ACC Kickoff: The Players, Part III

GREENSBORO, N.C.--Randy Phillips, Jonathan Dwyer, and Vic Hall discuss the 2009 ACC season.

Randy Phillips, Miami (DB)

What can you tell me about the expectations for this team in Coach Shannon's third season? Usually, that third year is a do-or-die season. Do you guys feel some responsibility to keep his job safe this year?

We want to go out and win for Coach Shannon because he is a great coach, and a lot of times we screwed up some things that had nothing to do with Coach Shannon, like missed tackles, missed assignments, when we had prepared all week. He just wants us to execute it, and that's not on him.

We are going to go out and play our hardest for ourselves, but at the same time we represent Coach Shannon while we are out on the field. He represents us everyday. We are going to try to go out and make sure that he continues to be the head coach at the University of Miami and continues to turn the program around--which he has already academically, and coaching young men. I don't think Coach Shannon is going anywhere. We are going to have a great season.

Do you think the scrutiny is fair? Because you are at Miami, expectations are automatically higher from day one, and the progress hasn't been that fast. You can tell the progress has made a difference. Do you think it is fair that he is "on the hot seat"?

I think it's fair. Coach Shannon knew what he was getting into. He is a 'Cane. He played here, coached--he won a national championship as a player and a coach. He knows that it is time to start winning. He knew that it wasn't going to be easy, and he accepted that. People are going to say what they want to judge him, but he is a great coach. You can't put another coach in his position and expect him to do better than what [Coach Shannon] did. He had to change the program first.

There is a quote from the 'Notorious' movie: '[We] can't change the world unless we change ourselves.' We can't change the program until you change the guys in the program. He weeded a lot of guys out that were selfish when he came in. A lot of guys transferred and left. A lot of guys needed attitude adjustments, and now he has the program where it needs to be off the field. He has young men who know how to be champions; now it is time for us to go out and win.

You have to be patient with him because his goal was to come in and make us better men. His goal is to win ball games also, but at the same time you want him to graduate players and do all those great types of things. It's not all about winning all the time. To the fans and stuff like that it is, but they aren't the parents of the guys leaving out of the program with no degree, leaving out with no education, getting arrested, going to jail, some even got killed. They want the parents and family members of people like that, and Coach Shannon felt that.

Coach Shannon went through all of that, so he didn't want that to happen under his watch. If he was winning ball games and we were still going to jail with bad things happening off the field, you would really criticize him harder like he was running around with a bunch of hoodlums or thugs like they used to call us. But you can't call us that anymore. Coach Shannon made sure of that. Now, it is time to win. After we win, you will look at the program and think, 'That's a great program.' He cleaned the whole program up.

What do you have to do to get Miami to where Miami was [in the past]?

Where Miami was--Miami has been up and down. We had our great years, but what separated us is we always had great players, and we still have great players. There was a time in the 90's when we weren't winning those games. Then we pushed and went on a spurt in the 2000's. Every program takes a little hit here and there, but we are still fighting. And you have to have a positive while taking those hits. Our positive was that we are going to do whatever we can off the field to be great men.

We battle on the field, but it is not our life. Your life has to be great, and Coach Shannon taught us that. Right now, that affects us on the field. We respect each other more, we don't hang out all night knowing that we have to get up and do football when it starts. We don't put ourselves in the wrong position to not be able to play our game on a Saturday, Monday, or Thursday.

With the record the last two years, what would you say in response to the critics who say "What has he done?" Look at the record on the field.

The record is going to change; the record is going to get better. Just know that the parents are proud of Coach Shannon for helping their kids get degrees, get an education, staying out of trouble, staying out of the media for negative things--fighting and stuff like that. We sit back and observe things that are going on around the country in other programs [that are negative], and that used to be us until Coach Shannon got here and changed that.

We need a little patience. We have all the players; he is the best recruiter. We have a brand new offensive coordinator--a great offensive coordinator. We'll just see how this year pans out. Just know that Coach Shannon is doing a great job.

Jonathan Dwyer, Ga. Tech. (RB)

Can you tell me about the passing game you worked on in the spring. I know that was a big part of Paul Johnson saying that he wanted to develop the passing game.

We have developed some of the run-and-shoot that he has had in the past. I think we had a really good spring. [The receivers] have had a really good spring, making some ridiculous catches--one-handers and all kinds of runs after the catch... I think this season we will be more versatile, but it depends on how we play and what Coach Johnson really thinks we can do.

Do you have to develop the passing game to take things to the ACC Championship level without just relying on the run?

