Transcripts: QB Ian Book, WR Miles Boykin, C Sam Mustipher
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Several Notre Dame players met with the media on Thursday before the Irish take on Clemson this Saturday in the College Football Playoffs.
Check out what quarterback Ian Book, wide receiver Miles Boykin and center Sam Mustipher had to say.
QB IAN BOOK
Q: What's going through your head right now?
IAN BOOK: “Just getting closer to game time. I'm just excited. And every time we walk in here, we just are that much closer to this great opportunity that we have on the 29th. And we're really just excited and confident for this game.”
Q: What's it like being here and seeing how big it is?
BOOK: “It was crazy, I remember the first time we all walked in here we took time to look around. And we all know what the stadium is, and a lot of us have kind of grown up wanting to play here. So it's really surreal that we get to play here.
Q: What do you guys want to show the world on Saturday?
BOOK: “We want to show them that we deserve the title and show them we're an elite team who belongs in the Playoffs. And we’ve still got two more games to go to our end goal, but that's just what we want to show people.”
Q: Do you ever think about just how crazy is it how far you've come since January, you, specifically?
BOOK: “Yeah. I step back sometimes and kind of just look back on the past a little bit and see how fast it's gone by and just realize how fortunate I am to be in this spot and kind of just how crazy everything has gone and just, you know, where we are, how close we are to the end goal that we talk about every day.”
Q: No word yet on Dexter Lawrence being able to play on Saturday. But how good is that defense with or without him?
BOOK: “Yeah, really good, with or without him. They've shown what they can do. We've prepared every day. And they're very talented and just a great opportunity for us to go out there and compete with a good defense like that.”
Q: Are you just super excited for the game? Can you wait any longer? I know it's been a long time for you guys.
BOOK: “It's hard to wait. But it's a good time to get some really good preparation in for our team. And we're getting close, and everyone is really antsy to just play.”
Q: Do you give yourself any time to be a fan this week? Take a moment like, wow, we're Notre Dame and I'm playing in a playoff game like this? Something you dreamed of, I'm assuming, for years. Do you allow yourself to take in a moment like that as a fan?
BOOK: “Yeah. Like I was saying earlier, there's been a couple times this year I've taken a step back and realized how far we've come. Yeah, just, again, really fortunate. And I'm just excited and really happy to be part of this team and ready for the opportunity that we have ahead of us.”
Q: Are you happy you get a couple days to practice in this stadium so that way your first experience isn't looking up and being, like, whoa, like this is a huge stadium. Is it nice having a couple days to get used to that?
BOOK: “Definitely. Being able to practice in here and just take everything in so on game time it's not the first time seeing everything, it will definitely help. And it's just going to help our preparation as a whole.”
Q: Is your neck a little sore at all looking up at that video board for the first time?
BOOK: “No. But it is crazy, just this whole entire stadium. It's the biggest jumbotron I've ever seen. It will be pretty cool to look up there and watch some guys make some good plays.”
Q: I asked Trevor [Lawrence]. He said he hasn't talked to you. But what are thoughts on you guys kind of being in a similar situation, taking over mid-season and now you're going to face each other on Saturday?
BOOK: “I think it's really cool just being able to have similar situations. Both of us have the same dream of winning a national championship. I'm happy for him. And he's a good player. And I think we're both probably extremely excited and feel very fortunate to compete.”
Q: When did you find out that you were being started?
BOOK: “Couple days -- probably, like, first week before the Wake Forest game.”
Q: Were you surprised that the change was made? Because Brandon [Wimbush] started the first three. Were you thinking that you'd be the backup the whole way?
BOOK: “I prepared every day like I was going to get my opportunity. You know, I wouldn't say "surprised" is the right word. Because I was always ready to go in. I wanted to make the most of my opportunity.”
Q: Had Coach hinted to it at all the first few weeks?
BOOK: “No. Both of us, Brandon and myself, believe in the coaches. Whatever they do is the right choice. We both have the same goals. We both want to win. So we're ready to react to whatever decisions they made throughout the season.”
Q: Did Coach Kelly tell you that you were going to start?
BOOK: “Yeah. We had a meeting. They told me early in the week just to get ready and be ready and make the most of your opportunity. It's something I've dreamed of, so it's something I'd been preparing for.”
Q: It wasn't a team setting, just you?
BOOK: “No, just me.”
Q: When you see Trevor [Lawrence] play, what impresses you the most about what he does?
