Pre-Spring Comments From Paul Johnson

March 28, 2011

Opening Statement
“We are excited about getting started today in spring practice. Last season was certainly a disappointment to the fans, the people around the program and us as well. I have been encouraged this offseason by the work ethic and the way that the guys have approached everything. We have a lot of young guys and that is always an opportunity to get them out there and see what happens and I am looking forward to getting started. I wish the weather was a little better, but it is what it is. The first couple of days we will be in shorts and helmets so hopefully we can go out and lay the foundation we will build on this spring and get the program back to where we want it to be. “

On working harder in the offseason
“I think that the whole attitude is better. A lot of the little things, from breakfast checks to class checks, extra lifting, extra workouts that they are putting in on their own. I can see out my window and there are always people out there working.”

On players missing the spring due to injury.
Ben Keith and Denzel McCoy are both out for the spring. Hopefully we will get a final update on Denzel in June and we can turn him loose then. Morgan Bailey is going to miss today, but it is because he is day-to-day after spraining an ankle. Everyone else is ready and available. “

On what he is looking for in the spring
“I am keeping an eye on all the positions. I think that there is going to be competition at most every position. We have some young guys that we have redshirted the last couple of years that this is their opportunity to step in and show people what they can do. The marquee position, no matter what you do is quarterback and that is what everybody wants to watch. We have Tevin [Washington] coming back and Synjyn [Days] and there will be some competition there. David Sims will play a little bit but mostly he will be at other positions.”

On the B-Back position
“We will see what goes on with that position. I am comfortable with it. We have more guys there than anywhere else. We have some good players — Preston Lyons is very capable, Richard Watson is there. We are going to give David Sims a look there, we have Charles Perkins, who has a chance to be special. I am not worried about that position at all.”

On the offensive line
“We will play them in two to three spots each and get the best starting five out there. Jay Finch will most likely be the starting center, to start with. J.C. [Lanier] is working on snapping, but if he is one of the five best offensive lineman we will get him in there. Some of those guys were kind of stuck and weren’t very high up on the depth chart and I believe that there are certain positions that fit them better and give them a better chance to get out on the field.”

On switching positions
“There will be guys that will slide but it won’t be big. Brandon Watts is moving from inside to outside linebacker. We might have a corner play safety and a safety play corner. We may throw David (Sims) out there at wide receiver, things like that. But nothing etched in stone.”

On his expectations between the quarterback and the offensive line
“The expectations are the same that they always have been, keep the ball off the ground. Tevin and Jay (Finch) have been working together for a year. Jay was the backup center last year, so he and Tevin have spent a lot of time together and in bowl preparation Synjyn worked with that group too. I expect that group to be pretty good. If you have J.C. in there, it probably won’t be as smooth as those other guys but that will work itself out. I am excited about those positions. I think we will be fine up the middle if what I think what is going to happen, happens.

On special teams
“We are going to work on the return game in spring practice. We are going to look at different schemes and do some things and I am going to get more involved in special teams.”

On the defensive line
“Most of those guys have played now. There is a lot of experience there and hopefully they will be more comfortable in what they are asked to do. Hopefully we will see some improvement defensively, certainly we need to, just like everywhere else.”

On getting started this spring
“I don’t know if we are getting a late start, it is about the same time that we started practice every year. I don’t like to break it up with spring break so once we’ve started we go pretty good. This is about normal for us. “

On goals for the season
“I am not a big guy to write stuff down. I know what I want to get done, but I don’t keep a list in my desk drawer or anything. You want to get better every day you go out there, and there are some areas that we have to clean up — ball security on offense is certainly is one. Return game and special teams is one and we have to tackle better and get better on defense. Since I got here I said we need to throw the ball more efficiently. There is a lot we can improve on.”

On the wide receiver corps
“You still have the guys that started the season at wide receiver. Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton were the starters at the start of the season. They are back. We are finally going to get a chance to take a look at Jeremy Moore. He is a guy that we recruited and redshirted and then had a knee injury and missed all of last season. He will be back out there. Most of those guys are back. We will see how that unfolds. I would like to see a couple of guys step up and distance themselves from the others. We also recruited a couple of guys who can start when they come in the fall. We have some people in there, someone just needs to step up and be the guy.”

On Tevin Washington
“He is the starter coming in, and I think that he has earned that. It is very similar to a lot of the positions, the depth chart is always fluid. He has been taking snaps. This is why I try not to get too hyped up on the freshmen. We are excited about a group of them, but until they do it on the field consistently, I don’t know that you hype them all that much. Synjyn (Days) has a lot of ability, but he has to beat Tevin out. It’s Tevins’ job.”

On the importance of spring practice
“Spring practice is important. I don’t think that our program ever lost that winning feeling. We were disappointed in the outcome, especially the half of the year. But I think we had a chance to win every game that we played in last year, but we just self destructed. If we didn’t turn the ball over we would have won three or four more games. I think we have to understand the urgency of taking care of the ball and getting some turnovers on the flip side and cleaning up what we can clean up. I have been encouraged so far in the off season about the work ethic and the way they have approached it.”

On the schedule
“I like playing the non-conference games first and getting them out of the way and then when you start into the league, you just focus on that. I don’t know who is going to be the preseason pick (in the ACC) this year, especially on our side, a lot of teams lost good players. We have got North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech at home, three of the top teams. We have to go on the road to NC State, Miami, Virginia and Duke. It balances out.”

On the progress of the defense
“I would hope that we would be more efficient and play better. If you look at the stats from two years ago to last year, there really wasn’t a lot of difference. We probably had a few less turnovers last year and gave up a few less big plays. But the total yardage, points per game, all that was pretty much right in line with where we had been. You hope that in the second year (of the 3-4) there is a little more familiarity. The bottom line is winning and losing the game is determined on how many points you give up. That is the bottom line.”

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