We'll see if we can find some answers this week. Last year, you had inexperienced corners. This year you've got them back, and you've got inexperienced safeties, because you lost your safeties last year. Now you lose your safeties, so you've got inexperienced safeties, with a little bit better experienced corners. Most of our problems have come at corner this year. Last night, it was the deep third. We just have to take a look at it and see if we can't get it corrected.
You have several players on defense that are expected to be playmakers that haven't really done so – Michael Boulware and Darnell Dockett in particular. Why has that happened?
Number one, I would think – and I haven't looked at the film – but I would think that Dockett is getting a lot of double-teams. It's very easy to double-team an inside guy. He's got to come up the gut. He can't go outside and rush the passer. He's got to come right up the gut. That means that somebody else has got one-on-one that needs to be getting back there. That's one reason I think Odell (Haggins) and them made the change, putting (Travis) Johnson in there at (defensive) tackle, hoping he could get more quickness and speed and get back there. Boulware – he grades out good all the time. It could be that there's nothing in his area. They're not giving him anything, they're not throwing around him. That could be the problem. Boulware practices good, plays good, and usually grades good. If I was getting a grade back on him and it was ‘poor this, lack of effort here, out of position here,' that would worry me about him. But I'm not getting that about him. He's doing well. Big plays – he's got to have an opportunity at big plays. I don't know how many he's had.
If that is the case, is he not being put in a position to contribute big plays? Is there a reason, scheme-wise?
No, because he's no better than that No. 9 (Kendyll Pope) over there. I ain't gonna let him play No. 9's position. He's on that side, and he's on that side. We could move him around, but it would mess up our scheme. I think what happens is that he don't get a bunch of action. He might be covering his guy so good that they don't ever throw to him. He's one of the few guys that we've got that can take a back coming out of the backfield. He's got what the pros are looking for, and that's a guy that can run. He's got range. It could be that they see what he can do and they stay away from him. Probably, to an extent, that's true.
Are you considering any personnel changes at cornerback?
It was the deep third, yesterday. Our safeties were having problems. I felt like our passing problems – against Louisville, they hit on a takeoff against our corner. Last night, it was more our safeties having problems. You all saw it better than I did. I'm down on the ground, cussing out the offense. Y'all are watching the defense.
After one of Clemson's scores, you were on the headset to someone. Who in particular were you talking to?
I'm not sure exactly what that was. It might have been several things that was true the other night.
Was that as emotionally draining a game as you've had in a while?
That game was the first time the family thing – as far as I am concerned – I was sensitive to it. Had we beaten Louisville, I probably wouldn't have been as sensitive, plus we might have gotten beat. We might have had that coming. It might have given us an awakening. But when we lost to Louisville – well now, you've got to beat Clemson. Simply have got to. Your son's over there, and he needs to win. They're yelling at him up there (in Clemson). Well, I ain't gonna let him beat me. It's one of those things where I really felt bad all week. Gosh, we've got to win this dadgum game, but ol' Tommy needs to win it too. There was that feeling there. Tommy's got to beat me or I've got to beat him. That's the first year that I kind of took it that way.
Did Jeff and Daryl have to talk you into giving Adrian McPherson more time?
Once we got A. D. in there, and Chris gets hurt – I didn't know how bad he was hurt. I kind of wanted to, and I think they did too, we wanted to see what A. D. can do in that kind of situation. He might be the answer. He's not the answer yet. Chris Rix is, no doubt, the number one quarterback. A. D. or Walker are fighting for number two. He's just got to keep getting better. I saw a couple things the other night that we can get straightened out. Several times the other night, we had quarterback draws called. Normally, our quarterback draw is not called – he drops back to pass and takes off. Last night we called a couple of draws for him, they didn't succeed, and I heard a lot of booing. I hate to see us turn to that, but that's the way the ball bounces. That's the way it turns. I think some people probably thought ‘well, there he goes running the ball again. He should have thrown it.' There were a couple of them called, and they were good calls, too. We got what we had to have out of it. He (Rix) has got room to get better – he's only a sophomore – and I feel much better after last night. I feel better about what he can do. The thing that he's gotten a lot of criticism for this year, from our coaches – who do it kind of quietly – and from the fans, who recognize it, is he stood in the pocket until the last moment, threw a pass, got killed, got the first down, and we carried him off the field. I thought that was a step up – or down, whichever way you look at it.
