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ACC Coaches Teleconference: Jimbo Fisher & Paul Chryst

Jared Wickerham
JIMBO FISHER: Great to see y'all again and talk to y'all again. Excited to come out of camp. Glad that we are in game preparation. I think our guys are tired of beating on each other. But we had a very successful camp, physical camp. Liked our work ethic and liked the attitude of this team. I thought it developed a great personality as far as how it went about its business and how professional it was and committed to details, which is one of our big things we are trying to really make sure that we become very detail-oriented like all coaches say. But very excited for that. Have a tremendous challenge ahead of us going to the University of Pittsburgh on opening night and I think we are going to have a great atmosphere, sold out house. That's why you play, get that national attention, national game, and be a great challenge for a lot of our younger players and older players who are taking up new leadership roles and things that they are grasping. Very excited for the challenge. Going to have to definitely play our A Game. It is a very great defensive football team, 17th in the country last year on defense, and have eight or nine starters coming back from that group. Offensively Paul does a tremendous job, got experienced quarterback, got a big offensive line, going to being able to run, multiples things and creates a lot of one-on-ones when he has to. Very sound on the kicking game, good returners. Kick the ball well, punter punts very well, kicker has great average. So very sound football team. Will be a tremendous challenge and we are going to have to really be on our A Game like I say, in the opening game, which is always a concern for you as a coach, because until you get that first game under your belt; but looking forward to it and glad we are in game preparation and ready for Monday night.

Q. Talk about the preparation against Pitt, what have you seen on film in your months getting ready for them.

JIMBO FISHER: From the offensive side, looking at their defense, tremendous D, 17th in the country in defense. Give up very few big runs, big plays, do a great job of mixing, blitzing, keeping packages mixed up. They are in three-down fronts, four-down fronts. They do a lot of variety of things. Excellent corners, run very well. Hendricks at safety is a great ball hawk, linebackers to get to the football. 97 up front is a very good player, very athletic. Other guys are good, physical players. Offensively they are going to run that football, mix in formations and going to pound you. But still at the same time, had a 3,000-yard passer last year that had at 21 touchdowns and three interceptions. I know they are bringing in a new quarterback in, but Tom Savage, has played a lot of football, been a starter before, was a high-profile guy. Matter of fact, we looked to recruit him a little bit when he was coming out of high school. Punter is very good. They have a very dynamic team and Paul does a great job.

Q. Talk about the freshman quarterback, redshirt freshman, a lot of pressure on opening night?

JIMBO FISHER: I think any time you're a starting quarterback at a major university you have to deal with pressure and situations. But we can't worry about the situation or the outcome. What you have to worry about is your preparation, prepare for what's going to happen. Will do some things he hasn't seen, got to stay within his concepts and stay within his teaching and play through those things. That was the thing, any time you break in a new quarterback, whether a freshman, sophomore, junior, any of those situations. But that's something that he'll have to go through and definitely, it will be his first start, so he will be very anxious, I'm sure.

Q. The story lines with your defense, you're replacing a lot of stars and you have the new coordinator, do you think either the new personal or scheme, carries a steeper learning curve, or does one concern you more than the other?

JIMBO FISHER: I think it does. We are not totally changing our whole perspective on defense. We are keeping the same things in which we have done. We have had a very good base and a very good foundation on defense, so a lot of those same principles and things we have done will stay right intact. We may add a few new wrinkles, but we are not overhauling our defense. As I say, we have new starters, but at the same time, you're talking like, for instance, Timmy Jernigan, Demonte McAllister, some of those guys, Nile and Eddie and all those guys all played lots of ball last year. Timmy especially; Timmy was our leading sack guy, of the interior guys, leading tackle guy. Dan Hicks has played, he got hurt last year but he was splitting time with Brandon Jenkins before that and they split reps in every game. So I mean, from that standpoint, you still have Kelvin, who wasn't a starter or was the starter -- he was our second leading tackler, I believe last year, or leading tackler; I can't remember which off the top of my head; Christian Jones. We have a ton of guys still that necessarily weren't starters but played lots and lots of football and were like co-starters with our group. From that standpoint I don't worry, but you always worry about new guys and new transition, but we are not overhauling the defense like everyone thinks. We are staying very similar and we then we will add a few little wrinkles to it.

Q. To follow up on your freshman quarterback, how much of a playmaker do you really need him to be or want him to be in this opener, or do you just kind of look and say, let's say0, depending on our veteran offensive line.

JIMBO FISHER: Well, I think that you have to depend on your veterans, there's no doubt. That's where the brunt of the responsibility has got to fall and that's just the way it is, and when there's opportunities for him to make the play, he's got to be able to do it. But he's got to manage the game, he's got to take care of the ball, and he do a lot of those things; and if he gets those opportunities, he has to take advantage; and if not, he has to be smart with the football, there's no doubt. The brunt of the responsibility will be on those other guys, there's no doubt.

Q. When you look at your defensive backs, and specifically a guy like Lamarcus Joyner, do you like when they play that position with a little bit of an attitude?

