ACC Network analysts Jon Beason and Tim Hasselbeck spoke with the media Monday morning previewing ACC football ahead of Week 1. Hasselbeck will serve as the game analyst for Georgia Tech at Clemson on Thursday, Aug. 29 (8 p.m. ET, ACC Network) and Virginia at Pitt on Saturday, Aug. 31 (7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network), while Beason will anchor All ACC Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27 (8 p.m. ET, ACC Network).
For either one of you guys. NFL teams go to camp much sooner than college teams do and they of course play sooner than the NFL does, its regular season. Given all the mistakes Saturday night in the Miami-Florida game, is there enough time for these college teams to get ready for hard hitting action, in August actually?
JON BEASON: Well, I think I have a different perspective on it. Having played college ball a long time ago we still had two-a-days, my freshman year. So I just think that the emphasis on protecting players, the concussions, the physical demand of what it takes to play in a game is not there at practice. A lot of times when I do go to practice I’m kind of taken back at how it’s almost like this glorified walk-through. Guys don’t play fast but on Saturday the game is fast and they make these huge mistake, especially early in the season that end up costing you the game. It’s a shame, but on Saturday it’s still full-speed football. And even if you think about the pro game, it’s hard to watch preseason football. Between blocking and tackling, it’s just not there. It just takes time to kind of get going. And I just feel like they don’t practice enough full speed in practice and make sure that the product on Saturday and guys are ready for the moment that when those checks have to happen. Especially on the defensive side for Miami it didn’t, and it ended up costing them the football game.
TIM HASSELBECK: I would just follow up. I think John’s right. I thought what you saw the other night was really bad tackling. And I think that they talked about it on the broadcast. Part of that is trying to keep guys healthy and so you want hitting and you do have limited time with them. I would say this though, I coached fifth and sixth grade football, the pre-snap penalties and things like that, and maybe you were alluding to do to that as well, there should be no reason for that. Even with freshmen quarterbacks, it’s a new play caller. The communication from the sideline, many times as they were breaking the huddle late, speaking about Miami specifically, that stuff might happen every now and then if you have a substitution issue, but there was too much of that for, in my opinion, regardless of when the teams start. That stuff doesn’t, should not be impacted by how little you’re hitting in practice. That stuff is obviously more operational and I think there’s plenty of time to get that done.
Q. Tim, calling the Pitt-UVA game on Saturday we kind of know what Bryce Perkins brings to the table as a runner, but from just a strictly passing perspective, I mean what have you seen? What do you kind of like in his game there?
TIM HASSELBECK: Well, I would start off by saying he is a better runner than passer, so the emphasis in terms of containing him, I think still ultimately comes down into how you defend him as a runner. I think that’s probably first and foremost. If you said, hey, if there’s a way he’s going to beat us I think you would rather make it be from him throwing inside the pocket. Now with that being said, he has the ability to make the throws necessary in terms of the stuff that they do. There’s no doubt about that. I think the issue just ends up being, does he do it consistently, and then does he do it when it’s not obvious in terms of what he’s getting in the secondary. So I guess what I mean by that is when he knows pre-snap where he’s going, that he’s going to throw the curl or he knows that he’s just going to catch it and get the ball out to a flat or because of the way the defense is aligned that he knows he’s throwing the go route pre-snap, he’s much better in that environment than he is when he has to make the decision post snap. So, I just think in terms of how you would rather defend him, because they are so good with him running the ball and then they run a lot of quarterback draws that he’s very patient with, which allows it to really look like pass. I think ultimately defending him as the runner is first and foremost. And then forcing him to pass and causing a little bit of confusion should help Pittsburgh quite a bit.
JON BEASON: To your point, I think that when you have the ability to run and you’re saying we’re going to take away his strength, which you say it’s his running, you force coverage. They do have capable receivers in Joe Reed and Dubois on the outside; guys that can hurt you. But from a defensive perspective anytime the quarterback does run the ball, if you’re not in zero coverage you’re in trouble, especially with a guy like Perkins, who is very, very good running the football. So, it’s almost like what can you do? You’re kind of handcuffed in a sense that if you line up in that spread offense where you have two and three guys displaced from the interior of the formation, your safety has to go out and honor those guys. And now it’s kind of like, hey, you know what, Bryce, go do your thing, you can throw it or run it. But I think that when he does throw, you look at him, he threw for nearly 2,500 yards last year, it is the one-on-one stuff. It is a very simple read for him and that’s where they hurt you and that’s why they’re so good.
