See some of what Wake Forest’s Brandon Chubb and Alex Kinal had to say on Monday at the ACC Media Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The Demon Deacons are looking to make some noise in the Atlantic Division in Year Two under Dave Clawson.
Q. Brandon, you have such a thing to prove under Dave Clawson. Where are you in the development of this team?
BRANDON CHUBB: With Coach Clawson, first of all, he’s a professional at what he does, he’s a pro at it, he’s a perfectionist. He does a great job. The staff he brought in is top tier, bar none. To a T, they’re organized. With that being said, the recruiting is off the roof. This freshmen class that came in this summer is the highest rated class. You got guys that can play right away, guys that can play special teams right away, not have to take your corner and rep him 15 times on kickoff and kickoff return, or take your linebacker and have him do punt, block, punt, kickoff. That’s 20 extra snaps a game just off of special teams. With all that being said, there’s going to be success at Wake Forest no doubt in the future. It’s just, like, right now it’s our job to make that future 2015, not ’17 or ’18, but to make it right now.
Q. Last year the secondary was the strength of the team. Over the summer, Clawson has raved about what the front seven are going to be bringing. Talk about that.
BRANDON CHUBB: That front seven has a lot of experience. You got guys like me, Marquel, and Hunter all starting 12-plus games. Me and Hunter being two-year starters, going on three. Same with Tylor Harris and Josh Banks up front. They both got 12-plus starts under their belt. You got the DLs, Duke and Julian Jackson. You have guys like that that all have been experienced. I think that’s part of the game, just experience. That helps with the confidence going into a game. It helps with the preparation on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday getting ready for a game. That helps with the off-season knowing what you have to do to get better for the game and for the season to get ready.
With that front seven, it should be a stout front seven. I’m looking forward to it just because I have confidence in all those players. I played with all those players at one time in one important game or important minutes during the season. With that being said, if you trust the people in front of you, those front four trust the people who are behind them, that’s a recipe for complete success as far as a defense, knowing that second-and-five is not going to be a first-and-10. A second-and-five is going to be a third-and-four or a third-and-three, a third-and-three is going to be a fourth-and-two or a fourth-and-one. Knowing that, having the confidence that even if they don’t run to me, my side of the ball, that Marquel and Hunter are going to shut it down or vice versa. If I know I’m third-and-10, they don’t throw the ball, I know Tylor Harris and Josh Banks, the O-line is so far back, they’re just hitting the quarterback.
Q. You talked a little bit about the recruiting, some of the things that Coach Clawson is doing behind the scenes. What can you say about defining this year’s team with the guys coming in as well as what you’ve seen throughout the spring?
BRANDON CHUBB: I’ll start with the defense just ’cause I’m on it. Bud and K.J. are two big pieces that we lost on our defense as far as cornerbacks. They had such big shoes to fill, they’ve done so much for the Wake Forest program. One is a first round draft, one is an ACC Rookie of the Year. We also got guys that have experience at that corner position that can play. Brad Watson hasn’t started yet, but he’s played in all 12 games last season at important times, important minutes.
When K.J. got ejected at Louisville, we were winning that game until two minutes in the fourth. We lost that game on a run play not a pass play. (Indiscernible) who played nickel all season, against Clemson, Florida State. Then you got offense, you got experience, you have guys who have been in the playbook for 12 games. You have a quarterback in John Wolford, who is a competitor, who gets up more than he falls down. You just got experience all around and guys like K.J. Brent who transferred in from South Carolina to add to our receiving corps. A lot of redshirts from last year, like Jared Crump who played at Notre Dame, played against Florida State, big-times, and has done well.
