VIDEO: Yellow Jackets' head coach previews 2019 season opener at Clemson
“Really good day today. We had our Tuesday practice. When the guys walked into the building, even out there on the plaza on the jumbotron, we had it make sure they understood that today is a Tuesday. And what we do is “competition Tuesday.” We had all the crowd noise going, closed all the doors to the indoor and we cranked the sound system up to 11, to get it as loud as humanly possible for the offense and understand the environment we’re going into on Thursday night. We released the ATL list, you guys hopefully got it. It’s just an understanding of who’s above the line right now as we see it going into the game. I think there’s 66 names, we can travel 72. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all going to play over 15 or 20 plays but they’re the guys that we feel confident getting into the rotation going forward. Mike brought up that there’s I think 11 seniors on that list and I think it’s the third lowest in the country, but those seniors have done a great job for us in the transition of coaching staffs, buying into the culture, buying into the work ethic that we’re putting forward. I’m really proud of those 11 guys, and how they represent us every single day.
There’s a new positon – it’s not a typo – there’s a new position that’s on the Georgia Tech depth chart called the tight end position. Initials T and E. So just excited about those four guys that are on there. The last time a tight end caught a pass was 2007, Colin Peak, my guy. So, hopefully early in the season the tight end position will catch a ball.
Today, and I know Kelly [Quinlan] noticed it while we were out at practice, in honor of Brandon Adams, we tragically lost him back in March right before spring practice, and always looking for different ways we can honor him and honor his family. And so each week throughout the season somebody is going to wear his jersey number, the jersey number 90, in honor of Brandon. We start every practice recognizing him. We started the team meeting today, as always, recognizing him. Just teaching the young guys, the freshmen, that didn’t get to know Brandon just what he meant to this program. How he was such an unbelievable teammate, an unbelievable member of our Georgia Tech Athletic Association. And Chris Martin will be the first one to wear that jersey number 90 when we line up Thursday night. The transformation Chris has made since the time that he got here, every phase of his life has been really, really impressive. We talk about having a “why”, having a purpose in your life for whatever it is that you choose to do, and Chris Martin just every single day comes to work with a great attitude. He talks about it all the time, how much he wants to honor Brandon – Big B – in every way through his play, through how he is in the locker room, through his work ethic, all those things. So just really proud of him.
Two guys sadly missing from the depth chart and from the roster, Brad Morgan and Tija’i Whatley. I think we put out a release the other day. But just valued members of our program. They sadly won’t be playing college football anymore. Brad actually is going to help us as an organization, stay around and help us coach a little bit per NCAA rules. So, excited about that. But obviously we’re going to miss them as players in our program but wish them the best in all their future endeavors. Tija’i earning his degree from Georgia Tech. Brad continuing along with his studies here at Georgia Tech. He already has his degree, which is really, really cool.
The thing that we’ve done – culture, branding – all of those things that we have been doing for the last nine months, have been really good. Our guys have bought in completely and they’ve done a really nice job with everything. But going into game week, we spend an inordinate amount of time on our processes. How we do a Tuesday practice – we’ve already done two of them. How we do a Wednesday practice – already done two of them. How we do our Friday night travel. We’ve gone up to the Westin so we practiced what we do in the hotel the night before the games. We practice how we wake up in the morning and do our kinesthetic awareness. Our special team walkthroughs, our O and D walkthroughs. We’ve practiced our pre-game meal, our chair drill. There’s a lot of things a lot of times you can just take for granted when you’re coming into a new situation with new processes, we wanted to make sure we spend an inordinate amount of time going through our rituals and going through our routines so that when we get to Clemson on Thursday night, the environment is going to be great, College Gameday is going to be there, and obviously it is a special environment against a great team, great players, great coaches and a great fan base, but we want to make sure that we’ve already done all of those things so that regardless of what environment we step into, we have a process and we have a way to do things.
