Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff
Thursday July 13, 2017
STEVE ADDAZIO: Welcome, everybody. It’s exciting to be back in here. Every time you come back into Charlotte and you kick these media days off, you realize college football is just right around the corner, and that’s the most exciting thing there is. I want to thank you guys for all coming out here today. This day has been unbelievable. Seems like the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been in the ACC, and that’s made by you, the media, with your following and tracking of our conference and our teams. So thank you.
I want to welcome Martin Jarmond, our new athletic director. Those of you guys who haven’t had a chance to meet with Martin, you should. He’s got a wealth of experience. He’s got a bunch of energy, and he’s going to do great things at Boston College for all of our athletic programs, and I’m really looking forward to having an opportunity to work day-to-day, hand-in-hand with Martin and to continue building our football program.
We’re excited this year. We took the momentum from the end of our season last year into our bowl prep, into our bowl game. And that excitement within our team, our team found a way in the maturation process of learning how to compete, finish, and win games in the end. And I think the excitement in the bowl game with the generation of what we tried to do and where we’re headed offensively has kicked us into the winter program, into the spring program. It’s energized everything. Our recruiting, our players have the most momentum I’ve seen since I’ve been at Boston College.
I’ve got a great football team full of guys that love football, that work really hard at football. They love being at BC. Their degree and their education is extremely important to them, so I walk into work every day, and every day I’m just like smiling, having an opportunity to work with these guys. I think the talent level is the best we’ve had, and I think that will parlay into a great season for us this year.
I’ll briefly talk both sides of the ball because I know I want to have a brief introduction here. On defense, you see Harold Landry is here. Harold is one of the elite pass rushers in America. Up front, along with Harold, we have Zach Allen, Wyatt Ray, Ray Smith, guys that have played a lot of football. Connor Strachan at inside linebacker with Ty Schwab, all played a lot of football. In the back end, Will Harris is a safety, Kam Moore, Isaac Yiadom, all these guys have played a ton of football. They’re all back.
On offense, we’re going to start to see the emergence of playmakers, guys that were young players that are now matured, experienced, and I believe on the verge of breaking out. We’ll be better at every position on that side of the ball. Our offensive line, Jon Baker, anchors it at center. Jon is going to be a three-year starter for us, and going into his senior year.
And a bunch of guys that played as 18, 19-year-olds are now 20, 21-year-olds. Our tight end group will be one of the better ones as a group in the conference. Our running back group, I think, is going to be elite. Jon Hilliman will head that. Our wide receivers have got explosive speed with Jeff Smith and Mike Walker, just to name a couple. And I think at quarterback I’ve seen the best competition that I’ve seen in a long time. We don’t have a guy, we have a room full of guys. That’s the first time since I’ve been there that’s been the case.
Anthony Brown had a great spring along with Darius Wade. Darius went in taking the starting reps in the spring and will do the same going into fall camp. If we were playing tomorrow, believe Darius would be the starter. They’ll have a great, healthy competition as will everybody else on our football team throughout preseason camp.
I’m excited about the continuity on our staff. I think we have a great football staff. And we’ve got great support. And I think the continuity of that — I left out special teams. I really like where we are special teams-wise. Our coverage units are fantastic. And I think we put our best players on those units, and I think in a shows.
Mike Knoll is coming back, and I think Mike Knoll will bring experience. He’s been through the mill in his career at Boston College and I think that will pay dividends for him as he goes into the season.
So I’m excited. I hope you’re excited about the kickoff. We are in the ACC, the best conference in college football. That’s not even debatable anymore. That’s backed up by every stat you can look at, by how many of our teams, from our top to our bottom, competing and beating all the teams from the other leagues. Who we play in the Power Five, who we play in non-conference, how many players are drafted in the NFL. I’ve been in every major conference. Right now this is the best conference in college football, and it’s fun and exciting to be a part of it, and we’re honored to be a part of it, and we’re looking forward to another great football season with unbelievable competitiveness across the board with some unbelievable featured marquee games.
With that, I’m happy to answer any questions or we’re bringing the players up, right?