Q. So many games last year you were in, then you couldn’t finish. What is the mentality to pull out the wins this year?
BRANDON CHUBB: Our defensive coordinator has stressed to us details and finishing in the fourth quarter. How you finish that fourth quarter is, first of all, depth. You have to have a lot of depth at your position. Like I said, with this recruiting class being one of the highest rated in Wake history, you’re going to have an opportunity for guys to come in early and play, not just at their specific position, but like I said, if they can help on special teams, you have the second-string linebacker taking less special teams reps and can take more linebacker reps, and vice versa. I mean, you got the minor details that you don’t see watching the game, you don’t see on ESPN when you’re watching us play Clemson.
When they roll the film back on Sunday, you see what happened on that jet sweep that went for 70 that eventually lost us the game. Or at Louisville what happened when they ran up the middle. Or Utah State, what happened on that blown coverage in the back of the end zone. I mean, just ironing out the details that you don’t think are important, but really do influence a game and add depth to each position. Everybody having experience now, even though we only have six or seven seniors, 70 underclassmen, you still got guys who can contribute meaningful minutes and help add on to those starters’ roles.
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined by Alex Kinal. Questions for Alex.
Q. Alex, you punted 81 times last year. You didn’t have a single touchback. How do you do that? What does it mean that you can kick it 40-plus every time and they only get one yard return on the average?
ALEX KINAL: Yeah, I didn’t really realize how important it was until I actually got here. I could see what the defense could do when I flipped the field like that. A lot of what comes with not getting a touchback is how fast my coverage gets down there. Yeah, I’ve got to put the ball high, drop it a little bit shorter than I would a normal regular-field kick. However, if those guys aren’t there to stop the ball on the five or one or eight or whatever it might be, there would have been touchbacks. So credit goes to them, too. It’s a punt team, not just a punter.
Q. The special teams was the bright spot of Wake Forest last year. It even won you your first ACC game last year against Virginia Tech. How much do you not want to be the bright spot in 2015?
ALEX KINAL: I mean, I’ve been saying this all day. I’d prefer to sit on the bench all season. Yeah, I mean, special teams is something a lot of people overlook a lot of the time. It’s such a huge spot in changing field position, like the yardage on each rep in special teams is massive. I mean, we prefer our offense and defense, especially our offense, putting more scores on the board, being more in the spotlight. But whatever we got to do to help them out, help the defense out, put the points on the board when we’re going for a field goal, whatever has to be done, we’re there to do it. That’s our mentality.
Q. What does it mean for you to represent special teams here at the ACC Kickoff? What can you say about some of the other guys on special teams?
ALEX KINAL: Representing my school here as a punter, I didn’t really expect it. It is a pretty big honor. I’m pretty happy about that. But as regards specialists, what we’re doing at practice, there’s only a few of us. We’re working on practice to help each other get better. Mike is our starting field goal kicker. Our snapper is up for contention right now. Adam, true freshman last year, starting off at kickoff. Offense is doing their thing. Defense is doing their thing. We’re kind of left to our own devices. We’re always picking each other’s brains, picking apart each other’s technique to help us get better. Those millimeters in what you do make differences. Like me dropping the ball this far on the inside of my foot would be a difference of 15 yards and 50 yards down field. We understand we have to work together, we understand we’re kind of each other’s coaches, we’re helping each other out in the technique type aspect of it. We just do whatever we can to help each other out.
Q. You mentioned Mike, the kicker. He’s got an interesting story. Can you talk about Mike, what you saw out of him setting a school record last year in his first year, what kind of kicker he is.
ALEX KINAL: He works hard in everything he does. Weight room, he’s strong. He’s a strong kid. He runs. Everything he does legitimately, he does to get better at what he does. I spent a lot of time with him. His work ethic is the same on the field as it is off the field. Whether it’s the classroom, how he treats people, he’s a stand-up guy. He does what needs to be done in order to help us out. I mean, it’s a credit to him. He got the record. I think it was the most in a row made at Wake Forest. He did that because he worked hard at it. He works hard at everything he does. He gives it all, whether it’s lifting, running, kicking, studying. He pays attention to detail and it pays off for him.