Larry, I know you had a couple injuries to the linebackers earlier in camp. Just wondering how the group that you've got going in this game has looked to you throughout the practices that you've had.
“I think those guys have stepped it up real well. Again Travis Hughes and Jeff Schoettmer are going to be the two starters going into the game, and we did get some guys beat up, and those guys won't be back for this one, but we'll get them later on as we go into the season. But I'm really pleased with where those two guys are, and you throw in Jack Tabb over there in that area, you throw in Mastromatteo, you throw in Tommy Heffernan, we will be fine at the position.
"You know, I'd say that those guys really filled in well when we had a couple guys beat up.“
Is Jack Tabb going to play offense and defense?
“That's the plan as of tonight. We will see where it goes tomorrow at six, but right now, he's prepared to play at both spots, yes."
And what does he have that gives him the ability, you think, to be able to do both? Obviously rare to have somebody who
can push back and forth.
“Well, first of all, he is a tremendous athlete. He was recruited on both sides of the ball in a lot of places. He has got really a lot of football savvy. Maybe he really understands the game, no matter which side you're looking at it from.
"Jack's one of those guys that he doesn't need a lot of reps. You can kind of tell Jack, he can run it once and then he understands what needs to be done from that point on. So we are very fortunate in that aspect because obviously when you're trying to do both, you're taking fewer reps on both sides of the ball. “
What did you see in South Carolina? How dangerous are they down there in Columbia?
“I don't know how many times they have had this opener. I know they have got it again next year but they have had it -- seems
like they have had it a lot of times, so they obviously love this opener, especially at their place on national TV, and they have done a tremendous job with it.
“So they are going be to pumped and ready to go. I can tell you this; that defensive front four, those guys can play. All four of them can play and they are proud of that. They have got some new linebackers, but they just plug in another guy that can run fast and that can hit you. Secondary-wise, they are fine. They have got good players back there.
“And then you go over on offense, and you know, I don't know -- the Davis kid, probably a running back, you don't see a whole lot about him because you had the other guy back there last year. Shaw and Dylan Thompson have proven they can move the ball and win. They are going to be sound and everything they do, there's no doubt about it, and they are going to be very well coached.”
Jadeveon Clowney has made a lot of noise during the summer after the bowl game. What do you think?
“I was thinking we might get through this interview without anybody asking about him. The guy, he's a great player. What do you see? He's a great player. There's no doubt about it. He's 270-something pounds and he runs 4.4 and he likes to play. He's a great player. What do you do? You don't trash your
whole offense and change everything just for him. I mean, one, it's impossible to do, and two, it would mean that we didn't have a very sound philosophy to start with and what we are going to do. And we have gelled some things to adjust to hopefully where he is and we know that he's going to play multiple positions so you can't sit there and scheme for one guy. “
How do you feel about how your offensive line has progressed?
“I think we are getting better and better every day, especially for those two young guys. Every day is a new learning experience and something else comes up -- Turner, Bodine and Hurst have done a great job of bringing those young guys along. They are starting to gel. That usually takes that position, that unit takes a little bit longer to get some continuity and to gel.
“So, you know, we just don't have the time to do it. They have got to be there right now and hopefully they will be.”
You guys had a pretty good player last year in Bernard, can you talk about the challenge of not replacing him, per se, but replacing his production?
“He was a pretty good player. We will miss him, there's no doubt about it. And you're right, we don't look to one guy to replace him. It may be, you know, running back by committee. The key is we just want to match the production or improve it. Whether that's one guy that does it or multiple guys that do it, we don't
care how it happens. Boris is going to start the game, he's had a great camp and really has looked good, A.J. Blue will play, Khris Francis will play. But we still expect to get that type of production out of that position.”
Do you feel like you're carrying the banner for the ACC a little bit, being a nationally-televised game against an SEC team,
with all of the hype of the SEC, the success they have had in the last few years?
“I don't know if we're carrying -- not by ourselves. You still have Virginia Tech and Alabama, Clemson and Georgia playing. But we are a big part of that, there's no doubt about that. And if we are going to accomplish the things that we want to accomplish as a league, these are the kind of games we have got to play in and these are the kind of games that they have to have success in.
“You know, would I prefer that it be three or four years into the program and the changes that we get into place? Hey, it is what it is. We are playing in year two, and it's the opening game of college football, and so let's throw it out there and let's roll.”
The league itself has turned out as many pros as anybody has had successful teams -- is this the kind of game the ACC has to win to get the national respect it deserves?
“I think if you're going to -- if you want national respect, you've got to beat ranked opponents. So there's no doubt about it. These are games that if you want to gain that national respect, you've got to go out and you've got to perform. This is a performance-based sport, so you've got to go do it, and if you do it, you've got to start gaining that respect.”