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Shannon exclusive (Part II)

Here is the second part of our exclusive interview with Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon on Tuesday. To listen to the audio interview, visit our audio section. In this take, we talk to him about what the team is doing now, which players did well at the end of the season, how much he and his staff are counting on the incoming freshman class, throwing the ball late in the first half against Boston College and if it was a mistake, and his feelings about whether or not players like Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell should enter the draft early.

Q: What do you do now that the season is over?
A: We’re in the weight room. We’re in the weight room as of today. Everybody is lifting. We just start like we do in spring football. A lot of lifting. And most of the coaches are out recruiting. It’s like spring football without hitting. We’re out lifting, hitting a lot of weights. Getting ready for the upcoming season, that’s what we’re doing.

Q: Did that meeting have kids that aren’t coming back or can’t come back?
A: No. Everyone was there. We talked about what we got to do next season. What we expect out of everybody. Then, I told the seniors what they got to expect out of the draft and the combines and things like that. And that some of the guys might not get invited, but don’t think you’re not good players. Some of you guys will get invited to bowl games. Be honest and up front about the truth about anything that happens. And I told them from our standpoint we can’t release anything [regarding injuries] because we’re a private institution. If somebody says, a coach at the University of Miami said something, we cannot do that unless they sign a release.

Q: So, what’s the atmosphere like? Was it sad? How did they take this loss?
A: I don’t know. Some guys take it differently.

Q: All coacheds are going to be out recruiting? You’re allowed in home visits?
A: Yeah. A lot of coaches went out and did some and they’re doing it the rest of the week.

Q: How would your evaluate your season as a coach?
A: Not very good. We lost games. That’s all. Lost too many games.

Q: Is there anything you would like to do better, not the players, you?
A: We’re evaluating a lot of stuff now as we go along. Me and Coach Nix talked this morning about things we need to do offensively for the upcoming season. Things we need to look at, how we can make our team better.

Q: Nix had complete control of the offense?
A: Yes.

Q: And what about the play everybody is talking about with :52 left in the first half against Boston College?
A: Yes. It was fine. One thing I’m not going to do - and you can tell all your little blog people - 52 seconds left on the clock, if it was the end of the game, its 7-0 what would we do? We’d be in the 2-minute drill trying to get points.

Q: But that’s the end of the game. This was before halftime?
A: 52 seconds is a lot of time to move up the field. No matter how you call it. If you say well, coach gave up. He didn’t want to go for it. Well, next story will be written that coach Shannon has lost confidence in his players, he’s not trying to score any points. So, either way it goes, I’m OK this way, I’m OK that way. So, I’m really not worried about it.

Q: But it was before the half?
A: We need points.

Q: But knowing your offense, you guys have thrown a lot of interceptions, why risk it?
A: I can’t go into games thinking somebody is going to throw a pick. I’ve got to into a game thinking you got to execute what you got called.

Q: But you went in down 14-0 instead of 7-0.
A: It don’t make a difference, we tied the game 14.

Q: But it would have made a difference…
A: It’s not. It wouldn’t. You never know what would have happened. I’m aggressive. You realize I run more fakes than eve?. I’m trying to find a way to win games. I’m not going to sit up here and say we should have gone into the half down 7-0. So you think we should have ran the ball and gone out of the half…

Q: Larry [Coker] did that a lot.
A: I don’t do that. And you always cut throat him all the time [laughter]. There was different personnel. I’m not going to do that. When I tell the players I’m going to be aggressive, I mean that.

Q: Are you meeting with Donna Shalala? Does she meet with the coaches after the season to evaluate?
A: No.

Q: And Paul Dee?
A: No. Me and Paul always talk. We talk every once to three weeks.

Q: How would the athletic director affect you?
A: I don’t worry about that right now.

Q: You have three more years left on your contract?
A: I really don’t know. I can’t remember.

Q: What about facilities?
A: Next week Monday I got to meet with four companies on the locker room and upstairs and the big team meeting room.

Q: Is that from the money the Rock donated?
A: That’s from a lot of money. We’re trying to redo the weight room, meeting room, we’re thinking about redoing that to get it in more of an auditorium style deal. The locker room and some of the stuff upstairs, we’re going to try to redo. And next month, we’re going to live in trailers until about mid to late December until the entire spring football. Locker room and weight room.

Q: What about Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell and the draft?
A: I talked to them today. Kenny is filling out his paper work to see where he’s going to be drafted. Calais is filling out his paperwork. I think the thing that has happened is that too many people have been saying they’re number one picks and not letting those guys go through the proper procedure. I told them go through the procedures. Put your name into the NFL, let them evaluate you and let them tell you where you need to be at. They give you a range.

