Transcript: ESPN College Football Analyst Kirk Herbstreit Media Conference Call

College Football

Transcript: ESPN College Football Analyst Kirk Herbstreit Media Conference Call

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit participated in a media conference call yesterday afternoon. Transcript of the call is available below.

Question: Want to ask you about Miami and Clemson on Saturday night and your take overall on the talent gap, I guess, in your opinion, mainly of the starting 22 for each side between Clemson and Miami. Is it a big gap in your opinion? And then, you know, specifically with Miami… do you feel like there’s some areas on the team where they might have a talent edge?

Kirk Herbstreit: Well, I would say, first of all, in years past, there’s been an obvious talent gap between Clemson and every school in the ACC, but in calling a couple of the Miami games this year, as we’ve talked about excessively, D’Eriq King gives them hope. He kind of, I think, makes this feel different, he makes Miami feel different to me. I think that position on any team, impacts the personality and the confidence of a team and it’s been so long since Miami has had that position cleaned up and where the defense believes in him, the offense believes in him. I go all the way back to Dorsey – I know there’s Brock Berlin – but I go all the way back to Ken Dorsey. So I think that’s real. You know, I think they’re coming into Death Valley with a real belief that they can win because of him and Rhett Lashlee’s new scheme. I don’t know enough about Clemson yet. I was just going through film this morning again, watching the Virginia game. I mean, we love Trevor Lawrence and there’s great receivers, but this defense is unknown. The offensive line is unknown. The way Dabo [Swinney] recruits and the longevity of their success, you would think they’re all going to just be the next wave of great players, but we don’t know yet. So with that in mind, if there’s one area that I’m anxious to see, it’s the Miami defensive line against the Clemson offensive line. I think that’s one area that if I’m a Miami fan… they don’t have to just be a stalemate there, they have to win… they have to win there with Silvera in the middle and Phillips and Roche on the outside. That has to be a matchup that if they win this game or their competitive when the game’s over, we’ll all say to each other ‘How about Phillips and Roche and that D line?’ That has to happen in this game I think for Miami to have success.

Q: With this being a Red River Showdown week – I know you’re not doing that game, but still topic of conversation out here, and especially with the struggles of Texas and Oklahoma early, want to get your thoughts on that, what that says about those two right now, and also about the big picture impact on the Big 12 and the CFP hopes.

Kirk Herbstreit: Well, you know, I think, depending on who you talk to, there are a lot of people that are you know when the Blue Bloods and the most recognizable brands and lose games in any conference – right, like ask the Pac-12 you know that without USC and even a UCLA. It’s been a while, but without those big brands being in the top five of the country people forget about even the Pac-12 – they’ve been fighting that perception for a long time, and now you know with Oklahoma getting off to a very, very slow start, losing a couple games, Texas coming close a week ago and then losing last week. It’s almost as if people, as you say, are kind of writing the big 12 off on a national standpoint… that perception of it. But the way I look at it, following this conference, very closely. What’s wrong with celebrating Iowa State and Kansas State and TCU and Oklahoma State? To me, it makes this conference more interesting and even more competitive and exciting. I think we are entering a world with COVID and with positive tests and contact tracing and players being out, and games being suspended. It’s just uncharted waters, and I really believe this is going to be one of those years where the last team standing is going to have a little bit of luck on their side, they’re just going to be very fortunate when it comes to some of these things and it wouldn’t surprise me if we end up with maybe a team with two losses, making it into the playoffs at the end of this. That’s not to put away what Oklahoma’s struggling with, not, not to say that no they don’t have some real concerns there. And not to say to Texas and you know that their defense has got a kind of button up and they got to be able to be more consistent and at crucial moments in a game, but I wouldn’t hang up the season and say, well, Texas and OU are done, season’s over. I think, you know, both these teams – forget about the playoff – they just need a win. You know, I mean, this game is always exciting. I don’t care what the records are. I’ll be glued to the TV when OU and Texas get together. It’s tradition, and the fact that they’re both coming over losses, to me, it just amps up the importance of who needs… you imagine losing this game? I mean, you imagine sitting there if Texas, at 2-1, and they lose another one and they’re 2-2 with what’s been going on and their recent history. And OU, sitting there at one and two. You’re telling me that Lincoln Riley and the Sooners could be 1-3 if they lose the Texas? To me, the stakes have gone up even higher for this game, this particular game and this matchup and what’s at stake for both. I mean, they neither team can afford to lose this game.

Q: What insight into Dabo’s program have your sons given you that you didn’t already know, which I know you knew a lot already. And I know you had to deal with a lot of, you know, Ohio State type lunacy in the past, but how do you deal with people who might think now that you have a Clemson bias of some kind?

