Coach Satterfield Opening Statement
Good afternoon everyone. I want to start off by touching up on Javian Hawkins really quick. I know you guys saw that he is opting out and focusing on preparing for the NFL. I wanted to take the time and say that I appreciate Hawkins and everything he has done for us since we have been here. He had a heck of a run here, over 1500 yards last year and this year 830 yards, leading ACC in rushing, a great, great career here in a short period of time. To think about the number of games he has played and the impact that he’s been able to have, you wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors. There is no question about that. As we move forward, we should have Hassan Hall back this week. He had a death in the family last week that he attended to. He is back now when we practice this week, so we will have him, along with (Maurice) Burkley, (Jalen) Mitchell, and Aidan (Robbins). These are the guys who will finish out as running backs for us and hopefully will have good games here as we finish out this season. This week is a short week for us coming off Saturday and having to play on a Friday, it alters your schedule a little bit. We will practice tonight, it will be like a Tuesday practice for us, a little bit more cramming coaching wise. We have been focusing on game planning yesterday throughout the day with everything moved up one day, going back and looking over the Virginia film, obviously the costly turnovers as we talked about in postgame. I think was a big reason for that game, the way it turned out, but our guys played hard, I thought we had a lot of effort and had a lot opportunity there. The fumble in the fourth quarter, really both fumbles in the fourth quarter, you lose the fourth quarter, you lose the game. That was the obviously the big difference in the game when you go back and watch it, but there’s a lot of plays that were good on r both sides of the ball and we have got to continue to build off of it. We need to take care of the football and get this turnover margin going in our favor as we finish out these last three.
(Coach Satterfield on when he knew that Javian Hawkins was opting out)
We had a conversation about it, he wasn’t sure, at the end of last week. He was isolated, COVID related, one of his roommates tested positive. So, we had him isolated away from that and he was not able to be around the building for most of the week last week, he comes in and we talk about it and he wasn’t fully decided on what he wanted to do. I think it kind of hit home when one of his roommates, suite mates there tested positive, I think that had something to do with it and then the fact that he’s got a dream and he wants to go tackle that. It is a personal choice for him but obviously for us, selfishly, we would love to have him and be able to finish out the season but for him, he had a decision to make for him and his family and he felt that was best for him.
(Coach Satterfield on follow up about timeline)
Again, he didn’t practice because we had him isolated, so we were moving forward as if he was not going to play. We didn’t know for sure as because like I mentioned last week, we had guys that became available on Saturday of the game. We planned, really with all those guys, that they were not going to be available and if they were then I was just going to be you know gravy. We had planned that the whole time, same thing with Hall. Hall was gone almost all week at the funeral for the death in the family. We did not know for sure on Javian (Hawkins) until we got toward the end of the week and we get ready to make plans to go for the trip and he was not going to be on the trip. Then today, you know, obviously, conversation today we had, and he wanted to put that out make that official.
(As you mentioned, Hassan will be back, but you had Maurice Burkley and Jalen Mitchell run on Saturday. What did you think of their game? I know Jalen had a pretty big run, but does that give you hope going forward that those two can help Hassan carry the load?)
I thought they really played well. I thought (Maurice) Burkley had some good strong runs. Not the big time explosive runs. Mitchell had a great run there down the sideline. That was a big play for us. Also in protection, I thought Burkley did a great job. Virginia blitzed, I don’t have the percentage, but most of the time. They brought a linebacker where our running backs had to step up and take care of the blocking. Burkley did a really nice job with that. He’s very cerebral. He’s knowledgeable about our offense and I think moving forward, both of those guys are going to be good backs for us the remainder of this season. We saw what Mitchell can do. I think Mitchell is a guy who’s a big strong running back. You guys have not seen much of him on gameday. And I think he showed that. He had a good run against Florida State. A couple good runs. And then of course Saturday, he had the big run. Broke some tackles, got some positive yards. So, he’s a kind of back I think will get better and better the more opportunities he gets, and so I’m excited about what Mitchell will be able to bring as we move forward. And he should be able to get more carries as we move forward throughout the remainder of the season.
(Any update on Tutu? I know he was actually with you guys on the trip. Is there any update on him for this week?)