Q: If somebody is told their range is first round or top of the second round is that a good enough reason to leave?
A: That’s not for me to decide that’s for them to decide. I tell everybody and I use John Vilma and DJ [Williams], everybody wanted them to leave the year before. Oh, they’re going to be players. But when they got their paperwork back, they were third round. John and DJ stayed and they were top 15 picks. That’s the money difference people don’t realize. Devin Hester is doing a great job. Third round money. How much money has he missed?

Q: But Devin Hester is going to be rich soon isn't he?
A: Yeah, but you fail to realize the difference between $5 and $10 million you could have had two or three years ago. No matter what, if he waits, that’s $5 to $10 million he could have had. Now, he gets in the league, no matter what, he’s going to get another contract if he waited a year. So, add that $5 to $10 million that you never would have gotten otherwise.

Q: But here’s what your not saying, it’s the injury?
A: You can get injured just walking out the door. That’s just how it is.

Q: But its football, blown out knees can happen…
A: Its only happened one time, twice that I know of at the University of Miami. Melvin Bratton and Willis McGahee. It hasn’t happened any other time. Ed Reed stayed. Jonathan Vilma stayed. That defensive line.

Q: Frank Gore left and did well…
A: Third round money.

Q: What about Jeremy Shockey? People said he was making a mistake…
A: You got to remember one thing about me, I’m going to let the NFL make decisions. I don’t know if Shockey went through the procedures. Had he gone through it, he would have found out quick. That’s the thing I tell the guys, its your decision, but you got to understand, if you miss out on the money, you can never ever make it back. No matter what anybody says, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it on that second contract. Those $5 or $6 million you missed on that first go around, you’ll never ever get that again. Portis, prime example. My buddy Portis. He and I sat in that office and talked about it. We called some teams, called five teams all of them said second round. He sent his paperwork in, all of them said second round. Portis went second round.

Q: Portis was very upset, too, I remember he walked out of his draft party…
A: He was very upset. He got a lot of money now, but how much money did he miss? A lot. Because if Portis stays, you know he’s going to be a top five pick then.

Q: He was here now because of Sean. Have any of your former guys called you since the shooting?
A: No.

Q: What are you most proud from this season?
A: I look at it from the young guys standpoint all these young guys that have played. It reminds me and I tell everybody it reminds me of when we played Dan, Santana, Reggie, Damione Lewis and those young guys and the next thing you know. The following year, I was gone, but I think we won eight games, then 10 or 11, then the following year, they won it. So, that’s what I’m looking at. I see the progress of these young guys doing a lot of good things here and how they have stayed out of off the field problems during the season. And I said this, we’re going to build a team that does the right things on and off the field. The first thing is we’re building a team that is doing things right off the field. Now, we’re going to take the next step. Now, we’re going to build a team that has the mentality of this what we got to get done, lets work on it, lets create plays, lets get playmakers and get a lot of things that got to get done.

Q: What do you think is your strength? I know a lot of people said defense going into this past season.
A: I don’t know why everybody thought defense was our strength.

Q: Well, you had Kenny Phillips and Calais Campbell coming back. Why not?
A: But your missing a valuable part, the middle. You missed your defensive tackle, your middle linebacker and your missing your safety which is Brandon Meriweather. That’s the middle of your defense. If you got those guys, your solid, your very fine in what you can get done. I don’t know what’s going to be the strength. I really don’t. I look at the offensive line, but we got to develop a center. That’s going to be a key ingredient. If we can develop a center, we’ll be fine then. If we don’t we’re going to struggle.

Q: But what about quarterback?
A: If you can’t snap, you can’t do anything.

Q: Right, but let’s say whatever happens, somebody young takes over quarterback, isn’t that hard to expect them to do well right away?
A: No. Because the offensive center has to make the line calls. He’s got to protect that quarterback. If we’re not able to make the line calls, you can forget it.

Q: Who would be the center next year?
A: Right now, we got [A.J.] Trump, Tyler Horne and Matt Pipho. Those are the three that got to compete for it.

Q: Is Trump OK?
A: He flew around. Came back from his injury, did OK.

Q: Are you looking for Glenn [Cook] to come back and be the middle linebacker?
A: Don’t know. It just depends on how we evaluate and when we’re watching film. Whatever the three linebackers are that are the best and give us the best chance to win.

Q: What about linebacker Romeo Davis?
A: He’s coming off his injury. He’s got another year.

