“We’re excited to be back in the Valley this week. It’s a night game, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I know it’s going to be a great crowd, I think it’s another sellout, so really appreciate our fans for just amazing support. I see film all the time, and I see a lot of empty seats in a lot of stadiums, and we don’t take it for granted how fortunate we are to have the passion we have here at Clemson, so excited about that.
I’m just proud of our team for the start that we have had. We have got a lot of improving to do, but I think it’s the first time since ‘05 that we have opened up with three straight Power Five opponents, so I think we’ve been challenged, yet we’ve been able to find a way to get to 3-0, which is obviously what we hoped for, so a good start and I think that we are progressing.
Charlotte is going to challenge us. This is a team that… it’s always interesting to kind of turn the page on Sundays and see what the next challenge is, and, I’ll tell you what, this is a team offensively that is going to challenge us. This is the most explosive team we have played to this point. I think they have got like 25 explosives in three games, and they put 41 up on ‘App,’ and App State, they’re not a slouch. It’s a good football team. The biggest thing I’m impressed with is just how well-coached they are. They have got a great scheme. Schematically this is probably the biggest challenge for our defense, just in what they do structurally: multiple personnel, multiple formations, create a lot of challenges, communication-wise, alignment-wise, creating extra gaps, play action. They’re just well-coached and they know what they’re doing, really know what they’re doing.
So from a scheme standpoint, this is a challenge. This is the best rushing team we have seen in three games. Their ability to run the ball, and how they are coordinated to run the ball, this is the best team we’ve seen in three games. This is a team that could embarrass us if we don’t really have a great week of preparation and get the things down because it’s a different type of challenge than we have seen and they know what they are doing. They play with great energy, they have got a great spirit to them, and they play physical. Their running back is a tough, thick, physical runner, and they do a great job with all their zones — split zones, reverse zones, zone read, and the stretch play. Again, their OL is really well-coordinated up front. So we have got to do a nice job.
And then we’re going to have to win some match-ups outside. That’s just the nature of what they do. They create some one-on-ones. Their quarterback is a heck of a player, and it’s always an equalizer when the quarterback is a runner, and they run him a lot. They do some unique things with how they run him that splits your defense with misdirection and different type of read stuff, and the pop passes to go with it, so he’s a really good player.
Their receivers are skilled. They’ve made a lot of one-on-one plays. They’ve made plays in space and downfield. This is a really, really well-coached, well-coordinated offense that has the pieces to cause a lot of problems. I’m very impressed watching them on tape. I know it’s the first year there for Will [Healy], and they’re off to a good start, 2-1, obviously in a shootout there, 56-41 or so, with App.
And then you flip over to the other side defensively and they’re fifth in the country in sacks. We’re second and they’re fifth. They probably have the best player that we have seen to this point in that No. 5 [defensive end Alex Highsmith]. He’s on all the great player lists and all the awards and all that stuff. I kept watching him going, “holy cow,” and he looked like Xavier Thomas. He is a really good player, he’s physical, he’s fast, he’s disruptive, he’s causing sacks and tips. They had a pick-six against UMass that he caused and created, but really, really good football player. Both their ends… That No. 5 could play for anybody in the country.
Like I said, after three games, they’re fifth in the country in sacks, they’ve been disruptive, they’ve done a nice job. So this is a team that won’t be overwhelmed. They’ve been in big stadiums, and they have got a lot of veteran guys that have been in those situations. I’m excited about seeing how our guys prepare this week as we start the second quarter of our season. Hard to believe we’re already into the second quarter, if you will. We have got to get better. We have got to become more consistent. We’ve been explosive, but we want to be more efficient, and just smarter, applying the knowledge. We’ve played three games now, so we have learned a lot and we’ve got a lot of knowledge that we can apply, so I just want to see us take that next step and start to be that complete team that I know we can be.
Proud of our guys. Love the effort from this team, the leadership from this team, and the start that we’ve had. And, again, we’re looking forward to getting back in the Valley this week in a great environment.”
On the offensive line:
“They have been outstanding, outstanding. Super, super proud of our O-line. Physical, bodies all over the ground, not a lot of busts, done a great job communicating. Really proud of [Sean] Pollard. We’ve had a couple of snaps that were a little high, but this guy is playing center for the first time and he’s done a heck of a job. And then just their energy and their effort, they’ve been outstanding. They’ve been up to the task every single week. They’re protecting our quarterback. We had no sacks this week, and I think we’ve had maybe two to this point, and I am just really proud of them. Jackson Carman has been awesome. I think if he keeps progressing, he’s got a chance to be a really special player. John Simpson, he’s an all-conference, All-American type guy. I think he’s playing that way. And then [Gage] Cervenka and [Tremayne] Anchrum, it’s just a very close group, and our second guys are coming in there and doing a nice job as well. I am very, very pleased with that offensive line at this point.“
On if CB Mario Goodrich is a player he will count on as the season goes along:
“No doubt. I think it’s confidence. It’s huge to be able to go out there and do it. Obviously he made a big play, and it was crazy because he got knocked on the ground, but he hopped up and was able to make a ball play, and just super proud of his development. He’s come a long way in a year. It’s fun to see guys grow and get better. Sheridan [Jones] and [Andrew] Booth and LeAnthony [Williams] are kind of right there too, just going to continue to get more and more opportunities, and we have developed a really good group with some depth.”
On LB Bryton Constantin:
“He tore his ACL again just doing his rehab work -- just tore. You hate it, really hate it for him. But we’ll fix it; I think they’re going to fix it Friday. Our doctors are going to do it. I think he had it done back in Louisiana the first time, but we’ll do it here and the good news is he’s got a guy like Amari Rodgers to look at that just got player of the game for us. It’s a lot of encouragement. And we lost Matthew Maloney too. I know a lot of people don’t know who he is, but he’s a freshman walk-on guy for us that we think is going to be a good player for us. He’s going to help us at some point, and he tore his ACL last week, so we’ve had two of those. We’ll get both those guys in the rehab process. But Bryton’s got a good attitude. Better it happened now than in December or January or something like that. Just trying to stay positive with him and keep him encouraged. He’s got his whole career in front of him. There’s no reason why he can’t come back and be better than ever. That’s what we’re dealing with there.”
On saying this team is further ahead than the 2018 team was through three games:
“Oh, there’s no question. It’s not even close, to be honest with you, after three games. First of all, we’ve been challenged more. We’ve played three Power Five teams. Last year at this time, we’d played Furman, Texas A&M and Georgia Southern. Just a different type of deal. We were giving up big plays. We were very inconsistent defensively. And then offensively, I just didn’t think we quite had that killer instinct yet and we were still a work in progress. Justyn Ross was a true freshman. Trevor [Lawrence] was coming on. We were kind of trying to figure everything out. We just weren’t where we are right now. I mean, as an offense, we’re just way ahead. After three games, we’ve averaging more yards and scoring more points than any time in the history of Clemson Football. And we really haven’t played great. There’s so much out there. There’s just no question. In all phases, we’re just further along. Now, will this team improve like that team did? We’ll see. That team got better and better and better and they stayed focused. They never got distracted. They stayed locked in. They were hungry. They were really driven and had a will to win. We’ll see, you know? After three games, it’s really not even close where this team is. I really like the energy. I like the focus, I like the discipline, the consistency that we have has been very encouraging. Now, will they make those same strides? Because there’s lots of improving to do, but I’m just really pleased, especially offensively. We’re incredibly explosive, we’re just not quite as efficient as we need to be, and it’s just little things. That’s going to come together quickly. I like where we are. If we’ll stay the course and make the same improvements and stay hungry, we’ve got a chance to be a special group.”