Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe spoke Wednesday in the Atlantic Coast Conference weekly teleconference, approximately 72 hours prior to the Demon Deacons' ACC Atlantic showdown at Boston College.
COACH GROBE: We didn't play last week but I think that might have been good for us. We had a couple of kids that were a little bit dinged up and they are had healthy now, so I think we'll take a pretty healthy football team up to Boston College. Always a concern. I think we were starting to play a little bit better, and a concern when you have an open date is can you keep your momentum going. So hopefully we can go back up.
I thought our kicking game was getting a little bit better and I thought we were playing a little bit smarter, so hopefully we can bounce back after an open date and start playing good again.
Q. Wanted to ask you about the problems that Luke Kuechly presents, his streak of double-figure tackle games is off the chart. Just what does he do? What makes him such an effective defender?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think that's one you didn't miss on for preseason Player of the Year. He's got good size. He's very physical inside. He's got really, really good foot speed, better foot speed than usually see out of a linebacker and so he's able to make plays sideline to sideline and he's an excellent tackler. You really never see him miss a tackle.
I think being a Boston College kid, I'm sure he's very intelligent. As you watch him on defense, they don't make many mistakes, if any, on defense and that's usually a linebacker's responsibility to make sure everybody is lined up and ready to go. So he's just got it all. He's a bright guy that is always around the football. Any time you see the end of a play, he's standing there either in on the tackle or right there where it's being made. He's pretty special.
Q. You mentioned, playing sideline to sideline, with a guy that gets around that much, is it better to run away from him or right at him?
COACH GROBE: There's not a real good plan to be honest with you, because he's so physical. He's a tough, physical kid and does a nice job taking on blocks and getting off blocks, and so you know, there's just no real good -- I think sometimes you look at video and you think, okay, we need to do this to stay away from this guy. But because he's got such good foot speed and such a high motor, he's everywhere on the field, and I think you just have got to really run your offense and hope that he doesn't beat you by himself, because he really is a talented kid.
Q. What were you most pleased with from your last game that you hope you can continue doing that way, despite the last week of being off?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think the special teams got better right at the start. We started out just a little sluggish, but I thought overall, that was the thing that I liked the best.
Jimmy Newman kicked some balls into the end zone that started drives -- one under 20. He had one bad kick that just got out of the pylon. It just went a little bit in front of the pylon that was not going good; put the ball out on the 40 for them. But I thought, you know, overall, I thought Jimmy Newman kicked the ball well.
I thought our punt coverage was pretty good. We didn't punt the ball as far as I would like to, and we may not be doing that with Alex. But our net punting is pretty good. I thought our kickoff coverage was pretty good.
Overall I think the biggest improvement I thought we had made was on special teams, and that's what bothers me about having an open date. Special teams are things you really need live reps to get better at and you get those game by game. So I thought that was probably our biggest improvement.
Q. Was Chris Givens one of those guys that you recruited in high school coming off a torn ACL?
COACH GROBE: He was. He was one of those guys that we knew that had great foot speed, was a good track guy, and we thought a pretty good football player, but had the ACL and didn't have an opportunity to play senior year and has certainly come on for us.
Q. You've taken chances on several of those players that have turned out quite well for you. There's a risk factor involved there, but what goes into that decision to take a kid like that?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think that we have to have enough game tape on him, but we liked him as a player before the injury, and our experience has been that any more ACL surgery, even though it takes time, is something that heals pretty good. So we are not scared away.
As long as the doctors feel like the repair went well and we feel like he's a really good player before he got hurt, then we don't even right now see it as taking a chance. We think we have a good player that had an injury and we see ACLs healing up pretty good, at least the Kevin Marion and Josh Harris and Chris Givens and those guys, a lot of the kids that we have taken chances on have been really good players for us.
Q. What's the improvement that Tanner Price has made in his freshman year, just having a year under his belt, is his decision making, that sort of thing, is that coming along like you had hoped?
COACH GROBE: Yeah, no question. That's something that was a problem last year, we threw the ball in the coverage more times than we are doing right now. He didn't see things as well as he's seeing them now, but I think probably his biggest improvement has been his supporting class is playing better.
Our group receivers are going and catching the balls better and running routes better and I think we are getting a little bit better protection up front than we were having last year. Just everybody around him is playing a little bit better on offense, and so many times you point the finger at the quarterback, but if he didn't have help,
it's hard to do it by yourself. But I think there's no question that you know we have got a quarterback who got his nose bloodied last year and slapped around and really took his lumps. In a way that was really, really good for him, because as you watch him now, he's more calm,he doesn't panic in the pocket and has good presence and he's obviously making better decisions this year than he did last year.
Q. You went to the 3-4 last year out of necessity but how difficult of a decision was it to make that drastic of a change in the middle of a season?
COACH GROBE: It was really hard. You know, we have done it a couple of times since we have been together. I think we went to the 3-5-3 back when I first got here because we didn't have many linebackers and we had more defensive backs. And I think that the key for us is we just felt like it matched our personnel better and we were not going to sit in a defense that required four defensive linemen when we didn't have, you know, even four that we thought were ready to go.
Most of the kids were freshmen last year. So just out of necessity, we felt like we had a better group of linebackers than we had defensive linemen, so we made the decision to do it in the middle of the year. You know, it was hard to do but also something that we felt like was best, not only for our team last year, but for the future.
Q. Keeping with that, do you think the defensive line positions are the hardest ones to recruit right now and is that why you think so many people seem to be going to the 3-4 these days?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think so, there's no question, what we had that we were blessed with for a while, with a couple of inside plays that could anchor down over the guards and we had some defensive ends, guys like Jeremy Thompson and some of those guys that were pretty good defensive end guys for us.
But as recruiting went, we ended up with some undersized guys that could move their feet and we didn't have enough of them. I think the 3-4 fits us better. But I think everybody's dilemma, unless you're one of the lucky programs that just kind of reloads every year, it's hard to find inside run stoppers at tackle and then the defensive ends that can give you the pass rush that you need to try to find four of those guys, two inside, twooutside, is difficult.
But most of us feel like you'd better have three pretty quality defensive ends and three pretty quality inside people. It's just hard to find that many guys. I think the three-man front stuff is an advantage because it seems to be a little bit easier to find the linebackers you need than trying to find four defensive front guys.