"It's an opportunity to play an ACC game. I think our kids are excited about it. I think our coaching staff did a good job of really trying to get our players to take a long, hard look at the way we played last week, the thing that we did well, the things that we need to continue to improve on, and I thought that we had a real good start to the week yesterday in practice. I think our kids are looking forward to the challenge."
You must obviously be disappointed with how that game started against William & Mary. What turned that around and what do you take from that game now that it's over and you can talk to the team about it?
"Well, I mean, certainly one of the things, and we've talked about it many times, is that you can't expect to win games if you're not going to win the turnover battle. That's the single biggest statistical thing that certainly contributes to the success or failure of your football team. We've got to protect the football and we've got to try to create turnovers.
"The other part of it was the nature of which William & Mary was really, really -- and we recognized this before the game, that they were very, very fundamentally sound. They weren't going to beat themselves. They were going to make you go the long, hard way. They weren't going to give up big, explosive plays, which certainly even maximizes more the opportunities. We only got four possessions in the first half, and one of those I think we fumbled on a kickoff.
"So subsequently when you're minimizing the number of possessions, I mean, it really maximizes how you've got to be efficient and you've got to score. You look at the three touchdowns that we scored, I mean, they were all basically over 70-, 75-, 80-yard drives, and they weren't easy. I mean, it was a long, hard way to go at three, four, five yards a clip because of them not allowing us to get big, explosive plays that we had gotten in previous ballgames where we had had more success.
"We had to be a lot more efficient on 3rd down and 4th down offensively, and I think that in the first half we didn't get as much pressure on the quarterback as we did in the second half, and I think that sort of helped put them behind the down-and-distance situations. I think we held them to 51 yards rushing, which certainly helped, because then it made it a one-dimension attack."
I know that one of the challenges as a head coach is to try get your team to prepare each and every week the same way, but I know that's sometimes hard to get them to watch as much film for each game. I can't imagine that's a problem this week.
"No, I wouldn't think so. I think that you really want your kids -- and you've heard us say this all the time, that I would love for our football players, and sometimes older, more experienced players, and we've obviously lost a lot of those guys, they've heard it said when they were freshmen and sophomores and seniors, how important it is that the opponent is insignificant, that it's more about you, it's more about how you practice, how you prepare and then how you play. And when you're playing a lot of young kids, some of the freshmen that we're playing, some of the red-shirt freshmen that we're playing, they haven't had the benefit of hearing those messages that it's not really about the opponent, it's about us.
"And hopefully games like last weekend can kind of solidify in some of those young kids' minds that now I understand why coach really wants guys to come in during our free time and watch 30 minutes or an hour each day or find some time to get together with positional groups and spend some time looking at cut-ups, talking about scouting reports and looking at same tapes and stuff because the better prepared you are, the more confident you are and the better you're going to play on Saturday."
It seemed like this past Saturday that it was going to -- you were at the beginning of a six- or seven-day period of trying to figure out exactly what you were going to do in nickel and dime packages. Are you moving players around for this game?
"Well, we're experimenting with it. Obviously the limitations is there's a lot of people we'd like to experiment with, they can't play, either because of suspensions and/or injuries. So it has really minimized some of the things that we can do. So we're taking a look at some things and seeing if there's some guys that maybe need to play more, and can we move anybody around. But there's only so many moves that you can make within a season, and we're getting close to where there's not many moves left."
You're kind of touching on the same topic that I was talking about or that I'm going to ask you about. Is the importance of depth, particularly when you get to this point in a season, how critical is it when you get to November to have good depth?
"Well, I think depth throughout the season is critically important all the time, and obviously people sometimes can understand, sometimes they can appreciate depleted depth on game day. Very few people can understand how that impacts you during the course of the week as far as your preparation, that when your freshmen and red-shirt freshmen become either starters or significant contributors, they no longer are able to perform and help you on scout teams and give you looks during the course of the week.
