On Georgia Tech:
"We've had a good week of practice and I think the focus has been very good. Yesterday seemed like it was going to be one of those days where we would have had to pull it out of them. But it ended up being a good practice. That's something I told my staff yesterday. We really haven't had a lot of bad practices. I thought they showed some endurance yesterday.
"This is a big, big game for both teams. It doesn't get any better than this, an opportunity to showcase your program on national television. It's what you play for and coach for. It's all about discipline for us defensively. We have to tackle and hold on until the Calvary gets there. You have to play unselfish football and be disciplined against a team like this. We have to be very disciplined for 60 minutes. Everyone has to do their jobs. There's also a lot of cut blocks. It's hard to simulate that in practice. Just like it's hard to simulate C.J. and Jacoby in practice. You better know where 9, 21 and 8 are on the field. They're a very capable bunch.
"I really like Dwyer. He's a great back. He's very deserving of his recognition. The thing I like about him is that last year he had seven games where he had 100 yards in the first half. He's a workhorse. He also averaged 7.9 yards per carry in the fourth quarter. Not only is he a fast starter, but a good finisher. He's a very, very good player that we've got to try to minimize. Another thing is that they'll lull you. 20 of their touchdowns last year were 20 yards or longer. They're very opportunistic and selective as to when they'll call those types of plays. As soon as you don't do your job, it's a big play on their part. They're a ball control run-the-clock offense but they can strike quick, too.
"Offensively for us, it's another good Ga. Tech defense we're going up against. I was excited to see they lost three NFL players up front until I watched them on film. No. 91, we won't play another one better than him all year. He's pretty special. How we handle him will be critical to the success we have offensively. But they're very solid at backer, too and very good at corner. No. 1 and No. 22 have played a lot of football, too.
"We have to maximize our opportunities. We have to catch the football. We have to score. It's very important when you play this team. We have to get some points on the board and hopefully press them a little bit to get out of their personality.
"We'll head down tomorrow, have our meetings, eat and then head down around 6:15 p.m."
When asked about things the team clearly needed to improve:
"Finishing drives and taking advantages of our opportunities. You won't win many games with four drops. Just make the play and it's a touchdown, and then there were two miscues by Willy. Those are things you have to eliminate if you're going to be a good team. Because these are things we can control. Let's focus on those. It's the same thing defensively. We did a great, great job, but the last two drives we gave up 60-70 yards."
The intensity did drop off at the end of the game on defense. Korn's INT was a floater that Harper should've caught and if he hadn't fumbled he had an open man deep downfield on the play. Swinney said that Korn will indeed play at some point Thursday night.
When asked why we're 2-8 in Thursday night games, Swinney volunteered no good reason, but said that we have changed things structurally in preparation for GT this week compared to the past.
What is it about Ga. Tech's offense that has so much of the country talking about them?
Swinney: "They're unique. When I was playing, everyone was I (formation). When the first spread teams started coming out, then all of a sudden nobody knew how to defend it. Nobody practiced against that everyday. Now that's kind of had its way. Then all of a sudden the zone blitz came in and it was a big adjustment for everybody. It wasn't the norm. In college football today, what they do, it's not the norm. We won't play against it all year. In the past, that was what everybody did. It's a style of play that coach Johnson believes in and they've been pretty darn successful. I think he's had one year ever where he has won less than eight games. He has a system and a plan he believes in and he sticks with it."
You have to feel pretty confident in your ability to deal with that offense, given the way you handled it a year ago considering the adverse conditions.
Swinney: "Yep. And we had six turnovers. Our kids remember that. And that's good. We have played them before. Malliciah and Corico and Meeks weren't here last year, but everyone else has seen them and studied them. We played them well. We just can't be too complicated. We learned that last year. We had to be pretty simple with the situation we were dealing with. It's dive, pitch, quarterback and it's every play, play after play after play."
How conventional are they defensively?
Swinney: "They're a 4-3 football team. They're a team that you'll have to put drives together. I wouldn't say a high risk defense, unlike what we just played where they were just all over you. We didn't know where those guys were. We'll know where these guys are. They're very good players. Good fundamentals, good technique. They're gap sound and can win matchups. No. 91 is a disrupter. He's outstanding. They're very good with their coverage schemes. It's a very well coordinated defense.
On the offensive line's performance:
"Actually I thought we played pretty well up front. They were absolutely loading the box on us and we were being as stubborn as we could be. We had control of the game and it was about us trying to get better. We had a whole drive with Rendrick and Jamie and were not being fancy at all. We could have done a lot of other things, but just really trying to make a point and wanted to see those guys on film and how they responded to all that. We tried to run the ball and were able to run the ball despite the fact that the numbers said not run it. On the goal line down there, we lined up too deep and then their smoke guy got us off the edge. Effort was very good and there was improvement. But we're not there yet."
That much is true, MT was loading the box with 8 and 9 guys, but there were some times when players flat out missed a block or had bad technique.
Fat Brad talked about it Monday afternoon:
Your assessment of the first game.
Scott: "Well, I'm glad to get it under our belts. It was a difficult opponent to prepare for because of so many multiple fronts. They used about four different defensive packages, and an awful lot of twisting and blitzing. There really wasn't any base looks. Coaches just love to get that one over with. But I think the kids responded pretty well and had a good night. It's a better start than last year."
No shit its better Brad.
How did Mason Cloy handle his responsibilities Saturday?
