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VIZIO BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: AUBURN v FLORIDA STATE


January 3, 2014


Jermaine Whitehead


PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  I think he's a very dynamic player.  I think he has the ability as the quarterback we've seen as Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron.  With those two put together, I think that's what Jameis Winston is, a good runner, a good thrower.  He has good vision.  And it's been a great opportunity for our defense, for everybody else, the DBs to really take into that.  We're really facing a very good quarterback, and it just motivates us.
Like now that we're in a championship facing someone that's not comparable to what we faced all year, it's just, you know, it's been very like motivating to make us want to get out there and show off and everything.  I think it's going to be a really good game.
I don't really think nothing further.  I mean, I'm not going to be surprised about what he's doing.  We've been evaluating him on film.  So I won't be surprised of the things that he's doing.  But with our game plan, I'm not worried about what's going to happen.  I know what our game plans are.  As long as we execute what we do and do what we do to get us here, we'll be okay.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, you know, a quarterback that can run and also a quarterback that can just sit there and pass and complete everything.  I mean, it sounds a bit challenging, but at the same time, it's like what you want, you know what I'm saying, like competition.

Q.  You want that?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yes.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, I mean, we've just got to make the little plays that we really don't look forward to making.  When it comes to crunch time, that's when we really do what we do.  I mean, we stay a bit inconsistent at times, but when it's time, we just do what we do.
I mean, I feel like our secondary has been overlooked like from when the season just began.¬† Last season, we only had three interceptions and everything, but now with all of us put together, with 11‑plus interceptions, I feel like we gained a lot of confidence and a lot of experience facing quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron and just like Jameis Winston, who we're about to face right now.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  It was devastating.  We didn't really know where we were at.  We really didn't know who we were at that season, and it had been like that the whole season.
But as a new season began, we start to find ourselves and see what we can do, and it's just been not surprising, but at the same time, just enlightening to us to finally get our mojo back and do what we do.

Q.¬† [ No microphone ].¬† What the secondary felt like to go from the Washington State game‑‑
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  It's been taking place very fine.  Sometimes I think some teams are afraid to throw at us at times in different situations.  I feel like we've just been gaining so much experience to the point that we can just play any type of coverage on defense, whoever we play.  It's been very like fun this season to see all the guys you came up here with gain a lot of experience and that you can trust them on the football field and whatnot.

Q.  Do you feel like Auburn is kind of the poster boy for hope?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Yeah, we came a long way.¬† We started from the bottom.¬† Everyone says the team of destiny.¬† It's been a crazy season, like a movie.¬† Facing adversity and now started from the bottom and make it to the top or whatever.¬† Yeah, it's been very like‑‑ it's been a blessing this whole season.

Q.  Can you think of a key factor in the turnaround?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, the key factor is we came together.  Everyone bought in.  Everyone understood what it took to get to this point.  And you know, Coach Malzahn made it very simple, just to find a way to win.  He didn't really ask nothing other than that.
What comes with finding a way to win is just everything, just giving it your all and just trying to look for something to happen.

Q.  Was there one game where you thought maybe we do have something special?  Early in the year.
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  I could tell you that after the LSU thing, it was a lot of bad things happened with the weather.  We lost a player to injury.  And we didn't let up.  We came back out.  We fought.
We finally like found ourselves, even though we still came up short, if you would have gave us another quarter, we probably would have won that game.¬† But after that game, the week after that, we really like‑‑ that game really changes everyone, and we really like found ourselves.¬† And we just had a goal, you know what, we're just going to find a way to win.

Q.  [ No microphone ].  Did it sharpen you all to where you know there's nobody else?  You have to go out there and make every play?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, it did because we need everybody, and we've been working hard.  We're trying not to just lose nobody else.  There's been games where we almost lost a few key players to an ankle injury, but we fought through it.
That's one thing about our defense, our secondary, any little tweak injury, we've still got to play through it.  We know what it takes in importance to still play through the little injury that we have just to win a game.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† I mean, it wasn't really so much that he changed.¬† We still had like‑‑ we played man and everything else, but when it comes to different teams, we add a few packages in there that we understand, that's very simple.¬† But other than that, playing a team like Florida State, I mean, we can go back to the spring.¬† I mean, we just use our base, everything base coverages, packages, and everything.

