TECH HEAD COACH Chan Gailey
On the team getting back into practice
“They’ve come back and worked on the field. Today was the first day that we went out there and worked on a game plan. The others (practices) were just trying to stay in some kind of rhythm. With a week break in between, you’re just trying to get back into it.”
On West Virginia’s offensive schemes
“The one good thing is that you have more than one week to get ready for it. If you only had one week to get ready for all that they do, I can see where that is very difficult on teams. They create a lot of challenges for you on both sides of the ball, because they do have some unique schemes that they run and they do them very well. Not only are they unique, but they do them with some speed on the field.”
On Wake Forest and West Virginia having similar offenses
“I have not heard coach (Jon) Tenuta, or any of the other coaches, say their offense is like them, yet. They have their own way of doing it. The thing that you see is the speed outside, that’s the key. Their quarterback (Patrick White) runs it a ton and Wake’s quarterback (Riley Skinner) doesn’t run it. They’ve got the speed that can get you outside if you’re not careful.”
On the play calling for Tech
“I feel very confident in that. I feel very good about where it is now and where it will be in the future.”
“I think that we’ve done a lot of right things in that respect. Our execution hasn’t been where it needed to be at times, but our thought process was good.”
On the last two games and the offensive play
“I don’t think you can ever do that. It’s always a few things that different people did or didn’t do on the field for you. Things could be different in the next ballgame. Things that we had done earlier in the year that we haven’t done in the last two games, but there’s a lot of little things that go into making things successful on the field. No, I couldn’t say if we fix this than all our problems are solved.”
On the recruiting
“There are probably two or three things. One we have been able to identify our players earlier and see who fits us and get the word to them about what’s unique about Georgia Tech. Having the contract in place and them knowing that this staff was going to be here didn’t hurt. And I think that we’ve been very organized and everybody works together. We don’t have one guy saying that this is my recruit and another guy saying that this is his recruit, they’re all our recruits and everybody has done a good job of team recruiting this year. We’ve just done a better job of getting our message out.”
On how winning against West Virginia could help recruiting
“What it helps is perception for the long run. That’s what it helps you in. Ten wins and getting closer to that goal of being a championship team which is what you keep telling these guys that’s where we are headed, that’s the goal and where we want to be. They see that we are not too far away, and they want to be a part of it.”
On missing on the big plays and perhaps changing the play calling
“That will be a key especially in this game. You don’t want to go out there and take too many shots, because one of the keys to winning the game will be keeping their offense off the filed. Controlling the ball a little bit. So you have to take your shots, but at the same time you have to worry about ball control. That will be a great challenge for Patrick (Nix) in developing the game plan, because you need to keep their offensive firepower sitting over there on the sideline.”
On losing games that Tech does not hit its big plays
“They’re repeating what their head coach has said (referring to Calvin Johnson stating that Tech loses if it doesn’t hit on its big plays). That’s what they have done. That has proven to be the case in a couple of games this year and that’s something that we need to be able to change. We can’t say that we’re not going to be able to execute all the way down the field that we’ve got to take shots and that’s the only way we’re going to get it into the end zone. We’ve got to be able to execute all the way down the field and that includes everybody, that’s not just one or two guys. Everybody is accountable for that.”
On handling a team with this much speed
“They do such a good job with execution and faking the ball that you’re going to get out of position sometimes. Recovery speed is the key. If you get a half or full step out of position, you’re going to have to recover and that’s what our team defense does as a whole. They recover well. We’re not in the right spot every time, but with our speed and quickness we’re able to redirect and get back to the ball and keeping it from being a big play. That’s going to be a giant key, and that’s what Philip (Wheeler) does really well. People forget it’s only his first year playing middle linebacker.”
On the team not being prepared for the bowl game last year and using that to do improve this time
“Every year is different. You adjust to the player’s you have, the bowl you’re going to and the situation that’s involved. Comparing this year to last year is not fair. Anything that you say about previous bowl games where you did play well becomes excuses and I refuse to play that game. It’s my responsibility to get them to play well.”
On the team being resilient and rebounding from last two games
“You think they have and it seems that way, but we’ll know January 1st. That’s when we will really know. You can act anyway you want to while you’re dating, but it’s how you act when you get married. The attitude has seemed to be very good, so far.”
On seeing guys that might have a hang over from the Georgia or Wake Forest game
“My philosophy is to talk to guys individually if I think there is an issue anywhere. If you address the team as a whole, then that would be assuming that everybody feels that way and I don’t think that’s the case. For the most part our guys understand what we have the opportunity to do with this next ballgame and we’re excited about that. Are there some guys that are carrying a heavier load and hurting a little bit more and it’s hanging a little bit longer, there might be and I address those individually, not as a team.”