Scott: "He did a great job. He's the QB of the offensive line and made all his points. We might have had one situation in there where he made an incorrect point, but there were probably 60 opportunities to make quick calls because of the pressures right at the snap, the twisting and linebacker fires. He was right on top of his game and pointed out our blitzes.
The missed point he refers to ended with Parker being sacked.
With it just one game, do you have a feel for your group's physicality? Is it where you want it to be?
Scott: "You're never satisfied. I think we can be a little bit tougher. These kids played hard. This defense required us to do an awful lot of zone blocking. We had to play more east and west because you have to be gap sound when you're doing the things they were doing. All of that had to happen right at the snap, too. But the communication - I challenge my guys all the time… we have to identity their front, and then we have to communicate the calls, then we have to execute. And I think we did a pretty good job of that. I think our backs made us look good a couple of times, and a couple of times we helped them out some."
Zone blocking is what we've played the last 3 years. I don't care for it with a college OL which has a coach the caliber of Brad Scott. It takes too long to learn properly and execute, but he's right in that you almost have to do it against a team that blitzes like this.
Scott pointed out that D. Freeman, David Smith and Wilson Norris all played in the 2nd half and that only 3 people inside missed assignments. Maybe Brad should just light a fire underneath Thomas Austin's ass then, because he wasnt getting into the hole on those inside power/trap plays.
Can you talk about grades for your guys?
Scott: "We just grade them. I don't like to throw out grades. Grades are so subjective to coaches. Everyone grades you a little differently What's a 75-percent grade to me might be totally different than someone else. I'd say we had a group of guys that graded out winners. I can tell you that."
What would you classify as a winning grade?
Scott: "75-percent or better."
That should be more like 80% Brad. Is that why our linemen dont improve to their full potential?
You've talked about the abundance of stunting and twisting, the movement you saw out of Middle Tennessee's front. Talk about handling that as an offensive lineman. How difficult is it for a lineman to constantly get a good lick on a defender or hit him square between the shoulders when you've got that kind of movement on every play?
Scott: "Oh yeah, you're on the edges a lot more. What I was talking about is maybe they're covered by a down lineman at the snap, then that guy moves this way and the backer, who's working with the (defensive) tackle, they're right over the top of you, the tackle blitzes through the opposite A-gap, and then the linebacker who they're not looking at now blitzes through the backside A-gap. It's what we call a Gut-X blitz. All of a sudden you go from being able to identify that, with the tips that they had, then seeing it on the snap and being able to make those adjustments and calls. So you'll never cover those guys up. What you hope to do is get a hat on them. Then our backs are good enough to where you don't have to cover that guy up every time, not when they're gapping, stunting and blitzing like they were. I'll bet you could count on your hand the number of times they weren't blitzing and giving us all kinds of looks in the first half. I think that was part of their game plan. They were quick and were pretty athletic guys.
Napier on how much of the offense we showcased against MT:
Billy Napier: "It's interesting that you ask that. Because it became a game where there was some uncertainty about what they were doing, so we were pretty vanilla. You get into a position where you're up by 20 or so points and you see the way your defense is playing, I think that impacts the way you call and what you will feel comfortable holding back. I think our guys up front did a good job.
"We ran the ball more effectively after we made some adjustments at halftime. There was some frustration, but at the same time there were some positives. We've got some really good skill guys. I think that's pretty evident. I think No. 11 is going to be a good player."
Steele mentioned that some of their success running was missed gap assignments and playing high on tackles, but a few of them were his fault for making some (fire zone) calls.
-Brandon Clear is starting in place of Dye this week....late change.
-Jamarcus Grant was moved to LT, based on the play of Norris at LG behind Austin.
-Chavis was moved from DT to NG, which basically means that in any 3-man fronts, he's playing 2nd string. Essentially he's a Tilt-tackle, lining up tilted to the Center and not head-up on a OG.
-Cumbie got some good pressure and is 2nd string DT.
-As expected, K. Alexander will be playing more SAM in run-support this week instead of Scotty Cooper. I expect that to happen again for BC because of their larger OL. TCU's offense is more spread-based.
-Spiller moved into sixth place on the ACC's career all-purpose yardage leader list with 171 yards during today's game. He entered the game as Clemson's career leader in all-purpose yards and now boasts 5,079 yards for his career. Spiller needs 749 yards to tie for the league's all-time lead.
-DeAndre McDaniel doesn't fear the GT offense.
Playing fundamentally sound football, he said, is crucial.
"The biggest thing is being disciplined," he said. "It’s everybody taking their responsibilities. There’s a quarterback, you’ve got to make sure you’re there. There’s a pitchman; you’ve got to make sure you’re there.
"They get a lot of big plays on you when people get out of their responsibilities, fill the wrong gaps, do the wrong things. You’ve got to be disciplined with this offense."
Just stay within the scheme, Maye said.
"One of the biggest things is assignments," he said. "You’ve got to play your position. You can’t be a hero. When you try and be a hero, (Dwyer and Nesbitt) are taking it the distance."
-Butkus candidate Kavell Connor did not play a single snap against MT.
Facing Middle Tennessee’s spread offense, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele went with a scheme that required only one "traditional" linebacker. Conner’s only action was on special teams.
"I didn’t know we were going to play that much dime," Conner said. "I was still preparing to play even though I wasn’t involved in the scheme a lot.
"You learn not to take anything for granted," he said. "It was a humbling experience."
NOTE: We've been asked to write blogs for Raycomsports.com, and given that its a short week we might not get one up this week. We'll plan to post one a week there for now, and then a few days later post it here just to have it here for reference.