Q.  Is there a defense you guys feel more comfortable in?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  No.  We're pretty much comfortable with anything he calls.

Q.  What's your biggest concern about FSU?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Just making plays when the ball's in the air.¬† We really had so much problems, issues with that, but as they mentioned, they've got receivers that are 6'5".¬† We faced a few‑‑ or a lot of receivers that are 6'6", 6'5".¬† So it's just about making plays in the air while the ball's in the air.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Well, I don't recall Coach Craig giving us any information about Florida State because, when it comes to Florida State, it's really just another team.  I mean, we watched their film and who they play.  It really doesn't surprise us for someone to tell us a lot about players.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Oh, man, it just lifted us up.  We knew where we was heading.  We knew who we were facing, Johnny Manziel, and we just found a way to bottle him up, get him out of his comfort zone.
When it all came down to the defense, they had the ball with a little bit of time left on the clock, and we just looked at each other like it's time to go.  You can't let down.  We've always been a fourth quarter team.  Maybe we probably had another quarter in us to play, but it's been very exciting.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Yeah, in fact‑‑ you're talking about when he missed the ball?¬† Jermaine was in that play.¬† Jermaine Whitehead was in there.¬† It was kind of scary seeing that.

Q.  Remember how quiet the stadium got?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, it did.

Q.  Beating Johnny Manziel, did that do a lot for this team?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  It did.  It did.  It really made us who we are.  We finally knew what we could do and we could face anyone.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Yeah.¬† You know, we‑‑ as I mentioned earlier, we have a little bit of problems with this new system, but at the same time, we worked through it.¬† It comes down to like certain plays, big plays, explosive plays that make our defense not sound like what it is.¬† It got us here, but our defense is really a good defense if we lock in and do our job and everything else and follow coach's game plan, Coach Johnson.

Q.  Florida State has seen a lot of nickel defenses.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  You know what, I mean, not really.  Kind of close, yeah.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Defense, what I saw was ‑‑ we were watching film, they get (indiscernible) and I feel like that's his weakness.¬† When there's a one ‑‑ he likes to throw it in the seam, middle.¬† With a lot of teams that we watch on film, just with that one high safety, just, you know, makes them uncomfortable to throw it in the middle in the seam.
And we saw a few interceptions that were made when he threw it in the middle and through the seam, through the hash.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  I mean, I just couldn't imagine the position he was in and how he felt.  He was a great coach.  I learned a lot from him.  The two years I spent with him, and it's just very sad, but it's life.  You have to move on, things like that.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Probably.  I believe so.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Oh, it means a lot.¬† As a Florida native, playing Florida State, I have like 15 guys that I know and I played ball with on that team.¬† It's been like so motivating to like‑‑ I'm ready to play tomorrow, you know what I'm saying?¬† If the game was tomorrow, I'll play.
It's been very special to play against some of my former teammates that I grew up with.  Now we're in the collegiate level, and we're playing for it all.  It just means a lot.

Q.  Coach Johnson, what's he like?  What's he brought to you guys?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† He brought us passion.¬† I mean, coach‑‑ I call him E.J. ¬†Coach E.J. is not like any other coach, I mean, that we've seen before.¬† He's going to sharpen us in every way that he can, and then it's for the better, you know.
He's very vocal.¬† He's the type of coach, when he speaks, you listen, and that's been very‑‑ it's been very important for us.¬† It's been a great experience to have a coach like Eric Johnson and stuff like that.

Q.  Do you remember what you worried about when he got hired?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† I never knew a lot about him, but I knew he came from South Carolina.¬† So I knew he had a good defense, and I knew he was going to‑‑ I knew, when I heard about his system, I was very interested in being a part of their system.
He mentioned earlier like he coached for the players and not for the coaches, and with the right players, you know, he coached for the right players to be in the right system, that fit the system.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Oh, he's been very big.  We lost him midseason last season, and he would have had a big impact with him and Cory in there last season.  We lost a few guys, and it's been great having him back and to see him in action playing every game now.  I feel like he's a great player.