I don't know. It depends on if anybody can stop us when we run. If we run the ball and no one can stop us, I don't think he's going to stop running. It all depends on what we do. As long as the defense is playing well and giving us a chance to score some points, and we take some time and run the clock so they can get a break--it doesn't matter what we do as long as we go out there and play to the best of our abilities and know our assignments.

This is a league that has been known the past few years as a defensive league, [especially] since expansion--42 defensive guys have been taken in the first two rounds [of the NFL Draft], 18 offensive guys. With guys like you, C.J. Spiller, and some experienced quarterbacks, is this the year the offensive guys break out a little bit?

May-be. I think we are going to have a very good season over-all--not just offense, defense. I'm talking about the kicking game, the return game with Jacoby Ford. You have [Morgan] Burnett in the secondary. You have Riley Skinner and Tyrod Taylor. I think guys from all teams have a lot of talent. Offensively and defensively, especially the offense, this coming season can shock a lot of people.

Would you like to see the offenses break out? When people talk about the ACC, it always seems to be defense.

Yeah, I'd like to see that, but by just being a part of the ACC, having people talk about the ACC, in general, is awesome. It's a great thing to be a part of it.

To have a guy like [C.J. Spiller] or you to have a legitimate Heisman campaign this season--or somebody else--is that one of the things it takes for the ACC to be considered one of the "sexy" conferences. Does it take an offensive guy with a [big] name?

The fans like the big numbers, big plays, the ESPN Top Ten-type things. I think by them seeing that, it will give everybody else the opportunity to get big-time recruits in the ACC. I think we will get more exposure.

If you guys are the favorite to win your division, who would you pick second and why?

I would say it is a toss-up between Virginia Tech and North Carolina. North Carolina has T.J. Yates coming back, and if he stays healthy who knows what North Carolina can do. They have a good defensive front.

Virginia Tech, they have Tyrod Taylor, and Cam Chancellor is probably one of the best safeties in the country as well. I think it is a toss-up, and not just being No. 1. Anybody can win the Coastal.

Vic Hall, Virginia (CB)

Do you see situations where you and Jameel Sewell will be on the field at the same time?

Right now, I can envision it, but I don't of it happening--hopefully.

Have you ever worked at other positions--running back, receiver?

No, I haven't.

Is this off-season similar to the 2006 off-season, after the last losing season?

That sense of urgency, that sense to get better, that sense of redemption. Obviously, winning five games last year is not what went into the season wanting to do, so that plays a big part in our motivation in the off-season.j

On that 2007 season people talked about the senior leaders, and they mentioned Chris [Gorham] a lot. Is that your role on the team, what Chris had on the '07 team?

It is, but I'm not really a vocal guy. I lead more by example. That's something I have to get outside of my comfort zone with because the team needs leaders to speak sometimes. Even though you lead by example, they still need to hear it. That is one thing I have to work on, being more vocal.

Have the coaches discussed that with you, or is that a personal mission?

It goes without saying. I understand that I don't talk much, so it is up to me to change. Nobody can change it but me.

How much homework was there for you in the off-season since you have been working out of a defensive playbook for three years. They put together one fairly basic package for one game, but going into the season, if you are going to be "the guy,' you have to know the entire offense. How many people have to learn it in one off-season?

You have to step up to the learning curve quick. Get in a lot of extra film sessions, a lot of time with your head in the playbook, but that is something that we want to get better at and that is stuff we want to do. No doubt, this camp is going to be a good period for us to hone our skills and learn this offense.

Where you pretty much at "square zero?" I guess everybody was.

With our offense, everybody was at square zero with the terminology, techniques, and everything.

I think every snap you took against Virginia Tech was out of the shotgun, if I recall correctly. Is that how you operated mostly in high school, or were you under center a lot?

I was mostly in shotgun; very seldom under center--maybe in goal line situation. Earlier in my high school career in the ninth grade and some of my 10th-grade year I was under center, but after that it was strictly shotgun.

Speaking with Coach Groh this off-season, he said that you had planned to go to more of a spread offense before the arrival of Gregg Brandon. What has Gregg Brandon brought to the style and formations?

Just a little more excitement because his knowledge of that particular offense is better than anybody else on our team. For six, seven years at Bowling Green, that's what he did so he knows it inside-out. With him coming in, he has brought excitement, experience, and knowledge.

Is there a concern that the players on the team have not been recruited to play that offense?

Coach Brandon does a good job of teaching his offense, and we have a lot of athletic kids that are coming in this year, so I feel like with his knowledge of the game and their talent, they will be able to embrace his offense.

Do the player groups match up well with this offense, or will the personnel have to kind of catch up to the scheme?

I think the scheme matches up with the personnel because we have guys that… can get the ball in space and make things happen. It fits perfectly to spread the defense out and get them the ball and let them go to work.

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