Al Groh press conference transcript from Aug. 26, 2008, courtesy UVa sports information:
Q: A couple times this month, you've commented that your quarterbacks don't have experience. If my memory is correct, other than the Wyoming game last year when the outcome was determined whenever Peter Lalich was in the game every time last year the game was still in the balance. Is that not significant experience to have been in there seven times even if they were not long stretches when he was in there?
A: Oh sure. Other than the first two times I think when he went in (last year), for Duke and the North Carolina game, the remaining times were like firemen going down the pole, 'Peter hurry up get your helmet get in there Jameel (Sewell) can't go.'
The quarterback has to be ready to do that but that's a lot different than when a quarterback has an extended time frame to kind of get his mind ready for those circumstances.
With all positions as we have discussed sometimes in the past, when we see players that looks as if it's pretty inevitable that they are going to take on a substantial role the next season, we really try to get them exposed before that. We've found that to be a benefit for younger players in the past, particularly true freshmen who have seen that they would be prime contenders for playing time.
If we thought it was valid in that case, then we certainly would have to say that we hope that it would prove to be valid here again.
Q: You said the other day that you and offensive coordinator Mike Groh were going to meet with the quarterbacks and ask when they would like to know if they were the starter. Did you meet with them individually or as a group or what?
A: No, we really haven't had any formal sit downs with any of them. Actually most of the conversation has been with Mike in the meeting with the quarterbacks or (what) I've done on the field before or after practice (which is) giving them commentary as to how I see things are or how things going these or anything you need these days in practice. It's really been very low key on our end. This has not been as dramatic for us as choosing a vice president.
Q: You don't have the benefit in college football of playing exhibition games. When you watch your team, if one unit is doing well offensively or defensively do you sometimes wonder if it is because the other unit isn't very good? Is it tough to get a gauge?
A: Those are days that I can decide whether I want to be a glass half full or glass half empty guy. The offensive and defensive coaches don't have that option. If their unit does well, the glass is all the way full. If not, it's all the way empty. I can choose to decide what side dominates. Do I want to see it in a very positive way or do I want to be concerned about it? Obviously, if something's not doing well you have to be concerned about your flaws.
Q: Do they get to know their tendencies so well?
A: Sure. At this point now it becomes more challenging to do a lot of things against each unit. Pass patterns are quickly recognized by the secondary, particular blitzes or pressures are much more easily picked up. Now part of that is that the players are getting better, but also part of that getting better is the recognition of it. That's the tricky thing when you switch over to playing an opponent all of a sudden you are dealing with a whole different of schemes than what players have become pretty comfortable dealing with.
Probably the down side about preseason games is obviously the result of an injury (when) you lose a key player in game that doesn't count. The up side of it is from a 'getting used to getting prepared standpoint' that your team is exposed to four different systems including your own, so your team is exposed to five different systems before you go into plays that count. That gives the players a lot of foundation, particularly new players who are going into that league. That gives them a lot of exposure to different things that they are going to have to tune into during the course of the season.
College football is different than the NFL football. (College football) is kind of 'stand on the edge of the pool and jump right in' and see what the temperature is once you get in it. That's why it seem to take a while for things to level out, to see what the landscape really looks like in college football.
Q: How do you evaluate progress of the three new starters on the interior offensive line during training camp?
A: I would say probably they're as about as far as they could come under these circumstances--that is working against the same players and the same defenses. Watching the tape last night, I was pleased what showed up on the tape with those three with what they were working against. They know the pass rush moves and the kids they're going against and the schemes, but that's taken them about as far as it can take them. Now they do need those other schemes and other players to continue to progress.
Q: A couple of players remarked how this training camp been more physical than in past years. Is that the intent of the coaching staff, and if so is it a response to what happened in the last couple season openers?
A: It's a response to what's necessary to get this team ready. When you have a lot of players who are veteran players and have been in those contact situations in games, they need a different type of preparation. When you have a lot of players who have never been in involved in that, then they need that type of preparation. We just try to get this particular team ready as we determined was the best way to do so.
Q: You feel like you are going to have to win more games on offense this year? Last year you had a top-25 ranked defense?
A: I know what your question is and it's a 'yes' answer but really we're going to have to score more points. As well as we played on defense the last two seasons as far as keeping the other teams' points down, the one thing that we have not accomplished that we wanted to is to score a lot on defense ourselves. Between defense and special teams, it is an objective of ours to raise our point producing in those two areas, as well as offensively.
Q: In talking about Southern California, they are one of the most sophisticated, teams you've played in terms of schemes. How sophisticated are they and what separates maybe from some of those other great teams?
A: It starts with the talent level. When you have a higher talent level, the more comfortable you feel with expanding your schemes. There certainly is a very, very high talent level with the players. It is usually pretty easy for those players to get things in a little bit quicker fashion and maybe sometimes if it is more challenging for them physically to do things.
The background of their staff is pretty extensive, where they've been and things they've done. Obviously it starts with Pete (Carroll) who had an extensive time frame in the (NFL) as both a coordinator and head coach and you see a lot of those schemes. A number of guys on the offensive staff have background in that league, so we see a lot of things from there. They cover a lot of territory for a team that we do not have a background with. This would have been an even more impossible task if it was in midseason where we had three days to sort it out.
Q: There's a common thread of adjectives that define the USC program. What are some adjectives that you think define an Al Groh program? When you retire, you'd like people to say an Al Groh team was ... ?
A: When I've been asked about our style or our team in the past, I've just usually said, 'look, we just coach the team the way that we think it needs to be coached.' It's up to other people to define our team and how we do it. Last year's team and how it played and what it was about is a pretty good model of what defines our culture.
Q: What do you expect from OLB Clint Sintim this year?
A: What I expect and what we need are both the same. We need a big year from Clint. He had an excellent season for us last year and performed well in training camp. Nine sacks (last year) is a lot of sacks for a linebacker; that might be hard to get that many again, but certainly we can use that many. They've got to come from some place because there are a lot of sacks that left.
Q: Clint Sintim seemed like a guy who fit the poster child role for coming in here and playing and gradually moving up in a leadership role. Is this the case?
A: His career has really followed that path. As he came and learned what college football was like and learned who we are and what we were all about, what the personality of this organization is and what it takes to be successful here, he saw it and he let the circumstances change him. Whether it's athletically or academically, that's why kids go to college (and) in particular this school--to be changed by the environment.
He's had great purpose in what he's done. He and Chris (Long) became great soul mates and they really pushed each other performance-wise and I think they had a very positive effect on each other.
Q: Will you wait to see how the 2-year USC series plays out or will you schedule some other outlandish games?
A: Isn't there supposed to be an age limit on the term 'middle age crazy?' (chuckles) ... We like to have some ... challenging games on an on-going basis. It's good for our team. It brings out the best in your team. Competition is not about always scheduling to win. Competition is about stepping out there and putting yourself out there a little bit and seeing what you can do with it. I think our team has benefited from the preparation that it's taken to get ready for a game like this. I think the type of players that we're going to play against will be worthwhile for us. I think as a coach I have benefited from the challenges of getting ready for a team like this. I've learned some new things in having to deal with this team and some schemes that we haven't had to deal with before.
Q: Is this kind of an ideal scenario that this is your first game so you have lots of time to prepare for it?
A: It has worked out that way but one of our wishes was to play it as a first game, but not necessarily for that reason. As challenging as the game is, it really doesn't have the long-range implications on our team as conference play does. Just think what it would be like playing this game in between two major conference games; it would really be very distracting to our first objective, which is to win our division and to try to get into the ACC championship game. So for that reason we wanted the game early and it was my understanding that USC wanted the same thing.