"We have had three practices. The first one was interfered with by lightning again. We have got to get that thing solved, and the only way to solve that is to get a place to work out in inside. It can kill you, I tell you what, you miss key practices. The practices have been good. People have been asking me about the freshmen coming in and all this and that, what do you think about them and stuff like that. It's hard to evaluate when you are out there in shorts. With no pads on, you can't evaluate. They all look good, they all look like All-Americans, they look like an Olympic team out there. There isn't anybody hitting anybody. When you get your pads on, that's when you begin to see what level a kid is on. The good thing is as I watched them, I haven't seen anything bad. I haven't seen anything that I would say, oh well he can't block, he isn't as big as I thought he was going to be, or that kid can't jump as high as I thought. I haven't seen anything negative with those kids. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to getting the pads on and seeing who is ready for it. We are going to count on more freshman this year, more new faces than we have in the past. Some kids that normally would redshirt will not be able to redshirt. Maybe we will redshirt them later. You know it used to be that you redshirted sophomores. Freshmen play on the freshmen team and it counted a year of eligibility. Now, you do more redshirting with freshmen. I'm anxious to see who can help us, we'll get some help from them, you hope you get enough. Then in the fourth ball game we get everybody back and if you keep everybody healthy by that time you should have a little depth to go with our football team."
What positions concern you the most?
"Definitely the offensive line because of numbers. You have three starters returning from the bowl game, all three were freshmen. One of them gets a blood clot (Evan Bellamy) and can't play this year, now you are down to two. Then of course (Daron) Rose didn't make it and there is another starter out. Then I think with the suspensions you might have one guy who is going to be suspended, and so the numbers scare you to death. We simply have got to stay healthy there. If we don't, you might see a freshmen offensive line out there. That's our biggest concern right now. I'm not concerned about ability. I think we have some talent there. Even these young boys that have come in this year, these freshmen, are pretty talented you know, but total inexperience. But I would rather have talent than no experience than experience and no talent."
How happy are you with the guys that are going to miss the first three games that they haven't moped, but have taken on a leadership role and are helping younger players get ready?
"Well, we understood our situation last spring. We understood how it was going to be. We tested it in the Kentucky game. That could have been a disaster. As it was, it ended up being a pretty darn good football game. So it shows you what you are capable of doing. At least we know what we are capable of doing. Now if we get a little bit of help from our freshmen, maybe we can survive our first three ball games."
Can these younger kids that are going to have to play bring a youthful exuberance that may offset everything?
"If they have confidence. You know, most of your freshmen that come in throughout the years, their talent is unquestionable. The question is do they think they are good. Because they go out there and find out, gosh I'm not as big as they are. Building confidence is as big as any part of it. Some freshmen come in with all sorts of confidence like Deion (Sanders). There was no doubt in his mind he was going to play his first year. Deion, Terrell Buckley, some of those guys. Then we have others who have come and don't play for three years and then make All-American. It's different degrees of maturity, and most of it is up here."
Is it a point of emphasis among the coaching staff that you make sure these kids are confident?
"If we are smart we will. If our coaches are smart, they will do everything they can to make that kid think he's pretty good."
The forecasters aren't really predicting Florida State to do very good, is that extra motivation for you and your team?
"Well yes, it would be a good motivating factor. They aren't picking us very high because we don't deserve to be picked very high. All of your pickings are based on last year. Whoever is picked number one must have finished number one last year too. We were always picked number one in the 90's. We got preseason number one a lot. We didn't win a championship every year. That doesn't surprise me, us being picked low. I will tell you this though, the fun part of coaching is trying to build. It's tough up there. I would rather be up there, but that's a struggle. Getting there is fun. We are going to have some good times getting back."
As you observe your coaches over the first few days of practice, what are some things that you see between how they coached a year ago at this point to how they are coaching now?
"Familiarity. They are familiar with the boys. This time last year they were not. The boys were not familiar with their coaches. They understand exactly what these coaches want, and how to do it. That part has been solved I believe."
Is there more coaching football and less coaching attitude this year?
"That goes back to the familiarity I was talking about. They know what he expects, and they know they better do it. So why ask? Why ask the coach? Just do it. They know what these coaches expect. They know they better do it if they want to play so that's much stronger than it was a year ago."
Does that lend itself to rapid development you think?
"I would think so. I would think that would relay to getting things done quicker, better."
What does it feel like to have a guy looking over your shoulder?
"Well he isn't exactly looking over my shoulder. I don't know what term you mean."
What is it like to know that they have already picked your successor?
"That's been very comforting for me. I'm not going to be here forever. I don't want to fool these kids and say hey boys, ya'll got five more years and I'm going to be right there with you. That's a lie, I ain't going till I'm 83. Right now I have no desire to quit. I'm enjoying it as long as I can, but still my days are numbered. Does that mean next year? Not necessarily. Does that mean the next year after that? Not necessarily. It's comforting for me to know. It's really helped our recruiting. I have to go in there and explain to those kids and their mothers that I'm going to be here for five years. Well they are going to go somewhere else, because the other schools will tell them that I won't. Now, I can say I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to coach but this guy right here is going to take my place. How do ya'll like him? And they all like him. He is a likable guy. He is a knowledgeable guy. So that has really been to my benefit."