On Tashard Choice gaining notoriety in this game
“I hope so. I hope they know a lot about him when this is done. A ton. I hope they’re in aw of him when the game is over. You hope he has the kind of ballgame. I think anytime you play on a national stage like this it’s an opportunity for people to see players.”
On him using this game to put his name in the list of top running backs returning
“Sure does. The bottom line for a running back is can he hold on to the football, make yards and stay healthy? He’s proven he can do all of those. You can run the football a lot and stay healthy, but if you fumble it, you’re not going to be in there. If you aren’t healthy, you won’t be on the field. That’s what hurt P.J. (Daniels) the last two years after having that great sophomore year, but he just couldn’t stay healthy or else he might have had two unbelievable years. I hope for Tashard and the team’s sake (that he performs well).”
On Rich Rodriguez’s version of the spread
“It’s innovative. What he has done is taking his personnel and put them in the position to be very successful. He’s got the big fullback (Owen Schmitt) and he uses that guy very well. He’s got (Steve) Slaton and White and he uses them very well. That’s the key to me. Are you taking the guys you got and putting them into a position to be successful and he’s done a great job of that. He may not have those two guys in two years, but I will bet you that whoever they have, he will put them in a position to be successful.”
On Rodriguez adapting his offense
“No, there’s not (a lot of offenses that adapt). A lot of guys won’t do that because they want to be known for a certain type of offense. He doesn’t let his ego get in the way of doing what is best for his team. That to me is what he’s done great. The first time I ever faced him he was in the Run N’ Shoot. So he’s changed a lot during the years.”
On facing their bizarre 3-3-5 defense
“I wish they would play a more traditional defense, that’s my impression. They give you a lot of looks and it creates a lot of indecision for the blockers. That’s the key, because it creates indecision. They can bring people from different places and they move those guys around. It’s the same principal is to what we do defensively, except we use a base four (4-3). They base out of a 3-3 and it really creates identification problems.”
FULLBACK Mike Cox
Did you watch any backyard brawls growing up?
“Oh, yeah. One of my friends played tight end for Pittsburgh, and we went there for a visit during his senior year of high school. It was a Thursday night game. It was a great atmosphere there at Pittsburgh. I watch it every now and then. I always rooted for Pitt.
Is it anything special to be playing West Virginia in the bowl game?
“It’s a good game, and everyone’s looking forward to playing them.”
Watching this offense unfold throughout the season, how have you seen it evolve?
“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve improved, and we keep adding more and more stuff each week. We’re getting more and more people involved, and it opens things up where you can’t just concentrate on Calvin (Johnson). Coach Nix has done a great job.”
Has it been hard to have a new scheme, learning it and building it as you go?
“It’s been difficult, but we started early in the summer when we did seven-on-seven drills by ourselves. We had a script that we put together with our plays so we could get them down pat. We didn’t want to start summer camp not knowing anything, so we got a head start.”
The later you got in the year, Tashard Choice carried the ball more. Can you talk about how vital that is?
“I like to run the ball. We believe that opens up the offense. Tashard is a talented running back. We take pride every time Tashard gets a 100-yard game. We like it when he runs the ball. When he gets 25 or 30 carries, it means we’re doing a good job. They keep giving him the ball.”
On the struggle to score the last two games.
“It gets frustrating sometimes, because we’ll have the right plays called, and sometimes just one person might not do their job. That’s the thing with offense. If one person messes up, it ruins everything. On defense, one guys messes up, someone else can cover for him. We’ve been close the last couple of games.
“We go back and watch the film, we’ll see this split-second mishap that ruins the play. With this long game preparation time, we’ve got a chance to get everything fine-tuned again, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Everyone talks about West Virginia’s offense. Do you find yourselves flying under the radar?
“We know they have a high-powered offense. But we can be pretty explosive ourselves. With Calvin and Tashard back there, we can put up points, too.”
Do you sense the need that you’re going to have to score more points in this game?
“I wouldn’t rather have any defense than ours with Coach Tenuta going into this game. But we know that we’re going to have to have better output on offense because they have such a great offense.”
On starting a legacy for this program.
“We want to send the seniors off right. We won our division in the ACC, which is a good step. Winning this bowl game will get us off on the right foot for next season. Last year, losing the bowl game put a bad taste in our mouths. Wining this one would mean a lot for us and for our seniors.”
