Oct. 16, 2007
October 16, 2007
GEORGIA TECH WEEKLY FOOTBALL PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
HEAD COACH Chan Gailey
You coached at Air Force. What sets these kids apart from the players you have?
“Our guys are closer to service academies than some other places I’ve been (or visited) before. The character, the class, their commitment, the discipline that they have is unbelievable. John Q. Public does not know what those young men go through on a week-by-week basis. Their summer is not like our guys’ summer. They do some pretty unusual things in the summertime. It’s a great challenge, and I have a great deal of respect for anybody that plays any sport, and football in particular, at an academy.”
Can you give an example of what it’s like for them?
“We had players at the AirForceAcademy go through, it’s called SERE, Search, Evasion, Rescue… They would go out and lose 25 pounds because they were out doing these maneuvers. I don’t know exactly what they did, but they came back 15, 20, 25 pounds lighter for having gone through this. Those kinds of challenges, our guys don’t understand, don’t know about. That’s just one small example.”
Mike Cox said what hit home for him was that he could lineup across from someone he will block that, in another year or so, might be fighting for our country somewhere. That’s not something that happens every Saturday.
“I insinuated something like this to them Sunday night in our team meeting. These guys play with toughness, because they’re tough guys. These guys play with discipline, with technique, with fundamentals, because that’s what they live with day in and day out. You’re going to have to execute to win the game, because they’re not going to give you anything.”
Three or four weeks ago, could you have thought that Tashard Choice would have the kind of run he’s having now?
“No. Eight weeks ago I could’ve, but not three or four weeks ago. It’s just amazing the turn of events in his season.
Does he become more durable when he suffers an injury and comes back?
“I think it’s mental. Durability is mental toughness as much as it is physical. Some guys will themselves not to play when they’re nicked up. There are some guys who will themselves TO play when they’re nicked up. He falls in the latter category. That’s why he’s the leader and has the production and the durability that he has. Who knows, for two games he sat more than he played, maybe that has allowed him to be fresh to this point.”
How much does it help your offense when you move the ball this well on the ground after you struggle in the passing game?
“When you can run the football, all of a sudden when you run the bootleg away from Tashard running over here, you know where a bunch of them are going to be. They’re on that side, and you can run the bootleg out the other direction, and you’ve got nobody out there but Taylor (Bennett) and the receiver, which we had two or three times last week.
“It helps our play-action pass. The drop-back passing game still has to be about protection and route-running, throwing and catching. But it really helps your play-action game to be able to run the football like that. And when you do that, you stay out of third-and-long, and when you stay out of third-and-long, your third-down percentages go up, and your drives go up, your time of possession goes up. It all works together. It’s just the way the game is set up.”
You haven’t won two straight games since the opening of the year. Do you need to put some games together?
“That’s the plan. You just can’t sit here and say you’re going to do it. We want to win one more in a row. You can’t win two in a row unless you’ve won one in a row. We’ve won one in a row, now the goal is to win two in a row. If we can find a way to win this one, then our goal will be to win three in a row. That’s just the way it works.”
Does winning one, then losing one, build on itself after a while?
“When you win, you gain confidence. When you lose, you lose confidence. There’s a confidence swing that you go through during the course of a season. If you can win three or four in a row, and you’ve got confidence without being cocky, then you’ve got a chance. That’s the key. I heard a quote one day that I thought was great, and that was the greatest test of courage is to suffer defeat without losing heart. That’s what you try to do on the other end of that, and you’ve always got a chance to turn it around.”
How well do you feel you’ve been able to capitalize on the field position Durant Brooks’ punting has brought your team?
“That’s called hidden yardage. When you look at our punt return average, which is about 11 yards (per return), and you look at our punting average, which is around 40 or so, then compare that to the teams we play, you gain every time you punt the football, maybe one-and-a-half first downs, 12 or 14 yards. If you do that on a consistent basis, you’re going to put yourself in a position to win.
“One thing we feel like is that it’s hard to go 80 yards against our defense. You may move the football a little bit, but it’s hard to go that far against our defense. We’ve been able to put people, because of Durant and the punting protection and coverage that Charles Kelly has put together, in tough positions for the most part to try to go that distance on our defense.”
Army has got a lot of people on their depth chart. Are they that varied in what they do?
“They have a lot of things they do. They’ll play nickel, they’ll play dime, they’ll play different sets of four downs (linemen) when they come with pass rush. They play different sets of linebackers depending upon situations. On offense, they’ve got every package that you can imagine, a little bit of option, a little bit of finesse, a little bit of power ball, a little bit of bootleg. They’ve got a receiver (Jeremy Trimble) that you’d better be able to control. You’ve better be able to stop the run and know where Trimble is.”
Is it the most expansive formation book you’ve seen?
“For one type of quarterback, yes. When you prepare for different quarterbacks, that’s a different set of circumstances. Now that you’ve got one type of quarterback you’re dealing with, but all of this offense, it is probably the most that we’ve had to prepare for. And they do an excellent job on special teams as well, very solid and consistent. They’re punter can nail it like ours can. It will be a very interesting and challenging game from those viewpoints.”
You had Josh Nesbitt in the game again last week. Are you happy with the direction that’s going?
“I want to do more, but games dictate that. The plan is to continue to play him. At what level each game, I don’t know. It depends on the game. We’re continuing to try and change things for him, give him different things so that he can get an overall view of what we’re trying to do on offense.”
How hard is it to try and decide when to use him?
“We try to say third or fourth possession, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Some times we throw him out there just for one play to try and keep them off-balance. You’re trying to keep the defense off-balance. It’s something else (for the defense to prepare for). They had to use a timeout. We out him in there, he gained 14 on the first play, and they had to call a timeout to get what they wanted to do. If you can gain an advantage, that’s all you’re trying to do. That timeout may have been big at the end of the half.”