And last thing before I move on, it’s going to be special for me. A lot of people in this room understand. Kane Ivers-Osthus, “El Diablo,” who joined us from the last place we were at, was my student equipment manager at the University of Florida when I was the DC. So he and I are really, really close. This time a year ago he came down with emergency onset leukemia and was in a coma for over a month. So he did not go through one game last year with us. He was in a coma going into the first game and has recovered and is really strong and all those things. But he’s with us now as a Georgia Tech employee. So just personally for me, when I walk out onto the sideline and there’s El Diablo and he hands me my cough drops and my whistle and we get ready to play, selfishly it’s going to be a special moment for me to have him back by our side. And I know [chief of staff] Coach [Vince] Sinagra and Morpheus [brand manager Santino Stancato] feel the same way. But just a little aside right there, how personally special that moment is going to be.”
On whether the team has practiced harder or different as gameday approaches:
“I think they’ve done a great job. We’re a culture built on effort. We use the catapult systems every day to monitor the metric of how every player in our program is performing. They’ve done a great job. Every day is a little bit better understanding how we do things. Ryan Horton, in real time, every single day is telling me what our number is. So today, we cut out I think probably eight plays from practice where we went good on good to make sure we didn’t go over our number. We have a chronic threshold that we’re trying to stay below at all times, and each day is a little bit different. And the guys have bought into it. They go see [director of applied sports science] Ryan [Horton] every single day to find out what their number was for each day for their player low, their top speed, for the number of springs, all of those things. So they’re well versed and these are Georgia Tech students so they understand the data. They’ve just bought into how we do things and I will take care of them to make sure we’re hitting the number. So those guys just cut it loose at practice as hard as they can because there’s a trust factor that goes along with it. When I know we’re at the number I know we need to be at, I’ll shut it down or I’ll move onto the next period. And I think that kind of trust and the guys just playing as absolute hard as they can has been really special.”
On if there’s anything done in practice to break the rust and help keep opening-day mental lapses at bay:
“The interesting part is that it’s not necessarily rust but there’s 11 years of playing in one type of system. And now we’ve been on a nine-month, I don’t want to call it an overhaul, but a nine-month transition from one type of system to another and every single day is a new day to get better and get better at every single phase of who we are – fundamentals, techniques, scheme – it’s always a brand new experience. That’s why we’ve stuck to our processes and taught them our processes throughout so they get better every single day. But the things that stood out to me just from last night or yesterday watch football, tackling. Tackling was paramount. It was obvious that we need to make sure we’re tackling running to the ball and playing against elite players you’ve got to be able to do that at a high level. Offensively, breaking tackles, second third efforts to get away from tackles. Protecting the football. And then conversely on defense, getting the football and forcing takeaways. Situational awareness. You just watch throughout the day yesterday. Understanding the situations. And we’ve spend an inordinate amount of time with situational football since we’ve been here. Every single day we throw a new situation at them so they can handle it. Effort, energy, those kinds of things, regardless of the moment, regardless of the situation, regardless of the crowd, external factors, playing with unbelievable effort, unbelievable energy. I just thought those four things stood out just watching all levels of football yesterday.”
On whether being an underdog can be used as motivation:
“Great deal of respect for Clemson. Great deal of respect for their players and their coaches. But we don’t worry about any of that. All we worry about is us and the people that will come here every single week will get bored of this answer but it’s completely true. I don’t know other than putting up what they do schematically on offense and defense – here’s their blitz patterns, here’s what they do offensively as far as formations and concepts – that’s what we talk about. We don’t really talk about our opponent much. We have a great deal of respect. We understand what a great job they’ve done with players and with coaches and recruiting and all those things, but we have to worry about us. Because this has been a complete transition of a football program unlike a lot that have happened in a long time. And so we’re just completely focused every day on being a culture that’s built on effort and our guys playing ridiculously hard. Competition is king whether we’re playing pool in the player’s lounge or on national TV against a great team. We are going to compete at every single thing that we do and we’re going to be a family. We’re going to have bonds forged through shared adversity. We’re going to put them in stressful situations, whether it be over there at practice or whether it be in a workout, and they’re going to become closer together because of the stressful situations and opportunities for them to grow as a family. And those things help you play at a high level, play really good football, and at the end if you play really good football and you play really hard and you compete, things naturally take care of themselves so that’s our complete focus.”
