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October 24, 2012

Jim Grobe

MIKE FINN:  We welcome Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe.  We'll bring on coach, ask for a brief opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH GROBE:  Thank you, Mike.
We were very fortunate to get a win against Virginia this past weekend.  Always good to get a win.  Wins are tougher and tougher it seems like to get each week.  To win on the road was really good for us.
I thought our kids played really, really hard.  I thought Virginia's kids played hard.  It was a great game.  We were fortunate to come away with the win.
We're excited to be playing a great Clemson team on Thursday night.¬† I think it will be exciting for us.¬† We know we got our work cut out for us.¬† We're going to take a step up talent‑wise.¬† This is a very talented Clemson team.¬† Dabo and his staff do a great job coaching.¬† We know it's going to be a tough challenge for us.
MIKE FINN:  Questions for Coach Grobe.

Q.¬† Your last couple of games here, your third‑down conversion rate on offense has been pretty bad actually I guess is the best way to put it.¬† What do you think the problems are on third down?
COACH GROBE:¬† Well, I think we converted one at Virginia, so we got one‑third down at Virginia.
More than anything else, for us, it's what you do on first and second down.¬† I think our problem has been in third‑down situations we have had some short‑yardage situations.¬† I think our offensive line is pretty depleted right now as far as guys that we feel like are capable of getting the job done.
I think we got a shot up front if we can keep things mixed up and keep people off balance a little bit.¬† But the situation we get into is when we're in third‑and‑long situations and they know we're going to throw the football, it's been hard for us to protect in those situations.
Then I think even in some of our short‑yardage situations, we've probably been not as successful there because people feel like, hey, this is a time to go run the football, so they kind of cram it in there.¬† It's just been hard for us.
I think our biggest issue is up front, having consistency blocking people, whether it's in the run game or the throw game, pass protection.
I think the key for us is to try to be in situations where we've got people in a guessing mode where they're not convinced we're going to run it or throw it.  If we get into too many situations on third down where it's pretty obvious what we're going to try to do, that makes it harder on us.

Q.  Does all that kind of figure into Tanner's completion percentage the last couple weeks, down considerably?  Does that factor into the way he's playing the ball?
COACH GROBE:  I think so.  I think if we get into too many situations where they know we're going to throw the football, that gives people a chance to heat us up.  We've had some issues with our wide receivers running the right routes.  We've had a bad combination with the offensive line and the wide receivers.  We've had too many key guys out at the same time.
What's happened is we're not catching the ball as well from our wide receivers and at times we're not running the routes the way we need to.  With a little bit less protection up front from time to time, it puts Tanner in a real bind.
To be honest, Tanner has to play better.  He has had some throws he should have made that he didn't make.  I think if you combine the protection and the inexperience that we've been playing with at wide receiver, and if Tanner misfires, you have too many things going wrong.
We need as an offensive unit to get better protection, run better routes, catch the football, then Tanner has to step up a little bit, too.  It's not all on the receivers and the offensive line, at times Tanner has to play a little better.

Q.  Jim, obviously your defense has been playing well of late.  How much of that do you think was the opponents and how much do you say we've been playing good defense?
COACH GROBE:  That's our problem more than anything else.  Clemson is so talented.  They have a handful of really dangerous players.  It's not one guy.
So many times offensively, like at Maryland, the Diggs kid is special.  He made a couple huge plays that pretty much got us.  That's what happens.  A lot of the teams that we're playing have a good player, a couple good players.  This is a Clemson team that has so many good players.
I think we have improved a little bit defensively, and I think part of that is we get a little more healthy defensively.  But we haven't faced anybody as explosive as this Clemson offense.

Q.  What do you like about the way your defense is playing the last few weeks that you need to carry over?
COACH GROBE:  I think most people would look at Clemson and feel the same way.  They're going to be a hard team to outscore if you're not playing good defense.  I think this is a group you hope to hang in there.
They're going to have their yards, their big plays, score points.  You know that's going to happen.  I think you just got to keep playing hard for four quarters.  That's what we've been able to do.
I thought we played pretty hard defensively against Duke, Maryland and Virginia.  At times didn't get a lot of help from the offensive side of the ball.  For us to play really good defensively Thursday night, we have to have some help from the offense.  Our offense has to make some first downs.  We have to throw and catch better.  If we don't, it's going to be tough for our defense to do it by themselves.
I think our challenge is greater with Clemson Thursday night defensively, and nothing would help our defense more than if our offense could be more productive.

