Year two. What were you able to take away from year one? You're working hard to build something special. What can you say about that?
COACH CLAWSON: Yeah, there is a plan in place to build the program. I think a lot of times when you go year one into a new program, a new ACC, at least for me, a lot of it is assessment. What are the strengths of the school? What is our recruiting strength? Where is the current level of the team? Then you go through the whole season, the conference schedule, non-conference schedule, and you develop a much clearer plan of what needs to be done to get the program to the level you need to get it to. I thought there were a lot of positives last year. Our players played extremely hard all year long. To win the Virginia Tech game week 11 I thought was a testament to the effort that our players played with. We're recruiting very well. We're retaining our players. Academically they had the highest GPA in the last 15 years. We're getting stronger. All those little internal wins that have to happen in a program before you win football games are happening. We expect to see progress this year. The challenge is we're young. Of the 103 players, I think 76 are freshmen and sophomores. They're talented. They're good, young players. They're going to have a chance to play earlier than maybe at most places because of where we are development-wise. But I'm excited what they're going to do. I have no doubt in my mind that we have really good, legitimate ACC players in our football program right now.
Yesterday one of your seniors spoke about the incoming talent that you've been able to bring. He sees the clear path of success that this program is going to take under your leadership. Instead of waiting for it to take place in 2017, '18, he wants it to take place right now. What has to take place for that to happen now?
COACH CLAWSON: Our younger players are going to have to play old quickly. We are going to start on offense five or six freshmen. They're talented, they're good. That's a lot of young guys to play at once together. Those guys, they can't play like freshmen. Very quickly they're going to have to learn what it takes to prepare week in, week out against the caliber of competition we have. The concern with young players is the inconsistency. These guys are good players, but they've got to play like veterans if we're going to take that step this year. They're capable of doing it. I've put a lot of it on the older players of our team, like Brandon Chubb, if they want to experience success as a senior, they're going to have to provide leadership to the younger guys so they play with consistency that allows us to be competitive and be a bowl team this year.
There's a guy in particular, a freshman that's coming in, Kendall Hinton. What have you seen from him? What is your plan for him?
COACH CLAWSON: Kendall was a midyear enrollee. We had him in January. He went through spring football. I'm really impressed with Kendall. He's smart, athletic, mature. Last year we started a true freshman quarterback quite honestly because we had nobody else. It was as uncompetitive a quarterback situation as I've ever seen. John Wolford I thought played with a lot of courage and a lot of guts and earned the respect of the team. But we had to bring in competition. Kendall is going to be a really good football player. He's still learning the system, but he does some things naturally that you can't coach. So I feel much better about our quarterback position now than I ever did at any point last year. We love John. He's getting better. But I love the fact that we've brought in Kendall and another freshman, Kyle Kearns, that will give us depth and quality at the position, as well.
Week two, ACC opener at the Carrier Dome. Do you have any experience there and what are your thoughts on that game, particularly the rematch from last year?
COACH CLAWSON: I think it's a big game for both teams. I think where Scott wants to take Syracuse, where we want to take Wake Forest, it's probably a very critical game for both of us if we want to have the seasons we're hoping to have. I have a lot of respect for Coach Shafer. That is a big, big game, week two for both of us. So we better be ready to go. I know he'll have Syracuse ready. I'm from Upstate New York. That's my home. It's always special to me to get back in that area.
You have done so much as a school to build up the foundation for a fan base. How do you get that fan base to be as large and as enthusiastic as the school is planning?
COACH CLAWSON: You win football games. We got to win. We got to put a product on the field that there's a demand and people want to see. We will do that. I think fans will start seeing that start to come together this year.
Coach, North Carolina State High School Athletic Association is gradually moving towards spring practice. It's taken a long time. Do you think that will make a big impact n in-state recruiting down the road?
COACH CLAWSON: It certainly helps. A lot of states already have spring football. For our coaches to go on the road in recruiting, to be able to evaluate high school players playing football, it's good for us. I think we'll make less recruiting mistakes. I think it's good for players. I think right now in recruiting our game is going in a very dangerous direction with all the seven-on-sevens, all the AAU stuff. If we want to keep recruiting on the campuses, and in North Carolina to be able to go to a high school, watch a player get coached by his coach, his position coach, evaluate the things he's being asked to do, I think is nothing but positive for college recruiters, the high school athlete and especially the high school football coach. That is who we want to be working through in recruiting, not a seven-on-seven coach.
Coach, you mentioned your Upstate roots. Have you played or coached at the Carrier Dome?
COACH CLAWSON: I've never coached a game there. The first four or five years of my career were spent in New York state. At the time Dick MacPherson was the head coach at Syracuse. Coach MacPherson and his staff just did an incredible job of welcoming coaches, learning football. They were always so open as a staff. My high school teammate was a guy named Daryl Johnston, who was a great, great fullback at Syracuse, then played with the Dallas Cowboys. When you grow up in Upstate New York, Syracuse was a team in the area. Because Daryl was there, we always followed him closely. The way Coach MacPherson and Coach Pasqualoni and his staff treated other coaches, it was hard not to pull for them. They were first class and very generous with their time. Again, I've been in the Carrier Dome many times. I saw Michael Jordan play in there in an NCAA tournament against Georgia. I'm looking forward to it.
Game after game last year, your defense kept you in games. More often than not wore down in the fourth quarter. You've talked about the need to improve the strength in your offensive line to get more production out of your offense. In a sense is the key to your defensive output this year improvement in your offensive line?
COACH CLAWSON: It goes hand-in-hand. The more first downs you can make, the more the offense can stay on the field, the more you can flip field position, it only helps your defense. I thought it was amazing last year how well our defense played despite the fact that time of possession was never good, we weren't working first downs. They were stuck a lot of times defending a short field. We played very conservatively on offense last year because we didn't want to give games away. We knew we were overmatched up front. We didn't make explosive plays. We didn't want to turn the football over. At times last year, and I take responsibility for this, we'd run a drop play on third-and-nine. We wouldn't throw the ball third-and-12. We wanted our defense to have a chance to keep us in game or block a punt or return a punt. In the games that we were in, in the games that we found a way to win, in the games we played really good teams tough, those things happened. So we did that on purpose strategically to try to stay in football games. Now this year I believe we're more talented on offense. We redshirted 15 players last year. We redshirted five offensive linemen. We redshirted a couple of receivers. All those guys are now in the mix. So not only are we more talented on offense, but we've also redshirted a bunch of guys on defense that add to the depth. So I think across the board, we will be a stronger, more explosive, deeper football team. Again, just our challenge is our youth. We're going to have to get those guys to play old quickly. That's on us as a staff to get them ready.
Sticking with the theme of offense. Based on the production or lack thereof that that side of the ball showed last year, how much of a jump are you expecting them to take statistically?
COACH CLAWSON: Yeah, I mean, that's a hard question. We're going to start camp in two weeks. I expect us to be improved. I expect us to be more explosive. Are we going to go from where we were last year to averaging 45 points a game and 500 yards of offense? Probably not. But we need to make a good, solid, incremental jump. We have one senior on our entire offense, that's Dylan Intemann. Whatever jumps we make are going to keep growing every year after that. That to me is our challenge this year, we have to get these guys playing at as high a level as soon as we can. We have to be very positive with them, very enthusiastic. We're going to be playing with the same group of players really the next three years.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH CLAWSON: Thank you
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