Q. Harold, there are 28 of you players here this week, a whole bunch of them are from North Carolina. Take us back to those Friday nights at Pine Forest High School and how playing in Fayetteville prepared you to be one of the elite pass rushers in the ACC and in the nation?
HAROLD LANDRY: Yeah, definitely playing back home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Pine Forest, it was definitely a great experience. I loved high school football. I loved playing night games. I think they’re so special. But playing for the coaching staff that I had in high school, it’s almost similar to the coaching staff I have now. Obviously like I was one of the best players in high school, but my coaches, they kept me humble. They made sure that every day I was working like I wasn’t, which has helped me out tremendously.
But yeah, I loved high school. It was great. I loved playing football there, too. It was awesome.
Q. I wanted to talk about your position coach, Paul Pasqualoni, one of the winningest coaches in Syracuse University history, and now he’s there with you. Tell me about Coach P and how he motivates you guys.
HAROLD LANDRY: Coach P is like — he’s definitely one of the hardest, like, pushing coaches that I’ve ever been around. He expects you to give him your best and he’ll give you his best. He’s definitely an amazing coach. I’ve learned so much from him since he’s been a part of the BC program. When he came in, I didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as you go into that meeting room with him, he’s definitely like an NFL coach, so we’re so blessed to have him. He’s helped me out tremendously over this past season and in the offseason. He’s helped me prepare more than I ever have before. Like I said, I’m lucky to have him. We’re lucky to have him. He’s definitely one of the top coaches out there, and I can’t wait to work with him more going into my senior season.
Q. Leading the nation in sacks, just what can you say about sky’s the limit for this year, what you’re putting on yourself for this year and putting on this defense for this year?
HAROLD LANDRY: I think we can have an amazing season this year on defense. The chemistry our defense has, specifically with like my senior class, leading the defense this year, we have so much chemistry. We all have one common goal, which is go out and dominate. We want to go three-and-out as much as we can to give the offense as many chances as they can — as they want so they can get the rhythm going so they can start clicking in every game.
I think we have a chance for a special season. Like Coach said, we have a great schedule, ninth-ranked, hardest schedule in college football. We have an opportunity this year to showcase how good we really are, and I think our defense is more than prepared. Our coaches do a great job in the offseason, offseason training, and preparing us for each game when it comes to film and practices and stuff. Yeah, I think we have an opportunity to have a great season, and we’re definitely working towards that.
Q. Obviously I know you came back this year because you had something to prove about going to the next level, but in terms of the team, how important is this year improving, whether it’s making the next step or reinvigorating the fan base and any number of different things to kind of keep the momentum going?
HAROLD LANDRY: Yeah, like Coach said, I think we’ve done a great job carrying the momentum from the end of last season into offseason workouts, and we’ve just got to carry that into training camp and then on through each game starting with Northern Illinois Friday night at their place. But yeah, I think this season could be a great stepping-stone for our program. Last season we had a good season, but we know there’s more meat on the bone. There’s so much potential for this team. You can just see it in the offseason workouts. Everybody is stepping their game up. I’ve never seen so many players put in so much extra work. I think this season is going to be something special, especially for me in my senior season, a lot of seniors out there on our team, and they’re ready to lead.
We’ve just been working, we’ve been grinding, and like I said, our schedule is one of the top schedules in the country, and we’re prepared for the opportunity that we have ahead of us. I look forward to it. We all look forward to it. We’re all excited for the season, and I think a lot of great things are to come for this football program this season.
Q. Jon, 28 sacks given up last year, your offensive line let a couple of guys slip through. 28 is not a really high number, but what are your goals for this upcoming season when you talk about continuity and the guys you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with?
JON BAKER: In terms of goals, I think we just want to go out and play as good as we can every game, give the other guys on the team a chance to make the plays when the opportunity presents itself. That’s why we’re there, that’s what we do, and all we can do is go out and do our job and let those guys succeed and excel.
Q. Obviously last year’s bowl game, was the first time you guys kind of experimented in a full game with pace and tempo, but now that you’ve had time to work on it, how comfortable are you guys with the system and what are the possibilities for it?
