The ACC Tournament is here…kind of. In the Atlantic division, No. 4 Clemson travels to No. 20 NC State while the Coastal division features No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 10 Miami.
These are the de facto ACC Tournament semifinals, with the winners likely to represent their respective divisions in Charlotte for the conference championship game. It’s a very exciting week.
Brian Kelly – Notre Dame
On Wake Forest now compared to the 2015 team Notre Dame faced…
“You know, I think from an offensive perspective, the weapons are outstanding. The quarterback, so much more seasoned, if you will. He’s been in the system now. You know, two more years in Coach Clawson’s offensive system, you can see the maturation of this offense, the big play ability, the ability to spread you out, play with tempo. Very dangerous on offense.
You know, there’s some remnants, certainly, of Coach Elko and his philosophy, but it’s still Coach Clawson’s team, so you can see that that defense, although there are some new wrinkles there, they’re still philosophically a similar look. They’re still bringing fire zone pressures and playing very smart defense, very fundamentally sound.”
Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia
On defending the option…
“It requires a lot of off-season work and a lifetime of lessons. The first time I defended an option team, it was humiliating and embarrassing and just enlightening. I didn’t know what it was, how to defend it or what to do to help my team, and have spent a long time studying and trying to prepare as best as possible to give our teams the best chance, and recent history has said we’ve done a pretty good job with that. But any given week you can learn and be humbled, and that hopefully provides growth, but it takes — even with the really busy schedule of college football coaches in season, it requires even more, and we all know that, and we’re trying to give our players the best chance, and it’s a very exhausting week.”
Dabo Swinney – Clemson
On NC State’s Bradley Chubb…
“He’s the real deal, man. He’s long, he’s fast, he’s explosive. He plays with excellent technique. He’s a very knowledgeable, instinctive player. I mean, he’s a senior. The guy has been there a while. He’s played a lot of football. You’re not going against a rookie over there who’s kind of green. This guy has got all the little nuances down. He understands what you’re trying to do offensively, so that allows him to anticipate. When you have the type of speed and skill and strength that he has, plus you have knowledge, you’re a tough guy to handle, which he is.”
Bobby Petrino – Louisville
On Lamar Jackson and the Heisman conversation…
“I think he’s playing really well, and obviously is one of the best players in the country. We’re not taking care of business as a team enough to really get him into that talk and what he’s doing, but when you look at his numbers and what he’s done individually, you know, he’s certainly one of the best players in the country. Now, I don’t see all the other players and obviously know there’s a lot of great players out there, but what Lamar does week in and week out really is amazing.”
Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech
On Bronco Mendenhall’s ‘passion’ of defending the option…
“You know, I don’t know about that. My passion is playing against 3-4 teams; I don’t know. It’s something, we’re going to play the game. They beat us twice, I think, when he was at BYU and we beat them last year. You know, I’m sure it’ll be a tough, hard-fought game, and the kids on the field will decide who executes the best. We’ll both have a plan. He’ll have a plan, we’ll have a plan. That’s the way it works.”
Jimbo Fisher – Florida State
On the improvement of Syracuse this season…
“Yeah, I see them playing with much more confidence and knowledge in what they’re doing. They’re comfortable in their systems. As much as scheme and what they’re doing, the guys are playing much faster, much more confident, much more consistent, and they understand what the — you can see that when they play, and that to me is the ultimate thing you want to have.”
Dino Babers – Syracuse
On Eric Dungey throwing the deep ball…
“One thing you’re going to do if you’re going to be the quarterback of Syracuse University is you’re going to throw the deep ball and you’re going to throw the deep ball well. I think he has thrown that ball well, and he will continue to throw that football. We’re not — we’re going to take our shots vertically down the football field. We’re going to touch every part of the football field, and if you’re going to be a quarterback for us, you may have a curve and you may have a slider but you’re going to have to throw a fastball and a deep ball, as well. I like the way Eric throws the deep ball, and I think he’ll keep throwing them.”
Larry Fedora – North Carolina
On if there’s anything the team can take away from such a tough season…
“Most definitely. One thing about the group, they’re very resilient. They’ve stayed close together, and that’s not easy to do. On the outside it’s nothing — they don’t hear anything but negative things and what’s wrong and what they need to do differently. One thing that they’ve done a great job of and the staff and the seniors have done a really good job of making sure this happens is they’ve stayed together, and they’ve continued to have a great attitude and work hard. I tell them daily that you keep doing that, and we eliminate the mistakes, and good things are going to happen.”