KH: [laughter] You can’t control lunacy, I learned that a long time ago covering this sport. My family, our family, we are passionate, we’re not going to excuse who we are, we are passionate Ohio State people. My dad was a captain there, he coached with Woody. I was a captain. I knew the fight song when I was three years old, my four boys knew the fight song when they were four years old. Their whole lives that’s all they knew and cared about. When it came time to go to school, they just happened to go to a Clemson camp going into their senior year and did pretty well, and Dabo kind of kept an eye on them and stayed in touch with them and offered them an opportunity to be preferred walk-ons, and they decided to take him up on it – it was really as simple as that. Urban felt awful on the back end of that, he apologized quite a bit – he and the recruiting coordinator. But listen… this is my kids’ lives and my kids’ path, and if I would love to have seen them go to Ohio State, but I’m not going to tell them ‘you have to go to Ohio State’ when Urban Meyer hasn’t offered you a preferred walk-on, that it wasn’t really an option. So it was really simple thing. Dabo thought well enough for them to be invited to come to Clemson, and they wanted to do it and I said, sounds great. I have so much respect for Dabo and his program and how he runs it and the fact he was a former walk on himself. So I knew they would be treated the right way. And since they’ve been there. I really go out of my way not to investigate and ask questions and probe, other than ‘How you guys doing? You feeling okay?’ You know, especially throughout this COVID they’ve been there since May 31, I inquired about their health. They’ve been quarantined a couple different times for contact tracing. Neither one of them have contracted the virus yet. So other than that, I just stay out of their way. I try not to be one of those parents that’s nosing around and putting them or me in a really uncomfortable position. So I’m glad that they’re enjoying it. I’m glad they love their program. And other than that, I have another son who’s coming up, who’s he’s actually in contact quite a bit with Ryan Day and Ohio State, and I would guess, he could very easily end up going up there, but you know, people are crazy. They think and hear whatever they want to hear and you’ll not be able to sleep at night if you stay up worried about what people think and that kind of thing, especially in this for world where it’s so passionate opinionated and to me, it kind of is what makes it fun, right.

Q: I want to ask about Ohio State. Justin Fields coming back with some weapons around him and after a big year last year, and I just wondered what you expected, specifically from Justin Fields this year, and generally from Ohio State.

KH: I am trying not to be, you know, when you set almost unrealistic expectations… part of me, the fan in me, when all this… college football was derailed, the world was derailed and then I get into my little world of college football and you know, we’re going to play, are we not going to play. And then a couple of the conferences decided to play the Big Ten wasn’t going to play and then they weren’t, now they’re going to play in late October. I really, if you take all that away, I was really excited with the potential of Clemson with Trevor Lawrence, and Ohio State with Justin Fields – with the way that game ended last year, with the scoop and score no call and the way Ohio State felt. I went down purposely into the locker room to give my respect… I do that pretty often for a lot of schools after a hard fought game. And when someone ends up losing, I always go into the losing coaches locker room just to sometimes shake their hand and tell them to hang in there. And I did that that night with Ryan Day and I always, maybe I can count on one hand, how many times I’ve seen that kind of intensity and that kind of frustration on a coach’s face, and it was like rage and I was in my head thinking ‘this team with who they have coming back next year, this pain isn’t going to leave them.’ And I don’t think it has. So while they’ve kind of gone through some really bizarre times and they’re not going to get started until a couple more weeks, I think they’re going to be better than they were a year ago. I think they’re forgotten brand right now, for obvious reasons, but I think when they hit the ground running, I think people will be reminded how good they are. They open up with Nebraska and then go to State College and that’ll be the game and the weekend on the 31st, when we really see if they’re as good as, at least, I think they are, but I have very, very, very high expectations for them. I’ll be shocked if they don’t make it to the Playoff and into a chance to plan for the national title.

Q: Do you see Fields repeating as a Heisman Trophy finalist?

KH: Yeah. I think he’s gonna have a monster year. You know, I think that Ryan Day has really proven with his work with Dwayne Haskins, and then now with Justin Fields –  two young men who have very different skill sets – that he’s been able to say, okay, Dwayne Haskins, here are your strengths and we’re going to build our offense around you. And then here comes Justin Fields, who was a little bit more raw and had an ability to run and throw, and then they built their offense around him. And so, now you mix in the receivers that they have returning. I know they’ve lost some to the NFL and then from what Brian Hartline has told me, and Ryan, this next wave of young freshman, I don’t think they’ve ever seen a group of receivers as good as this group. They already came in very polished with their route running, their discipline, the respect for the position, the little details that kind of make you from just being a good athlete to a really good receiver. And when you have three of them like that and you add to that, what you already have with Olave and that group, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t have a Heisman winning type of year. And I hate to just put that on him, but it’s just, I’m sure it’s what his own expectations are for himself and for his team.

