Sept. 12, 2006
HEAD COACH Chan Gailey
“Because Kelley was very successful here. They’re blessed with the same amount of speed. If I were [Andrew] , that would be a person from whom I would try and get some ideas as far as how to return punts.”
After two weeks under the new timing rules, have they had the effect you’d hoped for?
“I didn’t have any hopes (regarding the effect of the new rules) one way or another. They make the rules, you deal with the rules. If you look at the national average, I’d be it’s cut down about 10 to 15 plays a game. I’ve not looked at those statistics, but I would say that’s a true statement. If it’s sped up the game, then it’s good.”
Do you miss those plays?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody’s missed them.”
Would you be surprised if I told you your team ran 120 plays in two games?
“That would sound a little low.”
At least one coach was outspoken about it over the weekend. Is that just something you have to adjust to?
“Sure. It’s like some rules changes that have affected the game in years past, it takes some time to get adjusted to them. In two years, nobody will pay attention to it.”
With two games in the books, can you tell how good your team is at separating one game from another?
“No. I don’t think you can ever say, `You are this good,’ because then you’re talking about how many games you should win. Teams fluctuate week to week depending upon injury, depending upon mentality, depending upon exams, depending upon girlfriends’ attitudes, depending upon thousands of things going on in a college life. There are so many factors that go on, I don’t know that you ever get a feel for it as a coach. You do the best you can this week. Then you go to the next week.
“We’re one team when Michael Johnson is in there, and we’re another team without him. We’re one team with Djay Jones in there, and we’re one team with him not in there. It fluctuates from week to week. We’ll determine that at the end of the year when we see what the record is.”
Does having a couple of leaders on each side of the ball help that process?
“Most successful teams have players that take a little bit of initiative top get things done to get you moving on, from handling adversity to handling `trap’ games. You look for guys that can help you manage those situations.”
How good is Troy, and does its run defense jump out at you?
“What jumps out at you is their speed. That’s the one thing on both sides of the ball and the kicking game, they have great speed. They’re not the biggest team out there. But they can all run, they hit you on defense, they swarm to the ball. They make big hits and knock balls loose.”
How about the mobility of their quarterback?
“He’s made some big plays running the football. When you take some sacks, your rushing statistics look bad. They’ve got an interesting concept on offense. They spread you out. They go empty, no backs in the backfield quite a bit. They make you adjust, spread you out defensively, and see if they can exploit you. They try to create mismatches with numbers outside, where lots of teams try to create numbers inside.”
On carrying over Samford’s spread offense to this week.
“Some of the spread stuff that we saw, and the no-huddle stuff that we saw, that can carry over to this week. But [Troy] does it with different personnel groupings. They’ll put four guys on one side of the ball and one on the backside. Most times you see three and two. Last week was kind of the baby spread. This is the daddy spread here.”
If your kickoff coverage problems persist, would you consider using some offensive or defensive starters there?
“I think we would look at what we have to do to make that the best for our football team. I’m not ready to say what all that might entail. We’ve got to be very smart about how we do things. I recognize that we have issues there, and it’s going to jump up and hurt us if we don’t take care of it. We’re working on taking care of it, but let’s try to take it week by week and keep working at it.”
Is this a fun game for you (given Troy gave you your start as a head coach)?
“I’m grateful for the opportunity Troy gave me. I’m fortunate to have been a part of it. But I’ll tell you if it’s fun around 4 o’clock Saturday.”
Can you walk us through your connection there?
“Charlie Bradshaw hired me. Toughest man I’ve ever known in football, and I was appreciative of the job. I coached the secondary for him, coached there for three years then I went to the Air Force Academy with Ken Hatfield. I had made some good friends on the board at Troy, and when they decided to make a change, they called me to see if I’d be interested. I was 31 years old, and I said yes. I don’t think I asked the salary. We had some good guys, some good coaches, and had two great years.”
They had a reunion recently?
“They had a 20-year reunion of the 1984 national championship team, and they had it in an open week for us here, so I was able to go back there. It was a lot of fun.”
Then you left for the Denver Broncos?
“I went there with a three-year contract. After the national championship, they offered to extend me a year. But I got the opportunity to go, and I left. It was not an easy decision. I loved the kids and the community. Professionally, it wasn’t a hard decision.”
