Aug. 3, 2006
ATLANTA – The Georgia Tech football team began practice for the 2006 season Thursday with a morning walk-thru, the annual Georgia Tech football media press conference at noon, and an afternoon practice at Rose Bowl Field. The following is a transcript of the press conference with Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey, along with quotes from selected players from the 2006 team.
Georgia Tech Player Quotes:
#1 Quarterback Reggie Ball
#2 Cornerback Kenny Scott
#21 Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson
#22 Tailback Tashard Choice
#35 Linebacker KaMichael Hall
#68 Offensive Lineman Mansfield Wrotto
#96 Defensive Lineman Joe Anoai
Georgia Tech Head Coach Chan Gailey Press Conference Transcript:
How have your teams been able to be so successful against big teams in your season openers?
You always hope that it happens, but I don’t know what it is. We’ve been fortunate to play well early in the season. You hope it continues one more year, anyway. If I knew exactly what it was, I’d keep it going for the whole year. Our guys enjoy big ballgames, I know that.
Motivation in the off-season was not very difficult this year because of the challenge. It’s very similar to last year. It’s a lot of fun to play in these ballgames, but it’s a lot of work, and these guys have worked very hard in the off-season.
How much different is it because the name is Notre Dame rather than a big name state university?
Obviously Notre Dame has a great tradition, and everybody has heard of them, no matter whether you’re from the North, South, East or West. There is a lot of excitement that surrounds the game nationwide, and I think our guys understand that.
How much should we make out of transferring the play-calling over to (offensive coordinator) Patrick Nix?
Obviously it is (a big deal) because you guys write and talk about it so much. But I think there is only an X amount of plays in football. You can either run it or throw it. There are three downs, and you make a first down or punt it, normally. There are some limitations to what can be different. There will be some new things, there’s a little bit different philosophy in some respects. But the basic philosophy will be the same.
I think that Patrick is a sharp, intelligent young coach. I’m very confident in him, but I should be to have done what I did. It was a decision that had to be made for the good of the program.
What were the things that went through your mind when you were making that decision?
First of all, you have to have confidence in who you’re allowing to take that position. The second thing that happened was that I found myself doing more and more things in the off-season that were not related to football. If you’re going to be quality at your job as a play-caller and offensive coordinator, you have to be able to study film in the off-season. You have to know what the trends are on offense and defense and keep up with that. I had been studying film in the off-season less and less as the years had gone on here.
As a play-caller, instead of expanding, you start to go back to what was good for you in the past. You start to narrow down the gap instead of expand your horizons. You’re tightening up, and I felt like that was not good for our program. We need to continue to expand and learn what’s going on in football and take advantage of those things to help our program. Patrick and his staff will do that, and do it better than me, to be honest with you.
How good is Tashard Choice?
I think Tashard Choice has a great deal of talent and a great heart. He understands the game. Whether he has a great season or not depends on a lot of things. It depends on our line and them staying healthy and doing the job, and whether or not he stays healthy. There are a lot of factors. But he certainly has a great deal of talent, and we have the ability to have a very good running game with him back there.”
What can Calvin Johnson achieve this year?
Obviously he’s a great football player, and you would hope he would go have one of those unbelievable years that every college football player dreams of. One thing that makes Calvin a little bit unique is that he has the same goals for the team as he has for himself. He’s not selfish. He’s a team-oriented guy. His character and the type of person he is makes him unique, anyway. I think he can have a great year.
If you get cocky and full of yourself, you quit working. If you’re humble, then you remember that you’re not the best thing since sliced bread, and you need to continue to try and get better and make your team better. He leads in that respect. He understands that he’s good. But he also understands that he needs to be the best he can be, and that means continuing to work.
On countering defensive focus on Calvin Johnson by using the other receivers more.
That’s a double-edged sword. If you try and get it to other people, then you’re not getting it to Calvin. And is he’s one of the best players in the country, then you’ve got to try and get the ball to him. If you force the ball to him, and good things don’t happen, then you say I should have thrown the one-on-one to the backside receiver.
In addition to Calvin, you’ve got veterans on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a senior quarterback. Is this the kind of team that can be the best in the ACC?
That’s the plan. That’s the goal you go in with. I’m not sure what kind of leadership our team would be getting if I didn’t believe that. The goal is always to win the conference championship. Do we have that capability? No question in my mind we have the capability.
Is [the ACC] the toughest conference?
I’m totally biased, and I do think, top to bottom, it is.
I can’t answer even those questions, to be honest with you. I’ve seen Reggie in about six practices last spring, and I haven’t watched him this summer, so I don’t know what’s different about him going into the fall. Obviously he’s older and more mature. As far as the effect Patrick calling plays will have on him, we’ll have to wait and see.
Where do you see the biggest change in this team from the previous ones you’ve had here?
We’ve got more depth on both lines of scrimmage than we’ve ever had. This is the first time, too, that we’ve had experience at the skill positions and on the line at the same time, offensively. Those two things put us a little bit ahead of where we’ve been the last four years.
Do you feel like this is the best team you’ve had?
It has the capability of having the best record.
Do you think a 12-game schedule year-in and year-out is too much for the guys?
First of all, it is what it is. It’s here to stay. You can grip about it and complain, or you can go on with it. I will tell you that I did not vote for the 12th game. I voted against it.
The one thing that might happen, and maybe not in the near future, is [players] will be able to play five years out of five (five years of eligibility in five years). But I’m not holding my breath on that.
You lost a great leader in Chris Reis. Do you feel good about the leadership ready to take his place?
First of all, you don’t replace Chris Reis. He was a unique person. We were very fortunate to have him. We’ve had some guys step up, but quite frankly, we’re going to have to have more and better leadership than we had in spring practice. That’s a concern at this point.
Is your secondary a concern considering the passing offense you will face in the first game?
It’s a challenge for a secondary that is replacing three starters. It’ll be tough for them. They’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there. That is our biggest area of concern right now.
How would you assess Reggie Ball’s maturation?
Obviously he’s been around a while now. He’s starting three years. He’s been raked over the coals his fair share of the time, some times unduly in my opinion. At the same time, that creates a thick skin and a toughness about you, and you better be able to handle that in this business, especially if you play quarterback. He is a lot stronger mentally than when he stepped on the field three years ago.
On improving the kicking game from last season.
We kicked field goals and extra points in practice every day in the spring to try and get Travis Best back in the groove, back to where he was as a freshman. We’ve worked hard in the punting game. I think Durant Brooks has a chance to have a very good season as our punter. We’re breaking in a new holder, a new punter and a new snapper this year. Bret White will be taking over the snapping duties. There are some challenges there.
Obviously we’ve got some work to do with the teams aspect of that. I have a great deal of confidence in (new special teams coordinator) Charles Kelly and what he brings to our team.