JON BAKER: You know, our coaches did a great job of getting us ready for that game, installing the system, making sure we knew it very well in and out so that we could — I guess it was about a month of prep, so putting it all in in that time, they did a great job with that, and we got very comfortable with it, and going forward I think it’ll be a tool in our toolbox, but it’ll ultimately be a decision for the coaches whether it’ll be used or not.
Q. Just what you can say about your time with Coach Addazio and what you’ve taken away from him, his leadership for this team?
JON BAKER: You know, in my coming up on four years at BC, I’ve learned a great deal from Coach Addazio and Coach Frye, kind of in tandem, both as a player and as a man. They’ve taught me a lot, how to handle myself on and off the field, and as a player I don’t think you can find a better team of coaches that are going to develop you as an offensive lineman in the country.
Q. Coach, one of your favorite guys, Coach P, I want to ask you about him, and Harold just talked about him. I’m sure you have some pretty good Coach P stories. Maybe you’ve got a favorite one or tell me what he means to you.
STEVE ADDAZIO: I mean, there’s a lot of Coach P stories now. You have to remember that I started with him at Western Connecticut State University in 1985 when he was the head coach there and I was just a young graduate assistant. We used to all sleep in that office, which was full of asbestos. Maybe I can get a lawsuit or something.
Back in the days where you were splicing the film and hanging it on the deal. But anyway, funny story about Coach P, it was kind of like the Waltons at night. We’d get done about 1:00 in the morning and we’d all kind of have a sleeping bag and it would be kind of like good night, Coach P; good night, Steve; good night, Frank; good night, Coach. And it was kind of funny, I look back at those days sleeping on the floor or on a cot in Western Connecticut. It’s a long way from there, but he certainly had one of the greatest impacts on my life in coaching.
To this day, there’s no question he is absolutely one of the very finest coaches at the pro or college level, and for him to have the — the impact that he had on our defensive line — Harold had a breakout year, and Harold has got great ability, but Paul Pasqualoni had a tremendous impact fundamentally and technique-wise on that whole front and obviously on Harold, and for us to have him at Boston College is a gift, and his impact has been incredible.
Q. To speak on Darius Wade and his adversity going through injury, having to wait his turn and now having it in front of him, what you can say about how he’s handled the whole stretch?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Darius has really grown up, and it hasn’t been easy. He had his opportunity, and unfortunately that was the year in game 2 where he broke his leg and ankle against Florida State before we even ever got started and didn’t have another quarterback. And it really has taken Darius — quite frankly, when you really look back on it, that injury was pretty big physically and emotionally. I see in Darius this spring and this summer what I thought we would see, you know, he’s really emerged physically and mentally and he’s prepared to compete as an elite quarterback in this conference.
And I’m happy for him. He had a lot to overcome with all of that, you know, and I don’t think anybody, including us or he, realized the impact of that injury on a young guy at that stage.
Q. You came in with a five-year plan obviously. A couple years ago was obviously a setback, but I was curious, how important is this year to you and the vision that you have for the program and the plan that you had laid out?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, I mean, the trajectory is fantastic. You know, we have had to remake ourselves offensively, and we’ve had to do that over the last two years. We came here in the beginning, were able to hit the ground running with a veteran offensive line, and we were able to establish with two different styles of quarterbacks and offenses some pretty good success. And defensively we were probably a little behind then.
And defense really started coming on, and then offensively we lost a lineman and we had some injuries. So now we’ve retooled that. The momentum trajectory from the bowl game last year, I thought what you saw was a team that in the very opening day found a way not to win that game — we did as a program — but then at the end of the year, gained the confidence and the glue to learn how to win that game, and I thought that was the maturation process of our football program.
And the confidence level increased, and all of that kind of came together and has created a real energy in the program right now, and players — you heard Harold talk about it, players know, they know, you can’t — there’s no false amongst players. It’s palpable that you can feel it with our team. So all those — while we struggled the last couple years to rebuild ourselves offensively, I think those struggles will go into the impact that that’ll have this year because now these guys are 19, 20, 21-year-old guys who have a great understanding of what we’re doing. We’ve had the continuity in the offense with the coordinator, and I think it’s going to start — it’s really started to come together, and I think you’re going to see that on the field.