Tutu is dealing with a little bit of an injury, and we should know more this week. He’s still listed right now as questionable. I think he’s going to be really close to being able to come back. The negative is it’s a short week. Friday’s another quick turnaround. But he’s really close, so we’ll know more. He’s going to go back, get checked up this week and see exactly where we’re at with everything. Don’t want to get specific with what’s going on with him, but he is dealing with an injury. That’s why he was on the trip, on the sideline for our game Saturday.
(What are your plans at running back? You’ve got three now. Hall, he was number two when Hawkins was there, so will he be the main guy? How will you handle that?)
Well, he missed last week, we’ll see how it goes this week at practice. I feel certain that he’ll get some opportunities in the game. He’s kind of had one of these crazy years. Kind of like 2020’s gone, but it’s gone that way for Hall as well. He’s had some injuries this year, he’s had some time he’s missed, last week he had to deal with the family issue. We’ll see where it’s at this week at practice. Again, I feel really good about Burkley and (Jalen) Mitchell. Both of those guys have been mainstays. They’ve done a great job here this year in practice, just haven’t got as many opportunities. So I would say we’ll probably see all three in the game Saturday. We’ll see how it goes this week in practice to really understand and know who’s going to be getting the bulk of the opportunities on Saturday as we get closer to the game.
(With this development, how are you holding morale together? What is your challenge now in trying to keep guys focused, the guys that want to stay and are healthy.)
Again, we try to be positive when we come into the building. It’s a process. The one thing that’s really been skewed about this whole year and this whole thing with the virus is all the procedures and protocols that you have to go through. We love to be routine oriented. Sunday we want to do this, Mondays this. Tuesday, Wednesday, every day should be routine oriented in what we do. Our guys, they get up, they eat breakfast, they do their classwork, they go to study hall, they lift, they go to meetings, they go to practice, and then they repeat. And along the whole way, it’s just about going through that process to being the best you can possibly be. And trying to stay positive. Obviously, there’s a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of negative things that are out there. But the opportunity to come play football is a great thing. And this year you never know if it’s going to get taken away at any point in time, through contact tracing or the virus and/or game canceled or pushed back. So, when you are here and you have an opportunity to go out and compete, let’s make the most of that and let’s have fun with it. And our guys, to their credit, when we come out here for practice, they’ve done a really nice job. They’ve come here, they’ve wanted to work, they’ve gotten the work in. So much of what we’re going through with the wins and losses doesn’t have to do with effort. A lot of it is just the mistakes that we’ve had. And so, they got to bring it every single time. And we’re just trying to stay positive when they come into the building and to keep moving forward. Another opportunity again this week against Syracuse, and we’re looking forward to that.
(On Mailk Cunningham taking a step back this year with his performance…)
Well, I don’t think it’s all Malik Cunningham. I think if you go back and look and some of these interceptions he’s thrown, they are not all his fault. Some of them are on fourth down, where we want him to throw and sometimes it’s not there, but it’s going to be in a coverage. He’s had at least three picks that were batted balls. Some we should have caught that were knocked up and knocked around and then, of course, it goes in his stat line. That’s not all his fault. I can think of at least four or five of those interceptions that went that way. Last year he had five interceptions. The fumble we went back and watched the fumble in the fourth quarter this past game, he’s got two hands on the ball, he’s got the ball wrapped up with two hands. The Defender, he starts to spin the defender makes a great play with his arm underneath and just kind of rakes it out as he’s getting ready to fall, very unfortunate is a great play by their guy, so I certainly don’t want to turn the football over. He’s got a ball in his hands every single play, and there’s got to be more opportunity for him to turn the ball over with the way the ball is in his hands. Whether it be throwing or running. I mean he was the offense, he rushed for over 200 yards, of course you take away some of the sacks and it ended up being right under 200 yards. In threw for 165-170 yards. He was a guy that kept us into game offensively and then again, we just can’t turn the ball over which there are things we work on all the time. There are times he’s runs the ball loosely and that hasn’t changed. I mean we got to continue to make that better when he does take the ball down and go running so I think he’s been a solid player. For us the last couple years, we believe in him and we got to get better. We just got to be get better, and the guys have to get better around him to help him as well to where we don’t turn the ball over as muc.
