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November 5, 2014

Dave Clawson

DAVE CLAWSON:  Very excited about tomorrow night.  It's a great opportunity for our program, our university, and our community to be on a national stage, and we're certainly excited for that opportunity, and also the challenge of playing an excellent Clemson football team.  They're right now statistically the best defense in the ACC, the No.2 defense in the country.  On offense they're very explosive.  They're well coached.  They've got excellent personnel, and they certainly have been one of the best programs in the ACC the last couple of years.  It's a great challenge on the field, but again, we look forward to the opportunity to highlight our program and our University on ESPN tomorrow night.

Q.  As we head into the final month of the season here, how would you say the rebuilding process has gone and your first season in Winston‑Salem?
DAVE CLAWSON:  Well, in terms of record, we're not pleased, but I think a lot of times in year one it's a lot of those victories that maybe aren't the visible victories.  We're very pleased with the recruiting class we brought in a year ago.  We knew we needed help on the line.  We brought in 10 linemen.  Eight of them we're red shirting.  And those guys are developing well and getting stronger and putting on good weight.
The bye weeks have allowed us to give those guys a lot of reps, and almost do things that you would maybe normally do in a bowl prep month.  We feel recruiting is going well, and our kids continue to play hard and fight hard and compete.
Again, we've got some good players on our team that are giving us great effort.  We're a young football team, and a lot of these guys are going to continue to develop and get better.  It's going to be an ongoing process, but I certainly believe now as much as ever that we can be very successful in this conference and build a very good football program here.

Q.  And then when you look at the statistics, your offense versus Clemson's defense, it's going to be a pretty big undertaking tomorrow.  What have you seen on film that you guys have try and have some success against their defense?
DAVE CLAWSON:  Well, I mean, again, any time you have good personnel that's well coached, that makes for a good unit.  I mean, these guys are‑‑ they've got eight senior starters on the defense, 11 in the two deep.  Some of the players at their positions are, if not the best in the ACC, maybe some of the very best in the country.  It's going to be a great challenge, but it's a challenge you want‑‑ our players want to embrace.
We know we've struggled on offense, and we know this is a great defense, but this is how you measure yourself as a competitor, and right now this is one of the programs that is kind of the high water mark in the ACC along with Florida State, and if this is where we want to get to, these are the teams we've got to play, and we've got to find a way to be successful against.

Q.  Quarterback John Wolford, just what you've been able to take away from him and if you feel like he's progressing positively.  I know he's had some struggling moments this season, but just what you've seen out of him?
DAVE CLAWSON:  No, I mean, I think John has really done well for us.  If you look at his completion percentage‑‑ right now we're asking a true freshman quarterback at times to carry us.  We haven't given him protection at times.  We've had virtually almost no explosive plays in our run game or throwing a hitch or a screen.  He's had to play at an extremely high level for us to be competitive.
And then the games that we've given him time, and we've allowed him to get through progressions, he's been extremely accurate, and the kid plays with a lot of toughness, a lot of courage.  He's taken some really tough hits this year, and I have not seen any effect.  Normally when that happens to a quarterback, maybe they get quick feet or jittery back there, and they have a tendency to rush things or maybe get too deep in the pocket or not keep their eyes down the field, and I have not seen any of that with him.
I'm really proud how hardest competed, the courage he's shown, and again, when we've given him a chance to execute the offense, he's done it at a pretty high level for us.

Q.  When you have John there, talking about asking a young quarterback to carry you, with him being young in his career and you being young in your career as a head coach there, can you see him growing with you as you both kind of figure out what's working and what's not?
DAVE CLAWSON:  Yeah, we've got to just get him more help.  Again, we're building a program, and this is year one.  We've got very few juniors and seniors in our two deep right.  On our offense, of our 12 or 13 players, six of them are freshmen and there's a bunch of sophomores.  So not only is he going to grow and get better, but almost everybody he's playing with is going to get better around him.  I mean, right now the only guys that have played significant snaps as seniors for us have been Antonio Ford and EJ Scott and Matt James when he's been healthy.  There's not really another senior that has played a lot of snaps.
All these guys are going to get better, and a lot of them have three more years, and certainly John is one of those guys.  I think when he gets a spring practice under his belt, now he's had the benefit of a whole season under his belt, he's going to have a whole off‑season of throwing with receivers and running backs and tight ends, and this is a starting point for us, and it's just going to get better.

Q.  You've faced some good defenses already this year.  When you look at Clemson's defense on tape, is it different kind of challenges than when you faced a Louisville defense or a Florida State defense?
DAVE CLAWSON:  Yeah, they're all really good in different ways.  I think what's so impressive about Clemson is just how strong they are through the middle of their defense.  I mean, the three technique for them, Jarrett is probably as good a defensive tackle as we've seen all year.  Beasley can rush the passer.  I mean, he has exceptional quickness, a great motor.  I mean, he's just so quick and so relentless that even when he's blocked, he never stays blocked.
Certainly the linebacker Anthony, I mean, is just an outstanding player.  These guys are all seniors.  Their entire starting defensive line is seniors or graduate students.  Anthony is a senior; Steward, the other linebacker, is a senior; the two guys in the secondary, Smith and Peters, are seniors; the two corners are probably as good a cover corners as we've seen all year, and the safeties are very athletic.
They don't have to do a lot to be really good.  Their players understand their defense.  They win individual match‑ups.  And then on 3rd downs and in the red zone when they get multiple, they become that much more difficult to attack, because when a team can play their base defense so well and it's a challenge attacking that, then they mix it up with different pressures, whether it's zone pressures or man pressures or different things they do, and they've got answers.
Again, good personnel, well coached, experienced.  When you have those three things, that's the makings of a great defense.

Q.  How long is a rebuilding process in your eyes, and the teams at the bottom of the league can at some point challenge all the guys at the top like Florida State and Clemson?
DAVE CLAWSON:  Yeah, that's certainly our goal, and right now we're at the bottom.  That's where we're at.  You've first got to get to the middle, and then once you get to the middle, you've got to take that last leap to get to the top.  Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it's been done at Wake Forest before, and it's certainly our plan to do it again.  We have no illusion that this is going to be a snap your fingers and you're there.  We have to recruit well.  We have to retain players.  We have to develop them.  We've got to evaluate our schemes on both sides of the football and make sure we're giving our players every opportunity to be successful.
But if you look at the other side of the division, a team that was consistently in the bottom over there is now at the top.  Wake Forest won the ACC not that long ago, so it can be done, and we plan on doing it.

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