Dave Clawson – Wake Forest
On former defensive coordinator Mike Elko coaching for Notre Dame…
“Well, it’s not just at Wake Forest. I hired Mike at Fordham when he was 23 years old, and he was with me at every stop: Fordham, Richmond, Bowling Green and Wake Forest. And Mike is a great coach. He’s a good person. You know, we’re still very good friends. We won’t talk this week, but I have great respect for Mike.
You know, we’re both professionals. I think this week, we want to beat Notre Dame and Notre Dame wants to beat Wake Forest. And when it’s over, you know, I’m sure we’ll have a good talk.
But it’s mixed emotions. Mike did a great job here and everywhere he’s been for me, but on the other hand, I’m really proud of the job he’s doing there. He’s had a huge, huge impact on their program in just not even a full year.”
Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech
On what he felt needed to be done at Virginia Tech…
“I didn’t come into Virginia Tech with any preconceived notion of what we were or weren’t. I just knew the way that I wanted to do things.
So, I don’t know, like I didn’t really research the way that things had gone all that much in the past. I knew we had a tradition and a level of competition that we needed to live up to, but you know, I didn’t — I didn’t specify things that I thought weren’t being done that I thought now needed to be done. I just had the plan of what I wanted it to look like and that’s the direction we went.”
Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh
On if the team’s by week came at a good time…
“No doubt about it. This is like the fourth quarter of the season. If you split a 12-game season, we are headed into the fourth quarter heading into November.
Really to be honest with you, some people have them first, second, third, fourth weeks. This is when you really need an open week.
I don’t know if you could pick a perfect time. You know, right before the fourth quarter of the season to get a little freshened up as a football team; I think our guys feel good being in the weight room. Going to have a killer practice tomorrow and get after it. Then, you know, get to work on Sunday and prep for North Carolina.”
Steve Addazio – Boston College
On turning the season around after a loss to Virginia Tech…
“You know, our players are coaches. We watch the film. I use this all the time. The Virginia Tech game, for example: We open up with the first drive, go right down the field, we throw a pass touchdown ball, we drop the ball in the end zone. And then on the next drive, next, or the one after that, we drop the ball on the one.
But you could see that it’s right — it was right there. It’s been that way throughout the season, and we’ve played an unbelievably tough schedule against some really elite times and all the while, there’s been great opportunity for us on both sides of the ball and special teams to make some really good plays.
And the players see that on tape. That, coupled with the fact that, like on offense, at the apex of the offense, the center of the quarterback, the tailback, we have these really talented young players and they are just getting better and more confident each week.”
Dave Doeren – NC State
On the running threat of Clemson’s Kelly Bryant…
“Yeah, he has, I think 30 more carries than their tailback, and maybe it’s 50, than the other tailback. He’s without a doubt a threat. Not just when they design it but when they drop back and he scrambles.
Similar to when we play Louisville and other quarterbacks; Syracuse. Our D-Line has to be disciplined. We can’t just run past and open up an escape lane. We have to power the pocket and press it, and when we blitz we’ve got to be in our rush lanes and not create seams for him to escape through; and if it’s inside pressure, we have to have guys that are containing it outside and understand how we work together in pass rush because that’s really important against an athletic guy like Kelly.”
Mark Richt – Miami
On his thoughts when he took over the Miami program…
“Well, I wasn’t sure what we had to be honest with you. I didn’t watch film and try to make a determination of: Do I want to take over this team or not. I just knew I wanted to be back at my alma mater at a place that had the rich tradition of winning and winning in a big way, and being in a fertile recruiting area, which South Florida is.
So all those things are the reasons why I decided to come back, and I really wasn’t gauging where I thought we were. Once I got to meet the guys and start working with them, I knew the cupboard was not bare by any means, and the last staff under Al Golden did a good job of recruiting.
After living through it a little bit, I realized there was some pretty good ones and we also brought a few guys in that have helped us, as well.”
David Cutcliffe – Duke
On getting things turned around…
“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s very evident to the players, to the coaches, offensively, we haven’t thrown and caught the ball with much efficiency like we had earlier in in the year. You know, giving up some explosive plays on defense. And it’s not been any literally just one thing.
We are a team. We have seven seniors that start for us. We’re playing a lot of young people. That’s not an excuse because our job is to have everybody ready.
But again, it’s probably consistency, and so one of the other reasons we shortened practice and talked to our coaches is because I wanted to see if we can go wire-to-wire at the highest level possible. I’m really impressed with the way our team has taken on that challenge.”