Q: I wanted to ask you two questions. Number one, I wanted to ask a little bit about that Monday Night Football experience for you, covering the Steelers-Giants. What was that like for you, and did it give you an itch to get to that, you know, get to that NFL level? The secondary question is, what’s it been like since you’ve been back with college football – no fans, well, limited fans in some areas, you know. What’s that been like for you and for the team?

KH: Number one, I don’t know if I’ve spoken with you about this, but I have said how much I love college. How much college, just the pageantry the sport, the marching band. I’m just, I’m just built that way wired that way, probably because of the way I was raised. That’s always been my thing. And I think it’ll probably always will be my thing. So I’ve always just looked at the NFL – while most people in my shoes are always looking to grow and grow one day, maybe I’ll do the NFL, I’ve never had that. With that being said, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed that game, how much I enjoyed for me, it’s not the game itself… it’s the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday build up towards the game and sitting down with the coaches, the coordinators, the head coaches, the players and how incredibly candid they were and giving of their time that they were. To be honest, I was just a little bit, not intimidated, but I was just a little bit curious as to how they would handle Chris and Kirk coming in from college to do a Monday Night game, and they could not have been any more gracious. So that part kind of excited me that they were pumped that we were there to do their game, and then doing the game… even though we didn’t have one fan – it was one of those games we didn’t have one fan in the stands – and I had an absolute ball calling that game and it made me reflect a little bit, a little bit differently towards my future and what I might want to do down the road. Like I said, I hope to always do college football, but if NFL would be in my future, I’m a lot more open to that thought than I was maybe prior to that experience. And then as far as… I don’t know if you get out if you’ve been out yet, I think we all, everybody I’ve talked to kind of feels the same thing. There’s kind of that initial ‘you pull into the stadium. There’s no tailgating. There’s no crowds.’ It’s just kind of weird when you first get out into the stadiums and see it. I did Navy and BYU on Labor Day night and it wasn’t anybody there. It was just so strange to pull your car right up to our TV compound, park your car, get out. Nobody’s yelling. Nobody’s tailgating walk right into the stadium, call the game, walk right back to your car, drive to your hotel and you’re back to the hotel in three minutes. It was just a strangest experience. But during the game you kind of do your job and you don’t really think about it, but coming in and leaving, it’s surreal. Now, Georgia last week in Athens, they had about 20,000 fans and that felt a little bit more like what you’d expect, even though there’s only 20,000, but yeah a few of these stadiums I’ve been in, it’s really, really, really strange. The build-up and lead up into the game, but during the game. It’s, it’s just, you know, just focused and doing your job.

Q: Wanted to ask you about Trevor Lawrence… the New York football teams are already looking ahead to the draft and you know, he’s a guy that people have thought about for a while. We knew out of high school how good he was. Do you subscribe that he’s the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, as you’ve heard a lot of people say, and just what just stands out, you know, obviously, about how good he is as a prospect.

KH: When I look at quarterbacks, I like to look at some of the intangibles right. It’s not just ‘he’s 6’6, 220 and can make every throw.’ There are a lot of quarterbacks that come out of college football and they’re big and have big arms. This kid’s an incredible competitor. He’s one of those guys that if you played him in anything, he’s gonna want to beat you. I love that about him. I really enjoyed watching him change and evolve from a true freshman when he won a national title – wasn’t like he was struggling – to where he is right now is that, you know, I just talked to him yesterday on zoom like this and just his maturity and just natural development as a human being and some of the life experiences that he’s been through – he’s engaged now, he’s just grown up right kind of before our eyes. But if I were a football fan in the NFL and my team at a chance to get my hands on him… Of course, love what he can bring to the table. Make every throw, he’s athletic, he can get out of trouble, he can create. Kind of like what Josh Allen does, you know where Josh Allen – you don’t look at him as great athlete, but he can do enough with his with his legs to keep plays alive and hurt defenses. When a third down scramble for a first down, Trevor’s that kind of guy. But I would love the fact that he’s making good decisions. He doesn’t turn the ball over and his teammates around him will love him. He’s, he’s one of those superstars that doesn’t… he likes to deflect. He’s big on ‘Hey, Trevor. You did it again. You threw for 300 yards. How’d you do it?’ and he’s like ‘well, I mean, did you see the offensive line the job that they did today and my receivers, the routes they ran and the great catches and the coaches did a good job calling the plate.’ He’s not gonna say, well, of course, I mean, I’m the man. He’s, he’s the opposite of that. So he’s just everything you would want to see. And the moment is never too big for him. He’s not ever going to get onto a stage and say ‘holy cow, this is big. I’m nervous.’ He plays better when he gets on a big stage so I’m all in, man. I am a huge fan and look forward to watching him starting Saturday, throughout with the rest of the year and then cheering for him when he goes to the next level. He’s a class act from the first time I met him to just yesterday.

Q: What is it, what does it say, I mean… this is a guy that’s basically been number one prospect basically from sophomore year of high school and he comes into college being the guy, and that he’s kind of been able to just ride, you know as much hype as there is, he’s been able to almost surpass it?

