"Obviously, we felt like that our team last week against Clemson played one of the better games that we've been able to play completely in all three phases. It was going to take all three phases to win the game that we had a tremendous amount of respect for Clemson. We had to play well special teams-wise. One of the major keys was not turning the ball over offensively. Being opportunistic against a very good defense. Defensively, with the exception of one play, we really tried to play hard enough that we wouldn't give up any big plays. Unfortunately, we did give up one, but we were able to survive it.
"As we move forward and look at Virginia, I've got a lot of respect for the way that they played this year. You turn on the film, and instantly they've got great credibility because they were in a position to win the game in Los Angeles against Cal. They played very, very good against a very good team in a very good program. Obviously, they're is a schematic change defensively and offensively from previous years. They're utilizing their personnel very, very well. They've got a very good running game and a big offensive line. Going to a 4-3 defense, they're going to be able to put up one of the biggest defensive lines that we'll probably play against this entire season. Bunch of kids that are 6'6", 6'7", 285, 290 pounds. They're a good football team, and our kids will have to play hard and well to give us a chance to win the game."
What is it about Johnny White that has enabled him to play so many different positions for you? I assume his overall athletic ability is a good part of it. But also, why has he settled in at tailback? Was that just where your creative scheme was?
"Well, when we got here in 2007, certainly Johnny as he has proven is a good athlete. That's a very good assessment on your part. He's got the speed. In trying to find a way to get all of the best athletes on the field at the same time instead of just having three or four good running backs and you're not very good in some other areas, it doesn't make sense to kind of stockpile. At the time we were looking for some speed in the secondary. We were looking for corners. We thought maybe that might be his niche. He might be just because of the speed he's exhibited offensively. He's a very good strong kid. He would be a good tackler at the corner position. Then obviously out of necessity when Hakeem Nicks, and Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster, when those guys, we didn't want to put them at receiver, because we had three good receivers at the time, so that was a logical choice.
"Then after graduation, the thought was he was an offensive player in high school. Let's give him a shot at wide receiver. See if there are things can he do there. In retrospect, looking back at it, we probably should have left him at running back the entire time. But we had Ryan Houston who was doing really pretty good. Anthony Elzy who was doing pretty good. And Shaun Draughn, and Johnny, and it just didn't make sense. So we thought Ryan can't be a wide receiver or defensive back. So it was just kind of odd man out. Fortunately, we were smart enough to wake up and put him back because he's played extraordinarily well. He's been an inspiration and having a very good season."
With the skills White has as a receiver coming out of the back field, you certainly are using those to your advantage. What kind of pressure do you feel like that puts on the opposing defenses?
"We hope it's part of the entire offensive package. If you've followed some of the comment that's I've made over the last couple of years. The best offenses that I've ever been around have not been defined by one single individual. Whether it's a great tailback or whether it's a great wide receiver or great tight end, the only way that people truly can respect your offense is if they are concerned that each of those positions can cause them problems. It's too easy to potentially, if it's just a great running back all by himself, they get eight and nine-man fronts, they can't run the ball. If you don't have a good tight end, your wide receivers are always seeing double coverage. So there is a whole logic that goes into it.
"But I think that certainly every kid wants to be the complete player. Receivers want to catch balls and they also want to be good blockers. Well, running backs are the same thing. Some of the ones that I had at Miami, and certainly the privilege of coaching on the coaching staff with Emmitt Smith was not only were they all good runners, but they could catch the ball out of the back field because that adds to the things, their versatility in the ways they can certainly help the offense."
Understanding that you've only been up there once, is there any rhyme or reason why one school can dominate another one at the home field? It's been since 1981 since you guys have won in Charlottesville. Is there any common theme or rhyme or reason why something like that can happen?
"I don't know. Not having had the privilege of being a part of any of those previous experiences of going up there since I've been the head coach here. We've gone up there a couple of times. Some years you don't win because you don't have enough talent. Some years you don't win because maybe you make mistakes or whatever. So I'm not privileged to the entire history. I just know that every game whether you're playing on the road or at home, is a new game for that particular season.
