Aug. 8, 2015
HEAD COACH Paul Johnson
Is this one of the more competitive teams you’ve had in the past few years?
“Maybe in some spots. Their idea of competition and mine probably are the same right now. I think the freshman class has some really good athletes in it; a lot of them are lost like you would expect in the first week of practice. I think the older guys can kind of see the potential and see the athleticism and there are several of those guys that are going to have to play, especially offensively in the skill positions.
What are some things that you are doing to improve the defense this year?
“We always work on ball disruption stuff. We try to concentrate on third down. We did it last year; there’s nothing new. We just have to play better. We have more experience over there, and we’ve got guys with a little more depth. The guys have to make plays and we have to get it off the field on third downs. If you improve your third downs, you’re going to improve the rest of it because you’re not out there. That’s something we focused on, we talk about it and we’ve practice it every day. We tried to highlight it today in the scrimmage. I’ll talk to them in the team meeting about third downs. There’s not something that all of sudden we pulled out of the air and said this year, we’re going to practice this way on defense. The guys have to make plays.”
With Jabari Hunt-Days back on the field and the defensive line has more depth?
“I think we need to be better over there. We’ve got guys that are returning. We’ve got more depth and toward the end of the year we got more aggressive and we created some turnover. We won the Orange Bowl by two touchdowns and we set an Orange Bowl record for passing yards against us and total yards, so you can’t live like that forever. It starts with third down and being more consistent. We’ve got eight starters back. We get Jabari and Kenderius [Whitehead] back and Kenderius was out today. We’ve got some of those young defensive ends that can play; we might even have a freshman in the group that can help. Francis Kallon does some good things. I just watched the tape, and at times he does good things and at times he stands up and gets driven straight back. You can see the potential there because he does do it sometimes. I think we just got to be better when it comes down to it. You have to see it and do it on the field.
When did you first see that Justin Thomas was grasping things where he could become a playmaker and a leader?
“I think he got better every game last year. He was like our football team; early in the year he was ok. He’s always had a good skill set. You can’t teach fast and quick. He’s got a quick release. He’s competitive. I think as he got more comfortable, he made more plays and when he got completely healthy. He had a lot of experience around him a year ago. We had two wide receivers that are now in NFL camps that were good players. We had a good group of A-backs, who while maybe they weren’t burners, but they all had played a lot. They understood the speed of the game and their assignments. They knew how to change things. So it enabled him to come along a little bit and get better each week, and that he did. At times, he’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t play particularly well this morning. His particularly not well is probably better than [most]. For him and his standard, I think he’s going to be upset with the way he threw the ball a little bit and that. That’s why he’s a good player, because he’s pretty critical of himself. He’s got a good understanding of what we’re going to do, and he’s going to have to make plays over there.
How is Patrick Skov coming along?
“He’s done some okay things. He’s done some good things. He’s a big, physical guy. He’s going to look much better when you play 11-on-11. Some of the freshmen are going to look a little better in shorts with quickness and feet and that kind of thing, but when you actually start playing football, I think he’s going to be hard to tackle. I think he will be a physical blocker. He certainly will help us. He’s going to play. Now, is he going to be the starter? I have no idea. But he will play.”
Have you seen anything out of Qua Searcy?
“I think Qua has done some good things as well. He’s very athletic and good with the ball. He’s a good receiver. He has to work on some other facets to get better but Qua is going to play a bunch. He’s definitely going to be in the A-back rotation. He’s going to play a bunch.”
SENIOR DB Jamal Golden
What have you focused on in the return game?
“We just got to get the fundamentals down. Like I always tell you guys, the other 10 guys on the field make my job easy. Whenever we have success it’s because of them not just all because of me. When they do a good job that makes my job easier and that’s when you see the explosive plays.”
How do you attack the ball?
“It’s a drill we work every day in practice. It’s called `takeaway drill.’ So we go through a circuit and it’s like four different stations of takeaways. It’s one of our main focuses. When you look at statistics you can look at any statistic you want, but when you’re getting the ball back to the offense you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning games. We just harp on that because that’s one of the major parts of the game: getting turnovers.”
How has the defense improved?
“I feel like everybody is more experienced. Coach [Ted] Roof has been here for three years and you have eight guys that are coming back as starters [who] have been in the defense for three years. So of course we’re more experienced and the game should be a little slower to us, but that’s not going to affect how hard we play. We’re still working like it’s his first year coming in and it’s all new to us. We’re just working to get the basics down so we can make the big things happen.”
SENIOR AB Broderick Snoddy
How are you doing physically?
“I feel very well and confident. It’s pretty much more mental than physical.”
How are the young backs doing?
”I think they’ve impressed me very well as a whole, as a group. Everybody’s going into meetings and learning what they’re supposed to do and performing right away on the field.”
What has been your focus this offseason?
