We’re excited to be back at home. We have three more opportunities to play here at Clemson, and this is something we look forward to all year…these seven opportunities. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd this week. I know we have Fall Break next week, but hopefully our students will hang around and cut out after the game on Saturday, because this is a special time. We have an unbelievable group of seniors that cherish every single moment that they get to play here at home, so they’re excited about another opportunity, and we’re looking forward to another great day in the Valley.
Louisville is 2-6, but they’re the best 2-6 team I’ve seen. I don’t know how else to say it. Their record is not indicative of the players that they have. Sometimes, you turn on a tape and look at a team, and it doesn’t take long [to react negatively], but these guys are physical, and they have as well-coordinated of an offensive scheme as we’ve gone against. They’ve done a great job schematically. They have a big, huge offensive line…probably the biggest offensive line we’ve played. They are massive up front…and they have probably as good of a group of receivers as we’ve played. I’d say the same thing about the receivers…big, huge, 6’4”. One of them is 6’6”, I think. These are big, big guys. They have a very effective tight end in [Micky] Crum. They have two good running backs…the freshman, [Hassan Hal], is impressive on tape. He’s come on as of late, and he’s a fast, explosive kid.
The biggest thing is that they’re 127th in the country in turnover margin. So, if you want to say, ‘what’s happened’…well, there’s 130 teams, and they’re 127th in turnover margin. They’ve had some very tough breaks, and I’m sure that their coaches are frustrated with a lot of missed opportunities, because they’re very capable of playing with anybody. From a physicality standpoint, a schematic standpoint, and a skill standpoint…they have those things on this team. But when you turn the ball over at the rate that they’ve turned it over, you’re going to end up coming out on the short end of the deal, a lot. And that’s what’s happened for them. They had a 24-20 game into the fourth quarter with Boston College. They really, truly should have won the Florida State game. I’ve seen that one a few times over the last couple of weeks, and they just missed some opportunities against those guys. They’ve had some tough breaks, but again, this offensive line…the quarterback is a young guy. That’s the other thing…he’s a young guy that they’re committed to, and they’re bringing him along. He runs very well, and he’s big. He probably hasn’t been as consistent as they’ve wanted him to be, but then you put a little cut-up together, and bang…there’s eight big plays against Alabama. He’s a very streaky, capable guy. We expect a challenge and a big-time battle from a physical standpoint. We’re going to have to really play well defensively and have the right mindset to take on the type of scheme that they present…all the boots, crossers, down-and-arounds and g-schemes…they come right at you, and all the stuff that comes off of it is well-coordinated. [They take] a bunch of shots down the field…we have to win matchups, because with those big receivers, they’re going to put the ball up one-on-one.
On the flipside of it, it’s the same thing. You look at their defensive line…they have a bunch of guys. Same thing…they have a good scheme on that side of the ball. They’re aggressive, and they’ve had some short fields that they’ve had to deal with along the way, but this is not a 2-6 football team. That’s what their record is, but that’s not indicative of the type of talent that they have on this team. For us, it’s about being locked in. They’re one of the better punt returners.
Again, it’s just about being locked in and continuing to build momentum and confidence in what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to play our best game each and every week…kind of competing against ourselves to see if we can be consistent and put our best four quarters [together]…‘hey, last week was great, but can we be consistent? Can we clean up some of the mistakes from last week? Can we continue to win the turnover margin? Can we continue to make a difference in special teams? Can we finish the big plays when they present themselves? Can we cut out the couple of busts that we had last week?’ There are just so many things that we have to focus on, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to go out and play. We’re looking forward to practice today…getting back out there for a good, tough Tuesday practice. Today will be a tough practice, because again, with their style of play, you better have your mind right. If not, they can embarrass you pretty quick with their style.
As far as our team goes, I like where we are. I think that we have a healthy team. We have a confident team. We have a team that has good momentum right now. But more importantly, we have great leadership, and we have a team that is very, very focused. That will serve us well as we enter into what we call our ‘Championship Phase’ of our journey for this year. We work all year. We started last January, and now here we are rolling into November, and we’re right where we want to be. We have a lot of opportunity [left]…we’ve only achieved one goal…we won the opener. This phase of our season presents a lot of opportunity for us, but you have to put your best foot forward every single week, every single play. High sense of urgency, attention to details, continuing to prepare with purpose every day…I’ve seen all of that in our guys. We’re excited about getting back to work today, and we’re looking forward to a great day in the Valley on Saturday.
On the 400th all-time Hill run being Saturday:
That’s pretty cool. I saw that, last night, on the radio show…they had that in the notes. But that’s pretty amazing…it really is. You sit down and you think about that tradition and all of the players who have come through here and [have or will] tell their kids and their grandkids about that opportunity…to know that we get the chance to be a part of that 400th one is pretty cool. It’s pretty cool.
On the status of the redshirts:
The only one right now that we’ve used all four games with is K.J. [Henry]. I think he’s the only one that I know we’re trying to hold, and that’s what he wants to do. And we’re in a position to do that right now, unless something changes. If we get down the road and have a change or two, then we might have to revisit that, but right now, he’s the only one that we’ve burned all four games [with]. Everyone else is still in a good spot, and I think we’ve gotten most all of them in at least one game. I know [Justin] Mascoll got in that last [home] game, and Jake [Venables] and Mike [Jones Jr.]. Of course, K.J. has gotten there, and [James] Skalski has played. [Jordan] McFadden has played…most of those guys have gotten in there a little bit, and we’ll se how it goes down the stretch and if we have more opportunity, but with four games left, I think we’re in a good place with all of those guys.
On the play of Amari Rodgers against Florida State:
He’s been consistent really all around, all year. He just hadn’t had that big, explosive play. Against Texas A&M, he had a big touchdown on a hitch-and-go, but [Florida State] was a huge game for him…he led our team in yards after the catch. He had two great plays. It was definitely one of those games that can give you a big boost as we’re going into game nine here. I was really happy for him…he had a great all-purpose day. He’s a good football player, man. He’s a well-rounded player that can do a lot of things for us.