(On Coach Satterfield being mentioned on social media for the head coaching job at South Carolina…)
I don’t have any reaction, we’ve got a job to do here and I got so much going on here from not only on a daily basis, but an hourly basis that I don’t have time to look and worry about anything else going on. My job is to focus on this team and to do everything we can to make them better. We’ve already talked about on this on this conference call here, all the things that that we got to fix here and I’m not worried about my named getting brought up. I haven’t even seen it. I am not even on social media, don’t know what’s going on out there in the world. I’m focused on this team and doing everything we can to try to find a win, and to try to find our guys and make them make them better players and better men.
(On ball security…)
We do individual drills where we’re working on ball security, depending on if you’re a quarterback a wide receiver running back, carrying a ball high and tight if you’re a quarterback. In the pocket we work on in the pocket and running to where if you’re trying to strip the ball, you’re knocking balls, you’re hitting arms and obviously we throw the football in practice all the time as far as far as looking at interceptions about where to throw it who were reading. It’s constantly harped on and talked about and really worked on. We try to make it as difficult as we can at practice and we haven’t had much issue really until this year. The teams I’ve been a part of, we’ve done a great job of taking care of footballs. It’s just one of these things it’s happened this year and we’ve been plagued by them. We have been well we have a two to game stretch where we didn’t really have any offensively and which was awesome. And we stayed in the game Notre Dame and Florida State, then some of these other games, it’s just plaguing us and as I mentioned in the game we’re not good enough to overcome those right now and we got to continue to play better and play mistake free
(Is there is there a fine line between trying to make a play and making sure you’re taking care of the ball?)
No question that is a prime example of when Mailk (Cunningham) took off running on the last week, he’s got a 30-yard run and we’re getting down to think he’s on the plus 35. Trying to get extra yards and again I mentioned he’s got two hands on it. Yeah, there is, get what you can get. If you’re getting into big traffic, get two hands on it and get down, because teams now, they do a great job of stripping the ball. It’s just unfortunate we don’t have as many, but I think yeah get what you can get and get down and you’re right there is a fine line there.
(On James Turner’s performance…)
I was big time pleasantly surprised when James (Turner) came out in August and started kicking it out. There was a big competition, we got a bunch of guys kicking and he was very consistent in his approach and making those and it’s been true in the games. I think he’s done an awesome job kicking field goals and extra points. He missed I think what two 52 yarders, one hit the up right against Notre Dame, and he nailed the one the other night, right down the middle. What was that 40 some yard so I mean he I think he’s done a really nice job of filling in there. After (Blanton) Creque was done last year because Creque was model of consistency. But I think James has done it done the same. I think he’s come in and our guys can count him and if we need to go knock down a field goal, he’ll go knock it down. I am really proud of what he’s been able to do this year and really being consistent deposition that’s what you have to have
(Between players deciding whether to opt out or dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, which challenge has been more difficult for you and your staff to deal with?)
It’s probably the unknown each week with the virus. We’re testing so many times. Last week we tested every day but one day. You’re just waiting on the afternoon to see if everybody is good and we’re all negative. Then if you get the news that there’s a positive, well then who is that going to affect? It just changes so many things.
That’s probably been the worst of this: the unknown factor each and every week. And I say week. It’s really daily. Who’s going to be there and who’s not going to be there. That’s probably the biggest challenge as coaches. Because you try to put together a plan, and now you may or many not even have a guy. Now you’re playing a guy who probably hasn’t played. All those things that are happening with that, that’s probably been the biggest challenge.
The opportunity to go out and compete, we all love that; the opportunity to go out there and play. But as coaches that’s the biggest challenge because we lose our routine. We have so many different distractions that come into play for our team and our coaches, honestly. The emotional rollercoaster is what takes the toll on them.
(Can you speak to what the defense has done the last couple weeks despite the personnel losses?)
At the start of the season we probably weren’t going to play (freshman defensive lineman Mason) Reiger. You wouldn’t think he’d play this year. He’s a walk-on true freshman. The next thing you know you see him in a game against Virginia down the line this year.
