Kickoff: Part I -- ACC Player Quotables

HOT SPRINGS, VA -- Several players met the media during this weekend's ACC Football Kickoff. Here's a sampler of what they had to say.

Clemson Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst

On last season:
If we could've figured out what was happening (offensively) last year, we could've turned it around. I don't think we ever did. I don't think anyone on the offense was very good. Nobody had a big year for us. That was pretty obvious on my part. No position really stood out. This year, I think it will happen. We're a little more experienced at some vital positions. We've been through the ups and downs and we know how to handle just about every situation. Of course we're extremely hungry, coming off a bad year.

I appreciate Coach Bowden taking responsibility for my struggles last season. But I think everybody needs to take responsibility. He does, I do, and everyone on the offense does. It's a team effort. We took it as a learning experience and now we just need to move forward. We need to store it in the back of our brain so it doesn't happen again. You have to move forward, and I think we are.

Clemson Cornerback Tye Hill

On what's new with this year's defense:
This year will be more zone oriented. Last year was more press-man coverage, but we're going to have a totally different defense this year.

On why he switched from running back to cornerback two years ago:
I wanted to continue running track and if I would have stayed at running back, I would've had to put on some weight. I enjoy track, but I'm not sure how much more track I will run. It depends on how the football season goes this year.

On Georgia Tech sophomore receiver Calvin Johnson:
I was very impressed by the way he played. He showed the ability to stay composed under pressure. We didn't know anything about him last year. He wasn't on the scouting report and we went into that game blind. We know about him now. His name will be highlighted everywhere on this year's scouting report. We'll probably have arrows pointing every which way at him. I'll probably know his favorite movie by kickoff.

Florida State Running Back Leon Washington

Who is the best player you have played against while at FSU?
I thought (former NC State QB) Phillip Rivers was awesome. He was extremely competitive. He does anything to win.

What has been the highlight or greatest moment of your FSU career?
I've got several of them. Obviously, the NC State game when we won in overtime, that was big. Beating Chuck Amato my freshman year, beating Florida as a freshman and doing pretty well. I would say though, the Clemson game, when I returned that kick. I think that was a big momentum changer in that game. It was a Thursday night game, it was alive and it was the most fun game I've ever had.

Florida State Defensive End Kamerion Wimbley

Who is the most versatile player on the team?
I would have to say either Willie Reid or Leon Washington. They can both do punt returns. They can both play running back and catch. Willie Reid can do a lot of things. He actually plays wide receiver but he did play running back.

Who is the best player you have played against while at FSU?
On our team, I'd say Todd Williams. On another team, I would say D'Brickashaw Ferguson (Virginia). He's not very big but he's real rangy, real long and hard to get around.

UNC Linebacker Tommy Richardson

On the rivalries with Duke and NC State:
We always get up for both teams, and they always get up for us. I mean, you can't overlook one or the other. You know, both of them are intense rivals for us. It's going to be fun playing both of those guys. Unfortunately, we go to NC State this year.

Did the referees get the call right at the NC State game?
Umm, I'm not sure what happened at the NC State game. It was a judgement call, and judgement was made. I'm glad about the outcome.

We're you lucky to win the N.C. State game last year?
What happened happened. It's going to be fun. It happens in football – the luck of the drop. We're prepared to be lucky. It's where opportunity meets preparation. Even if we lose that game, I think we might have had more incentive to beat Virginia Tech.

Who is the toughest player to tackle in the league?
They're all kind of slippery. Mike Emoh, he's the slipperiest one.

UNC Quarterback Matt Baker

Watching from the sidelines, what were some of the toughest defenses you saw last year?
Teams like Louisville and Utah were some of the toughest defenses to prepare for. They use complicated systems and complicated game plans. Although from top to bottom they're not as good overall as Miami or Florida State, but Miami and Florida State are a little more simple in terms of them having all those athletes, so they don't have to have a complicated defense, they can beat people, and they can still get the job done, whereas at some other schools they will change defenses and surprise people. Those are the tough teams to prepare for.

On Carolina's chances:
Anything can happen. You saw we beat Miami last year. We just missed putting Virginia Tech into overtime by just that much - a sack and about a yard. I mean, you can beat anyone. We don't have the most talented team on the field - I'll be the first one to admit that to you. I guarantee you nobody's worked harder than we have this summer. If we put something together, we could win a lot of games.

Virginia Tech Defensive End Darryl Tapp

On comparisons to NC State defensive end Mario Williams and Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka:
I think I'm alright. I think I work hard, being compared to those guys, it's a great honor, but, it really doesn't mean anything unless I improve upon that.

As a former expansion team, what could you tell Boston College to help them coming into the ACC?
To have fun. I wouldn't tell them anything! They're the competition.

Do all the new quarterbacks starting in the league have defensive guys like you licking their chops?
Just a little bit, but there's nothing more feared than the unknown. The only thing that we really pretty much know about is UVA. Marques Hagans, you know, he's an animal. But now you gotta worry about what Florida State's gonna do, all they're talent out there and who they're gonna have behind the center, you gotta worry about how NC State's gonna rebound from last year, and Clemson, and all those guys - they have a lot of people that can make plays, they just gotta get their confidence, and that can make a season.

What did you learn from last year's loss to NC State, and how are preparing this year?
We have to be focused the entire game, in all aspects of the game, special teams, offense, and defense. They're a great team, we have to work every time, we can't take anything for granted.

Virginia Tech Tight End Jeff King

On other good tight ends in the ACC:
There's a lot of good tight ends, [Greg] Olsen at Miami, Williams at NC State is a very good tight end, and the guy at Maryland is really good, and there are a couple of good young tight ends over at UVA, so there is a lot of really good talent at tight end in the league.

Is there an element of revenge to your opener against NC State?
Definitely. They gave us fits, they made us look pretty bad. So we're preparing every day for the number one defense in the nation.

Duke defensive end Phillip Alexander

On the ACC Kickoff:
It's a great chance to come out here and relax and hang out with the other players in the league. You get to put a face with the number and the name on the back of the jersey and see what kind of person they are.

Will you miss playing NC State?
Yeah, because we've had some wars, we've had some wars in the past. We're going to miss playing Maryland, too.

Duke Tight End Andy Roland

Will you miss playing NC State?
Yeah I'm going to miss playing them, for the last three years when we've played them they've been great games, close games, for the most part. And having two schools in such close proximity makes for a great fan turnout, so I enjoyed it.

How do you feel about Boston College joining the ACC?
Boston College is a great school, it's a great university. They've had some really good programs. It helps us that they're in the league, at the same time we feel we can be competitive with them. It only helps to play teams like that.

UVA Quarterback Marques Hagans

Which defenses in the league give you the most trouble?
All of them are good, but Florida State, you know, they bring it every year, every week, and they have exceptional players, and Miami, and that team down in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech, I can't lie, as much as I don't like to say, they got a good defense. Georgia Tech, they got a good defense too.

How tough was last season for you guys?
It's always tough when you lose the last game of the season. That was like detrimental to us though, that hurt, that hurt a lot.

UVA Defensive End Brennan Schmidt

Is your coach, Al Groh, overrated?
I don't think he's overrated at all. He runs a great program and I'm proud to be a part of it. He carries a lot of things back to us from his NFL experience. You get a real sense of that. He does a great job of leading us and getting us ready for the next game.

What happened in the big games last year, after you dominated teams in the middle of the conference?
I think it was just giving in to the situation and pressure. We were right there with Miami and Tech, they did more than us to win games. We didn't do all the things we needed to do to win. You just have to be ready and to focus on the little things you need to do to win at each position.

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