Our football team and coaching staff are honored to be a part of the Bitcoin Bowl and excited to be in an area that we recruit very heavily and playing against a quality opponent like UCF.
We look forward to getting down there, being in the sunshine, and taking part of all the activities. I want it to be a great experience. I've had a lot of time spent in St. Petersburg and Tampa, and I know it's a great city. I look forward to sharing it with our fans, our players, and our families.
Central Florida is a good program... they were just here in our state. What are your thoughts on the talent they have and their track record?
Crazy game like you mentioned with ECU.
I have a lot of respect for Coach O'Leary, his staff, and his program. He's done a tremendous job, not just there but throughout his career as a football coach. I know they'll be a fundamentally sound, tough, talented team.
A nine-win opponent coming off a huge win over ECU. It's a great opponent, which it should be when you get in a bowl game. You want to play somebody you respect and we definitely respect them.
Did you watch that game?
I saw the finish. I didn't see the whole game, but I did see the finish. It was unbelievable...a heartbreaker for those guys.
You have a very young team. How important are these 15 practices, not only for this season but for next season?
They are very important. Playing an early game takes some of those practices away unfortunately, but every one we can get is valuable.
We've already had three going against each other and working on fundamentals, and we're in final exams this week so our guys will focus on that. We'll get back into the swing of preparation next weekend.
We should be able to get around 9-to-12 practices that we wouldn’t have had if we weren't bowl-eligible. They a re very valuable for our team.
81% of the guys are freshmen and sophomores so every day you're out there with them is important.
What jumps out about UCF?
I haven't watched an film on them, but I've seen them on TV throughout the year. Coach Huxtable, our defensive coordinator, worked for Coach O'Leary for a long time so he'll have a lot of insight.
I know the kind of players they recruit. Coach O'Leary is a very good football coach, very sound...tough-minded. They'll be well-schooled. I know they'll have good skill on their roster. I've seen their quarterback... he's extremely athletic.
They are a 4-3 team that runs a lot of the same schemes we do defensively. There will be a lot of similarities on the defensive side of the ball, and they'll be a hard-nosed football team.
I look forward to playing against them. I've had respect for Coach O'Leary for a long time. He's a really good coach.
Now that you've had a week or two after the UNC game, have you had a chance to reflect on the season and how rewarding the chance to go to a bowl is?
We were just talking about it when I was with some recruits on campus.
A year ago we were very disappointed. Just one year later, to be sitting at seven wins, having won three of our last four, beating our two-instate opponents and our rival, and to have a chance to win eight games... there's been great improvements.
We've grown a lot as a team. Our staff continues to gel well and work hard together. People around us have supported us throughout the process, and I feel really good about where we're headed. I look forward to another opportunity to get on the field and earn another win.
I'm sure you view this as a business trip but also talk about the experience of going down there.
Obviously your goal is to win the game, but we are going to enjoy the experience. That's part of the reward of being in a bowl, you give the guys a chance to enjoy a destination city, and we're going to a great one.
Between the beach, and the cruise... I don't know what other things there will be. I know there are a lot of amenities in St. Petersburg and in the Tampa area so I look forward to discussing what the options are to entertain the guys.
Bowl games are a lot of fun. There's a lot of hard work that goes into the season and they deserve it, but at the end of the day we're going to fight hard to get that eighth win in the process.
Has the improvement of the defense since the Louisville game... do you think that's the biggest reason you're in the position you are right now?
Between that and the way we've taken care of the football, I think those are the biggest reasons.
You look at our statistics... I haven't looked at them from the Louisville game, but I know that's when we've played much better, take the Georgia Tech game out of it, and we've played great defense in those games. We've taken the ball away, we've pressured the quarterback, we've stopped the run... been consistent, not giving up big plays in the secondary.
Those are all performances we've built, I think upon each game. Offensively in the games we won we took care of the ball as well, and we were very consistent in our special teams play in all of them.
Are you okay with Notre Dame being a part of the bowl order and getting a spot?
It's a part of the agreement that the ACC made. They didn't ask for my opinion when they made it, and I'm not going to give you one now.