Say What?!? ACC Football Atlantic Division Coaches Week 4

By M. Shannon Smallwood

The Atlantic Division is the place to be this week in ACC Football action as the 4th-ranked and undefeated Florida State Seminoles are set to host the 9th-ranked and undefeated Clemson Tigers on Saturday night in prime-time for the entire world to see.

ESPN’s College Game Day will make its eighth appearance in Tallahassee, Florida, for the game.

But there is a lot of other things going on overall in the ACC so let’s hear what the Atlantic Division Coaches have to say about Week 4 in SayWhat?!?



Boston College Eagles Head Coach Frank Spaziani

On the Bye Week – We have an off week.  A couple things we’re trying to get accomplished:  One, we’re trying to get healthy; and then number two, work on some fundamentals and get ourselves to game week next week.

On Clemson v. Florida State – I think every team needs a star, every league needs a star, every movie needs a star.  You know, you need marquee teams, and I think we have our share of them.  But once again, it has to be done on the field.  It’s only good for everybody if somebody is a standout and brings everybody up.

On Nick Clancy – Well, Nick has been a.. I guess the right word is a pleasant surprise.  I mean, Nick came back as a fifth year senior with no guarantee.  As a matter of fact he was looking at backing up and being a contributor as far as leadership and his experience, and the fact that he wanted to come back and be a part of the team says a lot, and he got an opportunity, and he’s making the most of it.  I’m happy for Nick and certainly happy for us.

On Chase Rettig – Well, I think Chase has played very well for us.  He’s fit into the system that we’ve put in place for him.  He and Doug get along very well.  I think he’s playing very well.  I mean, he’s a big-league quarterback we feel.  He hasn’t done some of the elite things, but he’s close, and we need to help him.  But if he keeps progressing like that, the future is really bright for him and us.


Clemson Tigers Head Coach Dabo Swinney

On Clemson v. FSU – It’s just a really special game to be a part of.  Got a great amount of respect for Florida State, and it’s a great place to go play a game.  Two good teams battling it out every year when these teams get together.  It’s always an exciting game, and I don’t have any doubts that it’ll be the same this year.

More on the FSU Game – You know, obviously a very huge game.  You know, it’s getting into conference play for us.  They’ve already played one, but not only conference play but division play, so from that standpoint there’s a lot at stake.  Obviously it’s not going to be the end-all.  We both have a lot of games left to play after this, but certainly a huge, huge game for both teams.  Proud of where we are at this point.  We wanted to be 3-0. I don’t think we’re a great team yet at all.  I think we’ve got a chance if we continue to improve each week to be a very good team at some point, and we’re going to have to play very well to have a chance in Tallahassee.  It’s a tough place to get a win.

More on FSU – Offensively they’re explosive, their quarterback is special, they’re running the ball really well, they’ve got all kinds of scheme out at wide-out, their tight end is a good player.  They are solid up front.  Their defense is as good as anybody in the country.  They’re one of the best defenses last year, and right now giving up three points in three games, I don’t care who you play, that is hard to do, because some of these games they’re getting guys, but they’re still not giving up points.  That’s a real compliment to their defense.  Big challenge handling their front and all their speed that they can put on the field.  Their special teams is something that could very well determine this game.

On Practice for FSU – But we’re going to need a great week of prep.  I think we’ve had a good start so far and looking forward to being down in Tallahassee in a great environment and hopefully playing our best game.

On Jimbo Fisher – But Florida State is a very good team.  Jimbo has done a great job down there.  He doesn’t get enough credit.  That guy has done a phenomenal job.  Florida State and Clemson should be two of the best teams in this country every year.  When I got this job here, and I know when Jimbo got the job there, that was his goal, and that’s certainly my goal.  It’s very exciting after three, four years here that we’ve won a conference championship; Florida State has played in the championship.  Both of us have battled really, really hard.  We’re both recruiting at a high level.  So we should both be one of the best teams in the country.  I think Jimbo would probably tell you the exact same thing, and I think he’s done a phenomenal job down there in kind of building Florida State back the way they should be.

On the Top 10 ACC Game – We need Clemson and we need Florida State from a conference standpoint to be what they’re capable of being, and that is two of the best football teams in this country.  There’s no question about that. From that standpoint it is great for the league.  It’s exciting.  But you know, this is just one game, and I know everybody makes a big deal… but it’s just the fourth game.  That’s it.  It’s the fourth game.  It’s a big game.  It’s a huge game.  But if we win it, we’ve got eight more games to play, and it ain’t over.  If they win it, they’ve got a bunch more games, and so do we.  You’ve got to take care of your business week in and week out.  They’re not going to crown us or dethrone us with one game.


Florida State Seminoles Head Coach Jimbo Fisher

On the Clemson v. FSU Game – Looking very forward to this weekend, but we are very proud of our guys this past weekend against Wake.  Thought we played a very sound, very good ballgame against a very quality opponent.  Jim Grobe teams are always very well-coached, very tough, and you have to be able to execute to beat them, and I thought our kids did in all three phases.  I thought our defense was very dominating, thought our special teams did a great job, and our offense was very physical and ran the ball and made throws and converted on 3rd downs and the red zone opportunities which we had, and I was very proud of that.

On the Development of FSU Against Clemson – We still have a lot of growing to do.  I still think there’s a ton of room for improvement.  But I like the attitude which our kids are taking, the way we’re practicing and preparing, and we have ahuge challenge in Clemson.  Clemson is a great ball club.  Very anxious to watch our guys, how we respond to this as far as going through all the media and being able to eliminate the clutter of the things and keep focused on the ballgame but still be able to deal with the extracurricular things that are part of this, and it’s a very important game for us at Florida State, a very important game for Clemson, a very important game in general.  But hopefully here at our University you’re going to play in a lot of important games, and this is part of you learning in that process, and hopefully we were able to gain some experience from last year’s situations and occurrences and we can still play well in this game and do the things that we need to do. But we’re looking forward to a challenge. Clemson has got a phenomenal ball club, very well-coached.  Dabo has done a tremendous job with their program, and it should be an exciting weekend.