Q: How about Daryl Sharpton? How did he do?
A: He did well this season. His last five games, he did well. He’s played a lot of football and he’s learned a lot.

Q: Is the biggest issue with linebacker the fact these guys have so much trouble covering backs and tight ends?
A: The biggest issue with the linebackers is we have no depth. All we had was three guys, if one guy gets nicked, it was always a problem.

Q: Has Spencer Adkins struggled a little bit?
A: He had to learn two positions. And Daryl is a middle linebacker, but he’s an outside linebacker. You don’t want to change Tavares Gooden who did pretty good at middle linebacker. You taught Daryl all of outside and now you got to teach him inside. It was a year that you know what, you had to coach the best out of them, all you can. They did a lot of good things at some point and then a lot of things when the screwed up sometimes.

Q: Any guys going to be switching positions?
A: There’s going to be some guys that switch positions and we’re evaluating that now as we watch some film. We’ll talk to some guys over the next couple of weeks. This is what we expect out of you by next year and compete at this position.

Q: Kylan Robinson is a guy that switched to linebacker…
A: He switched to linebacker because he really wasn’t a fullback. A guy that we just needed to just go and knock people off the ball. He’s not that guy. But he’s a good athlete.

Q: How about Colin McCarthy?
A: Colin did good when he was healthy. Colin is really a true freshman. Everybody thinks he’s a sophomore. Colin didn’t play much his freshman year. Really, I’m not even sure if he played at linebacker. I think he just played special teams for the most part.

Q: So which freshmen that were on special teams or the scout team do you feel is going to be able to contribute right away next year?
A: I really don’t know. I know offensive coaches talk about [Adewale] Ojomo. They love this guy. And usually when the offense is ranting and raving about somebody, that’s big. Harland Gunn and Tyler Horne did a good job on scout team for us. McKenzie did a phenomenal job. So, usually, when your coaches talk about the scout team players, those are really the guys that are going to step up.

Q: How is he? How is Jermaine’s neck?
A: Fine now. He’s able to practice and take hits. He’s doing a lot of good things.

Q: Some people say he’s got great hands, like Reggie Wayne?
A: He’s got great hands. Marve will throw him the ball and he’ll just go like this [Shannon holds up one hand and cups it like he’s catching a football with one hand]. Robert Marve, and he will just go like this [he does it again].

We got some young guys, some talented guys. But like I said, once we get this foundation and if we can ever do this, be like Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Arizona State, where those guys don’t lose juniors to the draft. They don’t. They keep ‘em and that’s where I think the stability part goes into those programs. Once we’re able to do that like when I was a player, when Ed Reed and them stayed for the next two or three year, they stayed and all grinded it out with each other, that’s when you get your great years. You have that class like Boston College and Virginia Tech had. Talking to coach Jagodzinski, they had 17 guys that were fifth year seniors that started. So, when things got tough, they knew how to stay focused and keep going. When you don’t have that type of class like us, we’ll get back into the games and then now we’re ready to fight and struggle. A veteran team will stay calm. If you don’t have that veteran team, somebody is going to do something they’re not supposed to do, because they’re taking a chance on making a play and that’s where they get you. And that’s what happened to us this year. Somebody would take a chance to make plays and you shouldn’t have. Just keep doing what your doing and that’s what comes when you have that veteran team you don’t have to worry about.

Q: Do you know who you are going to play next year yet in the opener? We heard it might be an ACC team.
A: Not at all. Don’t even know. The only thing I know is we got three road games in a row. The schedule was made before I coached here. Florida, Texas A&M and somebody else.

Q: Do you expect a lot of freshmen to play right out of the gate?
A: Don’t know. I think when you play a lot of freshmen right away, that’s going to cause you to still be behind. I think what you do, its like you build a house. You got your foundation, those guys are coming in to add onto a room or to a kitchen. They’re the add-ons. And when you add on 5 or 6 guys those are the ones in due time will be like [Leonard] Hankerson, the [Demarcus] Van Dykes who come in and help your team or like Shawnbrey [McNeal] and those guys.

Q: So your looking to get a lot of guys to sign?
A: We’re going to be depleted. We still don’t got the numbers. This is how you have to look at it. You need about 15 to 17 offensive lineman. You need about 14 to 15 defensive linemen. You need about 10 to 12 linebackers. You need about 12 to 14 DBs. You need about five running backs. You need about four or five quarterbacks. You need four tight ends, maybe five tight ends, unless you got fullbacks on the team. So when you get those numbers, we don’t have those numbers right now. Receivers is still down. Linebackers are like five down. The DB situation is down dramatically. Our numbers are about right at running backs and quarterbacks. D-Line numbers are not right. DB numbers are not right. Every number is not right.