What things will you talk about when you sit down after this season to decide if you are coming back?
"I don't know. What would any coach do? Why would any coach decide to retire? Something will sake it out. I don't have a routine or nothing."
Could it be the record?
"It could be that. There are certain things I would like to accomplish before I get out."
When you said you could not take another 7-6 season, does that represent a change in your mindset over the last few years?
"Well, it would be very bad to have another 7-6 season. You ain't showing any improvement. You brought this new staff in and you aren't showing any improvement. I hate to get pinned down to numbers in case it happens (laughing). I don't want you to come in here and say next year and say I thought you were leaving? Ya'll were 7-6 last year."
You said that if you don't improve, it would be unfair for you to stay.
"You know the thing about it is, the thing about it darnet, we're losing so close. I was talking to the team the other night, in 2006, we lost by two, by four, by five, by seven. I think every we game we lost by seven or less except for Wake Forest, they beat us 30 to nothing. You are talking about one or two plays a game man. If you do that, you win. So we have got to start winning the close games. That's all there is. You got to win the close games. It's not like we are getting beat 40 to nothing every Saturday. Sometimes that can be one or two guys. One more great linebacker, one more great star. We haven't had a star around here in a long time. I'm talking about a star. You go out there and play a game and that kid, if it's close, he is going to win the game. When I was at West Virginia, Pitt. was our big rival. We might have had a two or three game win streak over them and then they went out and recruited a guy named Tony Dorsett. Dorsett would get a long one every game. 70 yards, 60 yards, I think he had three against us my first year. But Dorsett is going to get a long one every game. Well, you start losing games by two points, three points, five points, seven points, then you have a guy like that and you have got seven before you even start the game. One player a lot of times can make the difference. One or two players. I think we are one or two players away. Maybe they are in this recruiting class, or maybe they are an underclassmen that is already here but hasn't broken out yet but is fixing to breakout. I don't know, we're going to find out."
Is it possible that this program has forgotten how to win the close game?
"I haven't forgotten. The coaches haven't forgotten. We don't forget stuff like that. We just haven't done it. We just haven't done it."
Do you look at Wake Forest as one of the biggest challenges this year?
"I stress it's about the first three. If I talk about Wake Forest, I'm putting those other two teams down. I'll be honest with you, I'm worried about, I'm concerned about those other two teams more than Wake Forest. We can get our kids up for Wake Forest. You know, we better they have beaten us a couple years. Now, what we better not do is slip up here or slip up there. Every year it happens to somebody."
What did you learn about the Kentucky game?
"The thing you learn is that you have got a chance. No matter what the circumstances, you got a chance. Your quarterback played good, your receivers played good, you had three freshmen on the offensive line that played good. You held your own against a team that was pretty well respected in the SEC under dire circumstances."
Do you see that carrying over into spring and into practice?
"Oh, I think so. You are looking for everything you can find to get them confident. Everything you can think of to get them confident. So playing well against a Kentucky team that was pretty good, the fact you went out there and played well against those folks is better than playing bad."
Getting the players back from suspension, will that cause any issues in terms of chemistry?
"No I don't think so because we are going to use our judgment to determine if he deserves to go back. You might be getting play from a guy that isn't quite good enough, and so it's very obvious you have to get this guy back in there. You know, they are first team for some reason. I don't think that will be an issue. I think it will be a joyous day to have everyone back."
Having already prepared going through a game with the suspensions, will that help you in the first three games this season?
"That's probably helpful. That's helpful. People ask me how you are going to prepare, well you have to have two teams. One for the fourth game, and one for the first game. Right now we are working them all equally, whether they are on the first or second team. We are working them all equally. They are getting the same amount of reps. We are getting them all in shape at the same time. Eventually we will take the team that is going to start against West Carolina and get them up on the first team. Get our older guys on the second team, they will still be getting all the work, but we have got to get a starting lineup feeling out of those other guys which we will get into at a certain time."
Did you think you would feel this way at 78?
"Yeah, when I was young I can remember when I got laughed at in college when I was telling someone how old my uncle was who was 30 (laughing). Coach what do you mean 30? That's young. Then of course I can remember when 50 was old. I remember when 60 used to be old. Old is fifteen years older than what you are. Don't forget that, because you are going to face that some day, you hope (laughing)."
Do you remember when opposing coaching staffs started telling
recruits, "Oh he won't be here in five years. He's getting up in age?"
"I've heard that ever since (age) 60, especially that guy from
He wasn't at Clemson when you were 60.
