What's the weather been like for camp?
It's been nice. I got a good tan. It's been warm. The guys have handled it well. They ran in the afternoons all summer, so they were prepared for it.
It has been the hottest training camp that I've been a part of at NC State for sure. We'll be ready for what comes.
I don't know what it will be like at 12:30 when we go down to ECU. I've heard it gets warm down there.
Has the weather changed your camp plans any?
Maybe for a couple of kids, we've had a few kids cramp here or there... there's been a couple guys we've had to pull out for heat exhaustion, things like that.
Are you seeing hunger from your team?
I am. I think all of them... I challenged them to grow up at the end of the season.
When you lose close games, it's normally one or two plays, and we've got enough players now that have played enough football who can make one or two more plays. They've got to grow up and take ownership in that.
I know they did this summer. Thunder, Tim, and the staff did a great job of pushing them. They made it hard on them. I told them before the summer started that you're about to go through the hardest thing you've ever done in your life. When you get on the other side you'll understand why we did it to you, and in fall camp they've been able to push through some tough things.
What's your perspective on the overall progress of your team?
We've had a lot of progress on our team.
Shoot, I didn't even have an offensive line this spring, they were all hurt. To get them back on the field and keep them on the field... to get Joseph Scelfo in here has been a blessing at center. He's really provided some needed leadership to have a guy who has started 37 games as an all-conference player and a coach's son at center to replace Quinton Schooley who played a lot of football for us has really glued the thing together between Tony, Garrett, Tyler Jones and Will Richardson.
That's been big. I'm really excited about the progress... in the spring if you watched us there wasn't a lot the offense could do because our defensive line was killing them. It's been back-and-forth in camp. It's been fun to watch, the competition there.
When you lose three starters on the offensive line that can be a daunting task. When you look at that starting five, do you feel good about what you have there?
Everyone in the listening vicinity needs to go home, pray, and light candles tonight for our offensive linemen.
That's a big deal. If you have five guys that can play together and get better alongside each other, you have a chance to be pretty good. That chemistry doesn't just happen, it takes time, and they are still working on it... the progress is very visible.
How impactful has new offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford been with their progress?
Dwayne believes in the chemistry of the O-line; he was a lineman, played in the NFL for a long time. He understands some things about that position that I do not think anyone else can unless the have played there. I thought Mike Uremovich did a really good job coaching them ... Dwayne has brought something that he did not have, and that is professional background playing the position. Our guys have really bought into that, he calls it the Band of Brothers.
To me, that is what a great O-line is; they are the family within the family that protect the running backs and the quarterbacks, and takes so much pride in doing so. I have seen a different demeanor in them because of that, and excited to see how it translates to the field.
How important is it for your guys, because you talked about this even from the moment you got here, for players to have the ability to adjust and play different positions they need to? How important will that be for this group of five?
Hopefully we are not moving those guys around. Both Tony Adams and Garrett Bradbury can both play center, so if Joe is tired or needed a break, both of them can play center, so that is good. Bryce Kennedy is kind of a veteran, inside player, that is a backup that could be our sixth man inside. On the outside, Emanuel McGirt, red-shirted last year, is still getting stronger, but has gotten a lot better. Going to be our next top, or him and Peter Daniel are still working at that.
Really, trying to develop the next five right now I guess you would say, and we have got a freshman that I think is going to be unbelievable, name Kendall Brown. I think he is going to be special; has a 7-foot wingspan, and can really run. Once we getting stronger, he could be a really special tackle for us.
How a person handles handles adversity often says a lot about their character. What have you learned about what Will Richardson since he re-joined your football team?
I am really proud of Will. He went through a tough deal, and made a huge mistake obviously, and paid a big price, and had to spend a whole semester at home; away from us, away from school, his teammates. Came back this summer, jumped right into the mix with the Strength Staff, and they did a good job getting him back. He did a good job staying in shape, and he had a great Camp. I am really impressed with the way he is, and proud of him.
You're still waiting to name a starter for that game against William & Mary. Is there an ideal time when you would like to make that decision?
Yeah, when I know. It is a good problem right now, they are back and forth in practice, and one day Jalan McClendon will step up, and then the next day Ryan Finley steps up. You're just kind of waiting for one of them to outperform the other for an extended period. If it happens sooner than later, we will know. If it does not, we may have to play both until we find out on gameday who has got ice in their veins, I guess you would say. They are both working hard, and they are both very gifted.
Jakobi Meyers is a young guy, still waiting his turn. I know he missed some time with an ankle injury, I believe it was. How much did that set him back?
It set him back a lot. He missed almost the last half of Summer conditioning, then he missed the first two and a half weeks of Fall Camp it. He is back on the field, it is fun having him out there; I love the kid's ... just the spunk that he has, the passion he has. We just got to get him caught up now, he has missed a lot of time on the field. Very gifted guy, and there is a chance you could see him out there playing.
He wants to play; if he cannot play at quarterback, there's a lot of things he could do for us.
What would be one thing you would like to see from Ryan Finley, and one thing you would like to see you from Jalan McClendon over the next couple of weeks?
They both have different strengths, and they need to play to them. As a coach, you want to know what you get, what is going to happen. You do not like surprises, and you want to know. Ryan has certain things he is really good at, he needs to do those things all the time. Jalan is the same way. Just getting a consistent performance out of those two guys is the biggest thing, and then you will see where it separates.
Ryan Finley is the only guy in this offense that actually had to learn a new offense, he came with coach Drinkwitz, and that install started back in the spring. A lot goes into that; the words that they use on a play is different, the terminology changes. Play, formations, a lot of things change, so it is not an overnight process. How have the guys adapted to that, coach?
