Meet the Press: @GTPaulJohnson Talks #ACCFCG

Dec. 2, 2014

Press Conference Audio

Opening Statement
“[We’re] excited to still be playing this time of year. Our guys are looking forward to the opportunity we have to go to Charlotte and play in the ACC Championship against a great football team. Anytime you can win 28 straight games like Florida State has done, I think at least those of us in coaching understand how hard that is or whatever. It’ll be a huge challenge, but one that we are looking forward to. We had an opportunity a couple years ago and didn’t get it done. So we’ve got a reprieve and another chance. [We’ve] had a good week of practice so far and we’re looking forward to going up to Charlotte and play.

Florida State’s strengths
 “They’ve got great athletes on both sides of the ball. If you look offensively you can certainly start with a Heisman trophy winning quarterback. They’ve got a really good receiving corps. Rashad Greene is a great player and then Nick O’Leary. They’ve found a young back [Dalvin Cook] that’s dynamic. He reminds me a lot of Duke Johnson I think. [He’s got] great speed and quickness. And four of their five guys on the offensive line are all-conference. Defensively they’ve got a bunch of five star guys over there. Jalen Ramsey is kind of a hybrid safety/linebacker; he’s a really good player. [Eddie] Goldman, Mario Edwards – I mean they’ve got a lot of good players. They’re a very athletic team.”

Florida State’s 28 game winning streak
“Like I said earlier, I know how hard it is to win. So I think you have to give them all the credit in the world for winning. Somebody asked me earlier today on a radio show that we had the good fortune while I was at Georgia Southern we won 38 games in a row and I can just tell you the mindset of our players were `that somebody was going to make a play and we were going to win the game.’ It never entered their mind that we could lose. And I’m pretty sure that’s where Florida State is. They’ve made so many plays and they’ve managed to find ways to win and that’s a hard quality to have. My hat’s off to them. People have gotten close, but it’s not horseshoes or hand grenades. Close isn’t good enough. As long as they keep winning, they keep winning.”

Georgia Tech finding ways to win
“I think our guys have done a good job since October. We had a pretty good stretch towards the end of the year where we got out in front and won by pretty good margins. I don’t have any doubt that our kids will play. We’re going to show up and they’re going to play hard. They won’t give up. No matter what happens we’ll keep playing. I am assured of that. We’re just excited to have that opportunity. It’s not every day that you get to go play in the conference championship game. And you need to take advantage of that.”

Being in this position this week
“I’ll be honest with you, for me personally, this week hasn’t changed a whole lot. I’m immersed in trying to play Florida State. I got up early Sunday morning and broke down the Georgia film. I got into Florida State and I got into my routine. Other than doing a few more interviews – you know we had to do a teleconference for the ACC yesterday – I haven’t had time to reflect on it. It’s kind of neat that somebody else is getting beat up instead of us for a change. Other than that I kind of go about my business and do what we’ve got to do. I’m trying to make sure that we are the best prepared that we can be to play Florida State. And that’s been my focus pretty much.”

All eyes on Georgia Tech this week
“Anytime you are on a national stage it’s an opportunity. I’m more worried about us going and playing the way we can play, getting our guys ready and making sure that we maximize the opportunity. Make sure that we get there. It’s like I told our guys yesterday: you have to realize there’s a lot of guys who play football and a lot of a schools and a lot of teams who never get this opportunity to play for a conference championship. Just look at our own league, there have been only a handful of teams that have gotten to the game. So make sure that you maximize your opportunities and that you have no regrets when you finish. So when we come off that field on Saturday night, we know that we laid it all out there and did our best. And if we do that, the score will take care of itself. One way or another. You can live with it then. What we don’t want to do is go up there and not play well and not play hard and not be prepared. That would be awful. And if you get the spotlight with it, then [that’s] great. I don’t think any of our guys are adverse to having that spotlight and having the coverage. I’m sure anybody would like it if you can get it.”

