ACC Kickoff: The Players, Part II

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Christian Ponder, Thaddeus Lewis and Greg Boone discuss the 2009 season.

Christian Ponder, Florida State (QB)

Do you feel any responsibility to usher out Bobby Bowden on a positive note, whether it be this year or next year?

Kind of, but I don't really put a lot of pressure on myself to do that. I think already the team has a lot of potential to have a great year in the next year or two. But it would be nice to send him out on a high note at the end of his career. We don't really dwell on it. Hopefully, things will fall in place.

What is it like starting off the season with Miami?

We definitely love it. Miami is always one of the greatest that we look for. It's definitely one of the top games every year on the schedule, and guys are always motivated to play that game. To have it as the first game keeps guys motivated through the off-season, and once two-a-days start, it keeps guys focused knowing that first game is right around the corner and it is a big one. We like it.

How much talk is there about that game?

There is always talk about it, no matter if it is the first game or the fifth game. There is always talk about it; it's something that we are always excited about and motivated for. Guys realize that we have a great opportunity. It's national television on Monday night, the only game being shown that night. It's a great opportunity to show what we've got.

Is the whole debate about the 14 wins [being stricken from Coach Bowden's record] a distraction for the team?

I don't think it is. For us as a football team, all we are worried about is winning games. Coach Bowden, we know that he could [not] really care less. The administration is handling all that stuff. The past is the past, you can't change it. We are not worried about it. We are not focused on it. We just want to win some games.

It happened. You can't change it. We are not the people who are dealing with it. It is the administration. We can use it as fire to keep us motivated to change things around and change the perception of the program, but it is not a distraction.

Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (QB)

Is Duke upgrading the stadium this year?

Yes, I think the bathrooms are almost ready, we have a new track this year, we even amped it up a little bit for the opponent--we gave them a nice visiting locker room for them to come in. [We are] knocking down the old one, so I guess the A/C and the showers will be brand new when you come in this year. We are showing the hospitality to the opponent. That is a tremendous job, and that is going to attract more people.

I didn't know the bathrooms were a big issue--I didn't know that--but you hear people and they are like, 'They are doing ya'll's bathrooms, you needed that. I'll come to the games and use the bathrooms.' I was like, 'Well, OK.' They are doing things that are very much needed to attract fans, and I think they are doing a tremendous job of that.

Even after you leave, would you hope that you have been a part of helping Duke football turn the corner and improve?

Yes, Coach Cutcliffe always states, 'Leave things better than you found them,' so I would like to leave mark and a legacy as one of those guys who helped turn the corner in this program and is still back in this program in any way, shape, form, or fashion that I can help the program. When I'm done, anything [I can do] to help the program improve, I'm more than willing to do it.

So you had the players telling you that you about the bathrooms?

No, the fans. You need the fans. Especially the women: 'Wow! The bathrooms are old and beat-up, and sometimes we would hold it until we got home,' things of that nature because the bathrooms were so bad. I didn't know the bathrooms were that bad. But there are nice bathrooms now. Kids, women, come out, feel free. You can use the restrooms now because they are suitable for you.

When was the Duke Football Summit, and what did you take away from that?

It was the weekend of July 9th. It was a great experience. It was an opportunity to work with kids and pick the brains of two Super Bowl Champs and what they do as far as preparing for football games. It's the same thing that Coach Cutcliffe teaches. I guess he taught them when they were in college, and they took it up to the next level, so you have to continue to work at everything that Coach Cut' is telling you.

What did you learn about watching film?

Go in there with a pen and a pad. Like you guys write things down, when you see something you have to write it down. I don't care if you have a [photographic] memory, there is no way you are going to remember everything you saw on the film without writing it down. You need notes to [refer] back to, and it is a learning tool. I find that when I write things down I tend to remember them a lot better. Just doing that actually helps out a lot…

When Coach Cut' first got here he said, 'When you come into my meeting, bring a pen and paper,' and I wondered why. Now you know and it is very important. It has helped me out and the whole team. Any meeting we go to, the whole team has a pen and a pad, just in case something is said that you need to write down and need to remember.

When coaches come in to build a program, they have to change the culture. How has the football culture changed since he's been there?

It has changed tremendously since he has been here, from day one when he stopped us and said we were the slowest, fattest team he has ever seen, and we have been working to not be the slowest, fattest team he has ever seen. Now, being able to do the things we are doing--working hard this summer--running 10 times more than we did last summer. Nobody is quitting, complaining, crying. When you see things like that--guys willing to learn and wanting to do extra to get better--the coach has done a 180.

Greg Boone, Virginia Tech (TE)

What is it like playing under Coach Beamer who has had you guys in the ACC Championship game so consistently?

Coach Beamer is a great coach. I wouldn't want to play for anybody else. He is the kind of coach who is laid back. He can keep up with you all the time, and he can tell you how things are. He always keeps the emphasis on us being a program that is not in the news. Every Monday before practice he comes out with a newspaper of an article of another college doing something that they shouldn't have been doing the [previous] week. He is just trying to make sure that our team isn't in the news [for negative reasons].

When you are on the sideline during games and something goes wrong, what kind of demeanor do you get?

He knows that each team is going to make a mistake. It's what you do after the mistake that really defines you as a player and your character. If you are able to have four turnovers and still win the game, that means that a good team is willing to do what it takes to win, even if you have bad moments.

You open the season with Alabama, a huge game in the Georgia Dome--a big game of ACC vs. SEC, and Clemson had that bad game last year. Is there any pressure on you guys to represent the ACC?

I don't really think there is any pressure. Each team has a different strategy, and you have to match each other's intensity. As far as the ACC, I think it puts a lot of pressure on our conference. If you think about it, the last two SEC teams we faced, we lost… That right there puts emphasis on [the fact] that we don't want to be the team to keep losing to the SEC. A reporter said earlier that the ACC went 6-4 against SEC teams, but a lot of people don't realize that for the simple fact of the teams that were playing.

This is Tyrod Taylor's first year without Sean Glennon. He has the reins, and this is his offense. What kind of development has he gone through in the off-season?

I think for him not being in the quarterback competition, it allowed him to focus more on the little things that he needed, like footwork and throwing motion. Overall, he is now a better leader since he is not in competition with anybody else. That allows you to focus on your job and what you need to get done.

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