Here are the transcripts from Wednesday’s ACC teleconference for Bobby Petrino and Dabo Swinney.
Bobby Petrino – Louisville
BOBBY PETRINO: We’re coming off a good road win at Syracuse where we had to fight hard to win the game in the fourth quarter, which I thought was really good for our football team. Defensively we’re playing at a very high level. Offensively we continue to get better, so I’m excited about the improvements we made. We know we have a great challenge ahead of us going in to play at Clemson, which is a very loud atmosphere and a great crowd. But we look forward to the challenge.
Q. Is DeVante fully cleared for this Saturday or are you waiting on a few for things?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we’re kind of waiting on that. He came out for practice yesterday. He didn’t go the entire practice but did run routes and took part in parts of our practice. He looked good out there, but we just have to see how the week progresses.
Q. When you look on film, what is it about Clemson’s receivers you think that allows them to shine so fast so soon, a lot of young guys there?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think they do a great job on their teaching of their get-off and their route running. They’re big guys that can get down the field and catch the ball well in their hands, so it’s a great challenge for us.
Q. I’m wondering what you see from Watson on film and kind of what your thoughts are about what your defense has to do to pressure him and maybe get him off his game.
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, he does a great job in executing their offense, the ability to run the ball with the quarterback runs and run the ball when he gets out of the pocket is a great challenge to our discipline and our guys, so we have to do a great job with that. And then his ability to make the throws. He throws the ball deep real well, and he’s real impressive on video.
Q. Is there anything in particular you think is a key to getting him off his game?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, there’s a lot of things that we need to do, but obviously you have to be successful on 1st down stopping the run and try to get him in 3rd and long.
Q. You brought up that Syracuse game. I just wanted to look back at that as you look forward to Clemson. What are the biggest things that you took from that victory that you really feel like you can go positively into this game against Clemson? What were some of those key points you took?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, I think Reggie improved as the game went on and did a really nice job of executing in the second half and looked more comfortable, and our timing was better, our offensive line did a better job in the second half and our run blocking and our protection. So the ability to get better as the game went on on offense I think is something that can really help us, and then defensively we were able to stop the run against a very good run team. Going into the game Syracuse was averaging a lot of yards rushing the ball, and defensively we were able to get that stopped.
Q. And then as far as your running back, what can you say about Radcliff and what he was able to put together and his efforts there because it really seemed like he had a pretty breakout game against Syracuse and able to push, like you said, a rush defense that obviously had some talent there.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, he did a really nice job with his speed and his toughness in running the ball. He’s been very hard to bring down with the first tackler. He’s given us a big boost because of his speed through the holes and his speed before he gets the ball, and he’s seeing things real well. He gave us a great lift as an offense, both against Syracuse and Wake Forest.
Q. First I just wanted to ask, you’re trying this week to figure out how you make your quarterback decision. What are some of the things that go into you guys deciding which guys get the start and goes out there for you?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, obviously Will’s health and how he’s doing, is he 100 percent, and we do feel good about that. He came out yesterday and did a great job, was running full speed and conditioned afterwards, which was great to see. He threw the ball well. We just have to really look at how they execute the offense throughout practice and make a decision on who we think gives us the best opportunity to go in and win.
Q. Just a follow-up to Monday, it’s obviously probably been made out a lot more by fans than you would have intended or anyone would have intended, but how do you prepare for Death Valley on Saturday in terms of the crowd noise and that environment because this team, aside from maybe the Sugar Bowl, hasn’t been in an environment like that for a while.
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think it’s just something you have to work hard at in practice and communicating. We’ll have the noise going in practice and making it loud. We just have to be able to communicate, keep our poise, understand the time clock, and communicate in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams. We know it’s going to be a real loud, hostile environment, so you have to keep your focus on the field.
Q. Is there a timetable for making that quarterback decision, and once made, would you prefer to stick with that guy, or is there going to be some type of rotation?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, we’re not going to make a big deal of it. We’re just going to practice and see how it all plays out.
Q. And once that’s made, would you see using two quarterbacks or sticking with the guy who starts?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, it’s something that we’ve not even talked about yet.
Q. The Death Valley thing, did that come out Monday the way you intended as far as comparing the Carrier Dome to a place like Death Valley with 80,000 people?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I didn’t really mean to compare them. I was just saying that when you go on the road and play, it’s loud, and we know that it’s going to be a loud, hostile environment. I really didn’t mean to make any comparison, it was just the fact that when you do go on the road, it’s really loud and you have to do a good job of focusing and concentration on your job at hand.
Q. What’s your confidence level in your quarterbacks handling a place like that?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, we’re going to find out, but he’s improved. He’s gotten better. We’ve been on the road, so that’s a good thing. If this was our first game going in, then it would really be a concern, but we’ve been on the road a couple times and had to be able to communicate with noise, so it’s just something that we have to execute and work all week in practice.
