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Clemson Football

James Skalski says linebacker room is 'completely' bought-in with Goodwin

December 28, 2021
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On Sunday we had a chance to hear from Brandon Streeter, Mike Reed, and D.J. Uiagalelei. We hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends!

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WES GOODWIN: Hope you guys all had a Merry Christmas with your families. Excited to be here and thank you to the Cheez-It Bowl. What an amazing Bowl experience. Great weather here and a great city of Orlando, a lot going on and such a great experience for our coaches and our players and our families. We're fired up to be here.

MICKEY CONN: My name is Mickey Conn. Again, just to echo the same sentiment Wes had. We have had a great couple of days here, and excited about the Bowl coming up this weekend, so really excited. Thank you for having us.

Something slipped on the video about somebody named Johnny Carrots. We had Jimmy Green Beans. Who is Johnny Carrots?

JAMES SKALSKI: We don't know who it is exactly. I mean, it's obviously some Twitter account.

But no, they are doing a good job with the humor side of all the changes that's going on. So, we just think it's entertaining. But, yeah, so I don't know who you are, Johnny Carrots.

Do you have a nickname for Wes Goodwin or Mickey Conn yet?

JAMES SKALSKI: Nothing crazy. Just good 'ole Wes for right now.

I mean, he'll, you know, earn one, I guess as time goes by. But, there's definitely a lot of people with Johnny Carrots or all these other things, but it will come naturally.

Wes and Mickey, transition into the new roles, how has it gone for you guys and getting ready for the Bowl game, was there anything different you had to do to manage your time well?

WES GOODWIN: I'll start it. No, it's been a great transition. A lot of guys, a lot of continuity still. We only lost two guys so far, or three counting Ted, going. So a lot of continuity in our staff; know the process; know the roles, that sort of deal.

So, it's been a great opportunity for us to embrace the new roles and challenges and it's been great so far.

MICKEY CONN: We have been doing this together for a long time and when you look at our staff, we lost Coach V [Venables], that's a big piece to lose, but Wes [Goodwin] has been right there with him the whole time, his right-hand man. I mean, drawing up every play that we have ever put in and throwing ideas galore. I mean, this guy has got a million ideas, and then I continue to coach the safeties, Coach [Mike] Reed the corners, Coach [Todd] Bates the D-line, Coach 'Ski [Lemanski Hall] the D-ends. So our support staff is all there.

So. we work really, really well together and should be good.

In terms of the Bowl games you guys have played in over the years, being in CFP games, the Cheez-It Bowl, there's no opt-outs. Nobody's kind of decided not to play in this game. Why do you think there has been that level of dedication from this group going into the game, considering the other games you've played in through the years?

JAMES SKALSKI: I think it's the culture of this team. You get a chance – we get a play football. Yeah we have been in the playoffs and bigger stages, but to us, I mean, we get to go play a game again. We get a chance to go represent Clemson, show what we can do ourselves. So, I think we all just love playing ball. We love being together, so it wasn't even opt-out, like, what? That's not a thing.

You've been doing this a long time but it's a new level of spotlight and scrutiny. Are you feeling that, to show something right away?

MICKEY CONN: I'm not trying to show anything different. My deal is I just want our defense to go out there and play the way they have been playing. That's my goal and that's what we've seen so far in practice, the level of intensity, the level of leadership from guys like [James] Skalski and Nolan Turner, I mean, those guys just bring it. They bring it every day, and I love it and I know we're going to do a good job of putting them in position to be successful. Really excited to watch them play.

I wanted to ask in particular James and Wes about Iowa State's quarterback, the challenges of what he brings to a game and how challenging is the preparation for somebody who has been in the game for four years and doing it at a pretty high level?

WES GOODWIN: Definitely, it's a great challenge. My time at Arizona, you always heard his name, being a Phoenix-area kid and just a great player, very accurate, does a lot of things well, plays well in the spotlight, gamer, savvy, he's accurate. Can't say enough great things about him. So, it's definitely a challenge for us and we've got our work cut out for us for sure.

JAMES SKALSKI: Yeah, I think gamer is a good word to describe it. He just makes things happen over and over again and creates something out of nothing. So like Wes said, it's going to be a challenge for us and we're excited.

James, we've heard a lot about Wes's role behind the scenes all these years but what can you tell us about his football mind and what it's been like working with him in the capacity that you have?

JAMES SKALSKI: Yeah, I think y'all just see the big picture, you know, Coach V [Venables] and then just everyone else, right, that's how it's painted.

But there's so many moving parts and Wes, how long has it been now, years since I've been here. He's just been right chopping wood, just getting better and better and being literally Coach V's right-hand man. I have the most confidence in the world that things are going to keep going the way they have been going and I'm really excited for someone like Wes to get this opportunity, and then kind of just show everyone the kind of coaches and the kind of, you know, game he's going to call and just play aggressive Clemson defense.

For 'Coach' Skalski, just to piggyback on that, what was the reaction within the team when Coach Venables left, was there uneasiness or did you know that there was security coming?

JAMES SKALSKI: Uneasy is not a word to describe it at ought. Everybody understand what Coach V has brought to the program the last ten years and it's been great. But everyone is super excited for him and super happy for him and that is his next step. I mean, it was going to happen, and we are all very happy for him.

But uneasy? No. We are all excited for the new pieces that are coming in and now we get to build something a little different, a little new, and I think all the young guys that are coming back are super excited. I know I'm excited to play one last game led by these guys.

But no, not one ounce of uneasiness.

I know you talked about you were happy when there was the buy-in from the players and nobody was going out the door once Coach Venables left, how have you seen this team approach Bowl week ask do you feel like they have a chip on their shoulder to have one last great performance this season?

WES GOODWIN: Yeah, definitely. Obviously everyone's bought in, been a great week of preparation, week and a half. Great energy every day. Great focus. Everybody's came to work every day with the mindset, the right mindset, right focus and it's been real fun to see.

Give all three of you a chance to answer here but start with you, Wes. What were those first few days like for you at practice and how long do you feel it look to you settle in and get in the flow? And for Mickey and James what have you seen out of him in practice handling this job so far?

WES GOODWIN: Yeah, to get back out grass was special in itself. That's why we do this, to be on the field with our players. To have the opportunity to get back out there, my team at Clemson so far other than a couple opportunities here and there have been in a support role.

But I've been out on the field many a times, I have a lot of on-the-field experience, so it was like getting back in the saddle, per se. Just picked right up and starting rolling from there.

MICKEY CONN: As far as watching Wes coach, it was no different. Wes is very humble and he knows his lane, whatever lane that is he's supposed to be in and when he was given the reigns to take control, he's taken control and he's drawn up the plays. He's controlled and signaled those plays and been very aggressive and confident in coaching his players and getting them ready and has not backed down at all.

I saw a guy who is very confident and ready to go and he's definitely been prepared for this moment.

JAMES SKALSKI: Yeah, I agree. I think the structure, the method of how we get ready, that's not really changing. But how you're coached, of course that's changing because you have a new coach.

But it's been nothing – it's been great. It's been really cool to see him do it his own way and it's been even cooler to see the linebacker room with my guys, completely buy-in and want to play well and want to play hard and want to get it right for him.

I can't wait to play and I can't wait for all of us to show up and put on a show.

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James Skalski says linebacker room is 'completely' bought-in with Goodwin

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