Q. For either one of you, curious, given how much Florida State’s offensive line struggled last year and has struggled the last few years, how much improvement do you think is realistic for this season for the line?
TIM HASSELBECK: I think that there’s always — part of it may be for me spending so much time just doing NFL stuff, sometimes we got to remember and a lot of times these are younger kids, guys that are coming in maybe doing something totally different than they did in high school. And then they get to college and there’s maybe a change, if they have been there for a couple years from one philosophy to the next. And so, I think that Florida State has talent across the board, I really do, everywhere. And I think part of it is getting to a point where guys are just comfortable, they feel like they know what they’re being taught, and they can be much improved. So, I think there should be an expectation at Florida State for huge improvements along the offensive line, but also just in general in terms of how comfortable everybody is in what the coaches are trying to convey. And I think that in terms of pass protection and offensive line play, part of it, too, is coaches getting to learn about the players that they have and where they may be deficient and where they need to help and how they need to call a game. So, I think that with that I would expect things, and I think things should look drastically different for Florida State.
JON BEASON: I think that they have to be better because they were that bad last year. Tim you said it. They have talent. Willie Taggert inherited an outstanding team full of talent. Jimbo Fisher did a great job of recruiting consecutive years. And that team should be primed to always kind of compete and be there, especially just within the conference. But I’ll go further in terms of just buying in to a new culture, a new head coach, a guy you didn’t sign up to play for. I think it’s huge for FSU this year. You’re upset, your coach left you to go to a new university, and now you’re left to pick the pieces. So get over it. I think they will be much improved. And just from a scheme standpoint, we saw this in the Miami-Florida game, you talk about Blackmon taking a lot of hits last year, and then obviously Jarren Williams getting sacked what was it, 11 times, if I’m not mistaken. Schematically you have to do better as a coordinator. You see a guy like Greenard or Zuniga literally wrecking the game Saturday night, keeping six guys in, seven guys in protection to allow yourself the opportunity to throw the ball when you want to. And then trying to be, having some trickery to your run game when those guys just want to get up the field so fast or rush the passer so fast or running draws on first down. Things of that matter I wish Miami could have done but they didn’t. And I think that to protect any offensive line, if that is where you’re deficient, just giving them extra support on obvious throwing downs could be huge.
Q. Tim, what do you see as kind of the keys to attributing, if you Virginia is going to win, and what’s got to happen for Pittsburgh to win?
TIM HASSELBECK: We touched on Bryce Perkins. He’s obviously is a huge factor just because of his ability to just kind of take over a game from a production standpoint. So, for Pittsburgh you do have to limit him, obviously, that ends up being a big factor. But I think probably we’ll end up talking quite a bit about that. But probably the bigger determining factor in my opinion is that UVA’s got a very good defense. I think that they’re really talented on that side of the ball. And then when you look at Pittsburgh offensively, obviously it’s a change in coordinator, they do have a returning quarterback, but they really didn’t pass the ball well, especially in tough contests a year ago. Find a new runner. I think there’s been enough change that how ready they are for kind of prime time, and then the fact that they’re going up against a really talented defensive group, I think that if it’s going to be a game, then Pittsburgh’s really going to have to play well offensively and be able to kind of stack up against a really talented group on the other side of the ball.
JON BEASON: It’s going to be tough for Pittsburgh to have a chance in this one. You look at last year, and we talked about Bryce Perkins on the other side of the ball. But Kenny Pickett last year relied on two outstanding runners in Darrin Hall and Ollison, two guys that rushed for over a thousand yards a piece. And you’re talking about 74 percent of the offense is now gone. So Kenny’s been there for the last couple years, he’s played a lot of ball, he has a lot of experience, but they went as the running game went. And now you’re saying, hey, it’s all you and you got to do it by yourself, you got to find a new Batman to kind of lean on. And as good as Virginia is defensively it’s going to be a tall order for Pittsburgh to have a chance in this one.
