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Mike O’Cain Answers Your ‘Ask The Tigers’ Questions

Mike O’Cain Answers Your ‘Ask The Tigers’ Questions

Oct. 18, 2001

Below are Mike O’Cain’s answers to the selected questions that you submitted this past week to “Ask The Tigers”. would like to thank you for all of your questions submitted. We would also like to thank Mike for his time and sincere effort with “Ask The Tigers”.


Coach, I was thrilled to have come back to Clemson, Thanks!!! Question: You have been around a lot of good quarterbacks, what was the #1 problem that you thought Woody had with his game?John Robertson Easley, SC

Well, I don’t think Woody had a major problem. I think he had some things that he needed to be asked to do. In the system before he was not asked to throw certain passes. We’ve changed the pass offense a little bit, we’ve expanded a little bit, and we have asked him to make some throws that he hadn’t been asked to make over the past couple of years. He just needed to work on making certain types of throws and he has worked very hard on that and I believe become and excellent passer. I thought he was a pretty good passer before, but I believe now he has become an excellent passer.

Mike, We are so happy to have you at Clemson. Your intelligence of the game is phenomenol. My question concerns the upcoming game against UNC. How can our offense best attack UNC’s defense?Dale Paulling Lexington, SC

I think that you have to take the positives in our offense. The positives in our offense are being diverse and utilizing a lot of different aspects that we have in place. North Carolina is very strong defensively and if you try to attack them just running at them or just throwing the football, then they’ll stop us. But if we are able to use our quarterback, use our tailback, and use our wide receivers, and all phases of the running game and passing game, that’ll be the best way to attack a strong, physical defense like North Carolina.

Coach, I was glad to see the use of Ben Hall in the passing game this week. Is this something we will see the rest of the season? It was good to see?Charles Norton Myrtle Beach, SC

We have been trying since the first ball game to get the tight end more involved in the passing game. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out the best way to use a young man this. Particularly a freshman who is just learning the game, and you don’t want to throw him into the fire too soon. Our offense over the past few years, hasn’t really utilized the tight end, so we have had to change a little bit of our thought process in how to best utilize a tight end. I think we have come up with some ways now to get Ben the football and I’m sure he’ll respond. So to answer your question, yes. We want to continue to use the tight end because that is going to expand the complexity and the diversity of our offense.

Coach O’Cain, We attended the State game and it was an incredible performance by Woodrow Danzler. How much flexibility does the quarterback have a far as changing plays at the line of scrimmage?Donald Whitmire Waynesville, NC

Very little in this system because we do it for him. Being a no-huddle offense, our quarterback lines up at the line of scrimmage, the defense is getting lined up, and he is constantly looking back at the sideline. Once we in the press box see how the defense adjusts, then we relay that to a coach on the sideline. So there is very little left on him.

Coach,If Woody Dantzler becomes injured, how well do you feel at this point in the season that Willie Simmons can come off the bench and lead the Tigers, considering his lack of playing time this year. Mark Keeney Anderson, SC

I think it will take him a game or probably the game that he has to go in and play to get adjusted. He played a good bit last year and went all through spring practice. Willie possesses very good skills. I have tremendous confidence in him as well as the rest of our staff. He has great confidence in himself, and the players have a lot of confidence in us. He gets a lot of reps during the week in practice, he understands the game, he understands the offense. I don’t feel like it would take him very long to be able to step in and be ready to play.

Coach O’Cain, It seems to me when I watch Clemson play that more opposing defenses are stacking up to stop Dantzler scrambling. Now are these scrambling plays called or do they occur because the original play called breaks down. It seems like he is more effective running on broken plays , rather then calling QB keepers and other running plays where he is the featured back. Do you agree??Joe Iaricci Farmaingham, MA

Well, some of them are broken plays but most of them are designed plays for him to run the football. Depending on the way defenses defend you, you have to adjust and that is the thing that a great tailback does or a great ball carrier does. They run to where daylight is, and Woody has a great knack for that. Most of the plays that he had yardage, particularly against Georgia Tech and NC Sate, were designed for him to keep the ball.

