For, as we say, it is the national game on
Thursday night. There are some teams, who, when the Thursday night games first
started coming on, they'd play anybody anyplace on Thursday night just to get
exposure to it to the rest of the country. I don't think you really want to do
it too often. While it's great for the at home fan, it obviously causes some
inconvenience for your regular fan base.


 


You obviously adjust your week accordingly. But, not
playing two Saturdays in a row, does that throw off your routine at all?


No, we really try to recreate the routine. Whatever this
would be on a Saturday week, that's what today is. We work on the same things in
practice, so the players know based on what we worked on yesterday, what we're
going to be working on today. Now, because you have more days stretched in
there, obviously you have more practice preparation opportunities available if
you choose to take them.


 



Clemson had Dornell Washington last year, who was very
disruptive on the defensive line in your game. Do they have anyone of that
caliber this year?


Certainly not of the size nature. He was one of those
300-plus defensive linemen with good take-off, good penetration. But, what they
do have is the two guys who were the most disruptive in the game and have been
the most disruptive to most of Clemson's opponents. That's the linebacker and
the safety, LeRoy Hill and Jamaal Fudge. Fudge had 20 tackles against us last
year. Hill was second in the country in tackles for losses. He's a downhill
linebacker. You hear certain players described as downhill runners, he's a
downhill linebacker. He attacks the hole just like he had the ball. He's really
quick; he's instinctive, that's his style. He's aggressive; he's in the opening.
If you don't do something about him, he's going to have a whole truckload full
of tackles.


 


You work at causing fumbles. You practice causing
fumbles. Can you do anything to force interceptions? Is there any drill or
anything?


Pressure. Pressure helps. We have pressured well. Our sack
numbers are up, so that's some of the balls that maybe in the past were thrown
under pressure, well now the quarterback's going down. That sounds reasonable to
me. I don't know if it really has any basis in fact, but it sounds reasonable to
me.


 


You were asked about DE Kwakou Robinson and his
knowledge of the defense. You described it as adequate. For you to continue to
play at the level you have been, does that have to change? Does he need to have
a more than adequate grasp of what he needs to do?


That would be our wish. Although I think we can function
well with that from that position with whoever supplies it. Whatever leads to
it, whether it's grasp of the defense, instinctiveness, or whatever, we had a
real playmaker at that position. Lots of teams have space fillers on the
defensive line. When you have a real playmaker on the defensive line to go with
the guys that you usually think of as playmakers, that is basically your
linebackers around the line of scrimmage and the guys in the secondary, then
your defense is going to add up to more than it otherwise would. Well, we had an
exceptional college playmaker, who we don't have anymore. So, we have to find
the plays from other players or from alterations in the scheme, or else the
production is logically going to drop off. It's like if you have a baseball
lineup. If you take a .320 hitter out, and you put a good solid .275 hitter in,
you have an adequate hitter in there. You don't have an automatic out; you've
got an adequate hitter. But, you'll have a lower on-base percentage and probably
less RBI's if you take a producer out. That's the big challenge to us here;
that's the big question to us.


 


What do you need from Kwakou?


Solid play.


 


You said during training camp that what Kwakou really
needed to work on was use of his hands. How has that progressed this year?


He's made good progress with that. I'd still like to see
improvement in his consistent hand speed.


 


How is he athletically compared to his freshman year?
When he came in here big, I guess he's still big, but has a lot of that been
redirected?


He's in a lot better shape, for one thing, stamina-wise.
And, that shows up when we watch him on tape and on the field. You can certainly
see the difference. Although, amongst the other things that we've discussed
about DE Chris Canty, is that for a big man, and for a defensive lineman, he had
a very high stamina level.


 


Has Chris Canty been your best defensive player through
four games, or pretty close to it?


He's been right up there. I wouldn't say that anybody has
been any better. The best means that no one has played as well, but he's been in
the group that has played the best.


 


Have you seen anything in the film you've studied with
Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst? He's generally a pretty accurate passer; he
doesn't have a high touchdown-to-interception ratio. Have you seen anything
that's different from a year ago? Is he struggling this year?