And you rewarded him for that step up by keeping him on the bench for the rest of the half, right?
You're exactly right. What it was, it gave me a good excuse to look at this other guy.
Did you take a pretty big chance to leave McPherson in there in the first half, with the game still very much in the balance? Isn't that unusual?
The score was still close – they might have been ahead. We still had to find out. Sometimes, we'll get out there and A. D., in practice, will really have a super day. Then you say to yourself, ‘maybe he ought to be in there.' Then you don't, because you go with the other guy. It seemed like a good chance to try it (Thursday night). Go back to Charlie Ward, who won the Heisman for us. He never started until he was a redshirt junior. That's a senior, folks. He threw four interceptions, I think, in his first ballgame, and maybe five in his second one. Charlie would start the game, and he would do so bad, we would take him out and put Danny Kanell in, who was a true freshman and no more ready to play than a man in the moon. Charlie'd go over there and sit down and watch, let him (Kanell) stay in there for a couple of plays, we'd get nothing done, and then bring Charlie in and Charlie would win the game. Now Chris is a true sophomore (actually a redshirt sophomore). He's going through the same thing. It's nothing strange for him. ‘Go sit down, see what's happening.' That's about what I told him last night. He came over to me, said ‘Coach, I'm ready to go again,' and I told him ‘you sit down over there. I want to see what A. D. can do.' It's a sixty-minute football game.
How does he respond to the criticisms from fans?
I'm sure he'd be like all of us. It hurts down inside, but he has to realize that this is the nature of the game. It's just like coaching. There's many times in my career when people have been down on me. I'd say, ‘look, Bobby, if you don't like it, can't stand it, get out of it. But if you're going to stay in this game, this is the nature of the game.' He has to realize the same thing. I'm continually preaching that to him.
He's pretty mentally tough. If he weren't mentally tough, how hard would this be for him?
If he weren't mentally tough, he'd have broke by now.
Is that an encouraging sign?
I felt all along that he's got stuff. He's got more stuff to work with – we just simply have got to get it polished. The other night – you call a play that's over here. It's going to go over here. Then you have a read – if they do this, do this. If they do this, throw over here. He would read the thing correctly and throw over here, but it might have been better to stay over here. I'm going to get some of those iffies out of there this week. If we say ‘go over there,' then you go over there. You ain't got a choice. He's got to learn, and we've got to learn, too.
Will this game be a measuring stick?
No. If we were playing whoever's number one in the NFL right now – if we were playing them, it'd be a fair measuring stick. It'll be the measuring stick.
You said Thursday night that Miami is in a different world. How many days would you like to prepare for them?
I'd like about two more years. In two more years, we might be up to them. They are dominating now like we dominated the ‘90's – very much like that. We were kind of the elite, us and Nebraska – and you'd have to say Florida. Miami was down. But now Miami is back. Right now, they're sitting one level up. I see film of Oklahoma. I see film of Texas. I see film of Virginia Tech. We played Virginia Tech last year in the (Gator) bowl, and beat ‘em, with nearly a senior-dominated team (playing for the Hokies). I see what they're doing, and I see a different level. I think at one time we might have had that, and we're striving to get back to that, but we're not there yet, very obviously.
You seem to recruit nearly as well as they do – what's the difference?
Yeah, but I think sometimes that runs in cycles. The years we had Weinke, and all that crew, we went to three straight national championship games. We didn't win but one of them, but we got there three years in a row. They're at that plateau right now. That ain't going to last forever. The thing they dominate with now is their front seven. How many of them are seniors? Every one of them? (Actually five) I don't think all of them are, but they've got to rebuild that thing next year. Again, we're all trying to get there. I think Florida's nearly there, and I think we're nearly there, but we're not there. Is Oklahoma and Texas? Maybe. Probably. But Miami is there.