"What transpired ten years ago shouldn't have any relevance on the game you're going to play this particular Saturday. You've still got to practice well, prepare well, give your kids a good plan, stay healthy and go in and execute. That obviously is the important part of having some success some place."
Compared to some of the other places you've brought teams, how difficult of a place is it to play in Scott Stadium?
"Well, the two previous times, obviously, they had good crowds. Or the one time they had a really good crowd. Their stadium is completely enclosed. So the noise factor kind of stays inside of it as opposed to some stadiums. So there is that particular element of it. My experience with Virginia, I've coached against them three times at Carolina, and once at the University of Miami, and they've always had big prayers. They've always been defined by big offensive, and defensive lines, and athletic secondary guys with Ronde Barber and Tiki Barber back in the '90s when we played against them. They kind of look like there is a mold of types of players that they've recruited. It doesn't look like it's changed even though it's gone from Coach Welsh to Al Groh, to now Coach London. So they all look somewhat similar, and that's probably got a lot to do with it."
Could you talk about T.J. Yates' improvement maybe from last year to this year, or even throughout his career?
"I think probably the one single biggest factor, certainly, is experience and poise of having been in games and big, meaningful games. I think that every quarterback goes through a certain period of time where they're young, they're inexperienced. They're a little bit cautious. I know when T.J. was a red shirt freshman, he wanted to try to play to not lose the game, and to play well. He had a fairly good season for a red-shirt freshman. The more confidence, the more he played, he started to take maybe some liberties and make some throws. Thinking that he could maybe manufacture some things. There's probably a certain growth that all quarterbacks go through some of that where they're not as protective and cautious with the ball.
"From last year to this year, his understanding of our offense and what it takes to be successful is evidence of the last two games, no turnovers, and realizing how critical and important that is. Distributing the ball, he's played very well. I would say that probably a second thing has been the fact that for the first time in his career, he's really had kind of a consecutive 15, 16, 17 months of health. You cannot underestimate for any position whether it's quarterback or any of the others, how important it is to go through an off-season where you can lift, and can you get bigger and stronger and quicker. And you can go through spring practice with the fractured ankle that he had and missed seven weeks, then with the shoulder surgery, I think those two things really kind of somewhat limited his ability to improve himself personally."
Some time has passed since Monday. What is the reaction you've seen from your players to the dismissals of the other three players? I'm sure they were at least hopeful those guys would get it back this year.
"I don't know. I think that we had a good practice yesterday in meetings and stuff. I think in some respects, some things haven't changed, because they weren't able to play in the previous five games. You know, I have to believe that all of those kids in the locker room, they're good friends. They've shared an awful lot of good times and bad times and things. I'm sure that they're probably disappointed for those guys. But I think that they certainly recognize since prior to the LSU game, that the team that we're playing with, because it's the message that I have kind of prepared from ten days before the LSU game. This is potentially the team that we're going to play the next 12 games with, so prepare yourself as if that's the way it is. And I don't think much has changed."
Have you mentioned the losing streak in Charlottesville at all? Has any of that bothered you enough to use as motivation for your team?
"Not really. I don't know that I've ever really tried to play upon those kinds of things. Whether or not what is the win/loss percentage against Clemson from last week? What is the last time Carolina played Clemson? None of that stuff makes any difference. It's the game that you're preparing to play that week, and the opponent that you're playing against. All the thing that's you're going to give you a chance to win are the things that you have to focus on."
The announcement this week about those three players, is there any sense of closure now that you feel? Or is it still sort of that sense of dread that it's far from over?
"I think that Mr. Baddour on Monday kind of alluded to the fact that as painful as this was, and as disappointing as this was, it does move us closer to closure. A lot of the speculation, and a lot of the kids that have been involved in some of this review. A lot of it has already been resolved. Certainly kids are back playing, and some of the outcome of whether or not they're going to play has been resolved. Then with these three kids, it does move us considerably closer. I don't know a particular timeframe, but I know that Mr. Baddour is optimistic that we are getting close to the final decisions on all the players that have been affected by this, and hopefully that will happen pretty soon."
Have you heard anything from the NCAA regarding the possibility of vacating any wins that Devon Ramsay played in?
"We have not at all."