“More of just being a leader. Learning how to run routes and focus on knowing where to be. So if I need to help out, I can just let them know.”
SENIOR CB D.J. White
What are this season’s defensive goals?
“It’s kind of indwelled in our team goals. One of the things we wanted to focus on this year was to get off the field on third down. That’s a big, big point of emphasis for us this season. I know in practice we aim for 50% or better.”
What’s the team’s level of commitment to forcing turnovers?
“Coach [Ted] Roof from the moment he stepped in he was stressing that. We implement that in our practice. We’ll have a takeaway circuit where there are four or five drills where each position group will practice either stripping the ball or just going for picks. I think it’s two-fold because we have a bunch of guys who like going for the ball instinctively.”
How has Step Durham progressed behind you?
“Step has come along big time. His footwork is a lot better. His transitions have gotten better. His overall knowledge of the defense — he’s always had the athleticism — but I think he’s kind of coming into his own from the mental part of the game. I’m really excited for him. He’s got a lot of physical tools and I think the more he develops mentally he’s going to be a force to reckon with later down the road.”
JUNIOR QB Justin Thomas
How confident are you in the offensive line?
“I feel pretty confident with the guys we’ve got up there. We’re only missing one guy from last year. I feel like whoever steps up and takes that spot right now will be just as good. I feel like right now even when I drop back I feel pretty protected.”
How have Ricky Jeune and Micheal Summers performed in camp?
“I think from last year to this point I think they’ve stepped up a lot. Just playing with more confidence, especially these past few practices. They’ve been catching balls and getting open. Things they weren’t doing in the past. I think now they know that they’re going to be the main two guys. The other guys are also stepping up behind them. Antonio [Messick] has had a few good days and Brad [Stewart] has even had a few good days. So far I think it’s going to be a variety of different guys that’s going to be touching the ball this year.”
How do you define toughness? How would you describe this team’s toughness?
“I would say `When things are going your way who’s going to be the guy to step up and make something happen?’ Right now that’s what we’re looking for. Somebody that can make that big play when we need it, even on the defensive side. Right now going through these last few days of camp that’s the person we need to find and the person we’re looking for.”
SENIOR OL Trey Braun
On blocking for Justin Thomas compared to other quarterbacks
”The first thing is he has such an understanding of how the triple option works and Coach Johnson’s scheme. He’s really been one to get in this book and study it and be able to execute it a lot of times flawlessly. It’s something that’s so comforting as an offensive lineman when you’re really putting it all out there to get your block that Justin is going to capitalize on what you do. Also, just as a leader, he’s been really special in leading the team and instilling a culture of success and a culture that we need to be successful.”
On how Justin has manifested his knowledge of the offense
Yardage. You’ll see a lot of times last year there were just some really brilliant reads and it’s something that you sort of learn as you play in this offense for awhile. When you learn how the offense works, you can appreciate how Justin makes those reads and where nine times out of 10, a quarterback would have given the ball, he keeps it and runs it outside. It’s little stuff like that and it’s hard to explain. It’s really a deeper appreciation, but it manifests itself in a lot of touchdowns. He’s had a lot of success running the ball and we as a team have had a lot of success running the ball and with play action passes and stuff like that.”
On how it looks with a whole new backfield this year
“That’s definitely been something that we’ve been working on. Having a new backfield is just another opportunity for people to step up and learn how to fit the offense. Every year we have new people, and last year a lot of those guys hadn’t played before and then they really stepped up and came into their own. Synjyn Days was a guy who moved around. He was a quarterback, an A-back, and a B-back and he just stepped up wherever he had to play. You see a lot of these young guys coming in and they’re so eager to learn. Patrick [Skov] is a guy who is so eager to learn and so eager to be able to run the offense successfully. Even though they’re making mistakes, they’re making them full speed. They’re making them so they can learn and become better. Especially with the wide receivers, you see a lot of that where people are fighting and people really want to be successful. There’s a lot of new people coming in, but they look at it as an opportunity.”
On his personal goals for this season
”Yeah there are definitely some things. There are definitely personal goals that I write down before camp. The main thing I have is offensive line goals. I definitely want to be a leader in that and a leader there. As an offensive line, we’ve come up with some goals. I feel comfortable with those goals. We want to lead the nation in rushing. We want to have the best third down efficiency. There are a lot of those goals that as an offensive line we want to focus on. Especially in this offense you play as a unit so much that’s something we say when we go out before we start our drive. Play as a unit. Play as a team. Let’s all do our job and so the goals as an offensive line are just to be better than we ever have been and keep going up.”
