Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
ENOUGH about Clemson already. I got a chance to speak with Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe on Tuesday and ask him a few questions about himself and the program. Here's the first half of our Q&A session:
How is it that you've won so many games with defense?
Jim Grobe: I think every team each year has a different makeup. We've had years where we've led the ACC in offense and we've had years where the offense wasn't quite as strong and the defense was stronger. For the past couple of years we've just been a better defensive football team, but I don't think that's something that just happens every year. Your team kind of changes through the year.
Some years you're a little stronger on offense, sometimes defense, maybe special teams is stronger one year than the next. It's not something you count on every year, it just kind of happens in some years you either have a little more talent or in some cases more experience on one side of the ball than the other.
How did you come to your philosophy on redshirting, and could you explain it?
JG: Our philosophy really is to try to get the four best years of football out of these kids. You have five years to play four, one of those can be a redshirt year, and all we try to do is make sure that we don't waste a year on a kid in especially his first year.
I know some coaches may feel pressure to play kids because they may not have a real solid contract, they may be late in their contract or they may just have a win-at-all-costs-right-now-mentality, and from our standpoint, I've had pretty good security here in my contract, I've got an athletic director that visits with me all the time, we're kind of on the same page as far as trying to get the four best years of football out of our kids.
What we won't do, we won't take a kid and let him cover three kickoffs a game as a freshman and let him waste a whole year of eligibility. We kind of have a policy that unless we really feel like a kid has got a chance to get on the field 25 -30 snaps on offense or defense we're probably not going to use him. There's not really any science to that, we could think a kid is going to get a lot of snaps and once he gets out there he's just not really ready, to do it, but we try our very best to only play kids that can go out and really be a contributor on offense or defense and not just be a guy that plays a few snaps on special teams. Our main thought always when we use a true freshman is to make sure that kid is not going to waste a year of eligibility and not get enough playing time.
What is the ideal Wake Forest recruit? How would you describe him?
JG: From my standpoint, certainly we need a kid that can graduate. That's gotta be front and center for us. We've got to go find a kid that can graduate and for Wake Forest, for our program, our No. 1 concern is character. We want a good kid. Above everything else we want a nice kid. We want somebody that's going to come in and pretty much ... it doesn't mean he won't make mistakes ... but we don't want them waking up in the morning thing about what they're going to get into. I think if you look at the tangibles, we've got to find a kid first of all that will leave Wake Forest with a degree, doesn't mean he has to be a rocket scientist, he doesn't have to be an engineer or a lawyer, doctor kind of guy, he's just got to be a college-bound guy that thinks it's important he has a college degree when he leaves. That's probably our priority, but the other part to that is he has to be a good enough player to help us compete for bowl games and championships, and that's where the tough part comes in.
It's easy to go find a great academic kid. It's easy to find a great player, but finding the kids that have the right combination is hard. I guess for us, we want a kid with good character that can leave Wake Forest with a degree and can help us contend for championships and bowl games. I think probably the thing we're looking for is a kid that wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night thinking about playing great football. I don't want a guy to come to Wake Forest just to get the degree, and of course we can't have a guy that just comes to play football. I want football to be really important to him. I have been at other good academic schools and at times I felt like we had too many kids that were there just to get the good degree, and football wasn't real real important to them. I've never been on good football teams that were made up of those kinds of kids.
You've got a master's in guidance and counseling. How often do you use it as a football coach?
JG: Every day. Absolutely. It's parenting. I have two sons that Holly and I raised. Holly did most of the raising because I was typically coaching football, chasing a dream around. Now I've got 105 of those guys. It's trying to be tough but at the same time be caring and trying to spend as much time as you can putting your around arm them their neck and hugging them and patting them on the back but also having enough energy that if they're not doing what they're supposed to, you don't put your head in the sand and ignore it. From a counseling standpoint, you want to let the kids find their own way but at times you've gotta step in and get involved, trying to let the kids realize you're for them but you're not going to allow things to go the wrong way. I've found that most people -- and our kids are no exception -- learn from experience. What we're trying to do is have kids at Wake Forest come in as good guys and leave as better guys.
With all you've accomplished during your time at Wake, do you think the program has earned the national recognition you'd like to see it get?
JG: I don't think we're ever satisfied. I don't want to ever be satisfied. One of my big fears at Wake Forest right now on our staff and with our football team and maybe even with our supporters is complacency. I don't think ... (he started laughing here) If I came in here seven years ago and told anybody that one day we might be complacent in the football program they'd have fallen down laughing.
But after the past couple of years -- we won 20 games in two years, won an ACC championship, had a good bowl win last year against the co-champ of the Big East -- there is a fear that our guys on our team and on our coaching staff that if we're not careful we start taking winning for granted and winning's not something in our league you can take for granted. We play so many good teams in the conference and we play really strong nonconference schedule -- I think we're the only team in the ACC that is playing all bowl subdivision teams, so we've got our work cut out for us -- but the best way I can put it is we're pleased with any national recognition we get. It's nice if people notice that you're a pretty good football team or at least they feel like you're a pretty good football team, but that doesn't help us win a game.
We've got to go out and play hard every week. I feel like we're starting to be respected by people as far as having a good football program, but I think it's a day to day thing, certainly a game to game thing. You can't rest on what you've done. You've always got to be looking for and finding ways to get better. My hope for our program is, I'm flattered people think we've done a pretty good job so far, but I think down the road I hope we can get better.
Part II is on its way ... Grobe talks about Arkansas, the ACC and a playoff ...