“We had a good solid spring. We had quite a few guys that weren’t able to participate in spring because of postseason surgeries and things like that, but we were able to develop some depth and that’s going to be good for us and pay off for us down the road. But I thought we came out of spring fairly solid. We didn’t lose anybody. We’ve got a long way to go, though.”
What does it mean to have Notre Dame playing ACC teams going forward?
“I think all it does is strengthen our conference. It really does to have Notre Dame playing five games a year. Obviously, Notre Dame has a lot of respect around the entire country and so that’s always going to strengthen everything about your league. And for us, we look forward to it. It’s another game on the schedule. That one happens to be on the road and we’ll go out there and give it our best shot.”
How does the running back position look to you coming out of the spring?
“I thought those guys did a nice job. If we had to start out tomorrow, we would go with A.J. Blue right now. He’s emerged as a team leader, not just on the offensive side of the ball but the entire team. A.J.’s about 215, 220 pounds. He’s a guy that’s going to finish off all of his runs, he’s going to be the bruiser type of runner, he’s going to do a really nice job of being physical and he does a great job in pass protection. And then he can catch the ball well, so A.J. is a guy who’s really come on for us.
"But the guy who probably had the best spring was Romar Morris. He’s a guy that can take it from goal line to goal line. He’s got special speed and skills. He’s much more effective as he slowed down to be able to see the zone run and all of the seams that are created that way. So I’m real excited about what Romar’s going to bring to the table this year.
"And then we had Khris Francis on campus, who got in here after graduating early. He did a really nice job. He had 110 yards in the spring game and really played well. I was really pleasantly surprised by how quickly he picked everything up.”
Is there an area of your team where you feel pretty good about?
“There are no areas that I feel really good about and I have concerns about every area, if you want me to be honest with you. I’ve got a lot of concerns. We’ve got to improve in every area of our football team, on all three phases – offense, defense and special teams. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We were solid coming out of spring, we accomplished some goals, but we’ve got to get much better and our team understands that. This summer is going to be very critical to our success.”
Can you talk about Jonathan Cooper and Sylvester Williams and what it means to potentially have two first-round draft picks on Thursday night?
“First of all, what I can tell you is that we’re very, very proud. Both of those young men have their degrees from the University of North Carolina. They’re both tremendous ambassadors for our program. Both are great kids, both on and off the field. Everything is about the team and what they needed to do to help the team win. I couldn’t be happier for both of those young men. I’m excited for them as they make this next step in their life… They have put in a lot of hard work and a lot of effort and have done things the right way.”
Their departure leaves a couple of big holes in the trenches. Can you talk about who you’re looking at to fill those gaps?
“Tough to fill both of those holes. Caleb Peterson has been playing in Jonathan Cooper’s spot at left guard. I think he had a solid spring. He’s a freshman. He red-shirted in the fall, so he got extensive time in the spring, but he’s got a long way to go and he understands that. He is an athletic young man. He’s a solid 6-3, 310 pounds. He has great strength and is working on his feet and quickness. I think he really came on and did some nice things.
"On the other side, Tim Jackson, who played behind Sylvester last year, has the most reps of anybody over there. He’s a fifth-year guy and this is his time to shine. He’s taken that to heart. Tim really did a nice job emerging as a leader on that defensive side of the ball this spring.”
Have you talked with the players about being able to play in the postseason this year after not being able to last year?
“That’s never been brought up. We’ve never said one word about it. That’s not something that we really even have to talk about. It’s just expected. Our goals haven’t changed. When you say you want to win the state and you want to win your division, that puts you in a position to reach all of your goals right there. So that’s really where our focus is. We really have never talked about that. Those things were talked about last year when we found out what the sanctions were and we really haven’t gone back and talked about any of that.”
Did you feel like your team was able to focus on the 12 games it could play last season and not worry about not having the opportunity to play in the postseason?
“I think they did a really nice job of focusing on [the 12 games], because we said, ‘Hey, let’s focus on each one of these 12 and if it plays out to where we would have played in that championship game, then we can all be mad and be happy that we’re mad.’ I thought our guys did a really nice job of focusing in on each game and making that game a bowl game in our mind. We knew we were only going to get 12, so we wanted to make the most of each and every one.”