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Geoff Collins Weekly Press Conference

VIDEO: GT head coach speaks with media as Yellow Jackets prepare for UNC

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Georgia Tech Football Head Coach Geoff Collins Weekly Press Conference – 10.1.19

Opening Statement

“Our equipment guys got us gear for Saturday’s game. We’re going to be wearing the Onyx Gray uniforms. They’re going to look great. But I think the message behind them is the thing that’s really important, with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, I think that’s special. And to be able to represent that on Cape Day, and I’m sure we’ll be working out there with the capes, so that’ll be a nice look.

“Just like we do every single week, we don’t really spend a lot of time talking about our opponent. But I woke up Sunday morning glad that one [at Temple] was over. Because I try to compartmentalize everything, I didn’t know going into that how emotional it was going to be for me and for the members of our coaching staff. That’s a really, really good football team that we played. A great roster that we developed, a great roster that we recruited. Some of the things to take away from it, we understand how good they are, but our guys went up there and battled and competed. Except for a couple of errors on our part where we coughed the ball up three times in the red zone, [a] scoop-and-score for a touchdown, our guys really played hard. They competed and battled.

“The things to take away from it, I think there’s been eight guys drafted [from Temple] in the past three years, four more have gone on to make [NFL] teams as undrafted free agents from the place we just left. In that same time span, I think we’ve had a kicker. So we need to make sure we’re developing, recruiting at a high level at this great institution so that we’re giving our guys chances to play on the next level. So to have our guys be successful when they leave this great institution – because of the great academics and the internships and all of the connections that they are making from one of the top academic institutions in the country – but a lot of our guys in the locker room, a lot of our guys we recruit to bring into our culture, have dreams and aspirations to play on Sundays. And the way we do things, the processes we go through, the schemes we run offensively, defensively and special teams, are going to afford our guys the ability to do that. So I’m excited moving forward.

“We had some really good performances last week during the week. The first thing we always talk about is that we’re a developmental program. Some guys that really stood out on the developmental team – Ryan Lantz at quarterback, Taylor McCawley at linebacker. Taylor actually got a chance to make the trip [to Philadelphia]. This is a true freshman walk-on that has come in and impressed everybody on the coaching staff with his work ethic and all of those things.

Jamious Griffin was the special teams developmental player of the week last week. He was on the scout team [for] special teams and he was flying around, he was blocking punts, and he was going really, really hard. And then you see him on Saturday as a true freshman tailback getting carries, impacting the game, and he’s doing it the right way. In our culture, special teams is the first priority. He took pride in his special teams performances and it paid off and he got carries, he got touches. When J.P. [Jordan Mason] went down, Jerry Howard, Dontae Smith are really good running backs as well and they contributed on special teams and on offense. But because Jamious went so hard on special teams during the week, he was able to put himself in a position to get on the field.

“[For Juice Crew] Olin Broadway, who is a walk-on linebacker [that] is just a force of energy in our program, brings a great attitude every single day that elevates everybody around him, we brought in on the trip. Jair Hawkins-Anderson did a really nice job throughout the entire game, had energy, had juice, and was positively affecting his teammates in a hostile environment on the road. Those guys really stepped up to provide energy for our guys. Kelton Dawson, I talked about this on our radio show last night, just his growth and maturity since we got here, and just the man he’s become, the teammate he’s become, the leader that he’s developing into, is really, really special. He played really good on defense, but then during the breaks he was down there positively affecting the offensive guys, keeping the mood going, and making sure everybody knows we have each other’s backs. So that was cool to see.

“In our program, on our sidelines, we are going to have guys that have energy that are going to have juice, that are going to be jumping up and down. When critical situations arise, they are going to be elevating people. They’re going to be cheering for their teammates. That’s what big time programs do. So when you see our guys on the sidelines having fun, positively affecting each other, jumping up and down on third downs, getting excited when we’re about to run down and cover a kickoff, getting excited when we’re about to be on the kickoff return unit, that’s what big time programs do. And that’s what our guys are going to do to provide energy and juice for the guys that are out there playing.