This is specific to the question that you asked, but also
in general to most quarterbacks, when the integrity of the pocket isn't as
sound, then usually they make more mistakes. And, that's been the case here in
the early games.


 


Going back to Kwakou, is it important when you have a
kid move in to a spot, replacing a star and a leader and all of that stuff, to
make sure that he understands that he doesn't have to be that guy, and that the
weight of the world is not on him, to kind of minimize the task for him, so that
he can do it as well as he can but doesn't think he has to be Chris Canty?


We're not trying to replace Chris. I've said this before,
but whether it's through injury or through graduation or whatever, when a player
leaves the lineup, it's unrealistic and it's unfair to say we're going to
replace that player. We're going to put a new player in with different skills
and a whole different persona to him. Then, we build the system, whether it's
offense or defense, around the skills of the players who are in the game. So,
Chris was a certain kind of a player for us. We had structured certain things
towards taking advantage of some of the things that he brought to it. Now, we
might move away from those things and move to some other things to try to manage
our lineup. Not to overwork the baseball lineup analogy, but that's the way I
think about it. The .320 hitter is out. Now we've got a .275 hitter in. I've got
to reshuffle my lineup. Maybe the guy I put in for the .320 hitter, maybe he was
in the fifth spot, maybe the guy I put in the lineup, I've got to change the
lineup, because I'm going to put someone else in the fifth spot and put the guy
who goes into the lineup at 2nd base, now I'm going to put him in the eighth
spot. So, in terms of the scheme or certain things we might choose to do.


 


Can you speak of how well Marques Hagans has stepped in
at quarterback?


Given the tasks put before him in the first four games,
about as well as a rookie quarterback could do. There were a few plays that he
could have done better on, which he is well aware of. But, overall, it's a very
positive start for a guy in essentially his first four games as a starter. I
know he's been in there a little bit before, but this is the first time he's
ever really been the guy. Since we're all thinking baseball today, I'd say we're
moving up from double-A or triple-A now to the major leagues. We'll see how well
we hit major league pitching here for the next seven weeks.


 


What are your impressions of Clemson WR Airese Currie?
He leads the ACC in receiving yards and receptions.


Their receiving corps has been very explosive, as we all
know, over the last three or four years. He's been part of that, previous to
this year. Kevin Youngblood and Derrick Hamilton obviously were the marquee
names before, but that didn't diminish the skills that he's got. They just
weren't featured as much as they are now. But, he's got speed; he's got savvy;
he's got closing speed to the ball. He's a nice looking player.


 


Two teams that were ranked in the top-10 lost yesterday.
Do you point to those games, the West Virginia game and Ohio State, to your
players and say, "at this point rankings don't mean a whole lot?"


We haven't discussed rankings in any way to this point.
And, I don't really see that that really has great relevance to us right now.
That is, the Clemson situation is threat enough to us. But, I think it points
out, whether yesterday's results are valid to this statement or not, obviously
it's true in many cases that occur in the first five or six weeks. That is,
games when the score comes across the ticker and everybody thinks it's an upset
based on what the preseason poll was, come December, we look back and see that
the team that won was really the best team in the first place. It really wasn't
an upset at all, the best team won. It gets a lot of hype and a lot of notice,
because we had an upset. I just think, as I mentioned, the whole things is get
to November 1st and still be in the hunt.


 


You talked about Clemson's no-huddle. In the last couple
of years, do you feel it's been a wash, as far as how much they confused you and
how much they confused themselves?