BOOK: “Just the way he throws the football. The first thing I notice is how strong his arm is. And to be a true freshman and go out there and lead the offense, you know, it's hard to find in a true freshman quarterback. So I think he's doing a great job. And I think it's going to be a really good game, and I know he'll do well on offense.”
Q: He's a freshman. You've get another year. What was the biggest thing you learned from the first year to second year you think looking back?
BOOK: “Probably some leadership things. Just getting the guys to rally behind you as the quarterback. You're the leader of the offense. And it's something I really took pride in just wanted to lead these guys and go out there and have fun and lead the whole entire offense to victory on Saturday.”
Q: Do you think it's difficult for a freshman to come in and be a starter? I mean, not on the field. But it's like you said, the leadership stuff. You've got three- or four-year guys that are now relying on you?
BOOK: “I think it's hard. I think it's just in some guys. You see that in a true freshman that has success. I think it's difficult to go lead DI college football and be a true freshman and get to the Playoffs. It speaks for itself. So he's obviously doing the right things. Same with the coaches.”
Q: You bided your time at Notre Dame. You started this year. We see more and more, if a guy doesn't play right away, they're looking for the exit. What was it that kind of kept you focused?
BOOK: “Just being confident and knowing I could play. I just wanted to be able to showcase my talents every day and work hard. I knew I was going to get an opportunity sometime. Last thing I wanted to happen is not to be ready for that opportunity. So I prepared for that opportunity and got it. Just wanted to make the most of it.”
Q: Do you see that mentality out there? I know it's not with everybody.
BOOK: “Sometimes. Sometimes, like you said, you see some guys that start in high school and are the top-rated guys and they don't get what they want when they get here and they might leave or something. It happens. I think it's just the type of people, I guess. Just depends on if you can be patient for a little bit and know your skills and know you'll get your shot eventually.
Q: How well does the run pass options suit your game?”
BOOK: “It's what I like to do. And Coach [Chip] Long and Coach [Tom] Rees have done a great job of being able to implement that into our offense and getting the ball out quickly and extending plays and just getting the ball to our playmakers as soon as possible and letting them make the plays because that's they do best.”
Q: Was there a particular moment once you became the starter where the game slowed down, the light bulb went off, whatever analogy you want to use?
BOOK: “I don't know an exact moment. But I remember after the Wake Forest game and as the season went on, the chemistry with everybody just really started to click and started to feel even more confident. Timing is everything for an offense. Throughout the year it just kept getting better.”
Q: Coach [Brian] Kelly just said that Clemson is going to be the best defense that you've played all year. How is that going to change your game?
BOOK: “I don't think we're going to change anything. We know that we're preparing for a really good defense. And we just got to do what we've been doing this whole entire season, preparing the way we have week in and week out. We don't have to have any superhuman efforts or anything, just keep doing what we've been doing and take care of our business and control what we can control.”
WR MILES BOYKIN
Q: With all the talk about Clemson's defensive line, their secondary is good, too. What makes their cornerbacks especially tough?
MILES BOYKIN: “They're long. Especially one of the things we take advantage of it is shorter outside. They're pretty tall on the outside. They make coverage very well. They play all around great football. That's the reason they're undefeated.”
Q: What have you had to do as a wide receiver to beat that kind of coverage?
BOYKIN: “I think we need to be physical, and we just have to win. There's no recipe for success against great teams like Clemson. You just have to win your one-on-one battles.”
Q: I was just curious. I notice you wear the same number as Calvin Johnson. He's someone you looked up to. What was it you looked up to about him that really spoke to you?
BOYKIN: “For me just watching him, he was my favorite receiver growing up. How big, how strong, how physical he was with corners. And he still had that speed. And anything that you threw up in his direction he was going to catch. That's who I try to emulate my game after. He's been a huge inspiration to me.”
Q: You used the word recently "traits." This team has different traits. I feel like this is something I've seen them build into your psyche. What are the traits of this football team? BOYKIN: “Attention to detail. Smart, laser focus. Grit is another one of those.”
Q: Why are those traits important? I know coaches talk about certain things, but how have they actually helped your team?
BOYKIN: “It's about a mindset. Playing this game is big mentally. So having that mindset of having those traits instilled in us. And things we've gone through to get those traits is not something you can lose over one play or one quarter of football. So it's something that we build in and know it's about the long run. It's not about one play, two plays. It's about the long run.”
Q: I know a lot of people are talking about Clemson and their explosive offense. How do you describe what your offense is?
BOYKIN: “I think we're explosive as well. You've seen us. I don't think we've reached our potential yet. That's what Playoffs are for. So, hopefully, we reach our potential now and if we're hitting on all cylinders, we're going to be a tough offense to stop.”
