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August 04, 2014

News, notes and quotes from Al Golden's press conference the day before the start of fall camp

Hurricanes coach Al Golden met with reporters Monday morning to preview the start of fall camp on Tuesday. Here is a collection of news, notes and quotes covered over the 28-minute press conference. 

AUDIO: Al Golden's press conference

> Golden said redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen will "absolutely" be at practice Tuesday.

It was reported Friday Olsen was suspended for at least one game for failing a drug test. Golden wouldn't address the issue of a possible suspension of Olsen directly, saying that was a question athletic director Blake James or associate athletic director Chris Freet would have to handle. 

James declined to comment on the subject of Olsen Monday.

"As far as how we're approaching camp: we have four quarterbacks," Golden said. "We're going to cut it to two after the second scrimmage, about two weeks prior to the first game. We'll cut it from four to two at that point. And then we'll have two we'll get ready for the trip to Louisville [in the season opener Labor Day night]."

Does Golden believe Olsen is committed to being a Hurricane for the long term? "In my mind sure, absolutely," Golden said. "Kevin has made a lot of progress this summer. He really has. He’s made a lot of progress, and grew a lot as a person, so I’m anxious to see that tomorrow. That’s what I want to see, just how much he’s grown. Just being in meetings, I can hear him. He’s more vocal, he’s more confident, understands the system a lot better and has had a lot of opportunities to grow since the spring and I’m excited to see what he can do tomorrow."

> Asked who would be limited or sidelined when practice starts Tuesday, Golden only mentioned quarterback Ryan Williams.

"I think he’s going to meet with the doctor tonight, so rather than me act like I know what I’m talking about, why don’t we just get an idea where he is [Tuesday]," Golden said. "He’s had no setbacks. He’s doing great physically. Obviously his mind has always been tremendous in terms of the game and the leadership from that standpoint. Is he going to be a factor in this race in the next five weeks? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know and it’s not worth speculating on. Let’s see what Dr. [Lee] Kaplan and his staff say and we’ll stay on track. He’s got much more experience in dealing with this and the integration part of it than we do, so we’ll just follow his orders."

> What does Golden want to see out of his eventual starting quarterback? "We need a QB that can manage the game, that’s smart, that protects the football and that has a great presence on the field in terms of getting us in the right play when we need to be," Golden said.

> Golden said kicker Matt Goudis "did have a little issue this summer but everything that I understand is he’s been much better here the last two weeks so he should be good."

> Golden said most of the incoming freshman are in and some are being processed. "We expect to have everybody out there [Tuesday] except two individuals," Golden said. "We'll reaffirm that as the day goes on. But we're still waiting on the arrival of receiver Darrell Langham and running back Trayone Gray to save you that question."

> With linebackers coach Micheal Barrow leaving the team to go on sabbatical last week, Golden has moved former running backs coach Hurlie Brown to coach that position. Golden said he has full confidence Brown can handle it. Plus, Golden pointed out, both he and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio have coached the position in the past and will lend a helping hand when its needed.

"Not the best of timing. But all that is, is circumstance," Golden said. "It's not the definition of what's going to happen moving forward. Or, it's not the result. It's just the circumstance. It's not going to determine anything. We have good veterans at those two [coaching] positions and we expect our guys to rally and be stronger in camp."

Golden said moving Brown to defense is something the former Hurricanes safety is "very comfortable with."

"Obviously being in the meetings, the staff meetings and understanding the nomenclature of our defense,  being the type of guy who has a rapport with everybody I think he's going to make the transition quickly," Golden said.

As far as elevating Ice Harris to running backs coach, Golden said: "More than deserving and obviously very grateful. Here's a guy that's been doing this for more than a quarter century for this opportunity. And I know he's going to give us everything he has and he's going to make us better."

> With linebackers Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue no longer on the team following their arrests for sexual battery last month Golden said there's no question the Hurricanes "lost some depth, but we have some other guys that are going to rally."

"It's going to give [freshman Terry] McCray an opportunity. It's going to give a guy like [freshman Mike] Smith an opportunity, Demetrius Jackson, Juwon Young, and obviously you already mentioned [Jermaine] Grace. Those guys will all get an opportunity," Golden said. "Having said that, I'm excited about our group. I don't want those that are not with us to diminish what the guys that are with us are all about. [Rapahel] Kirby. Denzel [Perryman] has had a great summer. 245 pounds now. [Darrion] Owens I mentioned earlier and [Thurston] Armbrister."

Golden said Grace has had a good summer. "He ran some of the fastest 40 times on the team," Golden said. "Consistently under 4.5. He's 210 pounds now. He's more experienced. He's smart. He's an excellent special teams player. He gives us three down value. He's a competitor and a striker. So, excited about Grace. And clearly, Owens. You guys know I was excited about his focus and his performance in the spring and how he's going to great opportunity at SAM [strongside linebacker] along with Thurston Armbrister. We'll start McCray over there as well."

> Golden said he's brought in guest speakers to talk to the team regarding this summer's sexual battery incident involving Blue and Figueroa.

"I'm responsible for all 114 guys and really every staff member," Golden said. "I'm responsible for everybody. But it's something we take seriously. It's something we're very prudent with in terms of being proactive... it's something that's disappointing. We just have to continue to educate and communicate and make sure we're making great choices on campus." 

> Golden said running back Duke Johnson has been fully integrated into workouts this summer and he doesn't expect his surgically repaired ankle to be a problem. Golden said Johnson has an edge about him, is stronger and at 208 pounds is running his fastest 40 times as a Hurricane.

"I don’t think we need to modify anything with Duke," Golden said of his workload. "We’ll be prudent with him just as we are with anybody. But he wants to go. He’s ready to go. It’s not been, ‘Hey, I’ll wait till I get to camp to test it.’ He’s been testing it out here for all of summer B, which I believe started June 28.

