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December 1, 2017
Charlotte, North Carolina
MARK RICHT: We're very thankful to be here. It's been a great ride this season. It's a team that we challenged all year to see if we were going the first Miami team to make it here in Charlotte. We're here. So we're excited about that.
Going to play a great team. We know that. Anybody that wins 42 of the last 45 games is pretty outstanding. Obviously Clemson has won the national championship a year ago, last couple ACCs. Dabo has just done a wonderful job. We're thankful for the opportunity and the challenge.
With that I'll open it up.
Q. Talk about Cager's development.
MARK RICHT: He a year ago had an ACL injury. He was coming off of that. I think it's taken him time to truly trust it. I think it's typical of a guy who comes off an injury like that. It takes a while to really believe. Especially when you're running full speed, changing direction, running full speed, stopping, jumping to catch a ball, turning, all that. I think it took him a while to gain confidence.
Right now I don't see any signs of him being concerned about that. You can see him do his thing. He's done well.
Q. Dabo Swinney moments ago said you're the real deal, he's a Mark Richt fan. How do you feel you have changed the culture to be at this point of playing the ACC Championship, the culture of the program?
MARK RICHT: First of all, I think Dabo is the real deal, too. He's a great coach and a great person. I have no doubt in my mind, I know he's doing things the right way. You can tell he's been recruiting for eight years at a high level. I know that he's developing them physically, mentally, spiritually. I really admire the way he does his business, too.
I don't even know what the culture was. To be honest with you, when I got there I was more concerned about letting the guys know how we were going to go about our business. It wasn't like I went in there and said, Hey, we got to change this, change that. I was like, This is how we're going to do things.
First thing I had to do was hire really good coaches, guys that were confident and guys that were going to do it the way I wanted it done. That's coaching them and loving them, but doing everything in a first class manner.
We believe in family. We believe in togetherness and unity. We just believe in good old-fashioned hard work. I told them in one of the first meetings, How many guys want to be champions, raise their hands? How many is willing to work and be the right to be a champion? Of course, that's when they all raise their hand, but that's how things get started. If this is what you want, this is how we're going to do it.
I think we've been real consistent with them. They know we're going to work hard, we're going to trust each other, we're going to go through adversity together, then good things we felt like could happen. They've been happening for us.
Q. In looking ahead to this game, do you feel like Clemson has any advantage because they've had so many players that have played in this game the past couple years?
MARK RICHT: Yeah, well, first of all, being used to winning at a high level, being used to being a champion, not only an ACC champion but a national champion, playing in two national championship games in a row, it doesn't get any bigger than that.
Yeah, they've all experienced that. Experience is a great teacher. We all know that. We're just experiencing some things for the first time as a group of coaches and players. It should be an advantage to have lived through those types of moments.
Q. Your thoughts watching Kelly Bryant, really dialing in on film this week, what you see, what it is about him that impresses you?
MARK RICHT: Well, I've seen him more on TV than coaches tape. I'll spend more time looking at defense. I am spending time game planning, coaching QBs, all that fun stuff.
But he's a true dual threat. He's the number two rusher on the team, 637 yards, whatever it is. He's hitting 67% of his passes. He's eighth in America in that category. Pretty exceptional. They're as balanced of an offense as you can be. A lot of it to do with his ability to run and throw exceptionally well.
When they play defense the way they play defense, a lot of times you don't have to do something spectacular, have spectacular numbers to be a championship quarterback. I think he understands that part of it, too.
Q. A lot has been made with the injuries to Herndon, Richards. How have the guys stepping up responded? What onus have they taken as far as their roles, what they have to do?
MARK RICHT: You can't sit there and see just watching, go, He's different now. I think they always worked hard. I think they always practiced with energy and a purpose. But I think they know in their heart they're going to get more opportunities. I mean, that's just the way it is.
You look at losing Mark Walton, he's pretty good. Herndon. Richards. Those three guys really were the most dynamic players at their position on our team. Of course, we lost Mark early. We had Travis step up and play well. DeeJay Dallas mid-season gets moved to runningback, just to try to create some depth there. He's played a lot more receiver now considering what's going on with the tight end and receiver position as far as injuries.
We've won a lot of games without Ahmmon being there the whole time. There's a few games he didn't play or finish because he's been dealing with injuries the whole season.
I think the guys know it's just a matter of not reinventing the system or anything like that. It's just making the plays we ordinarily practice. Sometimes at an extraordinary time, but you're basically doing what we always do.
Q. There's an article in the Miami Herald saying 20, 25 thousand Hurricane fans are traveling. You talked about the culture, the players. It seems like you've also turned around the culture.
MARK RICHT: Our fans, I'll brag on them for a minute. They have been phenomenal. There's two things I can tell when the crowd is doing great. One is when I'm on my headset, I can hear the crowd through my mouthpiece back into my ears. That's when I know the crowd is really going crazy.
Another way of knowing it is the fact that we've had to actually go to non-verbal at home. They're cheering so hard, sometimes they're cheering for the turnover chain. A couple times they're cheering for the turnover chain, we're on offense, we can't hear what's going on. We're like, Let's go non-verbal.
