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Geoff Collins Weekly Press Conference

VIDEO: Georgia Tech head coach meets with media ahead of final road game of regular season

Georgia Tech Football Head Coach Geoff Collins Weekly Press Conference – 11.5.19

Opening Statement

“I thought Andy Demetra did a really good job with the radio show last night, I know a lot of you guys listen to it. In this development of our program, we’re three inches away from having things tied up going into the fourth quarter [last Saturday vs. Pitt]. We had a lot of momentum. Bobby Dodd [Stadium] was rocking the way I remember Bobby Dodd being when I was here in the past. Huge shout-out to our fan base, the student body and the band. There was a ton of energy in the stadium, and even when it started in Yellow Jacket Alley, in warm-ups, the stadium was about half full when the team was out there for warm-ups and that speaks well for our players, recruits, the fan base, to see that kind of energy and excitement before kickoff. Our guys feed off of that, recruits see it and see what a big-time program is supposed to look like. So I just really want to be appreciative of the support the guys have earned and the support they were given Saturday afternoon and Saturday night in a really good environment.

“Regardless of adversity, regardless of any injuries or any guys who are missing, I thought our team came out there and played really, really hard and stuck together. We were in some tough circumstances throughout the game, some were out of their control, and they handled it. I said even after the game that I don’t know if six months ago this program could have handled the things that happened to them with the poise, with the class, with the resiliency that they showed. That speaks to culture, that speaks to relationships, that are really, really strong within this organization from coach to player, from player to coach, player to player. We’ve just got to continue to build on those things because we’re really, really close.

“Individually some guys who stood out – Ahmarean Brown had another really nice game. I think he’s in some really elite conversations with some of the great receivers who have played here early in their careers and it’s well deserved, so I’m proud of him. Juanyeh Thomas – obviously publicly and statistically people recognized that he really had a great game, which he did. He’s gotten better every single week in our program and what we do within our program, and I think one of the quotes after the game just speaks to the mindset and culture and the things that we talk about every single day about preparing these young men for life and how to respond to adversity. We try to see opportunity in every single difficulty that we face. A lot of people go through life being given opportunities and they want to see the difficulties in those opportunities. We don’t do that around here. And you can hear our guys talk, the way they think, the way they approach every day, even off the field. Those things are going to resonate and they are going to carry over to success in their life and while they’re playing football at Georgia Tech, and I think those moments are really special.

“Jerry Howard is a big-time running back for us but we put a huge emphasis on special teams, and Jerry with his second blocked punt of the season. We’ve had three blocked kicks the last three games. That is part of our DNA. As a program, we led the country in blocked kicks last year at the previous institution. And so just finding a rhythm with how we play the game, how important special teams is, and Jerry Howard [represents] that.

“We are a developmental program and some guys who stood out – Tad Aycock along the offensive line, Thompson Rudolph, defensive back, and Spence Massey, and it’s interesting, I didn’t even realize this until right now, the last two young men are legacies of Georgia Tech football, and I think that speaks a lot to the value of the degree that’s here, the value of the memories and the relationships that guys who have played here in the past’s relatives will come here and play for us. That’s pretty cool.

“We place a high premium on energy and juice, positively affecting our teammates. I thought the crowd fed off of our players. They’ve seen how our players are so engaged during games throughout the season. How much energy and how much juice exists on the sidelines. You guys are fortunate to see it every day in practice, but on college football Saturdays on Grant Field, the way our guys interact with each other, the energy, the juice, the enthusiasm, I thought it was responded to by our crowd. Some guys who stood out – Charlie Thomas. It was well documented that Charlie didn’t get to play a lot due to injury. Quez Jackson stood up admirably at that position. But Charlie on the sidelines was actively engaged the entire time, yelling out things to Quez to help him whenever he was on the near sideline, and giving him tremendous support throughout. Jalen Camp is another, Ajani Kerr is another, and Dontae Smith really supported their teammates at a high level.”

 Do you change your approach to practice at this time of the year with guys banged up?