Growth on offensive line and defensive ends
“I think KeShun Freeman has played very well all year as a freshman and he’s gotten better since the year has gone on. You worry about getting worn down a little bit. About midway through we moved Patrick Gamble out there and it gave us a bigger body. It just kind of helped us set the edge with a bigger guy. I think since we made that move we’ve played better. In hindsight it’s something we probably should have done earlier. We mentioned it, but we thought we had guys. But I think he’s helped out there as well. And then we’ve rolled more guys and played a few more guys. The other thing is that we haven’t played a lot of snaps. We’ve done a much better job on third down getting ourselves off the field on defense. We’ve had some games where we’ve been able to control the clock and limit the possessions. It’s like Saturday night, I am sure if you asked Jimbo [Fisher] I am sure he would have loved to have 16 or 17 possessions. I’d like to have eight. It’s probably going to be somewhere in between. In my perfect world, we’d have eight and they’d have seven. That’d be a good formula.”

Corey Dennis, Micheal Summers and other wide receivers
Ricky Jeune. Ricky’s going to play some. I think they’re ready to play. We’ve got to be smart. I don’t expect the same thing out of Corey Dennis that I do DeAndre Smelter. They’re two different guys. What I’ve got to do is to help Corey be successful and Michealbe successful. Michealis a really good athlete. He might be the fastest kid on our team. They’re capable. They’re going to plug into the system and we’ll find a way for them to help us.”

Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days at the b-back position
“I think Zach and Synjyn have both played really well. They’re both great examples of guys in their senior years who have worked hard and gotten better each year that they’ve been here. I think it’s good that you have them both and they can complement each other. Both of those kids are very tough, I’m not saying there not tough, but I think that might be another misconception out there that you have to be so tough to do that. `No quarterback is ever going to last in this system’ and we just finished year seven and we’ve lost just one on a broken arm on an interception return. But that still doesn’t stop everyone from saying, `you better have three or four quarterbacks if you’re going to do that.’ I think that position is no different than an I-tailback that carries the ball 20 or 25 times a game. They’re very few spots in football that aren’t physical.”

Comfort level with Justin Thomas
“I trust Justin. Does he do everything right all the time? No. But nobody does. But I trust him to run the offense. He’s still a sophomore in his first year playing and we’re not to the point yet where it’s check with me and he gets to run whatever he wants. Could he get there? Possibly before he finishes. But I think he can execute everything we ask him to do. That’s the comfort level. I don’t have to not call a play because of him. There were a couple plays Saturday that I really wanted to run, but with personnel I just didn’t think we could do it so I didn’t do it. I just stayed away from it. You try to call it for stuff that I feel that our guys can do, that they’re good at.”

Retiring at Georgia Tech
“Yeah. I enjoy coaching here. I think the school has some unique things that I enjoy. I enjoy being around this type of kid. If you’re not serious about school, you’re not going to make it here. I think that we’ve got some really good student-athletes. For the last 13 years or so, that’s the kind of guys I’ve been around. You know I’ve said before, I think our kids are similar to the kids at the academy in a lot of ways. I think the places are very similar in a lot of ways, more so than people realize in a lot of ways. I mean I enjoy the players and I enjoy the school. It’s been good.”

ACC success against the SEC this past weekend
“I think that was a really good statement for the conference. As I told somebody yesterday, I almost feel like I have to defend the league like I do the offense. I think there’s a lot of metrics that you can look at such as record against other Power Five conferences to, I believe and I don’t know if you can quote me on this, but you can look it up, the ACC has beaten four top-10 teams out of conference this year. There’s just a lot of dynamics and lot of stats that would change a lot of the perceptions. Just like there are probably some good basketball teams in the SEC, there are some good football teams in the ACC. The conferences are perceived as almost exactly opposite. It was good for the league to have that kind of day. We’ve talked a lot about that as coaches. If you’re going to change the perception you need to win some of those games. It’s important.”

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