SENIOR DL Adam Gotsis
On the first scrimmage and the defensive line
“The scrimmage was good. It’s always fun to get out there and fly around and see some young guys finally get an opportunity to get some pads on in some game situations. Playing the option, it’s really just assignment football. It kind of shows who can take coaching over those two weeks that we’re learning to play the option, but also preparing for the season and who can take that coaching and adapt to it. It was good to see some of those young guys, Brentavious [Glanton], Trent Sellers, Francis [Kallon] getting some good reps. The coaches were smart with it and aimed for about 35 reps for each group. So far I think the d-line is really coming along. We’ve got a group that’s about eight or nine deep so it’s pretty comfortable. We’ve still got a lot of work to do though.”
On the presence of Jabari Hunt-Days on defense and how he’s looked so far
“Jabari is a great player. I played with him in 2012 when he was at linebacker and he was one of those guys that you look at and he’s going to be at every pile making some plays. It’s awesome to have him next to me and playing with me. He’s a guy with a motor who can play all day and in a game he’s a guy that when the big play is there to be made, he’s going to be one of those guys who can make the play. It’s good having him. He’s got a lot of learning he still has to do, but we all do so it’s about all of us moving together as a unit and not as individuals. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this season.”
On individual and team goals for the season
It’s been a journey. It’s been a quick journey, but it’s been a good one. Coming from Australia, I think I got here the 31st in 2012 so it’s a little over three years and going into my fourth. This season personally I’ve got my own goals, which I don’t think I really need to share. For me, it’s more about the team. My goal is the ACC Championship. I’ve been close twice. We’ve lost by five and lost by two so my goal is the ACC Championship and I think for the whole defense that’s what we want. If you don’t have the team goal in mind then I don’t think you’re in the right spot and that’s the biggest thing we’re trying to stress that the team is bigger than the individual. It’s not about what the individual goes out and does because you can’t do it without the help of the coaches, without the help of the guy next to you, without the strength coaches who put in all the hours with you over the summer and everything like that. It’s the whole Georgia Tech football team, coaching staff included, that put you in that position so it’s definitely no individual feat. It’s all a team.”
SENIOR LB Tyler Marcordes
On the team’s mentality of attacking the ball on defense
“That’s definitely something we want to carry over this season. One of our things we’re going with this year is fast, physical and playing together. We have a lot of seniors coming back this year and a lot of senior leadership. Hopefully, we can carry that mentality, all the turnovers we got last year and just fly around and make plays.”
On some of the things you’re doing to improve defensive goals
”One of the main things off the bat is communication, making sure we execute every play, and practicing how we want to play in the games. Those are some of the things we started to do towards the end of last year. We started to practice hard and started to become more together as a unit. That’s definitely something we want to improve on is third down efficiency and that’s one of our main goals this year.”
On freshmen and seniors adjusting to the defensive scheme
“A lot of the guys’ heads are spinning because like I said, we have a lot of seniors coming back so we’re moving pretty fast. There are a couple guys that are really stepping up and starting to understand the defense. They’re staying after and getting some extra studying in and staying in their books. I know if I was a freshman right now I’d be pretty lost, but I think they’re doing pretty well. I think they’re doing well and will be able to contribute to the team.”
SENIOR OL Errin Joe
On the goals as an offensive line on third down
“I know that as an o-line we really took pride in being physical and that’s what we want to do on first and second down. We want to pound the ball and we’ve got that kind of attitude as an o-line that you’re not going to beat us physically. We’re going to be the most physical in the game and we’re just going to pound it and have fun doing it. That’s definitely our mentality on first and second down to make third down easier.”
On the offensive line’s pride in allowing second fewest sacks in the nation
”Definitely a lot. People always have that misconception about Georgia Tech and how we can’t pass the ball and we do. The thing about it is we’re so sound in pass blocking that people kind of don’t look over it. That’s one thing that we take pride in. Just as much as we put into running the ball and rushing drills, we do the same thing with passing because we know that especially when it comes to our offense that when we do pass it, it’s liable to go for a touchdown. We take pride as an o-line always taking the right steps and teaching our young guys. Actually today, one of the things I’m actually learning as an older guy and as a leader is that people come to you for help and ask how to set on passes and stuff like that. Definitely, that’s something that we want to continue to build upon and like you said we had a great time passing last year so we just want to build on that. We definitely take pride in not giving up sacks and making sure Justin [Thomas] doesn’t get touched.”
On where the team expects to start off the season this year
”We want to flush last year. One thing that we want to do, we just really want to build upon it. One thing we’ve got to do is realize that was last year’s team and this is this year’s team and the guys, especially on o-line, we definitely have the concept that we just need to keep it moving. With Shaq [Mason] graduating, what I’m telling a lot of the people who are replacing him at right guard is that you don’t have to fill his shoes. We just need somebody who can step in there and do his job. That’s all you really have to do. We’re going to go at all cylinders running, and like I said we had a decent scrimmage today. Just build upon that foundation. I know guys are ready and excited to do better than last year and that’s what I’m excited about carrying over the momentum, not the season, but the momentum from the season, on to next year.”