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Meet the Press - Duke

Courtesy: Hurricanesports.com
          Release: 11/19/2012
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CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Head coach Al Golden and several student-athletes met with the media Tuesday at the weekly press conference to discuss the upcoming game at Duke amongst a variety of topics.

Al Golden Pregame Press Conference
Duke (Nov. 20, 2012)

Opening Statement...
"Well it's been a tough 24 hours as you know. I think our guys have settled in and have a pretty good focus right now on Duke. I think that's important and it's a credit to our seniors, to our leaders on the team. And I think it's a Duke team that's got their attention. They're 5-1 at home, already bowl eligible. I have a great deal of respect for Coach (David) Cutcliffe and blueprint that he has formulated there, and they have a tough discipline and smart team that's really experienced. You're talking about nine guys on the team with over 30 career starts, 30 points a game on offense and throwing all over the yard. [Jamison] Crowder, [Conner] Vernon and [Desmond] Scott, all receivers with 50 catches. [Sean] Renfree is an excellent quarterback. Veteran offensive line. I'm really impressed with their special teams. I think the field goal kicker and punter are excellent; [Ross] Martin and [Will] Monday, I think they do an impressive job. On defense it's similar up front to what we see at Virginia Tech in terms of style of play, the aggressiveness. 27 takeaways so far, so obviously protecting the ball is going to be at premium. Very physical unit up front. Strong, good at hand-to-hand combat like Virginia was. [Kenny Anunike] and even [Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo] coming in at defensive end, I think they're excellent players. High motor guys. What can you say about [Walt] Canty? 96 tackles already. So I think they've gotten our attention. Clearly they've beaten Virginia and North Carolina, our two lone losses in the coastal side. It's going to be quite a challenge for our guys, and I think they understand that. I'm pleased with the way we practiced today. We've got to make sure we maintain our focus and get our team ready to go out there."

On motivating the team...
"I don't know if we have to go into the bag of tricks, per se, but I will tell you this. I was energized as a coach, as was the staff, by the approach and the overall tenor of the team yesterday, I would say. When we broke out here, we watched the USF game and then we got ready for Duke a little bit. And as is customary for our guys, we left them for about 30 minutes and then go out on the field. As you know, my office is by the weight room, and I heard a lot of energy there, which was a little bit surprising for me. Then I went on the field and you guys that were out there know that the guys came out there to work and get better. And we had a good practice. I'm humbled - both humbled and grateful - for some of the comments that have been relayed to me by the likes of Mike James and Randy (Duke) Johnson, just talking about what it means to play here and how they wouldn't trade it for anything. And as I said on Saturday night, when we didn't know what we were facing, we have a lot of young men like that that have answered the call here, and they deserve credit."

On Duke Johnson...
"The thing I enjoy most about him is how humble he is and how hard he works. He loves the game. And you watch him in practice and...as expected, all freshmen hit a wall at some point. You try and prevent it, but he hit his in the middle of the season there. And after the bye week he's been spectacular. And even in practice, with a different tempo and the way he's been finishing. But he's unselfish, he's got tremendous work ethic, and just a real humble kid. I know people like his kickoff returns and runs and stuff, but we knew that coming in. We didn't know that he had this approach for life and approach to the game that he has.

"I think he's a special young man. We see a lot of talented kids. We just don't see a lot of talented kids that are process-oriented, that are humble, that have consistency, that are team players. So all the things that people think are intangible are really quite tangible in a team setting. And he's got them. He's a special young man."

On losing underclassmen to the NFL last year...
"I don't know if we'll do anything different. Obviously we've been here for a year now. I think there's a little different relationship, a little stronger relationship with a lot of these young men. And look, if they go through the process and they're slated to go in a round that's going to give them fiscal independence and things of that nature than I understand that. But I think a lot of our guys may have learned from last year, too, that perhaps some guys may have gone higher if they'd stayed. The bottom line is we support the kids, and we just want to make sure that they're hearing the facts and not just hearing it from one side."

On the pacing of Duke's offense and the pressure it puts on the defense...
"Well, again, I think we're going to continue to have to play a lot of people. I don't think there's any question. We have to tackle well, and if we don't get more pressure on the quarterback than we did in Charlottesville then we're going to have trouble. We have to give pressure, we have to get to the quarterback, we have to get sacks, and then we have to get them out of the rhythm a little bit. They're very good at taking the ball away on defense so we have to make sure we don't end up in the negative."

On Duke WR Connor Vernon...
"I think he's excellent. I think he's crafty. I think he's got an excellent skill set. He's obviously cultivated his skills at Duke. They use him really well. He has a surprisingly good average for the number of catches that he has. So I think he's a really good player. He finds ways to get open and catches the ball, and he's got speed. He's got real speed. He shoots down the field so we've got to be careful with him."

On last year's bowl ban reaction vs. this year's...
"Well, I always try to be fair looking back because it's easy to look back. I could go back and say we could've done things differently; we could've played that team a little different. I think the biggest thing is when you think about those guys leaving early, plus the 30 seniors. For 35 guys, that was the end. The antithesis is true this year. I think the majority of the team is forward-thinking, you know, it's not the culmination. And then we've got some really special leaders in Mike James and Brandon McGee and Jeremy Lewis, who are just tremendous leaders for us. So again, maybe we learned. Maybe as a team we learned. We can complain all we want but we can't change it. But the challenge for our team is we're going to be defined by how we respond to this. And the first test of that is Saturday against Duke. We can say whatever we want. We can say we have a great attitude, we're working hard, we're focused, but the test is Saturday at 12:30."

