Quick Hits with Coach Blackwell (Part II)

"I think you are going to see a really really fast football team, much like Florida State," said assistant coach David Blackwell about the Miami Hurricanes. "They are very similar programs, but the one thing people need to realize is that Miami has won 5 straight games against Florida State."

Tell me about your recruiting strategy when it comes to linebackers. Are you looking more for the guys with speed or the guys with size?
Blackwell: Well, ideally I'd like to have a 6-foot-3, 240 pound linebacker with 4.4 speed that makes every play on the field. (laughing) But honestly, the main thing I look for is a guy that makes plays. Gerald Hayes at Pittsburgh was 243 pounds, 6-1.5 and plays middle linebacker now for the Arizona Cardinals. LeRoy Hill is 6-1.5, 213 pounds playing middle linebacker. Galen Scott for me at Illinois State was 5-10.5 220 pounds and was an All-American. I don't really have a parameter has far as height, weight, and 40 time. I want to turn the film on and see a guy making plays, and when I say making plays I mean making plays at, or behind the line of scrimmage. Tackles are one thing, but guys that can impact a game are another. When a linebacker is impacting a game, he's making plays and that was one of the things I tried to emphasize to John Leake last spring. I don't care how many tackles you make, I want you to impact the football game. Great players make big plays. It's not the number of plays you make, its the number of big plays you make. When I look a kid in high school I want to turn the film on and see a player that knows where the football is, and a player that impacts football games by making big plays. Whether it's tackles behind the line of scrimmage, fumbles, interceptions. I think that's one of the things you see with #43.

You went toe-to-toe with Miami when you were up at Pittsburgh. Can you tell the average Clemson fan what it's like facing a program like that year and year out?
Blackwell: I think you are going to see a really really fast football team, much like Florida State. They are very similar programs. The one thing people need to realize is that Miami has won 5 straight games against Florida State. People tend to put FSU on a pedestal, but FSU can't beat them. That was one of the things in the Big East, I was unable to beat those guys. We lost to them all three years I was there. The last year we were down on the 10-yard line going in down by six, and had an opportunity to win the game. They are a team that is really explosive. They can really hurt you and they can make you pay if you blitz if you don't get there. You've got to make your blitzes hit home because they have great speed at receiver, much like Florida State. Defensively, They play pretty vanilla defense. They are really really good in their front seven. Miami is probably known for their safeties and linebackers. They've always been good in the backend and they've always created a lot of turnovers. It will be a great experience for fans and our team going down there.

Speaking of the Big East, do you think that conference can still maintain a BCS bid with the losses they've sustained? After all, they've lost 3 of their top 5 teams.
Blackwell: I think that's a tough question. When you look at the teams that are left, Pittsburgh has won 9 National Championships and they have a tremendous tradition, West Virginia is a team on the rise and has done a great job with Coach Rodriguez and his staff, Syracuse has been a perennial top 25 team the last 15 years or so. They have a nucleus there that is somewhat in the upper echelon of college football. You look at Louisville and Cincinnati, both of those schools are in big media markets. I think that Louisville has the potential to become a national type program. The same thing for South Florida and Connecticut. The coaching staff at Connecticut has done a great job in a short period of time. It may take them a while; but I don't see any reason why the Big East can't be included, especially with a fifth game now being added.

Looking ahead to the 2004 schedule, is this the most difficult 11 games you've seen as a coach? You've got Miami, FSU, and Texas A&M on the road this year.
Blackwell: I don't think there's any question that it's a very challenging schedule. Not only the three you mentioned, but you've also got Maryland, Virginia, N.C. State, and Wake Forest. One of the things I was impressed with coming into this conference, I didn't realize how good those teams have gotten. There are several teams that are nipping at the heels of the top teams in the conference. That makes it exciting and that makes it a league where anybody can beat anybody. You know, N.C. State and Maryland have really upped themselves in this conference. Shoot, the last time I was at N.C State (before last year) was when I was at East Carolina, and we had better facilities than they did. I'd say a lot of teams have come a long way in this conference. I didn't realize that until I got here.

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