“We monitor every single thing that we do with the Catapult units, and we make really good decisions based on the numbers. We do that every single week regardless of the circumstances. I think the advantages of how we do things with our Above the Line system and focus on being a developmental program and not using scout cards, in times like this, when injuries start to mount up, it doesn’t really faze us. We have the ‘next man up’ mentality. We love the guys who are down, that aren’t going to be playing, and we help them with their rehab and encourage them and put our arms around them and love them. But we’ve got to get ready to play and play at a high level, regardless of the situation. So, I think those things help us. The mindset and the resiliency that we have in this organization, how we respond to adversity in times like these, but we just continue to do what we do. We’re very smart with the way we handle practice, the way we monitor reps and the way we monitor player load. If you come to any of our meetings, even our coaches meetings, the term ‘player load’ comes up all the time. So, we monitor player load at all times. We had two players who were on a strict player load monitoring system at practice today. And once their player load was creeping up, because we calculate it in real time, we made the position coach aware and when it hit the number we shut them down. Because we know exactly the number we wanted for their safety and their ability to play at a high level come Saturday.”

With Bruce Jordan-Swilling out for the season and Charlie Thomas limited, what has Quez Jackson done in his preparation to be ready to step up?

“I can actually take it back to David Curry. We teach a process and it is a very in depth process that we go through each position to get ready to play at a high level on Saturday. Every single thing we do is regimented. There is a plan for everything. Now the application of the plan and the learning of the process takes time. I would say [by] week four of the season, David Curry had gotten it. He had figured out the process and he had gotten his routine down with the help of Coach [Andrew] Thacker and the rest of our staff. And David had figured it out and started to play at another level. Well, what invariably happens is, other guys see the success that David is having. ‘How are you having it, what are you doing?’ ‘Well, Coach has been telling us, here is the process, come sit with me and let’s do the process together,’ and you see those kinds of moments happening throughout this organization. And Quez is starting to apply that. Obviously, it is a different role, but that process, even Charlie has started the last three weeks to get his routine and his process to be able to play at a high level on college football Saturdays. One of the coolest things, Saturday before the game, Tre Swilling and Zamari Walton were sitting right there on the defensive bench, about an hour and forty minutes before the kick, going through their tips and reminders, going through the picture pages – we make a big deal about picture pages in this program, especially defensively – going through them one last time, and that has now developed into part of their routine. So once you learn the process, you apply the process, and you stick to it throughout the season, and as you prepare to play at a high level, it tends to pay off. And it has worked for a long time for us, it will continue to work, we’ve just got to continue to educate our guys. And I think Quez is starting to figure that out.”

 In the final month, will you be able to implement and try things with an eye toward the future?

“The cool thing is, because of the way we do things, every single day we’re doing that. Every single day, I go down there and I coach the developmental defense. So our offense is running plays and getting ready for the looks from the opponent, and I’m down there coaching those guys. So, I get to be around them, I get to coach them, put my hands into their development. So I get to see it every single day. The recruiting part, obviously I can’t talk individually, but you look on Saturday from the 50-yard line all the way to the other 50-yard line, it’s five to six deep, packed, getting to see what Bobby Dodd Stadium is supposed to look like, and the energy and how our guys are preparing at a high level. But the biggest thing, and I said it when I talked to [Athletic Director Todd Stansbury] in the interview, is the first thing that has to be addressed and has to be developed is the culture. And I think our guys have embraced it, they’ve engaged in it every single day, they’re living it, and there are moments that you can really tell that things are starting to get really engrained in them. And one of the biggest ones is – the score is 17-10 going into the fourth quarter, we’re about to tie the game up, we fumble the ball at the 3-inch line, they return it to the far 21-[yard line]. And if you just watch that play, it is very easy in human nature – that ball is out, we’re about to score – it is very easy to just stop. That’s the easy thing to do. But if you turn on that tape and you watch Adonicas Sanders and Malachi Carter fighting as hard as they could to get the ball-carrier out of bounds, and they did it. Then the defense has to come out. That is a bad thing that’s just happened to us. But if you just watch them take the field, it wasn’t fake, [they said] put the ball down and we’re going to give ourselves a chance. They’re well within field-goal range to make it a two-score game. Our guys said put the ball down, and they forced them to kick a 49-yard field goal. There was zero quit. Here’s the opportunity that we have, it’s a difficult opportunity but we’re going to see it and make the most of it, and they forced a 49-yarder and the kid made a really good kick. But those kind of moments, the resiliency to just keep battling and fighting to give ourselves a chance. And that gives us excitement for the present, because we have a senior class that we’re still all-in on. But those kinds of moments, and there’s more, but those are the ones that you guys see as well, that are special.”