“[When] Charlie Thomas and Antwan Owens got a safety, it was because of our punt team. Jaytlin Askew and Nathan Cottrell covering the punt, downing it on the one-yard line, Pressley Harvin was unselfish to get the ball exactly where it needed to be. And then we got the safety, which was really, really good for us. David Curry had a big game again. Zach Quinney, I’m really proud of his development. Going from being a triple-option offensive lineman to now being in an NFL spread system where he’s asked to do a lot of different things that are outside of his normal muscle memory, and he’s doing really good at developing every single day. I’ve got to imagine he’s going to be one of the best linemen in the ACC for years to come. So really proud of him.

“I think everybody saw Jalen Camp’s performance on Saturday, the way he was going up, fighting for the ball and doing those kinds of things. The interesting thing about Jalen is he didn’t go through preseason camp, he didn’t go through a lot of the summer conditioning. We had to manage his reps throughout the entire season just to be able to get him to gameday. During the bye week, we met with his family and had a long conversation about what’s the best for Jalen’s future. He was going to have to have surgery at some point. I’m not going to disclose what the surgery is, but he was going to have surgery at some point. I’ve said since I’ve gotten here, everything that we do in this program is for our football players. Jalen has a future in this game. So he was going to have to have surgery in some way, shape or form and for him to have the best opportunity for a future in this game, we thought it was best – him, his family, myself, the coaching staff, the training staff – for him to go ahead and have [the surgery] actually up in Philadelphia. We just managed his reps, managed him to get him through and he went out there and played really, really hard in the game and had surgery this morning. So he’ll be out for the season – just like Kenny Cooper, just like Jahaziel Lee, just like Brad Morgan. But the nice thing about Jahaziel, Kenny and Jalen is they’re going to have a redshirt year and they’re going to be able to come back [next season]. I think that speaks volumes to the relationships they have with our coaching staff, how they feel about this program, that they’ve given of themselves to fight their way to contribute as much as they could this year and then want to give themselves the opportunity to come back. I think that’s really, really special. They’re great young men that we’re proud and lucky to coach.

I know it got brought up last night about our senior class that it’s the second-smallest in the country but the young men that are in that group are really, really special. I think it’s eight [players], two of them we brought in – Jared Southers, Tyler Davis we brought in as grad transfers – have been transformational as far as building the culture, establishing the standard of how we do things in this organization. Even though it’s a small group, the power that they have, the men that they are is really special. Just coming to work every single day, their contributions, whether it be just in the locker room, whether it be on special teams, offensively or defensively, I’m really lucky to coach them.”  

On who is expected to step up from a leadership standpoint in light of season-ending injuries to Jahaziel Lee, Kenny Cooper and Jalen Camp:

“It’s evolved since we’ve gotten here. The way the culture is set up, the highest honor is to be a great teammate. So, if you’re going to be one of us and be part of our culture, you have to be a great teammate. And then once you become a great teammate, you can start positively affecting others and be a great leader. You cannot be a great leader in this program unless first you are a great teammate. There’s a lot of guys that are in that role. There are some that are evolving into becoming that more and more. So, I don’t want to name names, but there are a lot of them that are growing and developing. We have a small senior class, and most times seniors go through a program, they learn the standards, the belief systems, what is going to elevate the program. And after three years or four years, now they’re able to pass down that wisdom to the younger guys. Well these guys that are seniors, they’ve been learning all of those things – the expectations, the standards, the culture, our processes that we go through to be elite – they’re learning them in a real time with the younger guys. They’ve been amazing how they’ve bought into it, how it resonates with them.”

On whether the team would be in different place if there were more seniors:

“Over 65 percent of the snaps [vs. Temple] were taken by freshmen, true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores. It might even be higher than that. It is what it is. The guys are coming to work every single day. You’d have to ask the guys how that affects them, but I just know that the small group of [senior] guys that we do have, I’m just lucky to get to coach them and build relationships with them. When we do our walkthrough, our kick script on Friday before we go to the hotel or before we go to the away trip, we go out there [on Historic Grant Field at Bobby Dodd stadium]. It’s the first time all week we all wear the same color. So defense wears one color during the week, offense wears one color, but when we go to our Friday walkthrough, everybody is in the same color of what we’re going to wear on Saturday. [Freshman tight ends] Dylan Leonard and Dylan Deveney switched jerseys with [senior tight ends] Tyler Cooksey and Tyler Davis [last Friday]. It was really, really cool just in honor of how those two have showed them how to be Georgia Tech student-athletes, how to be members of this football program. Both of those young guys are playing and playing pretty well actually, and I thought that was a cool moment. Hopefully that kind of thing expands because it was really neat. But how much we care about those guys, even though it might be a small group, we’re all in it to make sure their experience is memorable and positive.”

