Morris: I think we all saw the same thing. I think they still have a lot of room for improvement. I'm not ready to name them the seven blocks of granite or the four horsemen yet. But, with that being said, those guys have earned some respect on this football team. I think they've earned some respect throughout the country. Yet, we've still got a long way to go. We played five guys, actually played six. One guy played one play. We've got five guys. We kind of felt that's the way it's going to be. We were just going to play the five guys that we felt comfortable with, and to see how they responded. I was very pleased with how they responded. They were very aggressive. They were physical.
David Beasley told me this morning he doesn't ever remember playing 92 snaps, but was as good on play 90 as he was on play two. That was impressive to see David Beasley. He was definitely a guy that's gaining a lot of confidence.
Dalton Freeman was, hands down, probably the best of them all up front. He graded out the best. I was pleased to see what he did. Dalton played his most physical game since I've been here.
Tyler Shatley gives us that physical toughness, that ruggedness that we talked about. Brandon Thomas is that veteran guy. He was going against, obviously, a very talented defensive end and the speed rush that guy presents. Brandon, as they all do, has so many things that they need to improve.
Gifford Timothy was a guy that, being his first start, he did some good things. He got sloppy with his mechanics. You could tell that he had been out for a couple of weeks and missed some critical drill work and focus on his fundamentals. He's got to get better.
We're still challenging those guys up front. There's still going to be some competition, which is what we have found now. We've got a little bit of depth right now. We've got five guys that we feel confident with. We've got some guys behind them. Kalon Davis is a guy now that had a really good work week last week. With David Beasley playing at the level he's playing at, there's going to be some heated competitions at practice. I love every bit of it. Ryan Norton is a guy that's got to continue to come on, him being a young guy. Shaq Anthony, another one that we thought for a while, we thought he was going to be a starter. He just kind of hit a wall. But he's definitely got talent. We're going to create some competition with him.
|"Overall assessment of the offensive line: anytime you rush the football for 300-plus yards, they've done something right. They played some type of physical ball. We had more knockdowns than we've had since I've been here."|
Two weeks ago, we didn't have them. I couldn't tell you who those five guys are. There were some times in fall camp, it was pretty intense. It was ugly. I'm talking about ugly as in, we have to get pretty physical and challenge these guys to respond. But, there's a lot to be said with the confidence those guys have. All it was a great, a really good first game.
Were you surprised with their play?
Morris: I was. I was surprised. I was more surprised with the way that our guys were communicating on the sidelines. The confidence that they had, the tempo that we were playing at, we snapped the ball 92 times. Had 87 plays, but snapped the ball 92 times, where they actually had to get down in their stance and lineup. Our guys were coming to the sideline, 14 and 15 plays into it, just keep pressing it, keep pushing the tempo. I think you saw that. You saw it late in the game when we felt like that was the statement. We won that game on the offensive side of the ball in the second and third quarter because of the tempo we were pushing it to.
Was I surprised with 300-something yards? Was I surprised to see those five guys perform? Absolutely not. Andre Ellington running as hard as he is. D.J. and Hot Rod, Tajh running the football. I think it was a mindset.
How much of the physical nature is related to scheme and some of the different things you did with the pistol?
Morris: As far as the scheme, everybody in the country runs an inside zone. Everybody in the country runs the power. It doesn't have anything to do with me or the system. It has all to do with them believing in what we're doing and believing in what we're teaching. Regardless of that, it's about those guys buying in. All it was is a good first game.
They set a standard is what they did now. They've said: here's what we're capable of playing at. Anything less than this is totally unacceptable, period -- unacceptable. Yes, Dalton Freeman played his tail off. All five of them played hard. It's just a great start. I'm not going to allow them feel like they've arrived, and you can't find a sharpie in town because they want to sign autographs. We've done nothing but win the first game. That's what we're supposed to do anyhow. They've set the standard. Coach Swinney talked about how this is a great gauge for us. Now, where do we go?
Despite his 13 catches, Hopkins could play better without the ball in his hands, according to Morris.
Morris: I was pleased with our receivers…to see those guys with live bullets coming at them, and trying to get lined up, there were several penalties. Not getting set because you're rocking in your stance and we're snapping the football. Those are things that we have to get better at. To correct that off of first game mistakes, against another opponent, I don't think you'll see those mistakes anymore… Nuk Hopkins has got to play better without the football. Everybody saw the 13 catches, but you don't see what he did without the ball. While he had a great ball at the end to spring Andre down the sideline on that last drive, that was few and far between without the football in his hands.
How did you feel like Charone Peake played in his first start?
Morris: I thought he was as consistent as anybody. I thought he played fast. He was aggressive. He played well without the ball in his hands. He made some key catches for us. I was pleased with that…I think Charone is a guy that has a major role on this football team.
The drops by Brandon Ford?
Morris: He kept his head up. He was disappointed, disappointed in himself, in the way he played, in that regard. It was his first-time on the big stage. He's used to being the backup… He dropped some critical balls. He's disappointed in the way he played there. I promise you, he'll be a new man. It's a learning experience. I was proud of the way he was physical. He was physical at the point of attack. That was a plus, because he hasn't been very physical in the past. He showed a little promise there. He also made some key catches for us last year. We don't win the Wake Forest game if Brandon Ford doesn't make a big catch for us. We know what he's capable of doing. He's got to settle in and play. I've got all the confidence in the world in him. I told him that after the game. Keep your head up, we love you. We're going to love you a little harder this week, but we're still going to love you.