What is UVA doing well offensively and defensively and what do you have to prepare for most?

“One of the biggest things is that it is a team that is really long and really athletic. They’ve got a lot of height across all of the positions, and a lot of length. They’ve actually recruited to that since [head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff have] been there. They play really hard. The quarterback [Bryce Perkins] is really, really special. They play at a high level. He obviously knows what he’s doing with the football and within the scheme. So, it is a challenge on both sides. But all we can do is worry about us and focus on us, and just every single day fight and scratch and claw to get better to give ourselves a chance to play really, really well as a Georgia Tech football team going on the road.”

[23:41] On what worked well in the sustained second-half drive against Pitt that ended in a fumble

How has the pitch/conversation with recruits has changed in your first year as you head toward signing day?

“The biggest thing is, we understand the recruiting neighborhood that we’re in with the programs that are surrounding us. We also understand the great high school coaching that is in our immediate five-hour radius. The tremendous wealth of high school football talent that is within our five-hour radius, and it think we do a good job. I’m even wearing the ‘404’ hat because [11 of the last 13] national champions have come within five hours of where we’re sitting. Making a statement, making a mark, being aggressive in what we’re selling, what we’re marketing, what we’re branding. And the things that we’re branding and marketing are our culture, is this great institution – one of the top-10 academic institutions in America – and you look outside and we’re right here in midtown Atlanta, which is the epicenter of culture in the Southeast, the Fortune 500 companies that are here. So all of those things are appealing. But then they come around, and obviously I can’t speak specifically, but they come around our program, our players and our coaches who have infectious energy and a belief in what we’re doing. And it resonates with a lot of people. So we will continue to do that. We will develop the players that we have at a very high level and we won’t be shy about going after elite talent that fits into what we’re doing here. We’ve done that and we’re doing it at a very high level. But the big thing is as they’re coming into this program, making sure the culture is what it is supposed to be, so that we can have everybody in the organization contribute and as a team play at a very high level. We’re not just worried about recruiting talent; we’re worried about building a team. And there’s a difference. And that’s what we’re actively trying to do and actively doing and doing it at a high level.”

Is it adjustments or just being a young team that contributes to slow starts and much better second halves?

“It’s a combination of things. So what happens is, cumulative reps of different looks over time produces success. In the early phases of this, just the amount of looks that you can rep per what we’re doing offensively schematically, per what you’re doing schematically defensively, over time those add up. And the fluidity of the ability to recognize it, execute it, when there’s a unique look – year two, year three, whatever it is – those are very easy to pick up because we have a global understanding of everything within the program. What happens is, with a young team with some moving parts, some pieces getting moved in and out, the looks change at times and there’s a moment of recognition that you have to have. But you watch it even throughout the course of a game, and definitely throughout the course of the season, the more looks and the more different things that you see, you build a database of how those things get taken care of, and you see us getting better every single day, every single week, and you even see us getting better throughout the course of the game. What teams are doing to us, and building that menu of what we have to do through that. Like Quez Jackson, the second half, those exact same plays that were hitting us in the first half – because they were attacking that position because they knew we had some guys missing – he got better and those same plays did not hurt us in the second half because he had looks at it, he had experience how to defend those things moving forward. And that is the way it has been throughout the year. But we’ve embraced it, this is where are, and we will continue to get better throughout the games, throughout the weeks, and definitely throughout the season.”

VIDEO: Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (pre-Virginia)

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