JIMBO FISHER: Oh, yeah, I don't think there's any doubt. DBs, you're out there on an island, you have to have a short memory and you have to be a tremendous competitor and you have to have that attitude and that chip on your shoulder to be able to keep making play after play. And hey, if somebody gets you; hey, you're getting me once, you're not getting me again. There's no doubt -- I think any player, I really do. But those guys out in space are by themselves, and there's no doubt, they are a different breed of cat and have to have a short memory and have to have a little chip on their shoulder, there's no doubt.

COACH CHRYST: Certainly, we're excited to be joining the ACC. Obviously, get started off in grand fashion. I know we're excited. Certainly, have a tremendous amount of respect for Florida State. We know it's going to be a heck of a challenge. I like the way our kids performed in camp. I think we're getting better as a team and certainly got to take advantage of this week in our preparations for Florida State, but certainly looking forward to joining the conference. Obviously, that starts with playing Florida State Monday night. Q. Paul, what's -- how challenging is it to prepare for a defense like this that is not only replacing a lot of personnel, but also a new defensive coordinator. You're not really sure what they're going to do or what they're going to look like. How have you approached that, and how challenging is it to game plan something like that?

COACH CHRYST: I think, obviously, there's certain challenges with it. You try to do the best you can. I still think, obviously, the opponent matters, what they're doing, and you want your kids to be prepared, but I still think a lot of football is trying to work on it and prepare yourself for the things that you can control. But there are certainly challenges that go with it. It's a situation we're in. So you embrace it and try to do the best you can.

Q. Paul, I know you've been a little bit banged up at running back. What is that position looking like headed into your first game?

COACH CHRYST: Well, it's -- don't know exactly. We'll find out. Isaac Bennett has been able to practice the last couple of days. Hopefully, he keeps progressing. James Conner and Rachid Ibrahim got the ball from the reps, along with Malcolm Crockett, in fall camp. Right now I think it's certainly going to be a bit of a running back by committee.

Q. What about James Conner? You think he'll be able to go?

COACH CHRYST: We're hoping so.

Q. Coach, what have you seen on video with Florida State? I know they have a new quarterback and the same defense; we talked about it earlier this morning. What have you seen on film?

COACH CHRYST: Certainly, we're able to get a feel for the guys that played last year. And obviously, I think they got a lot of really good players. I think a lot of people -- and really, talk about their speed, but I think they're good football players. And part of it is they're confident in what they're doing, and I think they play fast. Quarterback is -- not able to see a whole lot of him, but bits and pieces, and certainly very athletic, heck of an arm, I think. And skill positions are dangerous, the returners. Just have a ton of respect for them as players.

Q. Talk about that big game Monday night, what's that mean for you and the program and the City of Pittsburgh.

COACH CHRYST: As far as for the city and our alums, the university, I think it's a big deal, and I think people are treating it as such. We're truly excited to be joining the ACC. So there's a lot of excitement about that. You know, I think, in-house here, we're excited to just start this season. I think going up against last year's conference champions, a lot of respect we have for Florida State, it's a great way for us to start our season. I'm anxious to find out -- we've got a lot of guys that are either in new roles or first time playing. We're going to find out a lot about who we are. I'm excited, appreciative of what this team has done to get to this point, and I think, as a coach, I'm excited to be able to go out and play a game with them and start this season.

Q. Good luck on Monday.

COACH CHRYST: Thank you.

Q. Coach, sorry if I missed it. Do I understand that you named Tom Savage as starting quarterback? Can you talk about what he brings to the table and what you expect from him?

COACH CHRYST: Sure. We did name Tom our starting quarterback. Tom came here to play, and he was ineligible because of the transfer. Tom played early in his career and hasn't played in a game for quite a while. So there will be some natural adjustment for him. Tom, certainly, I think he's a very talented quarterback. He's got good football knowledge. He's become one of the leaders on our team. I'm excited to see him play. He's done a great job of picking up and learning our offense, and probably as important, working with and getting a good feel for our guys on our team, your receivers, your tight ends, and the throw game. I'm excited to see Tommy play. It's been a long time for him. He's put in a lot of work. I'm hoping -- it's our job to help him have as good a year as he can have.

Q. To change tack a little bit, I wanted to ask you about coming in the league and the impact on -- I think it's interesting you're playing your first game against Florida State, first ACC game against Florida State. In the -- a lot of coaches in the North and Midwest have seen Florida as a place to go and cherry pick some speed. You only have -- I think three guys from Florida on your roster right now. Is that an area you'd like to do some recruiting? And will being in the ACC and playing the Florida teams help at all?

COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I think it does. This is my second year, and I think we've done a great job of recruiting Pennsylvania and Western Pennsylvania, but I think, as we're able to branch out, it's natural to work through the states that the conference is in, and it's one that obviously the exposure and parents and families able to drive and see games. So I think, as we expand, certainly being in the ACC, we felt like this helps it. Recruits are very receptive to it. So you've always got to take care of your home base, but as you branch out, I think that's the logical place for us to branch out, and that's in kind of the ACC footprint.

Transcription courtesy of the ACC.