I will tell you, it is very player-friendly. It is not hard to learn; there is a lot of word association, it is not very wordy. Single words, or two words can mean a lot, and to me, that is a really good thing, because you can communicate quickly, and it means a lot of things. As a coach, I have had to learn a new offense as well, and it has been very simple for me to digest. There is a lot of terminology that just makes sense, and so far players that is one thing I challenged [Eli]. I said, "Go through everything we have done, look at the things that are similar, and try to keep names," so they do not have to learn something just for the sake of learning, it if that is possible, and he did that. I think the guys have grasped it very well, quickly.
Does it almost have to be that way because you are not huddling, and you are playing with that type of tempo?
It does; if you are going to play fast, you have to be able to communicate extremely fast. You do not have to have eight words, and slow down the process. One word can mean that the formation and the play. That is what you got to do if you want to go fast, and that helps your line, it helps your offense, so they cannot substitute as much. It wears them down, and all those things play into it.
It has been a while since we have seen Johnny Frasier, all the way back to the Spring game. What is something you are hoping to see from his upcoming season?
I hope I get to see his best, I have not seen that yet. He has gotten a lot better, and came in last your injured, and had to deal with a lot of things back home that kept him from practice. He has been here working out, and gone through training camp, and hopefully we can keep him steady and focused. Sometimes when you come from a really small town, and you are that guy that has been on the pedestal for four years, it is hard to adjust. He has gone through that, and he still is. He has got a good future ahead of him, if we can just get him to settle in.
Matt Dayes is pretty good - it's funny, everyone asks me about Johnny; the guy that you want to talk about is Matt. That is the one that, in my opinion, is one of the best running backs in college football right now.
You have to ask the question, what might have been had Matt Dayes not gotten hurt? I mean he was so good.
He is special. The way that he can run, the way that he blocks, the way that he catches, the way that he works, the way he treats people - he is a special guy. He is set up to have a great season, so I'm really excited to watch him. I've told Johnny that, I said, "You are competing to get the ball, and the guy in front of you might be the best in the country. If you are not out, there don't be disappointed; just understand who you are standing behind, and work hard so that when your time comes, you are ready."
Here are some numbers: Pack rushed for 2,659 two years ago - that was the fourth best total in school history. Then came back last year, the fifth best performance, with 2,627 yards. No matter what kind of offense you are running here coach, will running the football still have to be a top priority?
Yeah, I believe in scoring a lot of points, I believe in being balanced. I believe in running the ball when you want to be able to run the ball, and if that is what we need to do to win a game, we are going to run it a ton. We will be able to throw the ball more than we have because of the route concepts, and the screens. Some of those things are like runs: we just get it out in space to a guy and let him go. We have got good backs, and we would be silly to ignore that fact, with what we do.
We know about Jaylen Samuels, but who else will be able to help at the tight end position?
Cole Cook is back for his third year; we call him our blocking tight end, I guess you would say. Cole is out one of our best leaders, hardest workers, very experienced player. He has played in a lot of games for us now; he has played in every game since he has been here. He has got 26 games behind him, and he is up to 250 pounds, 6'5". He understands everything that Coach Faulkner wants out of that position room, and he is a great leader with those guys.
Pharoah McKever we moved to tight end, and has gotten better. He has always been a talented guy, but has gotten better, and understands his role now.
Thaddeus Moss may or may not play as a freshman we are not sure, be he is a really talented young guy as well.
One of the young guys I put on scholarship the other night, Clark Eyers, is a senior walk-on that has helped us quite a bit in his role. That group has a lot of good players, a lot of versatility in the room. Obviously, Jay Sam is kind of a unique guy.
A fan wants to know about the placekicking competition, and how that is going?
It is ongoing. Kyle Bambard has really worked hard, gotten a lot better. He got hurt in the Spring, so he is totally healthy and kicking the ball well. He kicked a 59-yarder in practice the other day, so that was fun to see.
Connor Haskins, he transferred in here, very accurate young man, and competitive. He has not done it in the big stadiums, but he has done it. He was a kicker for 3 years at Pembroke, and excited about the competition. Again, just like the quarterback spot, we have two good players there, so we will see how it comes out. Tomorrow will be a big day, we are going light rush those guys and put some pressure on them, and see how they respond.
You have got a punt returner and a kick returner that are not only good, they are the best in the country. To be able to have that coming back, and to have that as a weapon in your toolbox, how important is that for you?
It is field position, and sometimes it is points. Bra'lon and Nyheim both change the field for us, and the shorter the field is for our offense, the more points they are going to score. Statistically, if you cross the 50, you are almost 66% chance of scoring, and those guys can do that a lot. Bra'Lon last year would have been top 3 in the nation if he did not have one called back, so he had a heck of a season, and we are looking forward to watching him. He was the one of the most consistent players in the Fall Camp; he had a really good game.
Not only do you have one of the best kick returners in the country in Nyheim Hines, you also have one of the fastest players in the country as well. How has he adjusted to those receiving skills?
To be a two-time All-American as a freshman in two sports is pretty spectacular, and he is doing really well in school. He is playing running back and receiver, doing both. I still think his strength is as a runner, because he has just done it longer. The ins-and-outs of being a receiver, there's a lot of nuances to running routes that he is still getting better at.
The beauty of it is he works really hard at it. He will help us in a variety of ways, and he looks forward to that. That is how he sees himself, is as a guy who can play in multiple places.