KH: One of the things I can tell you about him is he’s not a guy that just kind of talks about his faith and then kind of lives a different life. Football matters to him, but I don’t think it’s like his identity. I don’t think it’s like this third down pass is everything to me. If I don’t complete this pass, my life’s over. I think he just keeps his football world in perspective, it’s what he does, but it’s not everything in life to him the way some of these guys – it’s the way it is. For him, it’s just not that way. And so if he wins the game… He told me yesterday – his freshman year, he walked off the field, blew Alabama out, won the national championship, confetti comes down. A year later, he’s a true sophomore, they play LSU and maybe one of the best offenses we’ve ever seen with Joe Burrow and all the talent around him, and they get blown out. He said, ‘I’ve never been more proud, looking back at that – losing the national championship and how we handled that, then, winning the national championship the year before because of the way we handled adversity.’ He said ‘I feel like you can learn a lot more about people when they lose a big game than when they win.’ And he said ‘I was so proud of the way – they were talking junk and trash to us – and we just kind of took the high road and just held on to that pain to get ready for this year. It just kind of tells you a little bit about how he’s wired, so whoever gets him, man they’re getting the total package, that’s for sure.

Q: Speaking of adversity, back to Oklahoma for just a second. You knew Bob Stoops well, and you knew that once the few times the Sooners got back into a weird place, the Youngstown in him would come out right, and he’d fight like hell and scrap to it get right and he get it fixed and they’d get it fixed. This is Lincoln’s first brush with adversity unless he count, you know, the playoff shortcomings. He’s already had the mess with COVID problems, the pandemic problems. He has a freshman quarterback for the first time, that’s also unusual. Rattler’s talented but he’s just a kid. How curious are you to see how Lincoln handles what he’s dealing with right now?

KH: I’m very excited to see it really, because you’re right. He’s been able to walk in and just – everybody plays for him. Every quarterback that plays for him has incredible individual success, the team has great success and winning championships and getting into the Playoff. And now, here they are sitting here three games, 1-2, and you have Texas, you know, I mean, it’s like I said, I don’t know if you were on earlier, but I said you imagine if Oklahoma were to lose this game. I mean, now you’re 1-3. I have great confidence in Lincoln, just because I’ve had a chance to get to know him over the years. He exudes confidence, as you know. He’s got a little bit of that – he doesn’t have the Youngstown stuff in him but he’s got a little bit of that, I don’t know if it’s West Texas, I don’t know what it is – but he’s got a little bit of an attitude and a competitive fire about him that his team better grab on to. Because let’s be honest, this Oklahoma team – I personally feel if you go back and look at the run that they’ve been on over the last four or five years, while we all point to the quarterback, I’ve really pointed to their offensive line and the running game. That’s been the mainstay to me, their ability to dominate people with the line of scrimmage and run the football. And when you can run the football, the way they have the last three years – I think they lead the conference in rushing all three years – it really allows them to get into what they want to do you know whether it was Baker, Kyler or Jalen, and now, as you said you got this young quarterback who appears to be very capable, but what one thing he doesn’t have that those other three had… those other three had been to some tough places and transferred for whatever reason, been through some adversity, kind of grizzled tough guys and this kid comes in as a five star, his only adversity is he redshirted. And now, here he is, you know, and so you’re given the keys to a really young guy, and that’s the one aspect that has me a little bit uneasy about whether or not they can dig themselves out of this hole. It’s nothing against Spencer Rattler. We just don’t know anything about him. We don’t, other than you know, watching him throw… he makes every throw, but he also turns the ball over a crucial moments and until we see him avoid that, then we can maybe rest a little bit easier because the three previous guys, they delivered when it was crunch time. They delivered when it was stressful moments and games and I just… I think he needs help, they need to run the ball better and obviously the defense can’t give up these explosives that they’ve been given up, but I’m fired up. Like I said, I cannot wait to watch the game Saturday.

Q: Going back to that 2017 game between Clemson and Louisville, Travis Etienne and broke off that long run and kind of introduced himself to the country. Now he has to finish his career with better numbers across the board then guys like Reggie Bush and Barry Sanders. I mean, incredible names. What have you seen from him growth wise in these three or four years, and then do you think he gets enough credit across the board for being as good as he is?