Q. Brandon Radcliff, when did you see him really start to come along and what’s his work ethic or what has he done to get to this point where he’s been able to do so well for you these last couple weeks?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, it’s really his work ethic that’s given him the opportunity, and it’s been that way since we got here. He’s a guy that goes out and practices extremely hard. He runs every run into the end zone when he touches the ball. He got injured in spring ball, wasn’t able to finish spring ball, had to have his knee scoped, and that put him behind in learning the offense. And through camp you still saw the burst and the effort and the vision, but he was catching up as far as his knowledge of the offense and what to do and the entire offense. Then in practice he started getting to know things better, and you still saw the effort, the speed, the burst that he shows. So it was time in Wake Forest to give him the opportunity. We knew going into the game we were going to give him the opportunity to take a few series.
Q. Do you view a specific rotation there, or is there something you’re going to give different guys a chance to see who’s got the hot hand and ride that guy?
BOBBY PETRINO: Yeah, I think it’s a position where throughout the year you’re going to need two, three, maybe sometimes four good running backs. They’re the guys that take all the shots. They’re the guys that get nicked up, and they have to be able to find out who’s hot and then feed him. In the opening game of the year, Dom Brown had a huge game for us, really carried the whole load. The last couple weeks it’s been Brandon, so we’ll wait and see how it plays out.
Q. The last thing, when you review your running game, do you prioritize or think more about like a yards per carry number or just the sheer number of carries that your ground game is getting in a game?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, kind of the way you do is you grade it more on efficiency and what runs are efficient because if you’re running a 3rd and 1 play and you get three yards, that’s an efficient run. That’s a win. It doesn’t relate to yards per carry or anything like that. We grade it out by efficiency according to down and distance situation of the game.
Q. The last few weeks we’ve seen NC State hang with Florida State for a while. What’s the biggest key for Louisville to be there for the whole game and not just for part?
BOBBY PETRINO: Well, first, we have to be able to get off to a good start. Clemson has been very aggressive in the first quarter of games, and they play extremely hard and fast in the first quarter, so we have to get off to a good start. And then really focus and concentrate on one series, one play at a time. We’ve been a good second half team. We’ve been a good fourth quarter team. So I think the No. 1 thing we’d like to do is get into the fourth quarter in a position to win the game.
Dabo Swinney – Clemson
DABO SWINNEY: Well, first of all, excited about the way our team played this past week. Really just tremendous performance by our guys, and played with great focus for four quarters, which is something that we needed to do. You know, just continues to get tougher as we move through our schedule here. Louisville is an outstanding team, 5-1, very well coached. Offensively they really do a great job of running the football, excellent in the offensive line, outstanding skill. Sounds like they’re going to get their All-American wide-out back this week, as well. They’ve got two quarterbacks that are very capable. We’re very impressed with their running backs. And then defensively they lead the world in just about every statistic defensively. Very aggressive, athletic, fast, do a great job pressuring the quarterback. They’ve got excellent speed, very good in coverage, aggressive and confident in coverage, and then outstanding special teams. We’re going to have to really play well. Looking forward to our first-ever match-up with Louisville as far as ACC, and we’re glad that we have an opportunity to be at home for another week before we get back out on the road. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q. Just wondering, how impressed or surprised have you been by the way a lot of these receivers have developed for you so far and how good is it having such a deep receiving corps so early?
DABO SWINNEY: Obviously it was an area that we knew we were going to have to grow up pretty quick with losing Sammy and Martavis and Luke the week before and Jaron Brown, as well. All four of those guys are playing on Sunday now. As I said before the season, we really like our guys, our personnel. We think we recruited well. My message was by the end of the year I think a lot of people will be asking me about these new guys. They’ve stepped up, and I’m not surprised, because again, we had a couple of them here this spring, Demarre Kitt and Artavis came in January. I think that really helped those guys, and I’m proud of them. They’re doing a nice job for us, and some of our young tight ends continue to develop. I really like the fact that we’ve been able to involve our running backs in the passing game, as well, and then a young guy like Germone Hopper, who’s not a freshman, he’s a sophomore, he’s been around here a couple years, but I think he’s been a huge addition, as well, and it’s really just him, he’s finally bought into the way we do things here at Clemson. It’s good to see him reap those rewards from buying in and working hard and being committed to being a great player.
Q. How instrumental was it in the off-season getting these guys together for seven-on-sevens and working with them behind the scenes?
DABO SWINNEY: Well, that’s where the chemistry has developed, the nuances of your passing game, and those guys spending that extra time getting just reps. Ultimately it’s about reps, and just the chemistry that comes from getting those reps together is critical.
Q. Talk about Louisville this week, what you see on film, because I know Louisville played Miami this year and Miami was still an up-and coming defense. What have you seen on film with their quarterbacks?