The thing is everybody is trying to say, how you going to go to Miami? How you going to go to Miami? But everybody sees the numbers are not right at Miami and I think recruits see that. We’re leaving two receivers and the only thing you got left is Sam [Shields], [Jermaine] McKenzie, Leonard [Hankerson], Daniel [Adderley], Khalil [Jones]. Your still five receivers down. A lot of opportunity. The running backs, yeah we got five running backs. The quarterbacks, we got these quarterbacks coming in. If we don’t get these quarterbacks now, we only got two on the team. That’s tough. At linebacker, this year we played with three and half, four linebackers. That’s all we played with. Are we just going to stay with those guys? No. We need to find 5 to 6 linebackers to get our numbers back up. That’s the biggest thing, we got to get our numbers back up because that affects your special teams more than anything. Because those linebackers, safeties and those tight ends, cornerbacks are your special teams. And when your playing with a bunch of receivers and DBs on special teams, that’s how it gets tough and that’s why it was tough for us this year on special teams.

Q: What is your kicking situation?
A: We’re going to try and sign two guys out of high school. We got to get the competition back. We’re going to do it. We’re not just going to rely on Daren Daly. We’re going to rely on the best and whoever can get it done. What did I tell you were going to be two key factors this season? Kicking.

Q: What about the defense, they started giving up a lot of points, any chance of changing scheme?
A: Here’s the thing people don’t realize. We went into the last three games with three defensive ends and one of them had to play defensive tackle. You had Teraz McCray and nobody else ever played before. That’s why the defense was the way it was. Your going into the game where you don’t have Ponder for so many games and you don’t have people. The people said the defense wasn’t this, it wasn’t this. Well, when you don’t have bodies, I don’t care what happens, if I line up and play, it don’t make a difference. When your down in numbers and your only playing six defensive linemen and one of those of those six has to play defensive tackle, that’s tough. And when you only have three linebackers, that becomes tough.

So, there’s a lot of things that play into factor as to why the defense struggled at the end of the season. Early in the season we were doing pretty good. But when that injury bug hit. When you don’t have Courtney [Harris] for awhile. You have Colin out for a couple games. You have Ponder out for a couple games. You have Willie Cooper sitting out a couple games. Where you supposed to go next? Like I said, you can’t cut ‘em, you can’t trade ‘em. You can’t go to the waiver wire. Well, Ok, let’s put some offensive linemen in there. You put those guys in there, but they don’t know how to tackle. They don’t know how to get off blocks. Nobody ever looks at it the same. The defense, that’s supposed to be our strength. The defense was never our strength. I said this early in our season, the offensive line was probably going to be our strength. Everybody looked at Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips. That’s two guys out of 11. But you never looked at DeMarcus Van Dyke at corner, Bruce Johnson at the other, a whole new lineup at linebacker. Nobody played the same position. So, know where do you go at?

Q: I guess people looked at the beginning of the year and thought you guys were better then…
A: They never looked at after the beginning of the year and the injuries that hit us. And that’s how evaluate what you do all the time. We’re still going to evaluate the last part of the season as a defense and say OK, if this happens again, what do we do? We’re not going to sit back and say those are excuses. Now, we’re going to sit back and look at these last games and say why did we give up all of these points? And we’re going to evaluate those reasons why.

Q: Coach Walton called all those defensive plays?
A: Yes.

Q: Any thought to playing a 3-4?
A: No. The 3-4 you got to have the personnel for it. Here’s how the 3-4 is. You need guys in 3-4 like, to run a 3-4 this is what you need. You need a big Vince [Wilfork] and a bunch of guys that are 6-4, 6-5, 280, 290 that’s playing like defensive ends. Then you need linebackers that are 6-3, 6-4 like Channing Crowder that can just take on blocks all the time. That’s what you need. And that’s why people say that’s why Bill Belichick does what he does. When Bill first got to New England, it took him a little bit to get that defense to where he wanted. Are we a little undersized right now? Yes. But that comes with recruiting. That’s why we’re recruiting these big guys out of high school and stuff like that and now, everybody is going to say, god, they look like that old defense. It’s called recruiting and coaching. Your missing the Cortez Kennedy, the Jerome Browns, the Russell Marylands, your missing those guys that can fit two seats. We’re missing those 310 pounders, 315 pounders and that’s why we’re doing a great job recruiting those type of guys.