For what our defense has done, I think I saw a stat earlier today that we’re maybe fifth and sixth in the conference in total yards in the conference while having to play guys the last few weeks that we really didn’t think would be playing. They’ve done a really nice job with that. We’ve had some struggles on that side of the ball. They’ve gotten better.
This week is good because we get back several of our defensive linemen. (Tabarius Peterson) is back, YaYa (Diaby) is back, Derek Dorsey is back. All these guys that were starters for us are back this week, thank goodness. Hopefully that will help our D-line.
We were just down numbers in this game. We didn’t have anybody to put in. So you have to rotate some guys, and (Reiger) ended up getting a couple plays. It’s just what we had to do. Nobody really cares. I know our fans probably don’t care. They want to see results. They want to see tallies in the win column and not the losses. That’s the way we had to play, and I was proud of those guys. They played hard. They did some really nice things, and we have to continue to build off of it, and hopefully down the road it makes us better.
(What do you think of speculation that wide receiver Tutu Atwell might also opted out?)
Tutu has been an awesome person to be around. He’s been at it every day standing out on the field and talking, and he’s like ‘Coach, I can’t stand standing on the sideline right here. I want to be out there playing.’ That’s just his mentality. I have not heard anything – what you just mentioned – about that. I just saw him walking down the hall a while ago.
I mean, I don’t know. Everybody has their own personal thoughts about it, but he has not mentioned one thing to me about it.
(Will Aidan Robbins be in the running back rotation moving forward?)
He’s in the mix, certainly. We don’t want to go down a road where we’re playing four guys. I just feel like our running backs need to get a feel for things, need to get a feel for the blocks up front. Usually in the past we’ve played about two guys. This week, we’ll see how practice goes and we may play two or three. We’ll see how it goes.
But those guys want to get a rhythm. Whether that be pass protection or running, you get a feel for blocks, you get a feel for how a defense is playing that particular day. If you’re doing a lot of rotation in running backs you might not get that same kind of feel. That’s not to say we wouldn’t do it.
But Aidan’s right there in the mix. Aidan’s been practicing hard, he’s done a lot of nice things. Those guys are just a little bit ahead of him right now, but that’s not to say he couldn’t jump in there. He’s not far off, to answer your question.
(Have you had any other conversations about athletes considering to opt out, and what are your thoughts on Syracuse?)
As far as that goes, each person that has done it – and I’m not just talking about our program. I’m talking throughout the country – I think every situation is different. You have certain guys that are high-draft-pick-type guys that did it early. You have other guys that did it down the road because maybe the season didn’t go as good as they had planned, personally. So they decided to opt out. I think here at the end, it was a personal decision by Hawkins of what he wants to do for his future.
Each one of those are different. This isn’t the first year. We just came up with this term ‘opt out,’ I guess. I had never even heard this term until this year. We just came up with it. Next year we won’t have the opt-out situation. I’m hoping we get some good news today on another one of these vaccines, that it’s 95-percent effective. Hopefully we can start rolling these things out so we don’t have to worry about the opting-out piece or the virus piece. That will be a glorious day when we don’t have to talk about this stuff.
And we can just talk about Syracuse. That’s perfect. That’s a great question there.
Syracuse has had some struggles this year as well. It seems they’ve had a lot of guys opt out as well, early and late. And I think what Dino (Babers) has done is put some young guys out there. I thought they played their best game against Boston College two weeks ago. It was a very close game, 16-13.
What they’ve done a really great job of is creating turnovers. We talked about turnovers earlier, they’ve done some really nice things. They had a pick-six against Trevor Lawrence in their game with Clemson, they sacked Duke, (forced a) fumble, picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown. That’s kept them in games. They struggle a little bit offensively to score points, but their defense has kept them in some of those games with the turnovers they were able to create.
An, as I mentioned, the Boston College game, they were in that game all the way until the end. That was a good, hard battle against Boston College. But Dino’s playing five freshmen starting on defense and two sophomores. So he’s kind of going young and getting ready for the future. But those guys are playing hard. We have to come down and protect the football, there’s no question. We talked about that, and then we have to score points. We have to play a complete game this week.