And that’s really exciting.
Where the two parts of our program, offense, defense — I should say three in special teams — we may have an opportunity to bring them all together now at the same time, and that’s exciting. And so I’m really jacked up looking forward to the whole deal to be honest with you. Are we a finished product? No. I think the one piece that has to be told, the story has to be told, while we know that our quarterbacks are highly talented right now, they have not done that in the heat of the battle in the ACC yet, and that’s a pivotal position. But their surrounding cast, their supporting cast is significantly improved and different.
Q. We’re seeing teams with several different styles succeed in the ACC. We have traditional power teams like yourself and Florida State. We see a lot of teams with the spread. Then we have Dino Babers, for whom fast is not fast enough.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Right.
Q. What kind of preparation problems does it create to play a team with the pace that Dino wants to play, and how do you impose your style against that type of very fast game?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, you know, I think this: They all work. I mean, I’ve been a part of national championship teams with spread components, power components. They all work. I think when you have — I think the key is matching what you want to do best, making sure that you have the right players that match that. And I think when that synergy comes together, it’s pretty good.
You know, they had a pretty good quarterback-wide receiver combination that put that thing together pretty good.
Every philosophy works. You just have to have your philosophy. Listen, our philosophy is simple, our plan to win, and really it’s not mine, it’s something that I adopted with Urban at Florida, and I believe in it with my heart.
You win — plan to win, play great defense, number one. You do everything you can to make yourself play great defense. That means your offense has to be able to help your defense play great defense. If you ultimately want to be competing for a championship, if you can’t play great defense, it’s hard to do that.
I know in the fan world, the excitement level of the score, I’ve got it, but you have to play great defense, okay. You’ve got to be good on special teams. You can’t turn the ball over, and you’ve got to score in the red zone. That’s our mindset, okay. All right. And our philosophy, we want to do the things that help our defense succeed, all right.
Now, in the process, we are on the side of offense right now, we’re more in a 10, 11, 12 grouping deal. We’re going to utilize tempo, and we’re going to have the ability to have a pro-passing approach, coupled with some pro concepts, intermingling spread sets, okay. And I think what that gives you the opportunity to do is every week help your defense grow because they can see the combination of a spread game and they can see the combination of a real power game because they’re going to face that at different points throughout the season.
What I know we have to do better is create more balance and get the ball down the field vertically more which I believe now with the skill players we have and the quarterback development that we have, we’ll be able to do that, and we want to get more whacks at it with the amount of plays we’re going to run. In the bowl game we ran over 60 plays in the first half. We used to run 70 something in a whole game.
So it’s all philosophical. So they all work. As you just mentioned, you can look in our conference, but here’s the one thing our conference does. If you’re a successful team in our conference, you play great defense. When I was in the SEC, that was the mark of that conference. The ACC plays the best defense in the country right now, and with that, with prolific quarterbacks, we’ve combined that now with some high-powered offenses, okay, and I think the key is play great defense and then develop that throw game to give you that strike capability that you have to have, okay. And whether you do that the way Dino does it, whether you do that the way Jimbo does it, however you choose to do that, if that can match your players’ talent level, you’ve got a winning formula. You have to match your players’ talent level, and then you have to recruit to that.
So I think they all work. I think they’re all exciting. I think they’re all awesome. I think that’s what makes our conference great. We have great diversity in styles of defense and offense within our conferences, which I really love. Is it hard to prepare for all that? Yeah. Yeah. It’s a challenge. And the more successful you are at preparing for that, the better off you’ll be.
And how do you do that? You’ve got to recruit really well, and you’ve got to have really good players, and then you’ve got to put them in the right positions to succeed, and that’s on us as coaches.
And so I love to watch them all to be honest. I’m intrigued by all of them. I’ve studied them all and I love little things about each and every one of those offenses. I think they’re all very, very dynamic and exciting and fit to where they are.