ACC Kickoff: The Players, Part I

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Riley Skinner, C.J. Spiller, and Chris Turner talk about the 2009 ACC season.

Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (QB)

Do you think, with the losses that this defense has suffered that this offense will be high-powered enough to carry this team?

I hope so. I really, truly believe that we have the ability to put a lot of points on the board. We have guys who can change games--they can do that in practice--but it's going to be a matter of if they can do that in the games under the lights, in front of 70,000 people. I think we still have some kinks to work out, but I like the direction our team is headed in right now with our work ethic. We have a good shot to be a pretty good offense. We just have to keep working this summer and really bust it during camp.

Are you going to go totally basic, or are you going to retain some things [from the offense you used last year early]?

When you have Coach Lobo as an offensive coordinator, you are always going to have something different. I would love to tell you, but I don't even know myself. That is one thing I like playing for Coach Lobo--he is always thinking of something [else] and never gets complacent with what we are doing. I think he is just trying to mix everything we have been doing these last couple of years into an offensive scheme that we are comfortable with and will be able to pick up quick and play loose. If you throw too much on everybody, you play tentative and thinking about what you are doing without playing to your ability. Coach Lobo is able to simplify our offense a lot and help our players understand where to be and when to be there.

After so much success early on in your career, is it going to be sort of anti-climactic this season? You achieved so much so early that maybe fans expect it every single year and no matter what you do is going to be disappointing.

I never thought of it that way. That's a good question. It hasn't felt anti-climactic being able to go to three straight bowls. Doing things this program has never done before is always really neat to be a part of. It's somewhat disappointing going from 10 wins to eight wins this year. We knew we were better than that, and I think it has really fueled our senior class to be a part of that whole run. I think everybody's experienced what it takes to be at the top and what happened when you start to slip, and that will really help us out this year to take things one game at a time.

It's almost as if there was nowhere to go but down other than winning the national championship.

That's true, but that's just the way it worked out. I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was an unbelievable year, and it has been an unbelievable ride these last two years. Hopefully, we can go back up that road where we were my freshman year and end up back in Tampa and Miami. I think we have the talent and the ability to do that. We play in a conference where [every week is] going to be a battle until the fourth quarter. We just have to stay healthy, stay consistent, and try to stay together.

C.J. Spiller, Clemson (RB)

If you had to put your finger on it, what is the biggest difference in the football program at Clemson today and a year ago before you played Alabama? What has changed with Coach Swinney?

I think the mentality of the team has changed, really. Guys are more focused. Guys have really bought into what we are trying to do--what we are trying to accomplish as a team. I have seen this off-season that guys have been working hard, getting everybody prepared, eating healthy. That has really been the biggest difference.

How tough was it--you didn't just lose to Alabama last year, they dominated you?

It was a tough pill to swallow. You had that next day to think about that loss you just [suffered] on national television. We had so much hype going into that game. That just goes to show that you have to be prepared every Saturday to go out and compete. As a team we were kind of shell-shocked because we weren't really prepared. Nobody was really giving Alabama a shot, and they took that to heart and came out and hit us in the mouth. We kind of learned a lesson from that to prepare the best way you can every game, no matter who you are playing against, to go out and be successful.

How much of that game was on you guys?

We had so much hype going into that game that I think we kind of lost focus of what was at hand and really didn't prepare the way we were supposed to. It showed when they came out and hit us in the mouth.

It's hard to ignore that.

Oh, yeah. I always remind my guys of all the losses we have received--this is what happens when you don't prepare well. You lose games, you get embarrassed on national T.V.

How are you guys beyond that now?

Because we have more leadership. Year-in and year-out you have leadership, but this year this team is so much closer than in the past since I've been there, and our guys are really taking to hear what we are trying to accomplish as a team.

You, yourself, have to keep focused as well. You are projected as an NFL back. How do you stay focused?

I just stay humble throughout the whole thing and just work hard to show my teammates that I'm not worried about that other extra stuff, that I'm training hard with them to get ready for this season, doing everything I can both on and off the field so we can be successful.

Chris Turner, Maryland (QB)

Do you think you can surprise some people this year?

When you are picked low you can surprise some people, so yeah, I think we can be a surprise. We are a very talented team, we are a young team, and that sort of stands out on paper. But youth doesn't necessarily mean you are an inferior team. If we execute the offense the way we are capable, if we play to our abilities, we have a chance to have a very good year.

How can your personnel catch people?

In a sense we are fortunate because we might be the underdog in some games. How many times have you seen an underdog catch a bigger team off-guard?

Do I feel like an underdog? No, I feel like we are just as competitive as any team in the ACC. I think, with the team we have, we have a little bit more to prove. There will be some growing pains along the way--naturally, that will happen--but if we can steady ourselves as a team and ride out the tough waves, I think we can be very successful.

What about your offensive line?

Obviously, we lost all our seniors, and all those seniors came from the offensive line so we have a lot of young players. [Our seniors] were very experienced, were very good players and we had younger guys who are going to have to step it up. They have to learn very quickly how to play at a very high level, and they are more than capable. They are very talented kids--they are young, but they are going to have good careers. They are being thrown into the fire early.

If, by September, you say, 'If we can get "X" together, we can be good,' what is that?

Going into the season, we have identified a lot of our strengths and weaknesses. It sounds funny, but going into the season, our passing attack should be one of our strengths. If we get that going early on, the O-line gets comfortable, and we get our running game going, we can have a balanced attack, and it will be great for us. Who knows, maybe our running game will be whipping our passing, but right now we have good receivers, and if I can get them the ball in two-three seconds, that should alleviate some of the growing pains.

The ACC doesn't get the credit some of the other conferences get. How do you think it measures up this year?

The way I feel--and I'm biased--look at the SEC and they have Heisman winners and national champions, this and that, but in the ACC there is a lot of parity. Some people might interpret that as a lack of competition, but I see a lot of really good teams and good players. This league has a lot of really good defenses. I try not to buy into comparing conferences because every conference is different. I think the ACC is a very good conference.


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