Q. For both guys to start with and then, Tim, you’re the second question. Number one, Clemson-Georgia Tech starting out the ACC network, but just what are your keys to the game? What does Clemson have to do? Obviously, George Tech is new coaching staff, new system, just what are you looking for out of Clemson? What do they need to do to win? And then, Tim, as a former quarterback, are you looking forward to seeing Trevor Lawrence in person and what are your thoughts on him?
JON BEASON: I think for Clemson you are talking about being nearly a 40-point favorite. If I’m Dabo Swinney, I’m going to put a lot of pressure on them to, what we would call in the NFL to be a pro, to be a professional. To realize that it does not matter who you’re playing, it’s a hundred yards of green grass and you’re supposed to go out and play your best and execute the scheme and play with enough passion and energy that exudes, I’m a champion, I’m the best. I think that that’s the key for Clemson is to make sure their guys are focused and they don’t feel like this is a glorified warmup game. You’re playing an ACC opponent, you’re coming off an historic season, everyone’s telling you how great you are, and you’re talking about kids feeling good about themselves. That sense of entitlement and being somewhat overconfident could be disastrous, even though you’re playing against a Georgia Tech where no one thinks they have a chance in this. So that would probably be my number one key for Clemson is just to realize that it is a big platform, you’re playing prime time, you have to go out and be who you are to make sure that you win this football game.
TIM HASSELBECK: I would follow that up with there’s so much change at George Tech in terms of scheme and personnel, in terms of where guys will be, the key for Clemson is to not worry about what Georgia Tech is doing. Clemson has far superior talent. If they just do the things that — I mean this could just be, it doesn’t matter the opponent, I guess, is kind of the way I would put it. They just need to do what they do. They can stay in their base stuff offensively, just make sure that they are spreading the ball to their playmakers. And I think that they will end up being fine because there will be some surprises, I’m anticipating, from Georgia Tech in terms of where they have certain players. And there’s going to be offensive linemen that are now defensive linemen. There are going to be guys that were quarterbacks that are now playing receiver or running back. And rather than getting bogged down in the scheme and all of that stuff, I think the plan for Clemson is just that, to trust in the skills that they have there and how they use them. And as it relates to Trevor and seeing him in person, I’m excited to see him in person. There’s so much you can tell by a quarterback when you watch him on film, whether it’s just the decision making and even arm strength at times can really come across when on a you’re watching a coach’s tape of a player. But seeing somebody in person, seeing the way the ball kind of jumps out of a guy’s hand, seeing how he handles the environment that he is in, I think is as important as any of the measurable tools that a quarterback has. So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to seeing him play. Obviously he’s kind of met expectations a year ago and kind of not really expecting things to be much different.
Q. Jon, what did you see from watching your Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night and if you could break that down. And do you think any issues that were exposed, especially on the offensive line, are correctable? And do you like the fight that they showed? And for Tim, could you assess what you saw from Jarren Williams, the quarterback from Miami, on Saturday night and if you could touch on the offensive line as well.
JON BEASON: Well, it’s a tough one for me because being emotionally connected to the university, we always expect more as former players. And I’m fine with losing the game. The thing that bothers me is when it’s self-inflicted. That goes back to the first question about how much time to prepare and how long practices are and how fast they can be to put the kids under the right amount of pressure to be ready for a game of that magnitude. All that stuff plays a part of it. But I really felt that schematically even Florida, both coordinators, Dan Mullen, Dan Enos, are guys that are highly regarded in terms of calling plays, and I didn’t see that, especially in the second half. I think that after the coordinators kind of got past their scripted plays that the defenses were able to kind of settle in and neutralize it and I didn’t see the adjustment offensively to what Florida did. Now Florida’s a team that plays a lot of man coverage, they allow their defensive line to get after it and Grantham did a great job of adjusting saying, hey, look, I’m being pressured with three guys. I’m going to sit back and play zone, which we don’t do, and they still got pressure on the quarterback. So, you get beat up in the third quarter, Florida scoring 10 points, Miami scoring none. You win the turnover battle through Miami, you had some opportunities there, but you gave up 17 points where you miss a basically a PAT in a field goal from a very capable kicker. You have the muffed punt, which was huge, it’s just — and then the poor tackling on the Toney touchdown. And then not being where you’re supposed to be based on coverage to be in position to make that tackle. There are just things that they did mentally that cost them the game and can they build on it? Yes, I think the schedule says that they should be favored in every game. There’s nobody ranked, which is why the Florida game was so important. But they should know that they’re good enough and settle in, continue to take coaching, and eventually they should be a very good football team, a team that can make some noise in the ACC.