"And so the quality of your practices sometimes can diminish. That's one of the things that we've totally changed our entire practice format this week, and we'll do it for the remainder of the season just because of that, to where we're going to practice more against ourselves so that it doesn't -- last week we learned a little bit of a lesson to be honest with you, that the first full-speed, the first live things that some of our defensive kids and some of our offensive kids saw all last week was at a speed and a level that you're going to have to play at on Saturday didn't come until Saturday. So we've kind of changed our format a little bit, and we're practicing a little bit different for the remainder of the season."
So it's more ones against ones?
" Yeah, or your ones and twos against each other just so that your secondary guys get a chance to cover guys that have got speed, that can run routes and give them a reasonable facsimile of the tempo and the speed that the game is going to be played with on Saturday."
When you're looking to move kids around into different positions, what are the things that you look for? Do you look at positions they've played in the past or whether you've got a surplus at another position?
"That's a great question, and I will tell you that one of the things that I've always had a huge appreciation for and really kind of looked at in recruiting, and it starts before you get pushed -- before your feet get put to the fire, is in high school if you can recruit kids that are really, really good athletes, and we did this multiple times at the University of Miami, guys like D.J. Williams that played fullback one year and then he becomes a first-round draft choice at linebacker, Dan Morgan was a running back in high school, and I can go through a long litany of guys. But if you recruit kids that are multi-athletes, they play basketball, they run track, they play football, it gives you a little bit of versatility within your roster that if injuries occur or something happens that you can flip a kid over.
"I mean, in our own case, Deunta Williams is a great example of that, we had Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster, and it was like, ‘Deunta, we've got three unbelievably talented receivers and you might could be the backup, and it may take a couple years, but if you'll move as a freshman, if you'll come over and play safety, you're going to get a chance to play.' And he was a good athlete, so he's a good example of that. "I didn't recruit Kendric [Burney], but obviously Kendric I think in high school played a little bit of quarterback and now he's playing corner. So your answer to your question is good athletes give you the versatility and the flexibility to be able to move some kids around, and then did they have any kind of previous prior experience to actually doing that.
"And this year when we moved Greg Elleby from offensive line back to the defensive line, it was only because it was his first year that's what he played, and it allowed us to do that."
Schematically to make up for the lack of corners and change some things, how you do them in nickel and dime package, or is it pretty much what you see is what you get?
"Well, I mean, at this stage of the season we only get six hours -- we basically practice for six hours a week. You get two hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and when you take out all the meetings and stuff like that, with a month left to go, to think that you're going to flip somebody over and make a corner out of them, it's a little bit of a pipe dream. I mean, you've got to hopefully have enough depth to with stand that throughout the course of the season. And hopefully we'll get some of these kids back. Hopefully some of the injuries that they've suffered and missed playing time last week or the week before hopefully maybe we'll get a couple of these guys back, and it won't be as difficult of a situation as it could be."
Do you think you may get a Tre Boston or Mywan Jackson back for this weekend?
"Well, we'll see. They went to practice yesterday, and each day kids, they're young, they heal, they get more treatment and they move along, and we're optimistic or hopeful that those kids will respond to it and be able to play this Saturday."
In terms of you mentioned the focusing on improvement this week. Other than the turnover thing, what's kind of the big focus that you are kind of trying to improve upon for next week?
"Obviously, one of the things was a little bit better identification of some of the pressure packages that William & Mary brought. We looked at all their previous games and they had not brought anywhere near the volume of things that they tried to do, so obviously recognition of those kinds of things and being a little bit quicker to adjust during the course of the ballgame.
"Obviously, this week against Florida State, they've got a lot of the same concepts. They're a four-man defensive line, they can heat it up on you, they can bring nickel blitzes, they can bring standard regular personnel blitzes and stuff, and they've divulged through the course of their season a lot more about what they can potentially do because of the challenges of who they've played and the games that they've been in. So hopefully we're a little bit more efficient on some of those things because you've got to protect the quarterback."