Q.¬† Personality‑wise, is he kind of unique?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  He's very unique.  He don't really match the player that you see on Saturdays to his personality.  He's very quiet and nice.  He likes to play the piano.  He likes music and all that stuff.  When you see him go out, he looks like an R&B rapper or artist, but it's been very good seeing him play.

Q.  What's it like with Nosa and (off microphone) over the years?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  With those two guys on the defense, they've seen everything else, and they've been in the championship before.  They've been very vocal.  We look up to those guys as leaders, and they brought a lot to us.  They made a very big impact this whole season.  With them in the game or just being around, like we just have a lot of confidence that we have like older guys around us, and they know what to do, and they just lead us on.

Q.  [ No microphone ].
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Oh, it's been very like exciting.¬† I mean, like you can see it through my eyes, you would have been like these guys‑‑ these folks have never seen a championship before.¬† It's been like a spark.¬† Everyone's been whistling for good luck.¬† Everyone is‑‑ wherever we go, they're there chanting for us and everything.

Q.  Have you ever seen anything like this before?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  No.

Q.  There's been a lot of talk about the receiving corps for Florida State.  How are their tight ends key to what they do?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  I feel like the tight ends play a big part for Florida State passing corps.  I believe that's like, let's say, the most unskilled person they pass the ball to.  He can block.  He can really catch, and he's very sharp.
It hasn't been a concern to us because we just have the guys that will match up to their guys and to their level.

Q.  Freeman was talking earlier about how he knows you from growing up.  You guys played Pee Wee ball together?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Yeah, we played ball against each other.  It's been fun.  It was a long time ago.  As you know, it's crazy to see us like now playing for a National Championship against each other.

Q.  When's the last time you guys talked?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Probably‑‑ last time we talked was last season.¬† We went to the Orange Bowl game last season, and he gave me and my friends tickets, and we watched him play.¬† That was the last time I spoke to him.

Q.  What are you going to tell him when you tackle him?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† Just D‑line, I'm here.¬† Tell him we're not the same young boys we was a while back.¬† We're grown men now.

Q.  Did you guys play high school ball against each other or anything like that, or was it just youth league?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  It was just youth.  We never got a chance to play high school ball against each other.

Q.  What kind of kid was he back then, and what kind of kid were you?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  Pretty much the same people we are now, just humble, very talented, and blessed.

Q.  Florida State, Rashad Greene, I believe he said earlier last month if he was playing defense against their receivers, that he would definitely not play man.  What do you think of that?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:¬† I guess like‑‑ well, I don't guess, but like if you're going to play defense and not play man, then you're in trouble.¬† Man coverage is like the best coverage, and it really comes in big situations like fourth and six, third and five.¬† I mean, you have to have like a very tight coverage.
I mean, you just can't play zone all day.¬† He probably‑‑ you know, I would guess, as a receiver, his weakness is press man, when someone's in his face.

Q.  Coach Johnson was talking about how Florida State tends to like scare teams out of playing man because they might give up a big play or two.  How important is it to stick to what you've done throughout the season and not let FSU change what you do?
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD:  I mean, I don't really believe in that.  I mean, I feel like when players or teams evaluate the film and they see something remarkable like Benjamin catching the ball with one hand or something, I feel like that's what they see.
But what we see is it's just a great opportunity to make a play on the ball or catch an interception from a Heisman Trophy winner and stuff like that.¬† I mean, I don't really think we've seen a receiver corps like what we're going to see‑‑ you know that it's not just one or two guys getting the ball.¬† It's everyone.¬† So that kind of got us on our toes like we need to like shut down everybody.
I mean, we played teams with probably two or three receivers catching and getting the ball, but now, you know, he can throw it to anyone, even a running back.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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