TIM HASSELBECK: In terms of my thoughts on Williams and how he played, what I would say is it was certainly up and down. Part of it was pressure. I thought there were times that he was the problem for pressure in terms of holding onto the ball. Actually, thought that they were really trying to manage him. You look at the stats and completion percentage, a big part of that is there were so many just kind of gimmie throws, throws at the line of scrimmage, wide receiver screens or tight end screens, flare screens to the flat. I thought they were trying to make it easy for him, which you would anticipate in a young quarterback’s first start. So I think because of that, I left kind of watching the game feeling like I would love to ask Manny if he felt like Jarren Williams gave them the best chance to win week one or if Jarren Williams was the quarterback that he thought would have the team being the best they could be later in the year and obviously going forward. But, I think there was plenty of good things. I thought there were times where he looked confused, to be quite honest with you. But it was a roller coaster. I would expect him to get better. And I also think in terms of the young guys that they are playing up front, and I alluded to this a little bit on the Florida State question, part of it is trying to find ways that you can help them. There’s a sack in that football game where they, it’s basically a play action pass protection that they called and the running back doesn’t help the tackle. He goes, the left tackle, he’s going to help.
JON BEASON: Exactly.
TIM HASSELBECK: But then he just, he runs right by him and he doesn’t help him and the tackle clearly, the way he passed that, was looking for help. And so, I think there are things that can really, really get cleaned up offensively in terms of protection. I think when that happens you hopefully are seeing a quarterback that is a little less frantic in some of those passing concepts where it’s not dictated prior to the ball being snapped where you’re going with the football, which so many of those throws I thought were in that game. If Miami is really going to go where they want to go you have to be able to call passing concepts where the quarterback is really making the decision. It can’t always be a version of a tunnel screen or a bubble or a tight end screen or things that are that simple and generic.
Q. We’re really excited about Syracuse football. Last year was a very successful season. And we were just wondering out here what are y’all’s expectations for this Syracuse team in this new iteration of the ACC season.
JON BEASON: I think they should be excited. They have great young talent. And you look at Tommy DeVito, you watch him on film, the ability to make the decision pre-snap because he gets the ball out extremely quick, he’s accurate, they should be fine. It looks like a version of West Coast offense. Young guys like Harris and Moe Neal, the running back, could really help him. And then, obviously, they’re going to lean on the defense, from two outstanding rushers in Robinson and Coleman, guys who both had 10 sacks a piece last year. It’s a dynamic tandem. We just talked about that with Florida. To me, the MVP’s were the two rushers of Greenard and Zuniga. So they won that football game for the University of Florida, outside of everything else, just dominating the game. And the sky’s the limit with Syracuse. I think that he does a great job of scheming it up, keeping his guys engaged. And the one thing that, as a football fan, you always want to see is you want to see a team that’s confident and fearless. Every time they play the vaunted Clemson Tigers they show up and everyone’s dialed, everyone’s locked in everyone has that belief. I think that’s the first thing you have to do if you’re going to be successful as an athlete in general but if you’re playing the game what people would consider to be the best. And that’s what I love about watching Syracuse play football. They’re going to have a great season for them because they’re going to be right there. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in that game, I don’t know if they can pull it off, but at least it will be worth the watch.
TIM HASSELBECK: In terms of national expectations for Syracuse, I would agree with a lot of what Jon just said and, look, they’re ranked in the Top 25 preseason for a reason, obviously coming off what was a very productive year. You look at their schedule, I think right now Clemson is the only team on their schedule that is a ranked team. Obviously highly ranked team and certainly other teams that are on their schedule, especially in the conference, could end up finding their way into the Top 25. But when you consider all of that and then you consider how they have played Clemson in the past, I think that they should be viewed as a really dangerous team. I think in part some of the stuff Jon’s talking about in terms of the talent they have, especially kind of difference makers on defense and then exactly what you see on offense. There is obviously a change at quarterback, but I think the expectations are that while DeVito won’t be the same type of runner that Dungey was, that maybe he could be a little bit more of an efficient passer. I would look at Syracuse as a team that would be tough to go in there and play against. A really good group that I think has a real good opportunity to make some noise nationally throughout the season.