Temple was a no-huddle team too, so we do have a game
experience, and an extended preparation time, since that was the first game, we
had more practices on it. We did play a full game against it. So, when we talk
about it to the players, they are not like, "Oh, wow, what are we going to do we
do with this." I think they're very comfortable with it. And, we played against
Syracuse last week. Most teams have some type of pre-snap diversion to the
defense. If you're a defensive coach, you might look at it in terms of
aggravation. Syracuse, last week, was a multiple personnel team, different
personnel coming onto the field every play, multiple formations, many motions
that went with those formations, the intent to keep the defense out of rhythm or
to create mental errors. And, their theory is, stated by their coaches over the
years, that their volume of offense is such that they know it's going to result
in some errors on their part, but that the defense is going to make more errors.
Now, this team's attempt at diversion is the no-huddle operation. They will
change personnel, but they don't run nearly as many personnel groups than our
last opponent did. Motion is minimal. But, it's the no-huddle, and the pace of
the no-huddle. There's a lot of similarity to what Indianapolis is doing with
theirs. Indianapolis isn't an all the time no-huddle team, but they feel very
comfortable going into no-huddle phases. The quarterback's on the line of
scrimmage doing a lot of posturing. Sometimes he's calling a play; sometimes
he's going through the whole routine. It's nothing; he's already called the
play. If you get into the routine of trying to figure out what they're calling
or trying to guess with them, then you're falling right into the trap. You're
just becoming distracted as to what's essential, which is how are you going to
play after the ball is snapped. So, coaching-wise, it's important not to fall
into that, to try to pick the perfect defense or disguise everything you're
doing. And, player-wise, you can't fall into that trap of trying to listen for
everything else. When they say "Brown," it means they're going to go over here,
but when they say "Blue," they're going to go over here, but this particular
time, unbeknownst to the defensive player, they were told that "Brown" is dead.
Just line and play the play.


 


DE Brennan Schmidt, last year against Clemson, seemed to
recognize a lot of stuff out there. Would you discourage him from doing that?


Yeah, because there are so many of the plays that it's just
a dummy call. It's like the third base coach yelling at the hitter, "Watch the
curve ball, watch the curve ball!" If he yells it enough, he's going to be
right. It might take him five, but then when a guy throws a curve ball, he says,
"See, I told you, it was going to be a curve ball."


 


With DE Chris Canty out, NT Andrew Hoffman is the senior
member of the defensive line. How big a leader is he in that group, and do you
need him to do more in that regard now or will he naturally lead?


That line's had a pretty good tightness about them. He's
been a big factor in the personality of that group. Of course, one of the
defensive co-captains is Brennan Schmidt. So, that group has had the most
playing experience of any part of the defensive unit, the most maturity
competitively and personally about it and probably the strongest leadership
level as well. They're certainly not rudderless.


 


Your return game has been solid this year. Clemson has
CB Justin Miller, who's a good returner. Can you tell, is it him, is it how they
block on kickoffs, because he's been pretty successful?


Yeah, he's a jet. He's had three this year. So, at this
pace he's going to have nine before the year is over. That would be a phenomenal
pace. He's a real jet. He's got a feel for it. He's got a good initial spurt,
which is necessary, especially on punts, because kickoffs, it's a different kind
of opening; you can see it coming for a while. Punts, the different nature of
the coverage, it opens quickly, it opens suddenly. A guy's got to have the
instincts and the burst to get through it. There are not very many guys that are
both punt and kickoff guys as he is. That's a good indication of his skills with
it. But, that certainly is a concern. It can change the game in a hurry. He's
one of the focal points of our preparation for the game.


 


If your guy kicks it deep, out of the endzone or deep in
the endzone, it nullifies that. How would you evaluate PK Kurt Smith to this
point?


Good, real good. More than 50% touchbacks, I think. It'd be
nice if they were 100%. But, more than 50% touchbacks on him. Obviously that's
one of the solutions to this week's challenge.


 


Do you have a decoy, or somebody that represents Miller
in practice that your coverage team can practice against?


We have, but the difficulty with that is that unless your
kicks are like it is in the game, which you run a real risk with that, it just
doesn't open up the same way. And, we don't have very many returned against us
in practice. That's why, once we get our lineups set on special teams, and
particularly with our kick coverage teams, that's why we're reluctant to make
many changes, unless a real need arises on our coverage teams. Because there's
an on-the-job training that goes on in how to read the returns, when to go over
the top of the blocker and when to go around the blocker and, based on what the
read is, is this sideline left or middle return. There's a real savvy that goes
with that. If you just plug a guy in there, he's a rookie all over again. You
break down the efficiency of your unit. So, we've got some veteran guys in there
that have covered a lot of kicks. Hopefully, they'll be as effective as they
have been.

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