There's actually a third way. If you watch the TV copy after game, you can hear and feel the spirit of the fan base, that's exceptional.
I'm not shocked that they're coming in droves. I was thinking about them today as we were getting on the plane. You know what the sacrifice our fans are making to come to this game, flights obviously, a little more expensive than driving. Some will probably drive. There will be some flying, for sure. There will probably be some people buying some winter gear. I don't know if everybody down there has anything to handle a cool day or a cool night.
Anyway, I'm very proud of our fan base.
Q. Jeff Scott told us the other day that you and your wife used to baby-sit him when he was a little kid. You were the quarterback coach at Florida State the last few years of his tenure there. Could you tell us about your recollections. How much have you followed his development as a young coach?
MARK RICHT: Coach Scott and his wife, then Brad Scott, talking about the dad, I coached with him for years. My first job at Florida State, he was there almost the entire time until he took the head job at South Carolina. Mostly at the bowl time is when we got to know them the most because there's a lot of family time in the bowl time. A lot of the kids get together, wives and kids get together during the bowl time. There's moments when the coaches aren't coaching or watching tape. We did spend time with them.
There's been a lot of great memories. I was close with his dad Brad. I was close with a lot of those guys on that staff, but I was very close with Brad. Our relationship stayed strong through the years.
Q. A lot of talk this year surrounding your team has been the return of the U. Is that something your team uses as a motivational factor?
MARK RICHT: I've never said to the team, Let's prove to everybody the U is back. I've never said that. Like I said before, I've said, Let's get to work. Let's play physical. Let's play fast. Let's play disciplined. Let's do the things that you got to do on a daily basis to give you a chance to win. When adversity strikes, let's stick together, keep believing in each other, keep trusting, and see what happens.
That's really all I've been preaching to these guys.
Q. You mentioned when a chain comes out, there's this ruckus and noise. Ever since it came out since the first game, it has taken on a life of its own. Manny said about a week ago there's a psychological effect when the other team sees that chain. Do you believe there's a psychological effect?
MARK RICHT: I don't know. I really don't know for sure. I know this: if we were 5-5, I've said this many times, and had five turnovers, then people would be making fun of the thing.
Now we're winning. We lead the nation in turnover ratio. It is a ratio. We've got a lot of takeaways, no doubt, but we didn't give it away a lot. We're number one in America there. That's big.
But with the rise of our team, as far as the winning record, winning a Virginia Tech game on TV at 8:00, winning a Notre Dame game prime time, 8:00, in our stadium, everybody is seeing all the things that come with it. The chain has been a huge part of it.
The thing about the turnover chain is that it is Miami. It's got the big U, all the gems and sparkles, all that kind of thing. That's kind of how we roll down there in Miami.
The other thing, though, that I love about it, is it's pure fun. I mean, any time a guy got a turnover, the only thing he did bad is trying to take his helmet off on the way to the sideline because he wants to put the chain on. I don't see anybody taunting, waving at anybody. I see him running to the bench and celebrating a moment with his teammates and the fan base. That's all we're doing.
I want them to have fun. I want to celebrate good things. It's awesome.
Q. What was the mood like at practice after the tough loss in Pittsburgh?
MARK RICHT: Sunday night we started out great. Having a day off to just kind of give everybody a moment to grieve and mourn and all that kind of stuff, but also begin to think about what could be, what's about to happen. It didn't take long to get everybody back online ready to go.
If we would have played on a Saturday, practiced the very next day, it probably would have been a little somber would be my guess. When you let 48 hours pass, you already start looking at film on the next opponent, know what we're playing for. It didn't take long to get everybody juiced up, ready to practice.
I think it's gotten cooler since we got in here.
Q. I have to ask you to your reaction to the news about Jimbo. You went head-to-head, probably expected to coach against him for a while.
MARK RICHT: Yeah, I would have thought so. I did an event with the governor asked Coach Wayne and Fisher and myself to come for a summit on something to do with jobs in the state. I can't remember exactly what it was. But we were all there. You would have thought we'd be doing things like that for years to come. Just hasn't turned out that way.
I've been through it, so I know job changes can happen. They happen no different reasons. I'm not going to get in anybody's business. Certainly I have heard what's going on, but I haven't focused on it at all because I'm trying to get ready to get a first down or two, you know.
Q. When you took over the program, did you have in your mind like a calendar of when you wanted things to happen, when you felt like this team would be ready to compete for the ACC Championship? If so, do you feel you're ahead of schedule?
MARK RICHT: Everybody keeps asking me that. I go back to the answer I had before. I think there's a process of how you get to where you want to go. It starts with the administration. Blake James and (indiscernible) here, them wanting the program to be great, being helpful in trying to get everything done that I feel like we need to get done to get where we're going.
You got to hire great staff. You got to recruit great players, but you got to be able to develop them once they get there. You got to feed them a certain way. You have to make sure your strength and conditioning program is right. You have to make sure that the coaches themselves can teach them the fundamentals they need to be taught.
It takes time and cycles of recruiting, years of recruiting, to get where Clemson is right now. When you look at Clemson on tape, you're like, Wow, look at these guys. You can tell they've been doing for it a while, not only recruiting well, but developing well for a while now.