KH: I don’t think people, like you bring those names up and I don’t think the average college football fan would associate him with those names at all. I’m glad to hear you’re doing something on him to be able to put him in it to a level that he deserves to be in. I called that game at Louisville that night and I can’t remember who the other, they had another back that was still on the team that played, and I think was a starter and I remember Dabo leading into the game was like, wait, wait, do you see this freshman we have? You know, he can fly and he’s got a bright future. But Dabo –  I mean, the way they recruit every year, they’ve got a few guys that he says that about, and then he got into the game and he took one to the house and our cameras kind of caught him and all you saw was his big smile and braces. And he just looked like a 16 or 17 year old kid. And you saw that speed, that initial burst and then his speed that the guys couldn’t catch up to – that was my first observation of him. And then, of course, I’ve followed him very closely throughout his career. I remember seeing him the next year that he came back and seeing a lot more strength in his lower body, and his ability to bounce out arm tackles. I think in his third year I started to see more patience, instead of just going immediately and trusting his speed. He started through that, that the game reps and experience that he had he had for himself. He started to kind of wait for plays to develop and wait and wait and then, like great backs do, then hit it. And so I think it’s just been a very, very natural growth for him at that at that position. And now I think this year, you’re going to just see it all put into one – the patience, the speed that’s as good as anybody in the country. The power that he now has the balance… you saw that last week against Virginia, when he had that spin move and he got hit. And somehow maintained his balance, got his hand down and scored catching the ball out of the backfield. I just think he’s become a complete back and I think it was really a bit of an eye opener when he said he was coming back, you know, after last year, I think a lot of people assumed he would leave and I think he’s an example of guys that decided to come back and complete their maturation before they go to the next level. Now an NFL team is going to get a guy that isn’t every down back. But to answer your question at the end, I do not think the nation gives him the love or the appreciation that he deserves. I think it’s because Trevor gets so much attention for that offense over the last couple years.

Q: I see you ranked Miami at four and five in your own personal rankings. What is the ceiling for this Miami team?

KH: Well, calling their Louisville and their Florida State game over the last two games, and I’ve done a ton of Miami games going back to like ’01, ’02 when they when they were able to climb the mountain… I’m a fan of their program. I’m a fan of seeing them get back to kind of being a perennial power. I’ve been one of those guys that’s been anxious to say, ‘oh, man, you know, we’ve seen some signs here they’re starting to show they might be back’ and only for the rug to be pulled out on all of us. And I just, I might be completely lost here. I kept saying during our broadcast it just feels different. It’s not, you know, even when Mark Richt had that run a few years ago, they were kind of doing it with smoke and mirrors offensively. They were doing it with defense and they kind of played complimentary football. They had some big turnovers. They took advantage of playing Notre Dame and I think it was Virginia Tech at home, and then all of a sudden they lost at Pitt. I think it was the day after Thanksgiving and that truly, I don’t know if it was a great team. And this one, we don’t, we keep saying we’re going to find out when they go to Death Valley October 10 and that’s what we’re going to find out. I think they look better. I still think they’re developing depth, but they look better and I think they’ve been a quarterback away on some of these teams, they’ve had over the last 10 years away from being competitive and I think the D’Eriq King kind of stabilizes this team and gets them to believe that they have a chance. You know how when you feel like your quarterback can make a play or your quarterback can give you a chance, it doesn’t just affect the offense, it definitely affects the defense, and Blake Baker and how they’re calling the defense on that side of the ball because they don’t feel like their margin of error is so small anymore because they’ve got this offense. And so, I’ll have a much better answer after Saturday night, but going in, it feels a lot better than it has in previous years because of… I don’t want to just say because of D’Eriq King, but I think the maturity and the attitude overall, the whole team, but especially because they have an offense and a quarterback now that can score points.

Q: So the last time Miami faced Clemson, I think after the game Dabo and his team snapped the turnover chain in the locker room. If you were the coach, would you use something like that for motivation or we just go forward in this business as usual.

KH: I think under these circumstances, I think Manny’s trying to do the right thing by saying ‘hey Clemson has been here and done that these kind of games prime time and we’re trying to earn our way into this.’ I personally think this is not a game about emotion, because I think emotion and hyped up games is fleeting. This is a game about execution. This is a game about maturity. This is not a game about trash talking and that kind of thing, because that, that’s when you’re buying into momentum that that could be gone after an interception or it could be gone after a Clemson touchdown, and all of a sudden, all that momentum and all that bravado is gone. I think it’s more about focusing in on let’s just do our jobs, let’s do what we’ve been doing against Florida State and Louisville. We don’t have to do anything above that, let’s just be us. And I think if they focus on that they got a much better chance than using props or getting mad because Clemson did something. Clemson’s been where they are for a long time, and this is the first time we’ve had a team in the ACC with a chance to kind of knock on their door and say, Hey, man – I’m ready to step in the ring and go toe to toe, and I want to see where I stand with you because you’re the bar and we want to find out where do we stand with you. It’s been a long time and I think they have a chance to earn some respect, and we’ll see if they do it.

Q: First of all, will you be able to spend any time with your sons this weekend?

KH: I’m hoping to… my wife and my other sons are going to be going with me. I’m staying for my, my son who’s a senior in high school has a game, a big game on Friday night, then we’ll fly over so the timing might be tough. I’m hoping this day depending on the hurricane situation, hoping to stay over Saturday night after the game and take them to breakfast on Sunday morning. So trying to work that out as we speak, actually.

