Highlights from Al Groh's Weekly Press Conference
Head coach Al Groh held his weekly press conference Tuesday and talked about his team’s match-up against Maryland at home on Saturday. Here’s some of what he had to say about this week’s contest.
Q: You saw the 76-yard run from Darrius Heyward-Bey, and he’s had multiple runs like that this year. What do you like about him?
Groh: He’s a game breaker, in the fullest sense. This is a size player who can really run. Certainly it hasn’t been a one-man deal but he really has been the catalyst in every game. He got the game going in the first game; he had either one or two touchdowns in a 14-point game. In the second game, in which Maryland didn’t win, he had about an 80-yard run off a little pass that put him right back in the game. In the third game, he got the game going with a reverse and a great catch in the end zone against California. In the fourth game, he really had it going against Eastern Michigan; (he) had some real big plays.
Then last week the reverse turned the tide of the game. (He) went about 79 yards on that. This is a player that takes it another step when you ask about him.
It’s just not talking about, well, you know he’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s pretty good, he’s dangerous.’ It’s right there. He’s really done it. You can certainly see the development in his game.
But, it’s not necessarily a brand new thing. I remember a couple of years ago when Maryland beat Miami in Maryland, I think the score was something like 14-10 or 17-14, (and) Maryland ran less than 40 plays in the game but he went 80 yards or more within the first three or four plays of the game. He’s just that much more developed in his game but he has an impact not only in the game but on how you plan for the game.
Q: In receivers, what qualities do they need to have to use in the running game on reverses or end arounds?
Groh: Clearly running ability, which is based on elusiveness and the key component of elusiveness is always speed. This is a player who is not only one of the fastest players in the ACC but at his position he is reputably one of the fastest players in the country … It’s explosive plays like that that add to points. And those players, who produce those type of plays for their teams, usually make high scoring teams out of the teams that they play for and he is doing that for their team.
Q: Last year Mikell Simpson was the guy who came forth who was making that big play from a different position. It started out with the Maryland game. What has happened to his game this year? Does it go back to blocking ultimately or running differently?
Groh: This has kind been of the weekly items that we’ve discussed. If we had a clear answer to it and a solution to it, perhaps we wouldn’t continue to try to answer the same question. But certainly it’s elements of all of those things. Just as we talked about with Darrius (Heyward-Bey) making big plays for Maryland, every team has got their core of those guys. They’ve got to step up and make those plays for the team. That’s part of the responsibility that goes with being in that role and right now we are not getting enough of those plays.
Q: How good now, that you look back on it, was your offensive line from last year? You had two NFL types obviously on it.
Groh: It was good in terms of talent but it was also quite experienced. We had two fifth-year seniors there and those players that weren’t fifth-year seniors were in their second or third year of starting. They’d seen a good deal of it. They had that cohesion that has to occur on an unspoken basis a great deal of the time. Just two guys see it the same way and they know how to make the switch on different games and what not.
Q: Every game means a lot in ACC, but given what has happened in the last two Maryland games, I know you don’t look back a lot, but under the current circumstances would it mean more to win at home against Maryland this week or do you just approach it the same as you always have?
Groh: It would mean a lot to win period. That gives reinforcement to the players, but the one thing that can certainly be said about what the players on this team are doing is they’re respecting the game in the way the game should be respected.
This is a hard game to play, it’s not for everybody and some of them have been doing it for quite a whileguys that have been around here: Clint Sintim, Vic Hall, Byron Glaspy, Jon Copper, Cedric Peerman, they’ve been around here for a long while. They have learned how to respect the game; some of these younger players are learning how to do that on this level.
Now what I mean by that? That means to prepare the right way, to work hard in practice every day, to continue to work to get better and be prepared for the opponent that you’re playing against, to stick together as a team, to not get into playing the blame game, keep grinding it out and sticking together with the belief that as performance and execution evolves that you just believe that this will all come together and you’ll be a good team.