On comparing the team’s mindset now versus last year.
“We weren’t really that pleased to be out in San Francisco across the country. This is a great bowl, a January 1 bowl. It’s going to be on national television on a day when people want to watch football. Jacksonville is a great area, and we’ll have a lot of support.”
On West Virginia’s defense.
“They run a little bit of an unorthodox defense, so we’re spending a lot more time (watching) film, seeing their tendencies, but they’re fast, and they have a big and physical defense.”
WIDE RECEIVER Calvin Johnson
How would you describe the mood of practice now that you’ve begun preparing for the bowl game?
“It’s been pretty good. It might have been a little slow because we’ve had some days off, but everyone’s getting after it.”
How would you compare the motivation of this team compared to last year?
“We know we’re in big bowl game. We’re going back to Jacksonville with a good atmosphere. We’re familiar with the field down there, and we’re driven to go out there and perform in the bowl game.”
Do you like what your coaches have done to counteract the way other teams have defended you?
“I’ve had a lot of production this year, and the coaches have done a good job of putting me in different positions to be involved. I agree with everything they do.”
The last few games, the offense has been off on making the big plays that happened earlier in the year. How do you get the timing back on those plays.
“It’s just practice. We have a lot of time to practice and get that rhythm back for the bowl game. If we don’t hit big plays like that, our chances of winning are slimmer.”
Juniors around the country are waiting for paperwork to come back to help them judge where they might be taken in the NFL draft. There seems to be little question where you might be projected. How does that affect you preparing for this game?
“I haven’t even handled it yet. It’s not distracting me at all, and I’ll wait until the season and the bowl game are over with before I start thinking about that stuff.”
Is West Virginia the kind of team that would make you watch them on TV when you have an off-weekend?
“I love to watch those guys play. I talked to Steve Slaton a week ago down in Orlando, and he’s a cool guy. I watch them whenever they’re on. I watched them play Rutgers and Louisville.”
On pressure to be more productive on offense to counteract West Virginia’s high-powered offense.
“It’s just us. We feel that we need to do that because we haven’t in the last several weeks. We know our defense will contain them. We just need to come up with some big plays and put points on the board.”
LINEBACKER PHILLIP WHEELER
What’s it going to be like going up against Slaton and White?
“I think they’ll be tough, but I think we’re up to the challenge.”
They run a different scheme than most teams. How difficult will it be to adjust to that?
“I don’t think it will be too big an adjustment, because Wake Forest, who we just played, has a perimeter-oriented offense with good speed. I don’t think we’ve seen speed like Slaton and White in a while, but I think we can contain them if we execute well.”
On fellow linebacker KaMichael Hall
“He’s very smart. He picks up things fast. We have a complicated defense, but he picked it up very fast. In high school, he may have done some of the things we do here. He also has great heart. He’s a passionate player, and he plays with speed. Those are all keys to his success.
“When he came in, he was a little angry and outspoken. But he’s learned to settle down and listen to coach. He was very coachable, and he adapted to our defense very well.”
On Coach Gailey
“He believes in us, and he knows we can get the job done. He gives us chances to prove ourselves in different ways. If you can’t get along with him, you need to examine yourself. He’s calm. He’s not going to yell at you, but he’ll show you the right way.”
How hard are you looking at the NFL?
“I just want to finish school. I put my papers in and see what they tell me after the bowl game. I just wanted to know for my own curiosity.”
Georgia Tech seems to have recruited very well for the upcoming class. What has happened to make Georgia Tech attractive for recruits?
“The environment here, one. The city, two. Coach Gailey cares about our players more than just football. The players welcome the younger players with open arms and try to help them our as best we can. Coach Gailey doesn’t baby us, either. He lets us find out things on our own. He doesn’t keep up away from the world.
“We’ve done better than we have the past few years, with nine wins. We have an opportunity to get another win that can separate us from a lot of the past Tech teams.”
On West Virginia’s running game.
“I see a lot of speed in the backfield, but I think we can contain those guys if we execute what Coach Tenuta puts in the playbook for us. We just have to contain those guys. A lot of defenses have tried and failed. Some have contained those guys. I think we can contain them because we can match up with them with our speed.”
Did you watch West Virginia play Georgia (last year’s Sugar Bowl)?
“I thought they were too fast for Georgia at the time, but Georgia showed some pride in coming back. I don’t think Georgia executed well against their option. We’re a pretty fast defense. I don’t think we have seen that kind of speed yet, but after watching them on film, I think we can contain them.”