On Containing Sammy Watkins – Yes, I called Commissioner John Swofford and asked him if we could play with 13 guys and he would not allow me to do it.  That knocked my first plan out, so we can’t play with 13 to be able to try to double him and double a couple of the other guys and get an extra guy on the run.  Maybe if we get 14; I’ll take 14 if they’d let us.  No, we have to know where Sammy is at at all times, but that’s the thing about it:  It’s not just Sammy; it’s (DeAndre) Hopkins, it’s (Jaron) Brown, it’s (Andre) Ellington, it’s (Tajh) Boyd and their tight end.  They create so many different playmakers, and they have them.  But he makes them better because you definitely have to know where he’s at all times.


Maryland Terrapins Head Coach Randy Edsall

On the No. 7 West Virginia Mountaineers – We’ve got a tremendous challenge ahead of us on Saturday to go to Morgantown, West Virginia, and play, and if you’ve ever played in Morgantown, you know that’s a very difficult place to play.  Their fans are very passionate and very loud, and going against the No. 8 or No. 7 team in the country presents another challenge as they’re very talented and led by their quarterback Geno Smith.  And then with Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, also, and then defensively Isaiah Bruce and Terence Garvin and Darwin Cook are the guys who lead them on defense.  We’re looking forward to going there and continuing to get better.

On Stopping West Virginia on Offense – Well, you just have to be very sound and very disciplined, and what you do hope, I think your offense has to be a little bit of a part of it.  When you possess the ball, you have to try to use as much time as you can and then also be able to score. I think it’s a combination of doing things on your offense but then also defensively it’s just being very sound, very solid and trying to make them go the long way if you can.  But they’ve been very good.  When you take a look at the numbers that they’ve put up, 55  points a game, over 600 yards of offense, it does, it presents a tremendous challenge, and we just have to make sure that our guys do their job and play as hard as they can.


North Carolina State Wolfpack Head Coach Tom O’Brien

On the FCS No. 10 Citidal Bulldogs – They’ve started off great this year.  They’ve beaten two top 10 teams in their division, Georgia Southern Eagles and Appalachian State Mountaineers at Appalachian State last weekend.  Triple option team that certainly presents a lot of problems to any defense when you have to get ready for it in one week.  Offense is centered around Ben Dupree, their quarterback, who makes the thing go.  He’s a very quick, fast guy that does a great job with the option.  It’ll be a big challenge for our defense our football team this week, but look forward to a great night here.  It’s military appreciation night, and we’ll see how we can slow the option down.

On the Citidal’s Offense Being Similar to the  Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – Yeah, it’s very similar to what Georgia Tech does from what we’ve seen on tape.  Everyone has got their own peculiar little wrinkle here or there, but the base of the offense is run the way that Georgia Tech’s base offense is run.

On Improving the Offense – Well, we certainly can get better in our pass protection, keeping our quarterback clean and making sure we’re at the right spot so that we can get the football off.  We gave up too many sacks two weeks ago at Connecticut, got a little bit better last week, but certainly that’s a work in progress.


Wake Forest Demon Deacons Head Coach Jim Grobe

On the FSU Loss – I was very disappointed in our performance this past week.  We got our ears pinned back pretty good.  But at the same time I think we played a really good football team.  I was very impressed with Florida State in really all three phases.  I thought their kicking game was great as well as their offense and defense played really well, very disciplined, very talented, and I wish we’d played better.  But I think I came away from the game disappointed in us but very, very impressed with Florida State.

On the Army Black Knights‘ Offense – I think what they’ve done is they’ve got a lot of good ball carriers.  They’ve got a lot of guys that are very, very capable.  The Maples kid is really special.  He’s got great balance.  He’s very physical.  You know, he makes great decisions.  I think that’s what you notice is they have talented players, but I think they do such a nice job executing.  You know, it puts a lot of pressure on you because they’re not just a one-man team.  You’ve really got to defend a lot of different guys in that running game.  One of the issues that they give you offensively is you spend a lot of time trying to get people at the line of scrimmage to stop the run, and then it opens up some of their throws.  So they’re going to be a great challenge for us.

More on Army – I think the thing that’s the problem for us right now is that they are — they’re very complex on both sides of the ball.  You know, the running game is sort of a spread offense, but it’s got its roots in wishbone football, which is a tough, hard-nosed approach, which suits the academies perfectly.  But they also give us some problems defensively.  They’re a unique preparation for us.  It’s a defensive scheme that we don’t ever see, so they not only give you problems on offense but they give you problems on defense.  It’s hard to even look at match-ups as far as your players are concerned because you spend all your time getting ready for schemes that  you typically don’t see during the year.

On Nikita Whitlock – I would say it’s a stretch to think that he’ll play this week.  I think he’s not been able to practice for a couple days, and that’s one of the issues that we’ve got.  You know, you have guys that you try to get ready by Saturday, and you think, if we can just get him healthy for Saturday. But down in Tallahassee, we had two or three kids that didn’t practice much last week, and we actually got them in the game Saturday, but they didn’t play very well because they hadn’t practiced. That’s your problem.  We certainly want to get Nikita back, and he will help us immensely once we get him in the mix, but we need to get him not only back healthy but we need to get him practicing again.


M. Shannon Smallwood has over 10 years experience in sports broadcasting, journalism and college athletics and currently covers ACC Football for Rant Sports.

Follow him @woodysmalls

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