On if the team is to ready to begin playing games:
“I’m excited. We’ve just been playing against each other. Once we put the ball down and there’s a really good team across from us, we’ll get an even better sense of who we are. But I’m excited about the way they play, the way they carry themselves, the way they prepare, the way they are in the locker room, how they carry themselves off-campus. Those kind of things they give you the optimism to be confident just by how they carry themselves and how they prepare and how they practice.”
On what stepping on the field for the first time as head coach at Georgia Tech will be like:
“It’s going to be surreal, but I’ve already kind of done that. There’s been some firsts as the Georgia Tech head football coach which I’ve wanted to be for a long time. But once you develop real relationships, and we have true relationships with our players. They are real relationships, dep relationships with our staff members, and I think the things that’s going to transcend all that is us just being in the locker room together. Us exiting the tunnel together and going to play somebody else. We’ve been doing all these things internally, but now I’m going to be with my guys and going to play somebody else. And I think that’s the part that I’m the most excited about, is those men that I get to look in the eye every day and coach every day and have such a strong affection for, I get to be out there with them and compete with them and I think that’s the thing that I’m most excited about is just them as human beings and young men in this program we truly care about and want what’s best for them. I think that’s the thing I’m most excited about.”
On whether starters are truly decided at game time or if it’s known during the week;
“It’s different for every position the way we do it but the quarterback position, we have three unique athletes back there that all do three different things. We have a base offense we can run with all of them, but there are some specialized things that we already have in the works to be used for each different guy and I’m excited but I don’t want to say much more than that. The same thing for the D-line positon, there’s different things we’re going to do schematically when we know this set of D-linemen are going to be in, there’s certain things that we’re going to do schematically when we have this set of safeties in. And that’s how we do things and we’ve done it for a long time. I think it gives us an advantage in some ways because not only do you have to know, are they in nickel, are they in dime, are they in base, but who those people are and the same thing offensively. Are they in 11 personnel, 20 personnel, 21 personnel, then you have to add another layer. Who are those people that are at those positions, because we’ve got a very unique set of running backs, we’ve got a unique set of quarterbacks that do different things, and you’ve got to add layer upon layer to not only in the personnel grouping, the down and distance, but who the people are that are out there at the time so I’m excited about it.”
On what is expected from the team when it faces adversity in a real game:
“We prepare for that and we talk about that. Half of the meeting today was about that, staying together and all those things. And we practice it. We practice our sideline organization. In the two scrimmages we had it split as such so that whenever one group of offense is on the field the other group of offense is on the sideline. They’re practicing how we do our sideline communication on the games. So when you watch us play, a lot of places, the offense will come off the field, they’ll get some quick corrections and then they’re left to their own devices for the rest of the series. If you guys take a sneak peek and look at our sidelines, there should not be a time when our coaches are not actively engaged with our guys. And that’s different from a lot of places. And we had to do it three times to get it worked out in different scrimmages but now they get a feel for it. We talk through the possibilities; we talk through the different things schematically that we’re going to do. We talk about things that the opponent could do or the opponent is setting. And so we want to grab their attention the entire time. We went to Mercedes-Benz [Stadium] – that big ring that’s on the top of the stadium, we had things playing on that and we had to draw their attention the whole time. There’s going to be a lot of extra things happening Thursday night. Our guys have got to stay in the moment, keep communicating, talking to their coaches, coaches talking to the players and players talking to each other, and doing it at a really high level.”
VIDEO: Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (pre-Clemson)
VIDEO: Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (pre-Clemson)