You’ve got a similar situation with Dwyer and Evans at running back. How do you strike a happy medium?
“There are not enough footballs to go around. That’s just the way it is. Everybody’s not going to get the football as much as you would like them to. So, you’re trying to do what you think is best to win that game. Then you worry about that other stuff as time goes on. The key is to get guys into the game when it helps you win that game. We’re fortunate. There are a lot of place where they’re hunting running backs. We’ve got some very good ones.”
What has it been like for you as a coach to watch Philip Wheeler grow since his freshman year?
“First of all, it’s gratifying as a coach to see that happen. You tell a guy, we want to give you an unbelievable opportunity at a great education, an opportunity to be the best player you can be, and to be the best man you can be when you walk out of here. Those are the three things you talk to them about. He is close to all of those.
“He’s really come a long way since having his hand on the ground (as a defensive end) as a high school senior. You didn’t know if he could play `up’ or not. But he has developed into a great linebacker. He had his hand on the ground every snap in high school as a defensive end. You could see his talent, but you didn’t know if he could develop into the player he has developed into today. It’s been a lot of fun.
“It was tough to red-shirt him as a sophomore, but that may have been the best thing that’s happened to him.”
Do you believe he’s the best blitzing linebacker in the nation?
“I don’t know that, but I know he is really good. I haven’t seen them all, so it’s hard for me to say he’s the best. But he’s got to be up near the top if he’s not the best.”
When he had his hand on the ground, did you see his knack for making big plays?
“He made a lot of big plays. He hustled, he ran the ball down. You could see the speed and the agility and the quickness. But to make the plays he’s made during the course of his career, I didn’t see that.”
When you first went to Air Force, did you have an appreciation for what a football player’s life is like at a service academy?
“I had no clue, I’ll be honest. Navy had recruited me a little in high school. But I had no idea what those young men do to be able to play the game. They play there because they want to, not because they’re on scholarship.”
Darryl Richard, Jr, DT
Do you think you still have a chance in the ACC as the other teams you are waiting to play have performed well?
“I’m one of those eternal optimists so I definitely feel we have a chance until we are mathematically eliminated. Georgia Tech has a chance! That’s our approach going into film everyday and going into practice everyday trying to get better; going out there saying if there is still an opportunity for it to happen then I need to get ready as we come to compete for the championship.”
Do you feel that consistency is an issue?
“I think we are definitely becoming more consistent. The thing that is funny about running a football is that there are so many different ways to do it. It gets recorded as one blanketed stat rushing defense, but you have teams that try to attack in so many different ways. Some teams will come out and try to play powerful ball, some teams, as West Virginia did, they like to spread the field out to execute their run game. What I like is that we are becoming more successful against different styles of the run and I think that is definitely going to pay dividends for us in the next six games.”
What is it like to see Tashard (Choice) on a 35 + carries streak?
“You get to smile more. Because when you know he is out there ripping and running, that’s plays you don’t have to be on the field allowing yourself to be worn down. One thing we noticed last year, as the season goes on and the game goes on he is one of those players who gets stronger and when you see a guy getting better week in and week out you start to feel good about the outlook, especially those games that are coming at the end of the season. You begin to say, this is a workhorse. He is still kicking strong even with a hamstring injury. It shows that he can fight through adversity and keep going. So when you watch it on the sidelines you begin to admire that style of play and you are happy that that guy is one of your teammates. “
Tashard Choice, Sr., RB
How has the streak that you have been on happened?
“I can’t explain it. I can’t say how I was able to run the ball. I just prayed about it, it was out of my hands, and just put it in God’s hands and everything else just happened by itself. Coach believed in me and it all started from there. We had great blocking up front. Mike Cox, (Colin) Peek, and the receivers; those guys did an excellent job. So I had a chance to feed them all some pot pies. I brought them all up here yesterday I even gave them to the coaches. My mom made 24 chicken pot pies.”
Did you ever worry that it would end earlier?
“I went out and when I ran the ball against Maryland on that long run, I had the chance to score and I couldn’t run out. I really got so frustrated, but then I turned around and kept working on it. Then last weekend against Miami I did not feel it at all. It’s still maybe a little tender to be on it but I did not feel it at all. So I was ecstatic. I was happy that I did not have to have treatment on my hamstring all week and have to get up early in the morning to work on it and actually get to that stage to get better. So hopefully we can play this game, rest up next week and I will be about 100 percent going into Virginia Tech.”
Tell us how you felt about being named ACC (Offensive) Back of the Week.
“It was exciting. Once again to my line, those guys did a heck of a job if you watched the film. They were really physical on the front line. On the first time we ran the football you could really tell. So getting an award like that is an accomplishment but also as a team on the offensive side of the ball.”
Mike Cox, Sr., FB
What is it like to see Tashard (Choice) running over 35 times a game?
“That’s what we like to see. We know that we love to run the ball. Pass blocking is alright, but I prefer run block. And when he does well that means that I am doing my job good. And if he is able to do so many carries then I think he is doing a great job.”
Are you surprised by Tashard’s comeback with his injury to his hamstring?
“Well, no, because if you know Tashard you know that he is a gamer. He knows what his body can handle. He did a great job rehabbing and taking care of it during the week. It doesn’t surprise me that he was able to play. This is our senior year. This is all we have left. If there is anyway I can describe him, he’s a gamer.”
Has the schedule been a little quirky for you?
“Not really. Our running back coach (Curtis Modkins) tells us that this is a business here, we’re playing college football. So we have to come in here every week not doing anything different, this is just another game. We have go in there and bring our [brief] cases to work and do the same thing every single week, no matter who the opponent is. Just go out there and do the same thing.”