Q: You touched on the offensive line for Clemson a little bit and kind of that matchup, but, what do you make of Dabo saying that this line is playing as well as any group he’s been around? And do you see that when you turn on the tape?

KH: I think the offensive line is probably the area that, if you go back that Taj Boyd to when Deshaun [Watson] came in and then when Deshaun left, I think the area that they probably become really, really good is the offensive line and the ability to run the ball. I mean, you go back to when Sammy Watkins was there, it was really more about everything on the perimeter and then just doing just enough in the running game. And then when Deshaun was there, they started to get better backs, they started to get better in the trenches, and I think that’s kind of become now a new aspect of their offense. So here we are, this year. You got four new starters. And I know some of these guys that played, but really Jackson Carman’s the only returning starter so Dabo watches these guys at camp, he watches them in practice, he watches them against his own defense. If you just go by watching them in these games, they look good, but I still think this is a game that we need to see against the talent that they’re going to go up against to see really where they stand, and are they potentially a dominant offensive line like they’ve had like I said over the last three or four years they’ve had they’ve been really good in the trenches and I don’t really want to judge them yet until I see how they play against Miami. Hopefully it’s a, you know, an opportunity for them to show that they can be as good if not better than what they’ve had in the past but right now it’s kind of an unknown until they go up against the quality defensive line like we’ll see Saturday night.

Q: In year six of the Jim Harbaugh era and Michigan, what are your impressions of the program? I mean, do you think they have met expectations, considering you know what the anticipation level was for Michigan heading into his tenure, I guess when he was hired in December 2014?

KH: I think the expectations were so high for him when he came in. I know I was incredibly excited because when I was in high school, Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback at Michigan and he had a flare about him and an arrogance about him as a player. That was incredible. It was a gift. You know, if you are on his team, you loved him. And if you were against him, you despised him. And then watching him become a coach, you know, he played in the NFL and had a great career in the NFL, but then it became a coach and had success with the 49ers, obviously getting all the way to the Super Bowl. I just would just always think, with all due respect to Brady, Hoke and others, that if Jim Harbaugh ever came back to Ann Arbor, and brought that flair and that arrogance with him, I mean, the sky is the limit. Michigan and Ohio State… it’s going to be like the new war that we used to have with Woody and Bo, and at the time it was going to be with Urban and Harbaugh. It just hasn’t quite played out the way I – and I’m sure Michigan fans envisioned. I don’t buy into the, I guess that the fans that think that, you know, let’s get rid of him, or you know he’s on a hot seat or we need to bring in somebody else. If Jim Harbaugh can’t win at Michigan, who can? I don’t know how you would ever want another coach to coach there, other than Jim Harbaugh. Are they close? Yeah. Is it frustrating? Obviously. Do they want to beat Ohio State? Yes. Do they want to get into the playoff? Absolutely, but I still think he’s building a program. I still think he’s got to get quarterback play up to par to be able to really go to that next level. I mean, if you look around at Clemson and Alabama and Oklahoma and Ohio State and Georgia and all these teams. I mean, the one thing they all seem to have is quarterback play that kind of takes them to a different level. And I think Michigan’s kind of been searching since he’s been there. They’ve just been searching for that. And I think overall, again going back to when Michigan was Michigan, Michigan had a run on running backs and receivers that would go to the NFL and it was just like it was automatic – offensive lineman, tailback, receivers straight to the NFL. And they’ve had a few here and there, but I think that’s an area that I know that they need to continue to grow and continue to try to raise the bar. I know that’s his responsibility, ultimately, but man, I’m just, I guess I’m a fan. And I’d like to see it work and I know it’s maybe not gone the way they had hoped, but I’d like to see him continue to get that opportunity to do what he came to do.

Q: As a follow up, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that in the last two years, they right now don’t have any kids from Ohio, last recruiting class they didn’t have anybody from Ohio. Getting shut out there, you know, considering the talent level and the proximity to Michigan that that state has. I mean, do you think that that’s a problem for them?

KH: I didn’t even realize that until you told me. I find that shocking, really. I mean, when he, when he played there – Bo would get five or six a year from Ohio mainly, northeastern Ohio because of his ties to Barberton, and I mean that was always like if Michigan played Ohio State, they would have two or three on offense that started and two or three on defense, and that just seemed to be a thing, you know, for a long, long time. And I think Ohio still has great high school football. I think obviously Notre Dame does a good job getting in there. But now you’re seeing a lot of schools come in there and try to get that second and third tier guy. I think Mark D’Antonio did a really good job there for a while. I know Mark Stoops now from Kentucky is coming up and trying to get in there. So I think it’s more competitive. I don’t follow recruiting closely enough to know why they’re not landing more Ohio guys but I know, going back to like the 70s, 80s and 90s, that was always a staple of Michigan’s roster is having those Ohio players on there and, you know, they really knew how to appreciate the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry coming from Ohio that much more.

