Aug. 2, 2008
Quotes from 2008 Media Day
“We are excited as a staff to get going. It seems like it’s been a long time since spring practice. We just finished our fourth practice today and we were in shorts. Tomorrow will be our first day in full pads and Monday we will start two-a-day practice.
“I feel like there’s some carry over from the spring with some of our guys and we are making progress. Just like anything, you take one step forward and two steps back, but we are making progress.”
“The thing about our football team is that we are extremely young. As I’m watching practice this morning, I’m looking at the offense skill guys and literally the quarterback will either be a sophomore or a freshman and the receivers a sophomore and a freshman. Correy Earls is out, so we may have to throw a freshman in there. The slotback, Roddy Jones, is a freshman and there’s a good chance it could be Greg Smith or another freshman. So we are playing with a lot of young guys. On the defensive line and the offensive line, we do have some guys that have played but it’s the same thing on the defense in the back and secondary, we have a lot of young guys. Having said that, I think we are athletic and can run and I think the guys can certainly be the kind of football players we want but it’s how fast will they come along. We will see where we are but we have a lot of work to do before the first game.”
On sophomore receiver Correy Earl’s injury…
“I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it’s a tweaked hamstring, so it could be anything from three to four days to a couple of weeks, but it shouldn’t be anything that keeps him out. He should be back in time to play by the first game.”
If there are any advantages of being young team playing with new system….
“The good thing about being young is they will be here for a while and get better the more they play. Right now I’m concerned about this the year. This is the year I care about and the first game. I’m not worried about next year or the future. Anyone who knows me, I’m competitive and I want to win right now, so I don’t think it fair to the seniors on the team or anyone else. We are approaching this season to be the best we can be right now.”
“Tyler came in mid-year so we had a chance to go through spring practice and that certainly gives him an advantage over the other freshmen. He sat out and gray-shirted so to speak, so he is a little bit older. He had a chance to be in the weight program for a while and that’s helped him. Tyler is a pretty good athlete. He runs around pretty well and can make some plays. He is like a lot of young guys in that he needs to be more consistent, but I’m excited about him and I think he can be a good player.”
On how long it will take for people to stop asking if this offense will work…
“I don’t think it will ever stop. I mean as soon as you lose a game, that’s going to be the reason. Everybody has their opinion and we will see what happens. It’s like I said before; I find it amusing really. It’s past the point of anything else other than being amusing to me. You ask people why they say that and the only answer I can get is there’s too much speed. We ran the offense at the Naval Academy against the same teams and I promise you the kids here are faster than the ones we had at the Naval Academy, so the essence of will-it-work is ludicrous now. I mean if you don’t execute now when your young and you put the ball on the ground, then none of it will work. You can look back on last year and say the pro style of offense won’t work either. Every time someone lost a game you could say, `well, that offense won’t work’. If they don’t score 30 or 40 points, it has a lot to do with how you execute and how you do it, not as much as what you’re doing. In my mind, over the span of time we have proven the offense will work at a lot of different schools and a lot of different places.
“That’s the thing that’s hilarious: `at this level’. I mean, what, are we in the NFC East? When I was at the Naval Academy, I can promise you we played Maryland, Wake Forest, NC State, Duke, Rutgers, Boston College, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and they’re on the same level as we are. It’s not like they weren’t in the same division or the same level, so that’s why I don’t buy that.”
On the depth at the quarterback position and thoughts on freshman quarterback having run the same offense in high school…
“I think it has helped Jaybo and I think he can be a good player. I come back again to the youth; I don’t think anyone on any level wants to play a true freshman QB, but it is what it is. Let’s say Josh [Nesbitt] wins the starting spot. He is going to be a true sophomore, and it’s a good chance that the backup is going to be a true freshman or probably Bryce Dykes, who is a walk-on kid. It’s not like when we got here there was a stockpile of scholarship players. It doesn’t matter what they did, there’s just not many. I was looking around out there at practice this morning and take the A-back position; you’ve got Roddy Jones, who is a redshirt freshman, and Greg Smith, who moved over from receiver, and Andrew Smith, who I just put on scholarship. And the rest of the guys are freshmen. So where were all the tailbacks? If you were running another offense, who would it have to be? It would have to be a young guy because they’re not here, so there’s some voids in a lot of positions where young guys are going to have to step up.
On what he is going to ask of the older guys for this season…
“Going into the year I think we had 14 scholarship seniors. Because of our situation I’m going to be able to award some walk-on kids that are seniors this fall and help them out for their last year or semester, which I think is positive anytime you can do that. I think all those guys have to step to the forefront. The defensive line is an area that most would consider the strength of the team because you’ve got guys who have played. Vance Walker’s played a lot and Darryl Richard has played a lot. We think Michael Johnson can have a break-out year, certainly physically he has all the tools that you want. Derrick Morgan is also young but I think he is going to be a heck of a player. We also have backups and I think we have depth with guys that have played there as well.
“Flip it over on the offensive line and I think it’s going to be just as important with the seniors. Andrew Gardner, A.J. Smith, David Brown and some of those guys. It’s important for those guys as well because they are some of the guys who have actually played. And you talk about the youth, moving to linebacker on defense. Brad Jefferson and A.T. Barnes: everyone thinks they are going to be great players, but just like offense, they haven’t played a lot. There’s just a lot of youth. They are good players but they are young and they are going make big plays; hopefully they make more for us than the other team.”
