They kept playing hard. The team doesn't accept just `Okay, we're in a bowl.' It's not that way with this team. This team was more of `We want to win, nothing matters but winning.' We have a team that has improved from last year. But the ultimate goal is winning, and they're not satisfied about that.
These guys know this isn't a successful season. They want more. That's why they came to Miami and why I accepted the job – you want more than what's expected of you. We're not going to accept 7-5 being a successful season. It's not. You want to be ACC champs, play for the national championship. We improved but we were not successful. You have to have that ambition to be the best you can be.
Q: Did this team lose its poise? There was a lot of rah-rah football on the sideline, but it seemed it didn't translate into poise on the field.
A: They try hard. I was watching film, saying `This guy's right here to make the play.' They try hard, but they don't have it in them. I look at teams I've been on as a player. When I started playing I was a redshirt sophomore and I was a backup. I was playing half the game, so it was great. It was easy for me. And we had veterans two and three years older than me. We were a veteran team. Then I look at when I started coaching. We had Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp were old. Lamar Thomas and those guys were old. Gino Torretta was old. Even the tight end was old. You have some old guys that will step up and make some plays for you. When you're trying as a young team, they'll have that energy all the time. But for some reason if your body can't do it, you can't do it. I'll give an example. When is the last time you saw Sean Spence make a play? About three weeks ago, the strip. What has he done before then besides the strip? Let me tell you what I see. It's been a while. Well, Colin McCarthy hasn't been playing. You see what I mean? It was Colin, Darryl and Sean alternating. So Sean plays 30 plays, he's going to make a lot of big plays. It's not the same Sean anymore because now Sean has to play 65 plays plus kickoff return and punt, and we have no backup for him. So we're in a situation now, especially at the linebacker position, that Romeo Davis was out, you have Sean, Darryl, Cook, Spencer Adkins is the next guy up, and now Ramon Buchanan and Arthur Brown, which is a tremendous drop-off. Now Cook gets injured in the game, so you have Darryl and Sean on nickel situations, so you're depending on Sean to do a lot more.
Q: How much of yesterday's play with Sean was carry over from Georgia Tech, when he had a bad night?
A: He's not hit a wall, but it's almost the point it looks like he's hitting the wall because his productivity is not there. We have to be careful as a coaching staff because everyone in their minds thinks `Well, you have to play these freshmen 70, 80 snaps.' Well, when you start doing that it tends to falls off. Marcus Robinson had a great game against Virginia Tech. Lately it's not there anymore. They're forced to do things we've been getting away all year long, but with injuries we have to play them more than you expect. That's why with this team we're not there where we need to be, and we have to keep developing the depth on this football team to be where we need to be at, where you can roll your linebackers in and out of the games like when I was a player. Depth is one thing you have to make sure you keep having.
Q: Do these last two games, even thought they were losses, are they building blocks for 2009?
A: They're huge building blocks for the football team. We're going back to the weight room tomorrow four times a week getting stronger, getting ready for the bowl game but also for next season. That's going to be a vital part for our young guys, the physical part of it. It's the next step, because now you can say we have defensive linemen that are young, linebackers that are young, freshmen - now you're a year older, your body can take it a little bit more because you have one full season in the strength and conditioning program with the weight room. Some of them are still living off August, some are living off not even a year with January. You get one full season in the weight room running, doing those things. You can't say, `Do you want to have another influx of freshmen coming in and playing.' If it happens, great. But now you have Dedrick Epps, Richard Gordon is an older guy, Javarris James, Graig Cooper will be older guys, Lee Chambers, Shawnbrey McNeal with their third year should be coming around a lot more. Defensive line wise, they'll be sophomores now, but Forston, Micanor Regis, Joe Joseph, Josh Holmes, they're a little bit older than the year before. And at linebacker you get everybody back healthy and now you have to go from there. You have eight or nine guys at linebacker.
Q: What message were you sending starting Derron Thomas?
A: It was something I just did. We were just talking about it. Here's something I believe: Everyone gets an opportunity. As a football team you never settle for less. As a person after you leave the University of Miami you have to expect to be the best you can be. Be the best at it. Don't just settle for being mediocre – I'm going to challenge Derron today and start Derron. I want to see what you do in the first five plays of the game. Are you going to step up to the challenge? Are you ready? Because you never know if your number will be called. That's from the standpoint that whenever your number is called you have to be ready. You want to challenge them and see if they're going to respond.
Q: Did Derron have a good week of practice?
A: Yeah he did. But I was trying to make an example of that game: Accept the challenge. We're 7-4, let's go 8-4. Let's not be satisfied. Let's take another step up. The challenge was to Derron, to see if everyone else can understand it. It was an acronym of that kind of situation.
Q: Guys were slipping on defense on that field.