On Shane McDermott's solid season...
"Shane has very quietly had a great year. I've got to be honest with you. Shane has very quietly had a great year. He's rugged, he's tough, he's held up against really good defensive tackles, he does a tremendous job with protections and line calls, and really plays well. For a guy that has two years left after this year, he's a heck of a player for us. He really is."

On worry about what's coming...
"I don't. I mean, do I worry about it? I worry about everything. I worry about all the kids that sit in a room and our strength staff and our training staff and everybody. When we go on that field, there are usually 240 people on that field. So there are a lot of people involved, a lot of lives involved. But I can see what we're becoming and what we want to do with the program, and that vision pulls me a little bit stronger than some of these things that try and tear us apart. So I think that vision kind of pulls me. I think we're here for the right reasons, which is why you have a tendency to dig in and fight as opposed to flight. I think it's a great place and we're destined for great things here. We're just going through some tough times. In terms of the future, we've given up a lot. We gave up a bowl game last year, we gave up a bowl game this year, we gave up basically... before we've played the game Saturday, we've given up an opportunity to go to Charlotte. So those are significant things to give up."

On his family and what they love about South Florida...
"The people. The diversity. The climate. It just fits who we are as people. We were just in a city in Philadelphia, and I know this is different than in Philadelphia, but it's still an urban setting, and we had kind of gotten used to that. We like the ability to, just in South Florida alone, to travel to the Keys or Naples and that area or Palm Beach or whatever. It's a special place. So we're enjoying it. My kids enjoy it, which makes me happy. My wife's happy. She wishes Madonna had started her show a little bit earlier last night... So in addition to not sleeping much the previous couple of nights, my wife got in really late last night from Madonna."

On whether or not Duke is the team's new "bowl game"...
"I don't know. Maybe. I just hope the guys understand that it's a significant game. If you can win a share of the Coastal (Division)... again, a lot of our guys are young. If you can start developing that mindset, that's what we're here to do, that's what we're all about, I think that's great. If that's how they look at it, that's fine. I do think it's important that we honor the seniors by how we practice and prepare and ultimately how we perform on Saturday. They've been through a lot and I think they deserve to go out winners."

On the team leaders...
"Jeremy [Lewis] has made tremendous progress as a player and as a leader and he's not afraid to hold his teammates accountable. And I'm really proud of him, as is everybody here. Even his peers are proud of him. And Brandon [McGee], I never would've suspected a year ago that he's the guy we'd send out to the coin toss in every game this year. And we did, and not because there weren't any other guys, but because he's done such a great job with leading in practice. He's really growing up. I'm excited about Brandon McGee and his future in terms of being the type of student-athlete we want here and obviously what he's going to do at the next level. I'm excited."

On the senior class...
"They're a great example. And there's so many others. I mean, Jake Wieclaw and Dalton Botts, and there's so many others. I look at guys who made an impact here but that maybe don't talk as much. Ben Jones, I mean, I don't know if anybody would've seen him playing. Ben Jones was really playing well for us before he got injured. Davon Johnson, same thing. So those guys are all guys that we hope that we help develop. And I hope they feel that way. I hope they feel that strong kinship."

On Jeremy Lewis's playing...
"He's playing better. And as I said after Virginia, it was more just the way the game went at Virginia. The snap count was so low in the first half that we just didn't get to the rotation. We only had 27 plays going into halftime. He's slated to go in after a certain amount of plays. He was in at right guard and left guard and he's done a good job for us. He's a positive kid. I think it's great. We're proud of him and we're glad to have him on our team and I wish we had another year with him."

On Thurston Armbrister's preparation...
"The last three or four weeks, I think Thurston has grown up and he responds when he's in a game. He can run, and he's long. I think he's going to be a 230-pound guy. I think, like a lot of those young guys, he really needed a redshirt year last year and we couldn't grant him that. Now he needs to work double time to get his body where it needs to be from a size standpoint. I think he's right on track. He's been more active in the special teams side of things with his punt coverage. I'm excited about the direction he's going in."

On Stephen Morris...
"I think Stephen is developing and growing still. I think he missed the spring. I think he's going to be a really, really excellent quarterback. I think he's really pretty good right now. He's going to have an opportunity to be among the best. He's got a big league arm, he's starting to move better, trust his feet. We're working on a couple things, I don't want to give too many things away and encourage Duke in any fashion to do those things to him, but he's working on some things. His football intelligence has improved, his knowledge of the game, and his leadership."

On whether or not a win on Saturday means anything official...
"I don't know. You guys always jump to the finish line. We're just trying to prepare to beat Duke. We'll worry about that if we win."

On when the offseason program starts...
"We're going to start right away. We're not going to run, but we're going to start lifting them because the way it's designed is once they start to get near that holiday, they're going to end up taking 10 or 12 or 14 days anyway. So if we don't do it now, then that 14 days turns into a month, and we can't afford to lose that. The other thing is that it keeps them on structure. If they have a lifting appointment, they're in here, they're around the staff, they're around our academic people; we can make sure they're eating right, going to class, doing all the little things they need to do to finish up well in school and get stronger. Ultimately, as they make that commitment, and that second lift goes to four and then six and then eight and then 10 and then 12, they're less likely to get home and say I'm just going to throw away those last twelve lifts. So again, we're just trying to teach them how to do that. We're not trying to wear them out, but we are going to get back to the weight room."

On fewer scholarships and not knowing sanctions by signing day...
"I'm building in a buffer. It's already been accounted for in how we allocated our scholarships by position and the size of the class. Is that an exact number? No. It's just to be proactive."

Saturday, September 05
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