Aug. 29, 2017
Coach Johnson Weekly Press Conference
As we wind down camp, it’s been productive and we’ve had some good practices. The first couple of weeks we spent more dealing with ourselves, working on that, and then the last few weeks have been more focused on Tennessee. We’ve got a couple more padded practices, we’ll probably go today and tomorrow, and then we’ll start to ease off on Thursday, Friday and then the last practice will be Saturday when we do our walkthrough. It’s been pretty quick, we’ve had some good competition in camp and I look forward playing the first game and seeing what we got.
On what stands out for Tennessee on film both offensively and defensively
I think the team is going to be a little different. Last year they had a dynamic quarterback as well in Josh Dobbs, a young man from close by here. They’ve got good skill and a big offensive line that’s big and physical. The running back, Kelly, is a really good player and I’m sure they’re going to try to get him the ball behind that big offensive line. They were very productive on offense a year ago.
On what the plans and thinking are on the quarterback decision
Whenever we feel like announcing it. Our guys know who’s going to play and I probably know who’s going to play. I might send it out on Twitter here in a day or two, who knows. We’ll get through a couple more practices and it’ll be one of these four guys, I promise.
On how have the QBs have reacted to this kind of competition this fall
I think they’ve just competed. It’s just like at any other position when you’re competing for playing time. The skill sets aren’t as different as you might think with those guys. Matthew [Jordan] is a little older. He probably has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do than anyone else. Followed by TaQuon [Marshall] who’s been in the program and also has a pretty good understanding. Matthew is bigger than TaQuon, but TaQuon is probably a little bit quicker. Lucas [Johnson] is the biggest of the group, the tallest. He traveled with varsity a year ago and Jay [Jones] might be the most athletic, but he’s catching up and learning where to go and what to do. As I said earlier, I think I could call the game for any of them. We’ve tried to highlight what each of them do and go from there and that’s why I’m not in any big hurry to tell everybody who it is. We may play all four of them in the first game, who knows.
On having a lot of young linebackers on the depth chart and in key backup roles
We’ve got some young guys backing up but Terrell [Lewis] is the third linebacker or the second linebacker. I think he and Victor [Alexander] are kind of bracketed right there with the nickel now. Those would be the first three and then by position, depending on what we’re doing, the other guys would have a chance to come in. I think they’re all going to be good players and they’re still freshmen and in the process of learning. So that’s kind of where that is. There is no plan to rotate those guys.
On appreciating what the team had in Harrison Butker with the current kicking competition
Harrison [Butker] was great, especially toward the end of his career. But sometimes we forget how he was as a freshman too and when he first started kicking. He didn’t make them all to begin with either. I think we’ll be ok there. Are these guys as good or better than Harrison? We’ll see. I mean, you’re talking about the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school; he was a pretty good player. The biggest concern that I’ve got is not so much the extra point and field goal thing as the kickoffs. We had a luxury for the last little bit that we didn’t have to cover a whole lot of them. That remains to be seen. Are these guys at capable of kicking it into the end zone? Yes. Will they? I don’t know.
On whether or not they’ve done anything different to prepare for the noise and environment in the new stadium
No. It’s not any different than any of the places we’ve played. Or at least I can’t imagine – I’ve never been in there. I’m hoping half the fans will be ours. So it’s not like playing completely on the road. It’s not going to be much louder than Clemson or Blacksburg [Va.] or those places. We’re always prepared for that. We can go to the silent count if we have to. But I would hope we wouldn’t have to at home.
On if the defense needs to step up to help the offense this year, since they have more experience
It’s a team game and you certainly hope that you’re going to get contributions from everybody. There’s a little more experience over there so early on, hopefully, we’ll play well over there. I think coming into this game, us and Tennessee are both very similar on offense, I think they’re breaking in a lot of new faces and new guys. But every time you think it’s going to be a low-scoring game it ends up 50-49. If you think it’s going to end up 50-49, it ends up 6-3 so you don’t know. You have to get contributions out of everybody. We’re still a young team, especially offensively. We’ve got two seniors starting. Defensively, there may be six or seven so yeah, there’s a little more experience over there.
On the QB position and the confidence he has in them
Well, I’m confident we’re going to have one [a quarterback]. I think we’re going to play the guy that, right now, has the best practice and played the best, and gives us the best chance to win. And then we’ll evaluate from there. Like I said, we’ll see how it’s going and if we need to play another one we will. If one guy’s playing well and getting it done, we’ll leave him in there and he’ll play. I wish I had the depth at every other position that we have at quarterback. I can promise you, I’m worried a lot more about a zillion other positions more than I am at quarterback. Just from a depth standpoint and if a guy goes down or what happens. Now, will they be nervous? Matthew [Jordan] didn’t play nervous when he had to go play at Virginia Tech. So who knows? Different kids are different.