Coach O’Cain,How much input into the Clemson offense are you supplying at this time?Dennis Bradley Cherryville, NC

Well, all of us as an offensive staff (myself, Rick Stockstill, Brad Scott, Burton Burns, Ron West, and Tommy Bowden) sit in a room and make the decisions somewhat as a staff, and if we can’t all come to a conclusion, then Brad makes the final decision. We all have input, it is really more of a collective group thing than any one person. There is no way I could really say how much, because we do so much together.

Coach,How did it feel to be back at Carter-Finley?Emily Barwick Hickory, NC

Well, I won’t say it was just another game, it was more than that. It was very special to go back there and particularly to win. Any time you go back to a place where you spend an awful long time, and to go back as an opponent, is a little bit of an unusual feeling. But the thing that I think a lot of fans don’t realize, because they have never changed allegiances, is that in our profession, you are where you are. You are loyal to the folks that you are around. You never go back with mixed emotions. You go back with special feelings. You go back remembering the good times you had at certain places. It was like when I was at NC State and we’d come back to Clemson. It was always special to come back here and play. It was a very big ballgame for us, and a game we wanted to win very badly. For me personally, it was a big game because you never want to lose to your best friend, and that is the way I considered Clemson when I was at NC State. And at NC State now, I have a lot of good friends there, and you never want to lose to your good friends at anything.

Coach O’Cain,Do you think you can be content with your position as an assitant here at Clemson? I personally hope so, because your are a valuable asset to the team and the offense.Bryan Alverson Chesnee, SC

Yes, I am satisfied here as an assistant coach. If the right opportunity came up to move and become a head coach somewhere, I think I would entertain those thoughts. I think anyone in this profession would. But I am not looking to leave. I really enjoy the system here. I enjoy working with Tommy. Our offensive staff is very compatible and I really enjoy the players that we have here. I love Clemson. It has been a place that I have been fond of since I was 7 or 8 years old and knew what Clemson was all about. My family’s here and settled now, so I am looking to stay here for the long term. But in this profession, if the right opportunity were to become available, you would always look into it, but it is not something that I am out searchin. I am very happy here right now.

Coach, I was wondering what approach you’ve taken to get Woody to improve his vision of the whole field because he obviously is very improved at that this season.Calvin Craft Athens, GA

Well, I’m not sure it is anything that I have done. I think that we as an offensive staff have done, we’ve made a decision to expand our passing game and ask Woody to do more things in the passing game. It is not that Woody could not do these things in the past. I don’t think people really understand what Woody was asked to do. A lot of our passing game are timing routes and you pick a side on a pre-snap read. You pick a side and take three steps and throw it, and if it is not there, you don’t have the option of looking to another receiver on the other side of the field. It is not based on that, so he has to pull the ball down and run. We have expanded that a little bit, and asked him to do more, and expanded our drop-back game to where now he is asked to look downfield a little bit more and come off one receiver and go to another. But it is not something that he couldn’t have done last year or even two years ago. He just wasn’t asked to do it, and now we’re asking him to do it. He has accepted that role and really worked to be able to do it.

Mike, While at State, your teams won some big games (FSU, Syracuse, Texas). What is the key to winning big games that you go into as underdogs?Dan Maddox Crystal, NC

I think the key is just playing good football like in any game. Not turning the ball over, taking advantage of opportunities. We had some very talented players and we utilized those players. For example, the year that we beat FSU, Torry Holt was a great wide receiver that we had and we tried to get the ball in his hands as much as we could. FSU turned the ball over 5 or 6 times that day, which helped us. If they don’t turn the ball over that many times, then we probably don’t win the game. So there are a lot of things that have to happen. But it all comes down to the players. Those young men need to believe. Probably the biggest thing that a coach needs to do in playing a team like that where outwardly, everyone expects you to lose, is you want your players to believe that they can win the football game. That is something that I always wanted our players to feel, that there was nobody that they could beat. Now, there is nobody that couldn’t beat us at the same time. We have to understand that. But I want our players to know that if they take care of the football, played good on possession downs, and took advantage of opportunities that were presented, that they could win the football game.

Go Tigers! Mike O’Cain

Next week’s guest on “Ask The Tigers” is senior forward for the 11th-ranked men’s soccer team, Ian Fuller.