Every team develops a certain level of respect for the game and what it takes to be a player on this levelsome take it to a very, very high degree. When you have a lot of players who are learning what it takes to respect the game on this time, they grow into that.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a couple of pretty good high school practices during our bye week these are good teams, that win a lot of games and are pretty well renownedand yet I was watching those teams practice (and) I was thinking, whoa, if these players were on our team next year, what they are doing right now today is so much different than what they’re going to be asked to do in a year.’
They just have to be able to grow into that, but they’re doing it the right way for the way they’re playing. Now they are going to just have to learn how to do it the right way. I’m sure it’s the same thing for Branden Albert, and Chris Long, and Tom Santi …that now they’re having to respect the game and do the right things on an 8- or 9-hour a day basis, instead of four hours a day. They have got to grow into that circumstance, also.
Q: Maryland is coming off of some pretty key wins and seems to be a team that’s coming in on their own. Can talk about them?
Groh: Those are two really quality wins. To beat the California team that they beat, that’s a very talented team and has done well in every game except that one. To beat Clemson down there the way they did, which very few people do. Those aren’t just wins, those are really two quality wins from which a team gains a lot of confidence.
There are a lot of players we recognize from having played against them for a long time. I think there are 15-16 senior starters. They’ve got some of the guys that are amongst my favorite guys to watch. Jeremy Navarre, looks like he has been there forever. I have read his biography every year for a lot of years, (I know his) hometown, he’s got two brothers who played college football at other places. He’s from Joppatowne, Md.; he’s in graduate school. He just plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.
(Dave) Philistin, the linebacker, you can tell he’s been around. (He) plays hard, tough. But they’re playing like a talented, mature experienced team that’s got a lot of confidence. The quarterback’s done a real nice job for them. (He) runs the game well and knows how to get the ball to the playmakers. They’ve got two real playmakers, Heyward-Bey clearly being one of them.
Da’Rel Scott, the tailback, is not just a carry-the-ball-guy, he’s a playmaker type of guy. They are very well aware of that and they make sure he gets it.
Q: In any sense is Rashawn Jackson is too versatile for his own good? Here you have a 245 lb. running back, but he is also your top blocker and you never give him the ball.
Groh: We have that issue with him. We want to get him the ball more because he does good things with the ball. On those plays that require a lead blocker we need him to do that, that keeps him from getting the ball. But we definitely do.
Q: I assume that he’s a good receiver, but you need him for pass protection?
Groh: True. A lot of the plays that he’s in for, especially two-back stuff, the fullback is often part of the protection. That’s why you’re in that scheme to start with. But we have seen over the years he catches the ball very naturally.
Q: And also did not move from linebacker to offense because he didn’t project as a linebacker. Did you just decide you wanted him more on that side of the ball?
Groh: Correct. We saw a role for him over there that would be unique.
Q: Could he be good enough to play inside linebacker at this level?
Groh: I think so yeah. We certainly thought so when he was over there. I remember we had a big staff discussion about it. We did see the unique things that he brought to the position. He s a 245 lb guy who should be able to at least be an adequate blocker but he is one of those fullback types who can catch the ball, who can run the ball inside, he brings versatility to the position. But your point is one that we definitely struggle with.
Q: Were you encouraged by the running game at all last week? And how do you think the offensive line has come along? Is it making any progress?
Groh: Yeah, I think the run game was around 130 yards net. If we had some of the plays that we gave away, like giving the ball away, if those possessions had been a little longer it would have probably been 150-yard net run game. That would be good to be around every week, provided that the passing yardage and the explosive plays are there to go along with it.
We still have a ways to go with that run blocking, but what we have doneand this is probably one of the strengths of this group as we anticipated back in March it would beone of the strengths of this particular group is … pass protection. We’ve done a good job of pass protection; we had one sack last week, and one sack the week before. And USC got the guy from Ohio State five times, but they got our guy twice and one of them was when he dropped the ball. They’ve done a pretty decent job of that, but we’ve got a ways to go with that for sure.