A: It's typical of that time of year in North Carolina , was muddy. The receivers didn't fall. It was defensive guys in mud. The defensive players fell. That's what I mean by they hit a wall. They didn't have that fire, extra punch you normally see from the defense.
Q: Is there a lesson you want this team to take from these last two games?
A: Not from the last two games. From the season. You take a point of finishing, finishing a game. You can start off early and understanding finishing a game - when you have the opportunity, do it. Putting together finishing and accepting a challenge.
Q: What do coaches do now?
A: This is recruiting time. The next two weeks all you're doing is recruiting. The third week you recruit and practice a little bit. If you're not playing in the championship game, everyone's on the road recruiting.
Q: There are 10 teams that were within a game of first place in the ACC.
A: It's a good thing for the conference, because it's not a one-sided conference. It's back and forth. For ratings it's great because the conference comes down to the last week of football. For who is going to a bowl, it's `He won the conference, and that's how it is.'
Q: It's the same two teams in the ACC title game as last year.
A: How about that? Coach Beamer, he gets it every year it seems like. It's kind of ironic those two are back in it again. Both used to be Big East schools.
Q: Has this team gotten that there will be discipline no matter the stakes?
A: I think more than anything players understand if you make sacrifices for one person you're going to lose your team. They see that I'm a fair guy. I don't have many rules. It's just simple things – do the right things and everything will be okay. It's nothing you demand more than living an ordinary life – just follow the procedures and steps and live normally and you'll be okay. Once you make sacrifices for one guy on the team, now you have a bunch of guys jealous and envious of that guy. Now when it comes to somebody else and you suspend that kid, now you lose the whole team because they can't trust you. They know it and accept it. They know the consequences (of breaking rules).
Q: When you go on the road the next couple of weeks, what are key areas you're concentrating on?
A: Offensive line will be a big, big push. Defensive backs, tight ends. Those three (positions) will be a big push. We have some commitments at other positions. We have commitments at one of the positions I just mentioned and some at a position we needed – running backs. You have to look for the future. You have Javaris and Cooper back, but you have to bring someone in now so you don't have to put them in a situation of carrying the load as a true freshman like Cooper last year when he fizzled out.
Q: Do you think anyone will leave to go to the NFL early?
A: No, not on this team. Around the country, yeah, a whole lot. This new NFL deal is scaring some people. The new rookie deal are making too much money and they want to put a cap on it look for a lot of juniors to leave now, because next year that cap might be on when rookies are only allowed to make a certain amount of money.
Q: Do you see a difference in the players who come in January versus July?
A: A whole lot different. It's a lot better when you get them in January. They get accustomed to school, coach Swasey gets ahead with them. Marcus Forston, Sean Spence, Arthur Brown, they thought spring football was bad, miserable. They never were sore like that before, hit that much. But that prepared them for the summertime, so they got used to it.
Q: Do you evaluate things with this team now?
A: At the end of the season you always evaluate what you did as a head coach. Did you improve on anything? You evaluate coaches, evaluate recruiting, evaluate weight training that's part of football. You just want to get better all the time. One thing you never can get caught up in is you can't get caught up into a lot of outside influences. Don't make decisions when you're tired or upset, because sometimes they're the wrong decisions. You have to step back for about a week, have nobody around you, just relax, then go and chart down things you feel you got better at, things you didn't, and what you can do to improve.
B>Q: Can that happen in the next couple of weeks?
A: That's after the bowl game.
Q: Those extra bowl practices can help this team.
A: It's back to basics, ones against ones, a lot of fundamentals on tackling, blocking, turnovers, going back to coaching the fundamental things.
Q: With early commitments, how do you handle that with recruiting?
A: I wish they had an early signing day. You always keep recruiting. Somebody's going to change their mind. It happens. You're going to lose one, you're going to gain one. You don't worry about it. The only thing an early signing day would do is make it less stressful on the kids. Universities save money that' plane, car, hotel. You're getting kids out of class in mid-terms with the current system.
Q: What about commitments for 2010?
A: In 2010-11, you love to get those commitments. But you know how many days there are to change that kid's mind?
Q: What about a kid that just wants to visit here to have fun, is committed elsewhere, do you pull the visit?
A: Yes. A lot of coaches do that. You have to find out who is really the top two programs a kid is looking at. A kid says he has a top five, but it's always two. Someone in the neighborhood will tell you the top two. You have to get a private investigator (laughs).
Q: What's recruiting like in those weeks leading up to signing day?
A: You go into the field, it's a war for two months. You eat burgers, Buffalo wings, donuts. You go to sleep late at night, get up early in the morning.
Q: You enjoy that?
A: Once you're on the road, you're on the road. It's the same as being an assistant coach. Once you're on the road it's no big deal.