We're looking forward to being back home. We've been on the road four out of the last five weeks. It will be great to be back home, play in front of our homecoming crowd.
I think our players are excited about the game. Coming off a tough loss. It's important we have a great week of practice.
An update on DeVante Parker. There was some speculation he might play last week, apparently didn't. Is he close?
He is close. He had a very good weekend, then he practiced yesterday. I'm encouraged. But I was encouraged last Tuesday, too. We just have to really see how he reacts to the practice and the work that he has.
But he did look good in practice yesterday.
After missing half the season, what kind of difference does he make if he's able to play?
That's hard for me to say. But he is a dynamic player with a great ability, his ability to get open, catch the ball, run after the catch, it's something we've missed.
What kind of led to your decision to kind of go with Will at quarterback this week?
Well, he was our starting quarterback to start the season, then lost his job with an injury. We felt like Reggie came in, did a nice job for us. We won two games with him as a starter. Will came in the other night, helped our team, got us in an opportunity to win the game.
Going back and evaluating everything on Sunday, we feel like going into the game that Will should be the starter.
As far as your other side of the ball, defense has been a strong suit this year. Why is that? Is the defense doing certain things better than you thought before the season?
Yes. They've performed at a very high level. Going into the season, we were very concerned about replacing two great safeties and a number of other players that were first-round draft picks. But they've done a really nice job.
They're playing fast. They're playing physical. They communicate real well. You know they're playing at a very high level.
Talk about the game against NC State. What do you see on film? They took Florida State to probably the fourth quarter and ran out of gas.
In the [Florida] State game, they were very explosive on offense. Did a great job of different formations, different personnel groups. They give you a lot of different looks, can run the ball. They got a quarterback that can run it.
Defensively they do a really nice job of rushing the passer, playing tight coverage in the secondary. We feel like we're going to have to play well, do a better job offensively to get a win.
Talk about your first full season in the ACC. Did you have an idea that the level of play changes each week?
It's been exciting for us to be able to bring the different teams and the quality of teams that we get to bring into Papa John's Stadium right now to go to new places, like the trip to Clemson and Virginia. It's great for our fans, our players. It's been a great experience.
Obviously we're learning a lot about the personnel. Have to spend extra time getting to know the players on the other teams because we haven't been with them for a number of years. I think it's a great thing for our program.
Look back on the game you just had against Clemson. I know it ended up being a loss. But how you played them, how tight that game was. Any big positives you were able to take that that can move you forward into the next game?
Yeah, that's what we try to do, is build on the positives. Our guys played with great effort. We knew going in we needed to make it a fourth quarter game where we had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. We got in that position. Defensively we played extremely well throughout the game. Came up with a big stop late. Offensively had a chance to go score and just came up short.
We're trying to build on the fact that we played with great effort and that we were focused. We just have to get more efficient offensively.
As far as your quarterback situation, what can you say about how this season has been? Gardner has been in and out. What have you seen from your quarterbacks, what have they been able to do, how you see that situation with that leadership being so important on offense?
Yeah, I think both of them are very inexperienced. It's a new experience for them. We felt like we were starting to get into a little bit of a groove, and then you have an injury, so you have to change.
But I was very impressed with the mentality and the maturity that Reggie showed when he was in there playing. He's a great competitor. I think we can really build on what both of them have done. We just need to get some consistency and some better execution, and not just at the quarterback position. We need the guys around him to play better.