On how the team is dealing with unlucky breaks:

“I know exactly what’s happening in that locker room. I know the situation we walked into, I know exactly how far our guys have come. The development of our players, if you look at the ‘before’ pictures and you look at the ‘after’ pictures, you look at our developmental squad and the gains that they’ve made since August, not to mention since they got here in June, it is so far beyond what we started with. It’s just one of things, you be positive, have the right mindset. I know exactly where this place is going to be. I know exactly where we are. And I come to work every day to chip away to make it better and better and better. When there is a setback, there is zero lack of enthusiasm that I have on a daily basis. I know exactly what I want to accomplish, I’m committed to it, and I said it last night on the radio show, I’m either going to find a way or I’m going to make one. I’m surrounded by a coaching staff, I’m surrounded by a group of players in that locker room, that is on the same mission as I am. There’s a lot of people that are former players who reach out to me every day who are all in and see exactly where we’re going and are excited about the future. That’s the thing we hang our hat on, surrounding yourself with people with the same mission as you, attack every single day with relentless effort. Myself and our coaching staff live and breathe the culture that we teach to our guys. Because if not it’s disingenuous, then it is going to come across as fake. But they know if we live it and we breathe it and we attach every single day the way we’re asking them to, then they will as well. I’m lucky to coach these guys regardless of any outside circumstances. The results, once we get the process and the culture engrained, are going to come.”

On the significance and feeling about honoring Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta by wearing “Cape Day” uniforms on Saturday vs. North Carolina:

“It’s special. I think one of the best traditions in college football now is the University of Iowa in Kinnick Stadium waving at the patients up in the cancer ward, because it is helping other people deal with something that they’re going through. Showing positive support, giving of yourself for the benefit of others, I think that kind of stuff is important and I think it resonates with our guys. I’m just excited about the fact that we get to represent such a great organization … and how much it means to those patients and those young people that are battling and just knowing that we’re all thinking about them and playing in honor of them and out of respect and love and supporting them all the way through. Looking good is great, but the cause and the meaning behind what we’re wearing is the most special.”

On North Carolina:

“They’re really good. And if you look at their offensive line, there are some big guys – they go 6-8, 6-7, 6-8 across the offensive line. They’re big, they’re physical, they do a really good job in the run game and they’re surprisingly athletic in the pass game. The quarterback makes really good decisions and knows where to go with the ball. There will be a lot more tempo than what we played on Saturday. Just being able to line up, adjust to the formations, because it is going to be going fast, and they’ve got really good players on the perimeter and they’ve got a whole group of running backs they just roll in and play at a high level. It’s going to be a challenge. They’re running the ball really well and then they’re taking shots, so we’re going to have to do some things.”

On where Georgia Tech has improved:

“Everything is about blocking and tackling in this game and effort to the football. Every single game, I think we have tackled at a really high level. We’ve run to the ball, we’ve had overlap in the defense, we’ve had gap integrity, there’s been fewer explosive plays since the first game, and guys are understanding through trials how to make sure they’re covering for each other and playing their gap and doing their job and playing responsibly. But they’re running to the ball and the tackling piece has been really good. It’s still an evolution in the blocking. For 11 years, it’s been a four-point stance, firing off the ball, running 3 yards on a track and cut blocking. There’s nothing wrong with that, but its muscle memory that we’re constantly breaking to being more nimble … There’s a lot that we’re doing that these guys have to do when they’re playing at the next level. For us to be able to recruit at a high level to get the elite players that want to stay in the city of Atlanta, want to go to a top-10 athletic institution, want to be part of a culture, and wants to be one of the best in college football, we have to put them in positions to have that kind of explosiveness in the offense and for them to be able to see themselves playing at the next level. So it is a progression. The guys are doing a great job.”

VIDEO: Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (pre-UNC)

VIDEO: Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (pre-UNC)

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