Q: You had a longer layoff than most teams because of not having a conference championship game. What have you been doing to maintain and have game-like situations? BOYKIN: “We've scrimmaged. We've had full scrimmages that include tackling and all that. It's crazy when you think about doing all that stuff. But it definitely gets us ready. While other teams are playing in the conference championship, we're scrimmaging each other, playing against the best players in the country as well.”
Q: Coach [Kelly] said that one of the reasons he brought in Coach [Chip] Long is spreading the ball around the field. Offensively, how do you feel like you guys have done spreading it around with the way you guys call plays and the way you run the ball?
BOYKIN: “I think Coach Long has done a great job this season. Obviously, you see that by the type of people we have on offense. We've got players in every position, and he's gotten the ball to them.”
Q: How does that keep you guys engaged offensively when you know you're going to get your share of it and get a chance to touch the ball?
BOYKIN: “You just know that you never know when your opportunity is coming. But you just know it's going to come. It could be on the play that you're the last read, the ball can get there. You never know."
Q: How is this team different today than at the start of the season? How have you seen your team mature to this point and be prepared for this moment?
BOYKIN: “I think we've played in just about every type of situation you can imagine. We've played being down the whole game. We went into those type environments and won. We've been tested from the standpoint that we played in every situation.”
Q: Do you feel, when you hear people talk about things, this is our moment? To those who don't think we should be here, this is an opportunity to do that?
BOYKIN: “That's not our motivation. Because when you play at a place like Notre Dame, we're always motivated. How special the school is, everything it stands for. That's inside of you. And that's what I play for.”
Q: Do you have any sense for the history of Notre Dame at this bowl game and some of the history?
BOYKIN: “Don't we have second most wins, eight or something like that? That's pretty incredible. But other than that, I don't know who they beat here or outcomes of the rest of the games.”
Q: You've had a chance to play other places, but what's the week been like for you here? An opportunity to -- I know you've got -- you're focused on the game but the experience is important as well?
BOYKIN: “It's been awesome. It's different because it's the College Football Playoffs, so we haven't been going out so much. Just kind of hanging around and relaxing, resting, and watching film, things like that. So they've offered great stuff to us. Obviously, going to the Mavericks game last night. Never been at a basketball game at a bowl game. It's been great.”
Q: What was it like the week you saw the other three teams playing championship games. You had a different schedule and had that off week. How did that help you guys to prepare to get back on and be ready to go?
BOYKIN: “Helped us get our bodies back, first and foremost. And after that we decided to actually -- we had a scrimmage later on that week. So it wasn't like we weren't doing anything. We had a full scrimmage, tackling and all.”
Q: You, obviously, have a physical advantage over their safeties as far as height is concerned. But they feel they match up well with your speed and height, even though they're at a height disadvantage. What kind of vertical leap do you got?
BOYKIN: “I can jump pretty high. I think the thing about Clemson's secondary that makes- them so good is they're versatile. That's why it's such a good matchup and such a good battle. Looking forward to this because it's going to be a big stage. So from that standpoint, like I say, I mean, maybe I have a couple inches on them but they are just as lengthy as me. So it's going to be a great game.”
C SAM MUSTIPHER
Q: Your line is going to go up against high-level pro talent Saturday. What have you seen scouting them, and what do you think you can take advantage of against that D-line?
SAM MUSTIPHER: “Not much to take advantage of. They're a big physical front. They like to get after the ball carrier, get after the quarterback. And Coach [Brent] Venables gives them the ability to do so. Looking forward to the challenge.”
Q: Sam, one of the big story lines going in now is what's going on with Dexter Lawrence on the other side of the ball. As you've studied him and his impact on that defense, what do you see?
MUSTIPHER: “He's an incredible football player. He's big. He's athletic. He moves very, very well for his size. He's an impact player on their defense.”
Q: If he's not able to go, what advantage is that for you guys?
MUSTIPHER: “I don't really see it as an advantage. I know what their ability to do as a defense is. And those backups are going to come in there. And I don't expect them to miss a beat. they're a talented front. Coach [Brent] Venables does a great job with that defense and giving them the freedom to make plays.”
