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How much credibility does it lend to your coaching staff to have this level of success after two years?
"Basically when I took the job, we pretty much said that it was going to be a work in progress and every year we hoped to make some strides and get better. Certainly, some of it comes as a result of recruiting and certainly, some of it comes as a result of the players putting a tremendous amount into it and growing and getting better. Not only in the offseason strength and conditioning programs, but certainly during the fundamentals of working [in the season]. But going 8-4 this year [and] qualifying for a bowl game – I think that we're moving the meter in the right direction."
On Mark Paschal:
"You can't say enough great things about Mark. He's a team captain and he played extremely well on the field, but he also provided great leadership. We kind of made him a quality control assistant coach during the last game of the season, and he's undefeated. He's 1-0. I told him, ‘Your whole coaching career is on the line getting ready for this next ball game.'"
On the health status of Brooks Foster, Anthony Elzy and Zack Pianalto:
"They're working back in on a limited type of basis. Some of them are doing a little bit more, but all of them are back out there doing something. As the week goes along, we'll get a better and clearer picture near the end of the week as to whether or not we think any of those guys will have a chance to play in the game."
How do you feel about what you're getting accomplished in practice?
"I think that the practices have gone very well. They're spirited. As I said the other day, I'm not sure whether they're happier to be back practicing in football or happier that finals are over with and they don't have to go to class anymore. I think it's a toss up as to which one of those is the most important thing. But I think they enjoy it, and I think that they realize that this is a great opportunity for the football team – a chance to win nine games this season."
Are there any specific areas of improvement that you're concentrating on with your team?
"One of the things that you to do, certainly in bowl preparation, is that your opponent gets an opportunity to look at your entire season as a body of work. And anything that you probably had some issues with, whether it was in special teams, offense, defense, blitz protection [or] certain types of runs, you have a real good chance that they're going to try to exploit that against you. So obviously, we're taking some time to make sure that shore up a lot of those kinds of things. And then, we're trying to grow. This gives us an extra 10 or 12 practices, and it gives us a chance to make some improvements on our football team."
How much do you use this time on bowl preparation, and how much do you use it as an extended spring practice?
"I would say that probably 75-80 percent of the practice time is devoted almost exclusively to the game. It's a very important game. We want to play well. But I will have to tell you that probably another 15-20 percent of it, we're spending on the young kids… We finished today's practice with an 18-play scrimmage with all of our young players – all of our freshmen and red-shirt freshmen. And we'll probably do that again, at least one more time, this week. And then certainly, when we get down to Charlotte, it will be exclusively about West Virginia."
Have you faced anyone this year like WVU quarterback Pat White?
"No, probably not. He is an electrifying athlete. Just watching his film and the games that we've been able to catch on television over the last two years, he executes the read-option offense about as well as anybody you've ever seen. He explodes out of breaks. The thing I think makes him equally as dangerous is that he can throw the football very, very well. He's got a great supporting cast. Noel Devine is certainly a very explosive athlete that can score from anywhere on the field."
Any similarities between White and N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson?
"Yes, I think there are a lot of similarities. They're both very athletic. They threaten the edge of the defense extremely well [and] they can extend plays. One of the great things about a lot of great athletes that are playing quarterback is their ability to keep plays alive. When protections break down, they've got a chance to manufacture something and he certainly shares that with Russell Wilson."
What's your reaction to the expansion changes that include one additional story on the football center and moving the luxury suites over to the media box?
"A lot of that had to do with zoning codes and insurance. And to get a lot of that stuff passed would have probably delayed the beginning of the project anywhere from 30 to maybe 90 days, and that would have threatened the completion, of making sure that it was totally done by the start of the 2009 season. We've already got an emergency plan in place.
"We've got to be out of the building by February 1 [and] we'll have temporary offices in the Pope box for probably the better part of three-and-a-half to four months in the spring time. But it's exciting. They're going to totally re-fit the entire building [and] add a fifth floor. It, along with the football team this year, shows significant progress…
"What you're going to see is that we've got so many important people in this building that have had to really share an awful lot of office space. It's going to create a lot of space for a lot of very important people here."
After 4-8 last year, is this realistically what you expected for this year?
"When you look back at it, like last season, you bemoan the fact that you missed some opportunities for some very, very close games. We had some games that we just lost for two or three points. You hate to look at maybe what could have been, but certainly 8-4 is something to be… We're proud of that. I think the kids played extremely hard. We really suffered some pretty significant injuries in the second half of the season."