Q.  Speaking of that, I saw earlier this week there might be a chance that Camp can play on Thursday.  Can you update on that?
COACH GROBE:  Yeah, I think he's going to play.  We didn't do much with him.  I really was just laughing about it a couple days ago.  We started him out catching tennis balls.  I didn't know if he could catch a football because his hand is still pretty tender.
But last night he looked so much better.  We put him in practice.  We were still careful with him.  We tried not to do too much with him.  He didn't seem to have any problems.  I think they've got the padding right.  He caught the ball well last night.
I think he's going to play.  How much he plays and how well he plays is yet to be determined.  But I think if we get him out there, he knocks the rust off pretty quick, starts playing good, we'd be more apt to give him more work.  I would say he'll definitely play tomorrow night.

Q.  Is he going to have to wear extra padding in his glove then?
COACH GROBE:  He is.  He is.  They padded him up a couple of nights ago.  He was still a little bit sore.  They added a little bit more padding last night.  It's a fine line.  We want to protect him.  That's our number one concern.  But I think also he has to be effective.
It seemed like last night he was having not too many issues catching the football.  We just haven't given him a lot of reps.  That's the issue that I've got.  I think physically he's going to be okay, but he just hasn't done a lot over the past three weeks.  How quickly he can come back and get back to running the routes, catching the football, all those kind of things, we'll find out tomorrow night at 7:30, but we are going to play him.

Q.  Coach, Whitlock got set back a little bit earlier in the season.  Have you seen signs he's coming out of it or if he still has a ways to go to be back?
COACH GROBE:  I think he's rolling now.  He's full speed.  He's been a little bit sick this week.  Some of our kids have had a little bit of a virus.
He should be fine tomorrow night.  We tried to bring him back against Duke.  He was not very effective.  I don't know if he had any tackles or bonus points.  He played, but it was his first time back and he was still taped up heavily, kind of limping around.  Against Maryland, he was back.  He had a bunch of bonus points, made a bunch of tackles, played really well.  Played really well this last Saturday against Virginia.
I would say, from what I can tell, he's getting his stamina back.  That's a problem.  When you've been out a while, being in condition, being able to play after play is a problem.  I would say Nikita is full speed and ready to roll.

Q.  You mentioned defense, and they really did play well in the two road games.  Can you talk about the young players that had to step up in light of the personnel issues?
COACH GROBE:  The thing that we have to have is we have to have Nikita play really, really well.  We have finally got Merrill Noel healthy.  At the other corner, Kevin Johnson is playing pretty good for us.  One of the moves we had to make because of the injuries, we had to bump one of our corners into safety, Chibuikem Okoro.  He was playing on the corner, rotating between K.J. and Bud.  We bumped him into safety.  That's been really good for us.
A.J. Marshall has been playing a little bit better in there, doing a good job getting us lined up.  I think defensive fronts are healthy now.  We've got Zach Thompson healthy, Nikita Whitlock healthy.  A real blessing for us has been Hasan Hazime, who graduated at Akron and came in here in the graduate program.  He's been really, really good for us.
Then our outside linebacker play has been a little bit better.  We've got Joey Ehrmann playing pretty good now.  I think a lot of other guys have stepped up.
But the thing that you have to have, you have to have your play‑makers, veteran guys, play their best football, then your younger guys don't have as much pressure on them.¬† I think that's the key for us defensively.¬† We've been pretty banged up.¬† We're starting to get a little bit healthy.¬† I'm not saying we're where we need to be.¬† We're going to face the biggest challenge we have had all year and probably will have all year on Thursday night.¬† Those kids are playing pretty good together.¬† We usually play pretty hard, but we started playing a little bit better fundamentally.
MIKE FINN:  Coach, thanks for being with us.  Good luck tomorrow night and we'll talk to you next Wednesday.
COACH GROBE:  Mike, appreciate it.  Y'all be good.

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