Al Groh Quotes

"The Thursday night game really kind of officially kicks off the football weekend. If people want to start their football weekend, it's on Thursday night," said Virginia head coach Al Groh.

Do you like Thursday night games
? Yeah, I think they're fun. I think Tuesday is the only night now that there aren't games. You can watch a football game on television every night except Tuesday. There was a Wednesday night game last week. There are Friday night games. But, the Thursday night game really kind of officially kicks off the football weekend. If people want to start their football weekend, it's on Thursday night. There's infrequently Tuesday and Wednesday games, so Monday night kind of ends the football week. Thursday night starts the football week. I know how much teams in the NFL and players look forward to being on Monday night, so I'm sure this is the same thing.

Clemson had Donell Washington last year, who was very disruptive on the defensive line in your game. Do they have anyone of that caliber this year?
Certainly not of the size nature. He was one of those 300-plus defensive linemen with good take-off, good penetration. But, what they do have is the two guys who were the most disruptive in the game and have been the most disruptive to most of Clemson's opponents. That's the linebacker and the safety, Leroy Hill and Jamaal Fudge. Fudge had 20 tackles against us last year. Hill was second in the country in tackles for losses. He's a downhill linebacker. You hear certain players described as downhill runners, he's a downhill linebacker. He attacks the hole just like he had the ball. He's really quick; he's instinctive, that's his style. He's aggressive; he's in the opening. If you don't do something about him, he's going to have a whole truckload full of tackles.

You work at causing fumbles. You practice causing fumbles. Can you do anything to force interceptions? Is there any drill or anything?
Pressure. Pressure helps. We have pressured well. Our sack numbers are up, so that's some of the balls that maybe in the past were thrown under pressure, well now the quarterback's going down. That sounds reasonable to me. I don't know if it really has any basis in fact, but it sounds reasonable to me.

You were asked about DE Kwakou Robinson and his knowledge of the defense. You described it as adequate. For you to continue to play at the level you have been, does that have to change? Does he need to have a more than adequate grasp of what he needs to do?
That would be our wish. Although I think we can function well with that from that position with whoever supplies it. Whatever leads to it, whether it's grasp of the defense, instinctiveness, or whatever, we had a real playmaker at that position. Lots of teams have space fillers on the defensive line. When you have a real playmaker on the defensive line to go with the guys that you usually think of as playmakers, that is basically your linebackers around the line of scrimmage and the guys in the secondary, then your defense is going to add up to more than it otherwise would. Well, we had an exceptional college playmaker, who we don't have anymore. So, we have to find the plays from other players or from alterations in the scheme, or else the production is logically going to drop off. It's like if you have a baseball lineup. If you take a .320 hitter out, and you put a good solid .275 hitter in, you have an adequate hitter in there. You don't have an automatic out; you've got an adequate hitter. But, you'll have a lower on-base percentage and probably less RBI's if you take a producer out. That's the big challenge to us here; that's the big question to us.

Have you seen anything in the film you've studied with Clemson QB Charlie Whitehurst? He's generally a pretty accurate passer; he doesn't have a high touchdown-to-interception ratio. Have you seen anything that's different from a year ago? Is he struggling this year?
This is specific to the question that you asked, but also in general to most quarterbacks, when the integrity of the pocket isn't as sound, then usually they make more mistakes. And, that's been the case here in the early games.

Can you speak of how well Marques Hagans has stepped in at quarterback?
Given the tasks put before him in the first four games, about as well as a rookie quarterback could do. There were a few plays that he could have done better on, which he is well aware of. But, overall, it's a very positive start for a guy in essentially his first four games as a starter. I know he's been in there a little bit before, but this is the first time he's ever really been the guy. Since we're all thinking baseball today, I'd say we're moving up from double-A or triple-A now to the major leagues. We'll see how well we hit major league pitching here for the next seven weeks.

What are your impressions of Clemson WR Airese Currie? He leads the ACC in receiving yards and receptions.
Their receiving corps has been very explosive, as we all know, over the last three or four years. He's been part of that, previous to this year. Kevin Youngblood and Derrick Hamilton obviously were the marquee names before, but that didn't diminish the skills that he's got. They just weren't featured as much as they are now. But, he's got speed; he's got savvy; he's got closing speed to the ball. He's a nice looking player.

Two teams that were ranked in the top-10 lost yesterday. Do you point to those games, the West Virginia game and Ohio State, to your players and say, "at this point rankings don't mean a whole lot?"
We haven't discussed rankings in any way to this point. And, I don't really see that that really has great relevance to us right now. That is, the Clemson situation is threat enough to us. But, I think it points out, whether yesterday's results are valid to this statement or not, obviously it's true in many cases that occur in the first five or six weeks. That is, games when the score comes across the ticker and everybody thinks it's an upset based on what the preseason poll was, come December, we look back and see that the team that won was really the best team in the first place. It really wasn't an upset at all, the best team won. It gets a lot of hype and a lot of notice, because we had an upset. I just think, as I mentioned, the whole things is get to November 1st and still be in the hunt.