DABO SWINNEY: They’re both very capable, very capable. I mean, these guys, obviously the freshman went the distance last week. He’s a young guy that can throw the ball, he can run the ball effectively. They’ve done quite a bit of some spread stuff this year, as well. But they really want to — their identity is they want to line up and run the ball and pound you. It’s a lot like Georgia in that regard in a lot of the things that they do, but they do get into the spread stuff, as well. It presents some challenges preparation-wise and really covering a lot of different things and making good adjustments and the game comes. Both of those guys are big, strong guys, 6’3″, 6’5″, and very capable, and they’re surrounded — and they’re fast.
Q. What about your field goal kicking because I know a couple weeks ago you had the shaky thing in Florida State. Has it improved since then?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, he’s made four out of his last five, and he’s been really good here at home. He’s made seven out of eight attempts here at home, so he’s obviously very confident here. His struggles this year to this point have come in our two road games, at Athens and then obviously in Tallahassee. But first-year starter, and hopefully he’ll continue to grow and build his confidence, and next time we get back out on the road, hopefully he’ll perform well there, too. Seven out of his eight at home and four out of his last five overall, I think he’s bounced back nicely.
Q. You had spoken last week when I asked you about the running game, you talked about Gallman and Choice and what you wanted to see from them and have them step up in their game. What did you take away from the North Carolina State game? Do you really feel like they have made some strides for you? How did you assess them after that game?
DABO SWINNEY: They both did an excellent job. Choice averaged 6.2 and Gallman was like four and a half yards or five yards a carry. It was good to see those guys get significant opportunity. The biggest thing is we just cleaned up a lot of stuff, a lot of the miscues. We ran a lot of the same plays, but we just executed with accuracy, and we more often than not had 11 guys doing what they need to do. That helps, first of all, but we really wanted to challenge Gallman and Choice and kind of see where they were, and in particular we were very pleased with Adam because he wasn’t able to practice a whole lot last week with a sore groin, and he performed well, broke off a 30-something-yarder, but those of those guys, I think, from a confidence standpoint really grew a ton in that ballgame, and same thing with us as coaches in being confident in them in watching them perform. Wayne Gallman was excellent all day. Both of them very involved in the passing game, which was good to see, broke some runs, made some guys miss, just some huge 3rd down conversions from those guys. So it was a good day for two true freshmen and something that I think we can build on.
Q. And then obviously offensively you talked a lot about your quarterback, but defensively with Vic Beasley and the rest of the guys that have done a lot of great things for you, especially the shutout this past week, what can you say about their level, where they’re at, how Vic is leading this defense and how you see them moving forward as you continue to face a pretty tough schedule in the ACC?
DABO SWINNEY: Yeah, well, they’re playing well. They’re right where I hoped they would be at this point. They really only had one bad quarter all year. They’ve had a few bad plays here and there, but we’ve had one bad quarter in five games, so they’re very focused on being great. This was a huge step for us this past week. NC State was leading this league in total offense and second in scoring and scoring over 40 points a game and had 500 yards on Florida State. For us to be able to hold them to 156 yards, it was just great preparation by our guys. One of the things that we really challenged our guys was we’ve got to get out of this charity business in that we were really giving up some chunk big plays where it wasn’t necessarily a competitive play, it was a mental error where it was an uncontested play. Those are the things that we’ve got to eliminate, and I thought our guys did a tremendous job this past week. I mean, every play was contested. There just wasn’t a lot of — they had to earn everything they got, and really proud of just how they prepared, the attention to details. Our front is playing outstanding. They’ve done a good job all year against the run, and that’s got to continue for us to have a chance to be successful. And then our coverage has just greatly improved over the course of the season.
Q. Saturday is kind of the halfway point of your season. As you look back against the team that took the field against Georgia in the opener versus the game you had last Saturday going into this game, is the progress kind of eye-opening to you, how the team is playing now versus the opener, or what’s your assessment at the halfway point?
DABO SWINNEY: Oh, we’re greatly improved, there’s no doubt about that. That’s what you want. We did a lot of great things in our opener. We really did. We played very well for pretty much three quarters of that game and just didn’t execute with precision offensively in the second half in particular in that game and missed a kick, gave up a kick return for 100-yard touchdown, some critical mistakes. We’ve just improved. I mean, we’re a more confident team. As I said, going into the season, we were going to be a little bit of a work in progress, and now after five games, I’m starting to see a team that’s starting to create a little bit of an identity. They’re playing with confidence. They really have played well. Played great at Florida State. In fact, we played better at Florida State than we did against North Carolina. Sometimes you can play well and not win, but overall just seeing our team mature and develop, I think that we’re in a good spot, and this is a huge one for us this week because this is an outstanding team and a big challenge, and for us it’s just about we’ve kind of created a little bit of momentum, trying to keep that momentum going, because I think when it’s all said and done, we could be a really, really special team when this thing is all said and done at the end of the year.