How can you best take advantage of going to a BCS game as the program moves forward?
"You can't look at this game as a final destination. This is a starting point. This is a building block for where we want to take the program. We can't be satisfied with just winning one every decade. I think it's setting a standard of excellence that every class is going to have to look up to. I think it's something recruits are going to see and look forward to and say maybe some of the negative recruiting isn't true. Maybe I'm going to have a chance to play for a BCS bowl and play for championships in this system. I think it's a great chance to showcase what we can do.
Coach Paul Johnson talked about taking the time leading up to the bowl to get some guys healthy. What do you see as far as some making their way back?
"I can tell you it's nice to have a little time to rest the body and get your legs back under you. It's been a long time coming. I actually talked to Austin Barrick the other day and he's going to be ready to go. He's going to be getting out of his boot on Friday. He should be cleared to practice before we go to Christmas break. That's going to be a huge pickup for us. I don't know if the other guys are going to get back, but it's going to be a great time for guys who have been playing through injuries or banged up the whole year to catch up and get back to their optimal playing condition."
Can you talk about the guys who have filled in for Austin?
"Phil Smith did a great job filling in for Austin. I don't think we missed much of a beat at all. When Phil went down, I hated to see that happen especially Phil playing in his hometown. He gave all he could and I guess there's a certain breaking point where your ankle can't give any more. The other guys came and stepped up. Nick Claytor did a great job. Nick played through a ton of pain. I can't say enough about his toughness. He was cramping up and he has a number of medical problems that he was already fighting. He came up huge for us and he just gutted it out. Clyde Yandell when he was called on came in and stepped up. I think it's a testament to how badly as a team we wanted to win."
Have you had a chance to see any of the redshirt freshmen offensive linemen or have you heard anything about their progress?
"I don't see a whole lot of them outside of the individual periods in practice. From what I've seen, they're coming along well. I think you're going to have some guys that are really solid players in year's to come. I don't necessarily know how soon they'll be able to contribute. I think Ray Beno is coming along well. I think all of them are coming along well. We get to see them scrimmage a little. They were doing some things. We were really excited about them. We get to watch them instead of the other way around. I think they're going to be a good group of guys. They still have some refining to do. They're still kind of cutting their teeth right now. I think after the spring, there's going to be a huge improvement in them that you can really be excited about."
There are different coaching philosophies on how to prepare for a bowl game. How will the team prepare for the bowl?
"I think first and foremost, Coach considers this an important game. That was one of our team goals before the season to win the bowl game. There's not a guy on the team right now who's won a bowl game since he's been here. We need to turn that around especially on a national stage like this. Our concentration going in will be to prepare ourselves to win this game. Maybe some of the younger guys will get some time if there's time to be had. Outside of scout team and filling in for someone that gets hurt, I can't imagine them getting a ton of time right now."
What are you expecting in practice after what happened last year?
"I'm expecting initially a little more intense version of what we did over the season. Maybe something comparable to what we had in camp. I don't know what to expect to be totally honest. That would be my best guess and once we get to Miami, it will be more like a typical game week."
How does Coach Johnson keep the team's attention?
"I like what Coach (Todd) Spencer and Coach (Mike) Sewak say: "Every day is a job interview". When you come in you have to show what you have every single day. I think when you see guys like Clyde and Nick come in, it shows. We have guys like Dan Voss, Zach Krish, and Omoregie Uzzi who can play. If you're not playing up to your potential, you're going to get replaced. As a position, our philosophy is that you have to come out and give your best every day. As a team, Coach Johnson does a good job of reminding us that we have a lot of areas that we can improve in. We're far from a perfect team and we have a lot of areas for improvement. We have an opportunity to get better every day when we get out there on the practice field."
Does he use his past experience or is he all about the now?
"It's kind of a combination of the two. He's talked about his past experiences. I think this past week in championship week he did a little more because frankly we don't have a lot of guys on the team with championship experience. We have a couple of guys from the 2006 team, but I think we all know how that turned out. On the whole we're a young group of guys and having coached in as many championship games as he has, he wanted to instill in us what it takes to win and just how much better it feels to win a championship instead of falling short of it."
What about during the season; what was his approach?
"He took some different angles. Some of the teams gave us good bulletin board material. I think Virginia Tech did a real good job of that. I think Clemson did a little bit of that going into the championship game. Through the season, the respect factor was part of it, but I think a lot of it was more an issue of what we're trying to achieve as a team and knowing that we had to show up every week."
How is the type of games you've had to play this year going to prepare you for the bowl game?
"I think it's given us a never say die mentality. Even going back to last year at the Georgia game and some of the other games, we had to play like the Florida State game. Just because things don't look good at the moment doesn't mean we can't come out on top. Even the Georgia game this year we had a chance to win at the end and we just kind of came up short. Obviously we'd like to win by more but it's built on the toughness and character that this team has because we know we're going to be in it for sixty minutes and we're not going to stop until the final whistle."
What did your fellow offensive linemen take from your competition with Dan?
"It's a little different than I think a lot of people envisioned. Dan and I are good friends and we don't necessarily look at it as a cut throat type of thing. We both want to push each other to be better. Dan is great. Dan is the utility player on the offensive line. He could be a backup at tackle, he could be a backup at guard, and he can play center. He started twenty games for us. He can do it all. I think that knowing we were going to be pushing each other, and that came down to the end of camp, I think it showed a lot of other guys there's a possibility for you to move up. It's not just something the coaches say. You really do have an opportunity to move up and establish yourself based on hard work and your performance. I think it showed with a couple of guys. I think Uzzi and Zach Krish had a good run during camp. They both set themselves up in positions to contribute. I think the same could be said of the tackles too."