For the most part Dabo has kept his staff together, too. I think that's important.
So if you can do that year after year after year at a place like Miami, we can hope to be where we're at now on a pretty consistent basis. You're not going to win every year, but you feel like you're going to be right in there every single year.
As far as a timetable, all I can tell you is our plan was to become the best we can be and win every game we play. When we line up, we don't say, Man, we think we'll win that one, but I don't know if we can win that one. We go into every game believing we can win. This year we've won all the close games where last year we didn't.
Q. After the Notre Dame game you said you had to compile a video of all the experts against Miami and showed it to your players.
MARK RICHT: I didn't have to. Yeah, some people took offense to that. All I was doing was we just showed video of people's opinion, that they didn't think we could win and why they didn't think we could win. I don't think anybody was trying to hurt anybody's feelings, but it got our guys' attention. I think it challenged them.
Q. Anything planned for this week?
MARK RICHT: I don't have anything special. What happened to me, midweek, late week, I'm not on the phone looking at Twitter all the time or looking at the social media all the time, but I got young coaches around me. They're like the players, they're looking at it. Coach, did you see this? Did you see that?
That's what happened that week. I watched a couple. Well, maybe we could show it to the boys and see if it will fire them up, so...
But getting fired up lasts about two or three series, then it settles into a game, it settles into the habits you've created throughout the season, throughout the week.
Q. On Malik, from the beginning of the season when there was this big quarterback competition, no one had any idea who was starting, maybe you did, but on the outside we didn't know, to winning all his games but one, what has he done?
MARK RICHT: Malik is very smart. He understands football. He can come off the field, or even after a rep in practice, and just tell in detail what he saw. I've always learned as a quarterback coach, always ask them, Why did you do what you did, whether it was good or bad. If they tell you why they did what they did, it's a good sign. I say he's doing the right things for the right reasons. Sometimes a guy did the right thing because he got lucky, you know what I mean?
But he can recall what happened. If you're watching film the next day, What did you see? What did you think? Why did you do what you did?
We can see the film from up in the sky, but we're not standing in that pocket with all them bodies flying around. We're not seeing exactly what he's seeing. So he's very good in that way.
He's got plenty of arm strength to throw any ball that you could ask a guy to throw. Then he's got some wheels. He's not the most prolific runner in America, but he's been an effective runner. Without his running ability, I don't think we're here today, to go along with his ability to think, process and throw.
We've certainly put in some quarterback run game for him throughout the season that has made a big difference for us. I mean, those are the things that helped him win the job.
I'm really, really proud of him because I wasn't convinced he was going to be the guy going into camp, I can tell you that.
Q. How have you seen Malik respond mentally after you took him out of the game late against Pittsburgh?
MARK RICHT: First of all, after one series, he's like, Coach, can I go back in there and lead the team? So I put him back in. I probably would have put him back in anyway. But I liked his attitude. He didn't go on the bench and pout. He stayed up. He loves Evan Shirreffs, he loves his teammates. He was trying to help him. He was struggling to hit his target. If Evan hit his target, I think he would have been happy if we won the game. That's the kind of person he is. He's a great kid, got a great heart.
He's like, can I go back in?
I was like, Yeah, can you go back in.
So he went back in, we had success when he went back in. But I told him at the end of the game, Look, you're still the guy, there's no controversy. You were just struggling for the moment hitting your target. That's why I made the change.
Then I wanted to watch him, because you get everybody else's opinion. You go home, watch social media, might talk to family. Who knows what happens between the time I saw him until I saw him again. I saw him Friday, then I saw him again Sunday night. I just kept a close eye on him. I felt like his body language didn't change, his attitude didn't change. We were right back to work.
Even Evan Shirreffs, we talked about it. Evan could have been maybe in the tank a little bit, Coach, you gave me one series, that's it? I didn't feel that from him. I felt like, Coach, I'm here to help the team win any way I can. That's how he's been the whole season.
Q. You've played so many games in a row after the hurricane hit without a break. After this game you're going to have pretty long break. Is that a good thing as far as coaching goes? Is the answer dependent on whether you win or lose?
MARK RICHT: Here is what is going to happen: when the game is over, we're going to be in the locker room cheering, excited, or we're going to be in the tank, one or two. The next day, everybody is going on the road recruiting, bam, won't come back till the next weekend. Then another week, at least. The second week, we have 15, 20 kids coming on a visit. A bunch of our commitments that are going to be midyear enrollees, all that. You go to the next phase so fast, it will make your head spin.
You know what, I think it's going to be good for the players to get a break, finish up academics. We'll do some running and lifting. You can actually get a little strength back, getting your body feeling good again and fresh, all that.
I'll say this. This is the last thing I'll say. Because of the bowl preparation, whether it's playoffs, bowl, whatever it is, my focus has been to do what you need to do to win the game, not to try to create spring ball. Some people say, I'll take my young guys, give them reps and work, it will be like a spring ball for them.
We don't do that. We do whatever we think we need to do to win the game. Quite frankly, all you're young guys are playing because we don't have a lot of depth. But I think it will be good for those players to get a little break.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports