"Our football team is excited about this next opportunity. We've got Duke coming in to Kenan Stadium and the Tar Pit. They're the 24th-ranked team in the country and on a seven-game winning streak. We're excited for our seniors playing their last home game in Kenan Stadium. Should be a heck of a football game."
Just curious, since the Miami loss, it seems like you've talked a lot about the improvement in your defense, and I'm curious, going up against Duke and Jamison Crowder in particular this week, is he maybe the toughest guy since that Miami game that individually your defense has faced?
"Yeah, I would have to say that. That guy is a phenomenal player. He can beat you in so many different ways. I mean, whether it be in special teams or on the field as an offensive player, they're definitely going to get the ball in his hands. He is a guy that we definitely are concerned about, and we'll always know where he is on the field."
With the defense, the improvement you've seen week to week, what do you attribute that to? Is it just confidence or what have you seen?
"Well, the confidence has definitely built from week to week, but I would say more than that, it's guys trusting each other and just doing their job, not trying to do anybody else's, not trying to do anything outside the system, just staying within the system and doing their job, and then making the plays that come to them."
I just wanted to ask you about Duke using two quarterbacks and how much difficulty is that? How much do you have to be aware of which guy is under center?
"Well, you definitely have to be aware because they don't do the same things. They do-- some of the offense is the same with them, but when one is in there he tends to do a little bit more the other way. We always have to be aware of who's behind center at that time, and then our players have to learn the tendencies of both."
I was going to ask you about the running game. It seems like having a guy like Marquise Williams has helped your running game. You're able to run the zone reads and really both as a quarterback threat and a running back threat. Can you talk about what he's brought to your running game?
"Yeah, it really opens up your running game tremendously because now the defense always has to be assignment sound as far as all the quarterback runs and what the quarterback can do, and so that tends to loosen things up a little bit for the running backs. It also makes things a little bit easier on the offensive line. It's nice to have that dual threat back there."
I was thinking, you guys had a quarterback situation very much like theirs, a primary passer and a primary runner before Bryn got hurt. It's like they had to go at one point with Brandon Connette all the way. That's kind of what's happened with you guys, isn't it?
"It has, a little bit, you're right. There's some similarities there that-- I understand what they're wanting to try to accomplish and what they've had to do, and they've done a really good job of complementing both quarterbacks."
One of the questions we've been asking some people, each of the coaches coming on, is just to help with the voting for All-ACC this week, if you would talk about some of your linemen, a lot of the writers get to pick out the skill people pretty well, but when it gets down to offensive linemen and defensive linemen sometimes they don't see who are the stand-outs. If you would talk about some of the stand-outs from your own team.
"You bet. James Hurst would be the one that we would start with. I think he's had 40 consecutive starts, 40 or 41, whatever it is, something like that. Just a tremendous player for us at left tackle. I don't think there's any doubt that this young man is going to go on and play in the league as long as he stays healthy. He's one of those kids that you kind of don't think about because we never worry about it. It's just going to be consistently done at his position. It's not something that's an issue or ever something as a coach you're going to have to worry about. He's going to get his job done. He always does. He's not a real vocal guy, but he leads by example and has a lot of respect on our football team.
"Our center, Russell Bodine, has had a really good year for us. We've also moved him over to guard in some situations to help us up front and to get some continuity going, and he is a big, strong, physical center that has done a really nice job for us. And then I think I would have to point out our right guard Landon Turner who is a big massive guy that can move people and does a really nice job for us, also."
I remember you speaking before the NC State game talking about leading into a rivalry game like this and striking a balance between obviously the hype that comes into it and the excitement that your players have with obviously keeping focus and staying on your assignments. It seems like given the situation, five-game winning streak, and given that Duke is doing so well, as well, that seems like it might be ten-fold this week, the same situation. I'm just curious about the atmosphere in practice this week. How have you kept people focused?
"We talked about it early on, and that's one good thing is we've already experienced it once and had some success with it, and so our guys understand it now. Yes, they know they're going to be hyped up, they know they're going to be excited to play, but they have to be locked in and do their job. That's it. If you do your job and you do it with great effort, good things are usually going to happen. And then when things don't go our way, you can't panic. You can't worry about it.
"Early in that game we threw an interception on the second play of the game, they take it down and they score. We can't worry about those things, we've just got to keep playing."
You've got a couple of seniors in your defensive backfield, Tre Boston and Jabari Price who were thrown into the fire when they were freshmen and had to play a lot early. I'm curious if and how they have helped your other young defensive backs here in their freshman season.
"Well, those two have so much experience that there's really nothing that they haven't seen, and they've been throwing into a lot of situations, especially early, that I think they're very comfortable in every situation now. I think just that confidence and that calmness that they are able to portray and give to those young guys has helped them.
"That's why I think you see Brian Walker getting better. I think you see Des Lawrence getting better, I mean, really because now they go out there and they're not worried about things. They know if they just do their job and not worry about anybody else, they're going to be fine."