How was Clemson able to be so successful against the Miami defense when no one else has been able to score on them this year?
“They hit some big plays and Charlie Whitehurst also had a 60 to 70 yard run against them. Their defense was able to create some turnovers and their offense also had a short field to work with during most of the game. Clemson scored on their last two drives of the game so they really only had 10 points until the end of the game when they tied up at 20-20.”
What have you heard about the possibility of any game time changes based on the hurricane that’s forming in the Gulf?
“I just heard this morning that there is a possibility that they might make a change in regards to the game. I don’t know what that is, though. They could move it up, back, or leave it like it is. All we can do is prepare as if we’re going to play at noon on Saturday and if we have to adjust, then that’s what we’ll do. If they move it back, it will have to be on another week since we can’t play on Sunday because of the weather hazard still being in the area.”
What have you seen from Calvin Johnson this year and how has he changed from last year?
“This year, he is more knowledgeable about our offense which allows us to put him in a lot of different positions and give him more chances to make plays. That’s something we couldn’t do last year. He’s also learned a lot more about defenses and how teams are going to go after him. Last year, he was a very nice young man who came in to play receiver with a great deal of skill but this year, he realizes that guys on the other side of the ball are going to do anything that they can to stop him, and he realizes he has to be as physical as they are. Therefore, he’s made the next jump in understanding that aspect of the game.”
With Miami being the No. 1 defense in the nation against the pass, do you think they will try to make Calvin a non-factor?
“Nobody has been able to do that yet. They probably came as close as anyone did last year, but Calvin has learned a lot about the game and he can be a factor in any game.
Do you have a choice in when the game is played or the date it could be moved to if that happens?
“That’s really an issue between the University of Miami and the conference. If I had a choice, I’d probably choose to move it back.”
Do you have any injury updates?
Will James Johnson return punts again this week?
“Most likely. I’m not going to put Pat (Clark) out there if he’s not 100%. He might be well enough to play but if I don’t have to play him, I’m going to let him get well for another week. Again, I can’t say on Tuesday what’s going to happen on Saturday.”
What are your travel plans for the meeting as of now and how might they change if the game was to be played on Friday night?
“Our plan right now is to leave on Friday afternoon but if the game was moved to Friday night, we would keep our regular schedule and practice on Thursday, and we would leave for Miami on Friday morning. You always try to stick to your original schedule as much as you can, but I hope that if changes are made, we will know soon enough so that we can adjust our plans accordingly. There’s a lot of logistical issues that have to be taken into consideration.”
How important is it for your team to spend some time in a hotel before the game?
“You can always go directly to the stadium when you get off the plane but you’re not giving your players the ability to rest and have some downtime. It rests your mind, your body, and better prepares you for the game that you’re about to play.”
Were you encouraged with how well Tennessee played against LSU since the circumstances were very similar?
“I think it will be a good thing to point out to our team.”
How is Miami able to use its tight ends so effectively?
“They incorporate them into the passing game, not only down the field but also underneath and on short routes. That’s something that’s a big part of their offense.”
Do you think it’s a surprise when Calvin Johnson doesn’t make a big play since he’s made so many in the past?
“Any time someone does great things on the field on a regular basis, people will come to expect it. When the stock market kept going up year after year, people came to expect that it would always go up but guess what, it’s going to come down every once in a while. He’s handled it very well and I had no question that he would come back and prepare the way he needed to for the next game.”
When you started looking into moving Chris (Reis) to safety and Philip (Wheeler) into the linebacker spot, is this what you expected would happen?
“I watched Philip play for a year on our scout team against our offense and it wasn’t hard to see the amount of potential that was there. He was tough to block on blitzes and we always tried to put a lineman on him instead of a back because we needed someone with a big body to block him. I also thought he understood that he needed to redshirt for one year and he handled it well. I knew that another year of preparation would be good for him and we were in a position to be able to do that last year. It’s obviously paid off for us and him.”
Can you talk about his interception along with Darrell Robertson’s against Duke last week?
“He made up so much ground in a short amount of time, and was also able to catch the ball on top of that. Most guys usually try to bat the ball down when they get into that position, but he’ll go for the interception most of the time. As for Darrell, he made a great play and had to dive to get in because the Duke player hit him as he was going into the end zone.”
Are you surprised about how athletic Darrell and Michael Johnson are?
“Well, you’re asking the guy that recruited them if he’s surprised at how athletic they are, and my answer is no, I’m not surprised at all. I think everyone else is probably surprised that 6-5 and 6-6 guys are able to run, change direction, catch the ball, and rush the passer like they can. As soon as they mature and put some weight on, both of those young men will have the chance to be excellent football players.”
Do you get the sense that opposing offenses are going to have to adjust and maybe roll out a little bit more since those tall guys are breaking up so many passes?
“It will be interesting to see how they adjust. The thing about our guys is that they can drop back, rush inside or outside, or rush the passer so it’s hard to scheme and know what we’re going to do on every play. That’s the great thing about Jon’s (Tenuta) defense. He really lets guys move around and be active in order for them to make plays.”
Because your team moves around so much on defense, does it create problems when the opponent’s tight ends are so athletic?
“It really isn’t. We have different personnel on the fields at different times and that allows us to deal with different types of situations. A good tight end down the middle of the field makes it tougher on you but that won’t stop us from doing what we do. We’ll just have to spend a little extra time preparing for it.”
Do you think that some of the Miami mystique is gone, especially since you know you can match up with them?
“We have a saying here and everywhere I’ve ever been, and that’s `respect all, fear none.’ You have to respect every team you play but you don’t fear them. We’ve already played Auburn who was undefeated last year, and we beat them at their place. Our guys know how to handle playing big-time opponents in big-time venues.”
Why do you think there’s been such an infusion of tall receivers lately that are terrorizing defenses, and is that a new wave in college football?
“It goes in cycles. Twenty-five years ago, teams had big receivers so everyone tried to offset with that with the big corners. Then, everyone went after smaller and quicker receivers to try and get around the big corners, which had a domino effect and made teams go after smaller corners to match up with the receivers’ quickness. In the end, it has made the bigger guys more athletic over the years and that’s a positive or negative, depending on which side of the ball you’re on. I think that’s one of the more unique things about this new breed of big wide receivers.”