On how he was introduced to this style of offense…
“I don’t think I was introduced to it, I came up with it. What happened was, in 1983 and `84, I was at Georgia Southern coaching defense. In 1984 Southern went to a double slot and a guy named Ben Griffith was the offensive coordinator, and they threw a lot out of it. It was geared more to run and shoot, but we threw a lot out of it. We probably threw the ball 40-50 times a game.
“After that season, Ben left and Coach (Erk) Russell moved me over to run the offense and he wanted to get back in the I-formation because he didn’t like throwing the ball around. I told him we are going to get back to things with the run. Tracy Hamm was the quarterback and I said we are going to isolate Tracy and he [Russell] said let me think about it, and 15 minutes later he came back and said do what you feel like you’ve got to do and we’ve been doing it ever since. We went on to win the national championship that year and the next year so I’ve never had much skepticism. If we did I never would have done it.”
On when he will have a date set to name his first team…
“August 26, our last practice. It’s hard to evaluate guys. For example, at A-back we have so many freshmen and you’re throwing a lot at them. One of those guys might be Marcus Wright or [Jon] Lockhart or [Embry] Peeples or one of those freshmen. Man, they are playing a lot but it’s hard to evaluate them if they are having to think and aren’t sure where they are going right now in day four. You can evaluate them better in individual drills than you can when you put everything together. Inevitably, you’re going to have to play one of them just to have enough guys to play, maybe even two. We’ll just have to sort that out when we get in pads. Another thing with the young guys is who is going to block? Some guys look better in shorts than they actually play so we’ll have a good couple of weeks to find out and we’ll have that depth set. And I jokingly say the 26th, but the time we get ready to go that last week, we will know who the starters are if not before then.”
On the team’s new offensive scheme:
“The scheme is not easy to learn. It is pretty complex. There is a lot of stuff to learn. Obviously there are more types of pass protection options in this one than what we had in our old offense.”
On how the new offense affects the offensive linemen:
“I think the good thing about this offense as opposed to other types you see is that it is predicated on just playing as fast as you possibly can. A lot of things are set up by offensive linemen. They get on their track start slanting and running and try to go through the defense. Our offensive linemen are going where they are going and going as fast as they can no matter what the defensive linemen are doing. It gives you a chance to open yourself up and go all out, full speed every play and that could lead to good stuff.”
On the offensive line being asked to lose weight:
“The coaches have been running us a lot. We all eat a lot and take in a lot of calories. We have just decreased our intake, cutback on what we eat and with working out we have all lost a few pounds.”
On the team’s offseason conditioning:
“The fourth quarter runs we did this spring were very difficult. The spring conditioning was a little more difficult than we have had in the past. The summer workouts were more running than we did in the past. Coach (Johnson) says, if nothing else, we are going to be the best conditioned team in the conference. It is a real point of emphasis.”
On getting used to the offense:
“(The offense) is something I am not used too. There is also some other guys that are not used to the offense either but we are gradually just getting used to it. We are getting up-to-date on the plays and slowly but surely getting used to everything.”
On how successful he can be in this offense:
“Seeing other guys in this offense and knowing how successful they have been, it has shown me that I can be successful as well. Simply believing in this offense and in Coach Johnson helps me perform to the best of my ability each and every day.”
On people outside the program understanding what a B-back is:
“Some do, some don’t. I try to explain it to them as best as I can. I just tell them it is pretty much the same as a usual running back but you block a little bit more than what a usual running back does.”
On what areas he needs to improve:
“There are many areas I want to improve on. I want to get more feel with (Josh) Nesbitt, get more comfortable with the offense and get a feel with our offensive linemen.”
On the new uniforms:
“It is something different. It will help put out a new image for Georgia Tech, still keeping with the tradition but it is more stylish. It can get more attention with recruits and get younger people more interested in Georgia Tech athletics. The team is still taking some time to get used to something different so the verdict will be out in a little while.”
On defensive line losing two seniors to graduation last year:
“I believe a lot of the credit goes to Coach (Giff) Smith and how he has been preparing us. It has always been that you never know when your time will come. You have to play like you can become a starter at anytime. There isn’t much turnover. The boat is not as rocky just because we lost two seniors. We have focused on getting players in real early. I played as a freshman as did Vance (Walker), Derrick (Morgan) and Michael (Johnson). Everybody has had some valuable time on the football field. It is as much of a transition going into the first game.”
On becoming a starter:
“In the packages we have run it the past, at times we would run our substitution package or a nickel package as early as second down. He (Johnson) may have missed just one downs a series. I was a starter but at times Michael (Johnson) played more snaps or series than I did. I would not say he doesn’t have the experience. It was just a different type of running he has to prepare for. During second or third down you will not get the type of smash-mouth running, instead more of the zone-type running.”
On filling the void of vocal leader left by the departure of :
“That role may not be as required as it was in the past. Coach Johnson is so vocal at practice and with the players. He does not allow practice to get dead. In the past, Tashard (Choice) played more of that real, keeping everyone up, but now we have a more vocal coaching staff and you have seniors that are trying to keep players up and get them ready to play.”