Q&A with Coach O'Cain

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with quarterbacks coach Mike O'cain to discuss a myriad of topics on the 2003 Tigers. Much of that interview will be published in CUTigers the Magazine 2003 College Football Preview in August, however we've added some "Mike O'Cain Out-Takes" specifically for our web site.

In the magazine, O'Cain comments on how much Clemson will run the ball in 2003, if the Tigers will huddle in 2003, and who emerged as the #1 backup to Charlie Whitehurst in the spring. In addition O'Cain compared the offensive line of July 2003 to that of July 2002.

He also explains how Coach Swinney came to Clemson and took over a receiving corps that were all personally recruited by Rick Stockstill. And finally Coach O'Cain touched on the importance of winning the Georgia game on August 30th.

Below are some topics Coach O'Cain touched on that could not fit into the magazine article.

What has Whitehurst improved on since the Texas Tech game?
Coach O'Cain: The thing I think that he needs is just repetition. He has played in 5 ballgames and really played very, very well. Much like I thought he would. But he still needs the repetition. From a physical standpoint, he does things very, very well and really doesn't need tremendous improvement. There are all kinds of things from a footwork standpoint that he can improve in, but actually throwing the football he does a tremendous job.

So Charlie just getting in there, doing it over and over and over will be the key. Knowing that the job is his, and then recognition of defensive fronts and coverages and things of that nature. He see an awful lot of different things at this level and the more that he sees, the more he will adapt to it and just be a better player overall. It will make him a more accurate passer than he has been, even though he is pretty accurate already.

At several IPTAY meetings, Coach Bowden talked about the eligibility uncertainty of Kelvin Grant. Do you have any update on that?
Coach O'Cain: No. He is in summer school and from my knowledge he is doing what he is supposed to do and hopefully he will take care of business and be ready to go.

So is it safe to say the staff would be surprised if he weren't eligible?
Coach O'Cain:Yes, I guess that would be safe to say.

Being around the ACC for the last 10 years, what are your thoughts on Miami and Virginia Tech being added to the ACC?
Coach O'Cain:You know, that's a tough question. To be very honest, I don't like expansion. I like playing the 8 teams in your conference and having a true champion. But on the other hand I think expansion is inevitable. So whether you like it or don't like it, it has to happen. You look at college football and what everybody says about college football 3 to 4 years from now, they say there is going to be a dramatic change in the landscape of it and if we don't expand, we are in trouble. They feel like it is going to go to 5 or 6 mega conferences, so I think if you believe that and think that is what is going to happen then we have to expand or we are going to be left behind. The ACC has been too good of a conference in all areas to dissolve. So we have got to get some expansion in there.

You huddled in the spring. Has a decision been made to huddle the offense in 2003?
Coach O'Cain: We did practice some huddling this spring. We don't know exactly what we are going to do yet. I think you have to be one or the other. I don't know which one we are going to be yet, but we felt like we needed to huddle some. By huddling, we may get the offense into a position to where they can get together and rally around each other and get a leader in the huddle. It is hard when you are going no-huddle for a leader to emerge because they never have that opportunity.

Can you break down some of the strengths and weaknesses of the backup quarterbacks?
Coach O'Cain:Chansi Stuckey brings tremendous quickness, tremendous speed to the table and just brings a different dimension where we could utilize him in more of a ball carrying position much like we did with Woody. The negative with Chansi is just his height. He is not a big presence in the pocket and has a little bit of difficulty seeing in the pocket. But he throws the ball well and he is a very accurate passer and has a great velocity on the ball. So I think those are the types of things you would see with Chansi.

Will Proctor is more of a pocket type of guy. Even though he can get on the corner. He is really a pretty good athlete too, you don't necessarily expect it, but he is a little bit taller and has a little bit better pocket presence than Chansi has.

Right now, I would have to say going in that it would be Charlie obviously, and then Chansi, and then Will. If something happened to Charlie, then we have got to make some decisions as to exactly what we want to do offensively. Because I think that if we wanted to continue with a pocket type of passing game, then Chansi wouldn't necessarily be that person that you would want and we may have to utilize Will more in that situation.

Will Chansi or Will see playing time in critical game situations this year?
Coach O'Cain: You know, we've talked a little bit about that and we would like to utilize one of them. We have got to look at getting one of them in the ballgames early in some way, shape or form. If it is Chansi, then it may be just a small package of plays that we would utilize and call it the "Chansi Package" for example. It is just a way to get him in the game and get his feet wet and get him involved.

What do you feel good about on the offensive side of the ball?
Coach O'Cain:I feel real good about our quarterback situation and of course we are going to need to keep Charlie healthy. We are very good at wide receiver. Our running backs really had a very good spring. So all the pieces are there, we've just got to stay healthy up front.

Will we see more I-formation in 2003?
Coach O'Cain:We went back last year and looked at our cut ups and one of the things that we saw offensively is how well we ran out of the "I". When our offensive lineman had their hands on the ground and our running backs were more behind the quarterback and not in the shotgun, we were a much better running football team. So that is why we kind of evolved a little bite more. We want our backs to be able to get the ball running downhill and I think that is Yusef's forte. I mean he is a downhill type of running back. That is what he did against South Carolina. He was able to get the ball deep in the "I" and get the ball and go down hill and build up a little head of steam and he is very tough to handle in that situation.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at scottrhymer@msn.com. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.

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