You talked about Clemson's no-huddle. In the last couple of years, do you feel it's been a wash, as far as how much they confused you and how much they confused themselves?
Temple was a no-huddle team too, so we do have a game experience, and an extended preparation time, since that was the first game, we had more practices on it. We did play a full game against it. So, when we talk about it to the players, they are not like, "Oh, wow, what are we going to do we do with this." I think they're very comfortable with it. And, we played against Syracuse last week. Most teams have some type of pre-snap diversion to the defense. If you're a defensive coach, you might look at it in terms of aggravation. Syracuse, last week, was a multiple personnel team, different personnel coming onto the field every play, multiple formations, many motions that went with those formations, the intent to keep the defense out of rhythm or to create mental errors. And, their theory is, stated by their coaches over the years, that their volume of offense is such that they know it's going to result in some errors on their part, but that the defense is going to make more errors. Now, this team's attempt at diversion is the no-huddle operation. They will change personnel, but they don't run nearly as many personnel groups than our last opponent did. Motion is minimal. But, it's the no-huddle, and the pace of the no-huddle. There's a lot of similarity to what Indianapolis is doing with theirs. Indianapolis isn't an all the time no-huddle team, but they feel very comfortable going into no-huddle phases. The quarterback's on the line of scrimmage doing a lot of posturing. Sometimes he's calling a play; sometimes he's going through the whole routine. It's nothing; he's already called the play. If you get into the routine of trying to figure out what they're calling or trying to guess with them, then you're falling right into the trap. You're just becoming distracted as to what's essential, which is how are you going to play after the ball is snapped. So, coaching-wise, it's important not to fall into that, to try to pick the perfect defense or disguise everything you're doing. And, player-wise, you can't fall into that trap of trying to listen for everything else. When they say "Brown," it means they're going to go over here, but when they say "Blue," they're going to go over here, but this particular time, unbeknownst to the defensive player, they were told that "Brown" is dead. Just line and play the play.

DE Brennan Schmidt, last year against Clemson, seemed to recognize a lot of stuff out there. Would you discourage him from doing that?
Yeah, because there are so many of the plays that it's just a dummy call. It's like the third base coach yelling at the hitter, "Watch the curve ball, watch the curve ball!" If he yells it enough, he's going to be right. It might take him five, but then when a guy throws a curve ball, he says, "See, I told you, it was going to be a curve ball." With DE Chris Canty out, NT Andrew Hoffman is the senior member of the defensive line. How big a leader is he in that group, and do you need him to do more in that regard now or will he naturally lead? That line's had a pretty good tightness about them. He's been a big factor in the personality of that group. Of course, one of the defensive co-captains is Brennan Schmidt. So, that group has had the most playing experience of any part of the defensive unit, the most maturity competitively and personally about it and probably the strongest leadership level as well. They're certainly not rudderless.

Your return game has been solid this year. Clemson has CB Justin Miller, who's a good returner. Can you tell, is it him, is it how they block on kickoffs, because he's been pretty successful? Yeah, he's a jet. He's had three this year. So, at this pace he's going to have nine before the year is over. That would be a phenomenal pace. He's a real jet. He's got a feel for it. He's got a good initial spurt, which is necessary, especially on punts, because kickoffs, it's a different kind of opening; you can see it coming for a while. Punts, the different nature of the coverage, it opens quickly, it opens suddenly. A guy's got to have the instincts and the burst to get through it. There are not very many guys that are both punt and kickoff guys as he is. That's a good indication of his skills with it. But, that certainly is a concern. It can change the game in a hurry. He's one of the focal points of our preparation for the game.

If your guy kicks it deep, out of the endzone or deep in the endzone, it nullifies that. How would you evaluate PK Kurt Smith to this point?
Good, real good. More than 50% touchbacks, I think. It'd be nice if they were 100%. But, more than 50% touchbacks on him. Obviously that's one of the solutions to this week's challenge.

Do you have a decoy, or somebody that represents Miller in practice that your coverage team can practice against?
We have, but the difficulty with that is that unless your kicks are like it is in the game, which you run a real risk with that, it just doesn't open up the same way. And, we don't have very many returned against us in practice. That's why, once we get our lineups set on special teams, and particularly with our kick coverage teams, that's why we're reluctant to make many changes, unless a real need arises on our coverage teams. Because there's an on-the-job training that goes on in how to read the returns, when to go over the top of the blocker and when to go around the blocker and, based on what the read is, is this sideline left or middle return. There's a real savvy that goes with that. If you just plug a guy in there, he's a rookie all over again. You break down the efficiency of your unit. So, we've got some veteran guys in there that have covered a lot of kicks. Hopefully, they'll be as effective as they have been. Top Stories