Q: When I was in South Bend [Indiana] ahead of this game, Drue Tranquill said something to me I found interesting, that being that, while you guys haven't physically been in the Playoff before, the leadership makes it feel like you have. What's your perspective on that?MUSTIPHER: “I think the leadership is a great aspect of this team. But I think the most important part of this team is the family that we have. It isn't a cliche. It really is a family. We like to do things both on and off the field together as one. Guys are always together. Even at the hotel. Guys four at a time from different position groups are getting together in the restaurants, getting food together. That's the most important thing. When you have the ability for guys to play their role and play their part and help the team be successful, that's important.”
Q: Given your position as center, I imagine you probably know Brandon Wimbush better than anybody on this team or as well. How would you describe how he's handled 2018? MUSTIPHER: “About as well as anybody could handle it. It's a testament to who he is, who his mother raised him to be, and really, his family. They've done a great job. Because Brandon is well-respected within this locker room and on and off the field. I said it to somebody yesterday. He's the only guy who could come out and say he's transferring and people are like, wow, we love him even more. People are saying he'll run for president and they'll vote for him. That's who he is. That's the type of guy he is and I love him for it. Wimbush 2030. I could absolutely see him doing it.”
Q: Losing Alex [Bars] early in the season must have been tough, but how do you see your guys emerge and step up?
MUSTIPHER: “Yeah. Losing Alex was definitely tough not only as a player but as a guy. We've been close. We've grown up together at Notre Dame. So it's definitely personally tough for me. But he's been there every step of the way in order to coach those guys. And whoever came into his role was going to be ready because Alex Bars is going to make sure of that.”
Q: When you look on the other side, Dexter Lawrence or not, how much talent is on the Clemson defensive line and how can you simmer it?
MUSTIPHER: “I don't know if you can simmer it. Not too many people have done it this year. But they're talented. With or without him, they're a talented front. They take pride in what they do. And their guys are at the next level, similar to what guys at Notre Dame have done. And so they're very impressive.”
Q: If you were to score a touchdown, which you probably will Saturday, pretty much guaranteed, how would you celebrate?
MUSTIPHER: “How would I celebrate? I'd celebrate with my guys. You got to go with the offensive line. We'll figure out something on the fly.”
Q: Would you have a dance prepared?
MUSTIPHER: “I think the great part about offensive line play is that we're a unit and family, so we're able to adapt and do things. We're pretty smart players.”
Q: How important is it to you guys to feel that what you do in this game can determine the outcome?
MUSTIPHER: “How important do we feel as a group?”
Q: Just protecting [Ian] Book.
MUSTIPHER: “It's definitely important. Every football I've played in my life comes down to the trenches. Who wins the battle in the trenches. I think it's the most important part of football. You've got to run the ball. You've got to be able to tackle the ball carrier. Whoever wins that battle up front, I think will win the game.”
Q: The Clemson defense is impactful. They gave up 510 passing yards to South Carolina's Jake Bentley. Did you see anything from that game or anything that they exposed? MUSTIPHER: “I wouldn't say that they exposed. There's a reason that it happened one time. But, you know, they did a great job that day. But there was things that the Clemson defense was able to do that was equally impressive. I believe they had the ball inside the 10 three times and didn't allow a score. When you can do things like that, that's something you hang your hat on. You get that far into the end zone, you've got to put it away. The fact they were able to stop them from doing that is huge.”
Q: When you scouted Syracuse earlier in the year, did you guys see anything that they did against Clemson? They kind of gave them the best team they'd faced all year.
MUSTIPHER: “No. I mean, we had our own games where it was like what are they doing or why did this happen. And every team has a game where they're going to have to fight through some type of adversity. And that's what makes Clemson a championship team.”
Q: What do you think of that Clemson defensive line?
MUSTIPHER: “Athletic. They're the best they come, and it's going to be a great challenge for us.”
Q: Did they run many stunts, many tricks?
MUSTIPHER: “Yeah. They have the ability to move, which I think makes them different than most defensive fronts. They're big, and they're able to move and manipulate guys. It's impressive.”
Q: Is it going to make much difference without Dexter Lawrence if he's suspended for the game?
MUSTIPHER: “I'll believe it when I see it. I think I said that yesterday. But, I mean, they do a great job. They have a tradition of defensive line play there that's incredible. Their guys move on and make impacts as soon as they get to the NFL. Those guys within the ranks I don't expect to see any drop off in talent or ability.”
Q: I've been asking this of your teammates. When, in your mind, did you have that feeling this might be a special season?
MUSTIPHER: “I think the great part about this team was the ability to take it one week, one day, one practice at a time. I think that's one of our strengths. So there was never a time I was like, oh, this could happen. It was just what can I do to make sure I don't let this football team down. And I think a lot of guys take that mentality. And that helps us be successful.”