"At the same time we're excited about that group in general. With the emergence of Gus. Yearby. Tucker gave us a lot of work there in the spring. DeAndre Johnson. We have depth there. Duke has done a good job of mentoring a lot of those guys."

> What areas can Duke Johnson improve on?

"The biggest thing is we all want to see him pick up where he left off," Golden said. "He was pressing his runs. They were hitting where they were designed to hit. So he had great discipline at the end of last year. He was running between the [tackles] really well and then when he got to the second level he would allow his talent to take over but he was very disciplined in that. I don’t know if you guys feel the same way as observers, but I know this: He was running differently in those last 3 ½ games. He was running as strong and as hard as I’ve ever seen him run and delivering stiff arms, lowering his pads, running really where the ball needed to be run. Moments prior to the injury he was running the ball at Florida State as well as anybody probably all year. We need him to pick up where he left off and go from there."

> Is there any empirical data Golden can point to that he saw in the offseason that points to that the defense will be better?

"There are a lot of things certainly coming out of the spring in terms of our tackling, yards per carry, three-and-outs, things of that nature, certainly we’re attacking more and we’re stronger," Golden said. "We have seven guys now on the defensive front that [bench press] 225 [pounds] 30 times or more. Mike Wyche comes in and gives us great size and strength; Calvin Heurtelou comes in and gives us the same. AJ Moten, Chad Thomas, so in terms of depth that’s the best we’ve been there on the defensive line in quite some time.

"We’re stronger and the biggest difference I hope, and this isn’t empirical, this is just watching, is the experience and quiet mind that we’re seeing in the secondary. Everybody is back, everybody is stronger, everybody is stronger, everybody is experienced, the communication is really good, the belief in each other, the accountability. And we’ve got great leadership. We had the best leadership we’ve had in quite some time. Chickillo stepped up, Kamalu stepped up, Jamal Carter, Denzel, a bunch of other guys, Ladarius – just since the spring a really good summer and now they’ve got to bring it into the season."

> How does Golden assess the gap between FSU and the rest of the ACC?

“Again, I’m not worried about them," he said. "They had a great team last year. They deserve to be champions. We’re on a different course. We’re on a different path. We’re proud of the way we do things. We’re excited about the direction we’re going. We’re excited about the resources and the commitment that we’ve gotten from the administration and Blake James. As I’ve said multiple times recently, we sat here a year ago and we didn’t know what the future held. We weren’t quite in this building yet. We didn’t have the fields. We didn’t have the medical center that’s going up that’s going to house our sports medicine. We didn’t have the training table. So, there’s been a great transition here in the last 12, 13 months. We’ve moved into this facility, $17, $18, $19 million, whatever it is. Seven million dollars on the field, $3 million training table. We have a $120 million U-Health medical facility that’s going to house our sports medicine and performance center that’s going to be 200 yards away. All of those things are in conjunction, obviously, with what Mr. [Stephen] Ross and the Dolphins are doing to Sun Life [Stadium].

"As bleak as it was a year ago, we’re equally excited right now. We’re proud of the direction that we’re going. We appreciate the commitment that’s been made, all of the donors, the alumni, the administration, the board, to really make a lot of changes in a short period of time and to do it under not-so-great circumstances. That’s really all I’m focused on. I don’t have time to worry about anybody else’s program. We’ve got to take care of the Canes.”

> What are realistic expectations for freshman five-star defensive end Chad Thomas?

“We don’t really look at Chad as a freshman. We look at Chad as a defensive end. His maturity, his leadership, really are well above his years. So his expectations are high, but more importantly, his standards are high. He comes from a program where the standards are high. So, it’s going to be hard for us to say, ‘Chad, take it easy. You’re only a freshman.’ That’s not going to happen. Chad wants to make a difference just as Anthony does, Moten, just as Demetrius does, just as Mike Wyche does, Courtel. We’re going to let him rip and he’s going to compete over there at end with Chickillo and Hamilton and those guys to start. Because of the summer Kamalu had, we had a chance to separate him. So he’s over there with Olsen and those guys at the other spot. So we’ll see how that develops. All those guys are bigger and stronger and Chad’s going to be a big part of this and including the third-down pass rushing.”

> Do you guys have the size and depth up front to play more 3-4 full time?

“We’ve never really been 3-4 full time," Golden said. "We’re in and out of it depending on situations. It’s become a game of situations. Everyone thinks it’s a game of four quarters, it’s really not, it’s a game of situations and when they go 10 or 11-personnel, three or four wides, excuse me, when they go three or four wides, we’re going to match up a lot of times. Sometimes that means put the nickel out there, so you might see Deon Bush, Crawford or Tracy in the slot, okay, then bring another corner in. If Deon goes down in the slot, we have a bigger guy that’s kind of like a sam in space and we bring a safety in. As it relates to the front, we’re in and out of fronts constantly. Sometimes we’ll be in an odd front which is 3-4 based, other times we’ll be in over or under front, which is 4-3 based. We have the flexibility now because we’re stronger at the point of attack, we’re the strongest we’ve been there. Again, seven guys over 30 reps, that’s a big number. That’s a big number. That was a lot of hard work by Swasey and those guys, great jobs by the guys up front doing that, now we’ve got to see it pay dividends for us.”

> Assuming he gets in, what position will freshman Trayone Gray start out at? 

“We’ve talked a lot," Golden said. "We’re not where we want to be yet depth-wise at running back, so we might put him at running back. He’s also a young man that can play wide receiver or wildcat quarterback. Very good athlete, he’s about 6-2, 208, 209-pounds. A big strong kid. We’ll look at him in a number of places just to see where he best fits in and also get him involved on special teams early.”