Q: On 90% chance of rain in Clemson this weekend. What kind of factor does that play in the running game and the passing game for both teams?

KH: Yeah, I know that talking to Trevor yesterday, you know, they haven’t had a ton of wet game since he’s been a quarterback there, but he does, because he has large hands, he handles a wet ball pretty easily. I’m going to talk with D’Eriq later today to task in that same question because I’ve been looking at that forecast as well. I’m a big believer, unless it’s a monsoon, but if it’s just a really, really wet slick surface, I’m a big believer that it helps the offense, more than parts the offense. I think you know when you’re running a route or you’re using your body weight, you can kind of position your weight. And distribute on your feet, knowing which way you’re going and be very careful and mindful of not slipping, whereas the defender, especially a man coverage, he’s reacting to where I’m going. And I think it’s much easier for him to lose his footing than it is for the offense. So I think if it’s a monsoon, it’s hold on to your hat, you know, this thing could get sloppy. But if it’s just wet conditions, then I think the offense – if your quarterback can handle the ball – then I think the offense has an advantage.

Q: What are your thoughts on the on the upcoming draft. I know you’re not. I know you’re not a draft list or whatever. But, the UM prospects, particularly D’Eriq King. Obviously there’s Brevin Jordan, Jaelen Philips, Bubba Bolden and Quincy Roche, but I’m particularly interested in D’Eriq King and how important is this game with respect to the draft or is it too early to know?

KH: Can he technically come back next year?

Q: He can.

KH: But assuming he’ll leave? Yeah, I think anytime you play in a game like this where a lot of people are going to be watching and you’re playing a perennial power and maybe the most respected defensive coordinator in college football, it’s an opportunity. I really don’t think that D’Eriq will look at it that way. I sure hope not. You know, I think anybody who thinks about that would put too much added pressure on their plate then they probably need to deal with. I think he’ll focus on his reads and just trying to put his office in a position to put points on the board, but it’s definitely I mean – this is one of those, what do you call them… like a Mel Kiper, Todd McShay game right, where they go next April or whatever the draft is next year, this would be one of those games if he were to play well, that you know they’ll be pulling film out and showing people look what he did against Clemson and look at this play and look at that play . The other thing is his skill set – he’s a passer. When I watch him, going back to Houston, he’s a quarterback that happens to be athletic. He is not an athlete that’s trying to figure out how to be a quarterback, and when I turn on Sunday football, I really think I continue to see the trend going more and more and more towards the college model of quarterbacks that have the ability to make a lot of throws, but also have the ability to put pressure on defenses by being able to escape and keep a play alive and run some form of an air raid type of offense. I just think that we’re seeing it trend more and more in that direction. And less and less of ‘well is he 6’5? This guy’s 6’2.’ I mean, I guess, old school people still look at it that way. But if you watch the NFL, it’s becoming less and less a thing. So the fact that he’s 5’11. I don’t think, like if he’s making plays at 5’11 and he’s dealing with offensive lineman he deals with it at Miami and runs the system that he’s running, I don’t know. I just don’t think it’s as big of a thing and a problem in 2020 as it was in 1995 so let’s see how he plays and if he plays well it’s definitely going to help his stock, that’s for sure.

Q: By the way, this isn’t another question, but he told me for a one-on-one interview we had earlier in the season that he was actually measured at 5’9 and 7/8.

KH: We’ll see. Maybe he’ll take the bar even lower down. If we put him in cleats, we’ll give him 5’11.

Q: We know with Lashlee, he really likes to keep the pedal to the metal tempo wise, but in this particular matchup, what are your thoughts on how judicious he might have to be at times, you know, for fear of, you know, if you go three and out a few times, you’re giving Trevor Lawrence more opportunities.

KH: It’s a fair point. I do think it’s hard to ask an offensive coordinator and an offensive system that has taken a program that has been struggling in one area and all of a sudden, say ‘hey guys, if you follow my philosophy and you follow my way we’re capable of scoring 40 or 45 points a game and they buy into that model for three games.’ And all of a sudden the whole world’s talking about your quarterback’s on fire and everything’s going well and everybody’s patting you on the back. And then get into a game because of your respect for Trevor Lawrence and say, ‘Okay, okay guys. I know this has been working really well for us. But now we’re going to have to pull back and now we want to be careful and let’s work on work the clock a little bit.’ I think it’s kind of a mixed message to the players and almost saying that ‘hey, we don’t know if we can beat this team.’ I think you go ‘listen it’s good against good. We have confidence in our defense, we have confidence in our offense. Let’s go try to score. Let’s try to go be who we are. And this has worked for us these first three weeks. Let’s go throw it into the end of the big boys, into the deep end of the pool and find out if we can do it.’ Now, if the game starts to go in a direction where the defense clearly is struggling, then maybe you change, but I think going in, it’s foot on the accelerator, let Number one do his thing and try to get that same rhythm and balance that they’ve had the last couple weeks.

