Golden on Clemson, injuries, and more

Read on to see what head coach Al Golden is saying a few days before his team takes on Clemson.

On being ranked No. 1 nationwide in turnover margin and its importance to the team…
“It’s important. Those are the two areas that we set out to fix – our turnover ratio and our penalties. We’re making progress with our turnover ratio, and obviously we have to continue to make progress with our penalties. We’re going to get challenged. The ball is going to get challenged this weekend, both up front and down the field. They have an excellent defense. We’re going to have to protect the ball on offense and try to take it away on defense.”

On how much luck is involved in turnovers…
“I don’t know. Sometimes like the fumble the other day [against Virginia Tech], deep in their own end, ripping it out wasn’t luck, but the fact that we couldn’t’ get it, you do have to be fortuitous there in terms of the ball bouncing the right way or you having population around the ball. Here’s what we do believe in: we believe in tilting the odds in our favor by finishing plays, by having population around the ball, those types of things. On the other side of the ball, are we protecting the ball? Are we doing the little things you have to do? Is the quarterback protecting the ball? Those are all factors involved. But definitely you have to be fortunate as well.”

On how he evaluates the team’s rushing attack and what he wants to see against Clemson…
“Any time you play that [Virginia Tech] defense - again, 2014 was an anomaly against them, in terms of how they played us - I thought they were going to play us the way they did. You’re constantly outnumbered. Intuitively, if you box-count, you would never run it against Bud Foster. You would just throw it. We just don’t want to play the game on their terms. It’s important that you run, that you have enough attempts. Obviously we’d like to have better yards per carry, but we need to have enough attempts so that it didn’t turn into them teeing off every play.”

On running the ball against the Clemson defense…
“We have to run the ball better. There’s no question about it. Every game is different. There are a lot of things they do where they try to outnumber the box. We’re going to have to run the ball effectively against them. There are other times where they’re pressuring, and Ben Boulware and B.J. Goodson are really active. We’re going to have to a a good job getting hats on them. It’s an excellent front, we have to do a good job, running backs have to do a great job, and it’s a great challenge for us to continue to make progress there.”

On how much playing Clemson is a “feeling out” process, having not played the team since 2010…
“We’re going to have to adjust quickly. I think they’re ultra-talented. I think they’re deep, as evidenced by their defense. They lost a whole bunch of guy son defense a year ago, a ton of them to the NFL Draft, and yet they’re being replaced by a lot of juniors and sophomores. They don’t play a lot of freshmen, so they’re deep. They’re athletic on that side of the ball, they have a good kicking game, and an offense with an explosive quarterback that can make the big plays - both with his feet and his arm. Excellent offensive line, they use their tight ends well, get the ball to the perimeter, good speed – it’s a complete team. Worthy of where they are, certainly, from a ranking standpoint.”

On the challenges of competing against Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson…
“When the pocket breaks down, he can create. We have to make sure we try and keep him in there, and don’t give him second and third opportunities on the play. He can pull the ball at any point in the run game and get you a big one in the alleys. You have to have not just somebody there who can tackle, but multiple people, because he has speed and length and can make you miss. He’s doing a good job of trusting his receivers down the field. He’s got a lot of [explosive plays], he threw the ball for 400 yards last week. Their vertical game was excellent.”

On what CB Artie Burns does to make himself so effective…
“He’s working like a dog. His mental toughness has improved. His capacity to do work has improved. He takes a lot of pride being the first one in every drill. For instance today, we had a special teams drill where he was on the field for two reps – and those are 50-yard segments covering kicks - and the horn blew. He went to the next period he went up to the front of the line and was 1-on-1 against receivers, Rashawn [Scott] or whoever he was going against. That’s his mindset right now. He’s very receptive to coaching, he can self-correct. He’s mentally tough, so he has a short memory. I think that contrast of giving up a deep ball and coming up and getting an interception [against Virginia Tech] - I think they were back-to-back plays – those are the tools necessary to be a good one. He’s staying humble right now. He’s staying with his process. He’s doing the little things, he really is. He’s doing the little things right now, and that’s making the difference for him.”

On what stands out about Clemson’s receiving corps…
“They have it all. They have vertical speed, they have length, they incorporate the tight ends, and they have the guys that can run the speed sweeps and the perimeter plays. They make you defend the whole width of the field, as well as vertically. Screens on the perimeter and those things can really break your back. Last week, Boston College was doing a good job of hanging in there, then one of those screens get outside and it’s a big [explosive] play. They kind of break your back. That’s a challenge, and one we have to do a good job covering, have to do a good job tackling and obviously pursuing it.”

On how LB Juwon Young stepped up in LB Raphael Kirby’s absence vs. Virginia Tech and since…
“He played well the other day. He played well. Sometimes when you transition into a starting role, and you tell a kid on Sunday or Monday, they’re just [tight] all week. For Juwon, that was probably the best thing. ‘Okay Juwon, you’re in.’ His first play he leveraged a screen which was going to be a really big play – they had us outnumbered. He had an interception, made some other plays in there that maybe only we can identify, in terms of his fit. I’m really proud of him, the way he stepped up. Being around the building Sunday and Monday just trying to get ahead, knowing he’s the guy now. He’s’ ready for this. He’s ready for the challenge. He just has to keep worrying about himself, forget about everything else, just study and prepare. And when he gets to the game, just let it rip – which is kind of what he did without knowing it. Just stay in that mode.”

On how pleasing it is to see high-end recruits playing well…
“It’s starting to be fun. Those guys are doing a good job. I think the biggest thing is they’re doing their job, and the plays are happening because of it. Al-Quadin [Muhammad], Chad Thomas - I thought [Ufomba] Kamalu played well the other day - but Chad Thomas, Kendrick [Norton], Courtel [Jenkins], all of those guys are really growing up. They have to keep going. It’s a great challenge now, because Clemson is a great-looking front seven, great-looking down guys.

“We need our guys to step up on our side of the ball. A lot of those guys have been relishing in that. It started with Quan versus Cincinnati, just doing his job every play and making plays because of it. We’ve had guys join since then - Chad, Kamalu the other day, [Calvin] Herutelou is really steady in there for us, smart player. Kendrick, RJ [McIntosh] is going to get more time now, he’s coming on. Courtel has been versatile at nose and at defensive tackle. That group is making progress and they’re going to be challenged like crazy on Saturday. They’re going to have to play well, and playing well for those guys is just doing their job every play.”


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