"I know it. I was just kidding about that. You bet your life I've
heard it. Terry (Bowden) used to say that. Tommy and Terry used to use
"D'Vontrey is coming along. He just needs work, work, work. He's
got some talent. He could mess up that whole quarterback thing. He's
got talent. Once he gets consistency with that talent, he could be a
factor. Jimbo wants to play him some this year. We want to use him in
different styles, like throwing a change-up in the middle of a
baseball game. Just get him in and throw a change-up. He can run so
good and throw on the run. He did good in the spring game."
Do you think there might be a situation where you might want to
play him somewhere else?
"Another position? All he'd have to do is come up and say "Coach,
let me play a little at this other position," and I'd sure put him
there. He's got so much talent. We played in the bowl game, we had him
on kickoff returns, punt returns, tailback, wide receiver and
quarterback. We had him drilled to go any of those positions."
Do you consider the running back position wide open, or is it
Antone Smith's job to lose?
"It's his job to lose, but those other guys, Marcus Sims looked
good yesterday. He was running pretty good. And these young kids have
some talent. It's just a matter of whether they're going to be mature
enough to make the adjustment."
Where do you want to see the most improvement from Antone this year?
"I'd like to see him ... he needs to be knocking off a lot more
long runs. Against Kentucky, he got a hundred-some yards. He needs to
get 100 yards a game at least. Against Kentucky, he got loose one time
for about 30 (yards) and the guy caught him from behind. He needs to
break that and get into the end zone. He's got speed."
He told us one thing he was disappointed in was he was getting
taken down too easily.
"Yeah, he nearly gets tripped up too much. You're running good and
somebody gets a hand on his legs. His attitude's always good. It looks
like he's worked harder this year."
Is there more talent on this team than there has been in the last few
"I believe so, but don't let it deceive you. We still have to do it
up front. You don't block, you don't have runners. You don't block,
you can't protect the passer. So we need real good play up there. I
think we have more skill."
Would you like one quarterback to take hold of that job?
"That's what I wish would happen. I wish somebody would just take
control, and it might happen. Because that way, you know you're in
pretty good shape."
Has that been a distraction the last couple of years?
"I'm trying think of what you mean by ... I'm like Bill Clinton.
What do you mean "distraction?" We're not distracted. I don't know
what you'd call it. It's not healthy. None of us were distracted by
it. I mean, I didn't go around reading comic magazines."
Do you like it when Drew comes out and says it's his to lose?
"He better feel that way. Ponder's saying, "I want it.""
Are you concerned at all that, because of the offensive line, Drew
may not be mobile enough to escape the rush and you may have to go to
D'Vontrey or Christian?
"I'm not worried about that. It might come to that, that you need
the most mobile guy you could get back there. There are other ways to
handle that. The quarterback has to know how to get rid of the ball,
when to get rid of the ball, things like that. If he doesn't, it could
be disasterous if you can't protect the quarterback. I think our line
will be better than that."
How did you evaluate your line at the end of last season? Did they
improve over the course of the year as much as it might have appeared
"They did improve. We ran for more yardage than we did the year
before. When you're young, you just have to get better. We have a
young group this year. They'll get better."
It seemed like you had some nice big plays last year, but then
you'd get into the red zone and couldn't get it in. How do you attack
"We've been working on it all spring. All I know to do is go out
and practice. This spring, we spent a lot of time on the 10-yard line.
A lot of time. And we did well. You just have to practice it. It's
harder to score down there. We probably moved the ball from 20 to 20
as good as anybody. We didn't get into that dadgum end zone. We go out
against Florida and kick four field goals, you have seven points
instead of three, you'd have a good ball game. We didn't get it, so we
spent a lot of time on that this spring and we'll keep working on it."
Is that a combination of innovation and execution?
"Maybe not being physical enough. When you get on the goal line,
you've got to knock people away. You get out in the middle of the
field, you're just shaking them. Get to the goal line and you've got
to knock them out of the way. You got to have a little physical about
you. You don't and you have to throw every down."
Is there more unity on and off the field this year?
"Do I see more unity? No. Every year I hear that. "Oh, we've got
unity this year." I hear it every year. "We're going to be different
this year." Show me."
Is there anything about Drew's play that keeps that quarterback job
an open competition?
"I think we'll get good play out of Drew. Drew has started for four
years. His sophomore and junior year, his sophomore year, he threw for
11 interceptions, I believe. Last year, he threw one until the bowl
game and one of those was an end-of-the-game, throw-it-up-for-grabs
things. If he can improve like that this year, he could be that
quarterback you're looking for. And it might happen. Now, you have
Ponder there trying to get his job, too. Ponder would have to beat him
out. If my offensive line can play adequately, I wouldn't be surprised
if Drew could have a good year."
Has Preston done enough in the offseason to regain your trust?
"Yeah. Preston has worked hard. He's come back and really tried to
earn himself back. If he hadn't have gone home, he wouldn't have been
in that trouble. He got with his old buddies, but he's really been
trying to make up for it since we got back."
"Myron needs to start making some big plays. He's played very
steady for three years. Now you need to start intercepting that dang
ball. He needs to start making some big plays, and he knows it.
Wouldn't be surprised if he does that this year."