Q: I’m just curious what you think the national perception is of this Clemson dynasty, going back to 2011. They’re just one win behind Alabama going all the way back to then. They’ve been in the top five of the AP 44 straight weeks. If they remain in the top five all season, which they probably will, they’ll be second all-time with that streak and they could break the record next year. Do you think that just because of the timing of it – it’s coming on the heels of the greatest run we’ve ever seen with Alabama – it seems like people nationally might be somewhat desensitized to what Clemson has been able to do.

KH: Yeah, those are all great questions. I really feel like 2012, if I remember the right year, they played LSU in like a Peach Bowl or it was a bowl game, and they were coming off a loss to South Carolina and they beat them in a last second field goal. It was like 24-23 or 25-24 that was at the end of ’12. I almost look at that as like, the page turned and from that point on. They started to become a different brand. Now, I’m not saying they were national champion brand. At that point, but the next year, they ended up beating Ohio State in an Orange Bowl, and then I think it just kind of got them really rolling. I think a year or two later, they end up planning a national championship and losing a heartbreaker to Alabama and they really haven’t looked back from that point on. But I tend to agree with you – while maybe you and I and people who like live this stuff, and from the West Coast, East Coast, north, south, I try to respect it all and watch it all. One thing I feel like is hurting Clemson when it comes to this discussion is the ACC – the perception of the conference. Like they beat Virginia the other night, and if you listen to kind of just the buzz around the people talking. It was like, I think, Trevor Lawrence said it was like Virginia was like a high school team. And they’ve been dealing with that answering questions with boy, you know, you guys didn’t look very good against North Carolina State or you didn’t look very good against Virginia. They beat Virginia and it wasn’t a perfect game, but they beat him pretty soundly. And you go back to some of the games that they played last year and the year before. I mean, they would have to answer they they’d win by 25-30 points that they’d have to answer questions like, they just didn’t play a lot of ranked teams, whereas Alabama is in the SEC and there’s a perception, even Ohio State in the Big Ten, there’s a perception Ohio State goes to Penn State or they play Wisconsin or they play Michigan or they play Michigan State. There’s these games and these brands that people tend to respect and the same with Alabama playing Auburn or LSU or Texas A&M. I think it’s hurt the national perception, even though Clemson, when they get into the postseason doesn’t seem to bother them until last year against LSU. I mean they’ve gone toe to toe with Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame, you name it. So that’s you and I knowing it, but I’m just saying people in the SEC, and the Big Ten and around the country, I still don’t know if they quite grasp what Clemson has accomplished and how good they are, and how long they’ve been a dominant team. I mean, right now, you could say Alabama was out there with Nick Saban, LSU had a great year last year. But going back from about 2014 on, you’re looking at what six, seven seasons that Clemson’s been as reliable as any brand in this sport, and I just don’t know if people outside of Clemson fully appreciate that.

Q: Clemson’s coming off of playing Virginia, where they had a bye week before the game and “was sluggish.” Could the bye week for Miami actually hurt them in terms of their momentum that they had going into, you know, the first three games?

KH: I think that’s a philosophy that you know you could talk to some people, I think, depending on the time of the year when you when you get a bye. I know there are players that they love routine and they love to know okay, on Monday, I’m doing this Tuesday, I’m doing this Wednesday, especially if you get into a groove when you’re when you’re really hitting on all cylinders. Almost the last thing you want is a bye, right. And then there are other times where you got a guy that has an ankle and a guy that’s got a shoulder and you’ve been through six straight weeks where a bye can’t come fast enough, even if you are winning games. We’ll have to see how Saturday night goes to see if it affects this Miami team. I really tend to think that because of their offensive style that the up tempo approach a quarterback that’s playing with a lot of confidence. I don’t know. You know, I’ll have to talk with Rhett Lashlee here later today to find out what they did to try to maintain their kind of the continuity and the rhythm that they had after Louisville and Florida State, but I’m sure they would have loved to play the game last week and keep this thing rolling, but we’ll see at the end of the day, how it impacts them when they go up against the best defense that they faced all year on the road in Death Valley on Saturday.


Anna Negron

It was always a dream of mine to work at ESPN, and here I am! I joined the College Sports PR team in March 2016. Hailing from the great Garden State, I graduated from Seton Hall University (Go Pirates!) with a degree in sport management, where I not only sang the National Anthem at games, but was also a member of the Seton Hall Sapphires Dance Team and a student reporter for Pirate Sports Network. Before joining ESPN, I served as a Public Relations Associate for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
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