Is it one of those Hollywood stories, a 5-foot-6 quarterback, an undersized line, you won the national championship as time expired on a 50-yard field goal?
“They didn’t play those games on TV, it was so long ago. If they did, the end of that game would still be running on highlights somewhere. It was called the Miracle in McAllen. That was the name of our highlight tape at the end of the year.”
What was the attitude of playing a larger school?
“You love the opportunity to prove to everybody that we could play with these guys. That’s always the attitude. You can’t play football unless you like a challenge. Guys loved that challenge.”
Even if the game is lopsided against you, was it still worth it?
“You don’t say this to the kids, but you make money, which is pretty good to help the overall program. Your alumni love it when you get to do that once or twice a year.”
You see a lot of upsets in these kinds of games in basketball, but why is it so rare in football?
“The scholarship difference is the biggest thing. In football, you have to have a lot of guys doing it right, or you mess up. In basketball, a couple of guys can take over a game. In football, that doesn’t happen a lot. A lot of guys have to be doing it right for you to move the football or to stop somebody.”
In the spread situation you faced with Samford, how important were the two interceptions you had for touchdowns?
“They were tremendously big plays in the ball game. I hope it gives our guys more and more confidence. Being on the secondary sometimes is like being a starting pitcher. If you give up a home run, you have to come back and throw the next pitch the best you can throw and get the next guy out. If they complete one, they completed one, now let’s go and get ready for the next play. Last year, we made some big plays that fed off of each other, and you like to see that happen again. We don’t have the experience yet, so you’re looking for things to raise their confidence level.”
How important is it to see a player like (backup RB) Rashaun Grant come of the bench and make something happen for you?
“He’s a very good football player. He is not a second team player, he’s more like one-and-a-half. We feel very confident about him walking out there and playing anytime he can in order to make plays for us. That run (23 yards in the second quarter) he made the other day was a great run.”
Have you recently played anybody that runs a similar system to what Troy uses?
“We’ve not played anybody who does what they do to the extent they do it. And I’m talking about empty backfield and throwing it every snap. They’ve been very successful throwing the football in their first two ball games. We’ll have to change some of our matchup situations. They do create problems by spreading you out, but hopefully, we create problems by bringing more than they can block. We’ll see how it matches up.”
Andrew Gardner, SOPHOMORE TACKLE
How big a difference has a year made for the offensive line?
I think its made a big difference. I think everyone is a lot more comfortable playing together, so I think that makes a big difference. I think there are going to be a lot fewer mistakes this year when it comes to communication problems, because I think everyone will be on the same page, so I think that year makes a big difference
Talk about how many different schemes you guys have and what helps you guys to have that many in your playbook.
I think its a mixture of experience and athleticism [that allows us to have so many different schemes.] I think we have more of the athletic lines, were not all 330 [pounds] so we have guys that are a little smaller. Even though we are much bigger than we were last year, we have guys that can move and run, and that allows us to do a lot of different things, such as pulling and blocking back. So I think its the experience and athleticism that allows us to do that.
How big a concern is it that when you needed just a yard against Notre Dame, that you couldnt get it?
From watching the film, Im really not very concerned because on one, it was a miscommunication problem, which you know that, with experience, you shouldnt have that kind of thing. But those are the kind of first-game mistakes that youd like to try to avoid, but sometimes they just happen. So one, it was just a miscommunication problem on the offensive line, and the guy just didnt get picked up. Another one, I thought our blocking was pretty good, we just didnt execute all the way across the board. But I think that we have the ability to get people off the yard, and get the one yard that we need, we just made a couple of those stupid first-game mistakes.
Take us back to the beginning with Calvin Johnson, since youve played with him the longest.
In the beginning was a really, really skinny tall kid who had a lot of potential, but wasnt really that much of a freakish athlete, but after a couple of years in high school he just started to grow into himself. By our junior year, it had gotten pretty ridiculous with what he could do to people. The kind of stuff that yall see now, it was all the time in high school too. So when I came here, I was telling people half the stuff that he was going to do, and some people didnt believe me until they saw him.
Has your credibility shot up since then?
Exactly. Some of the old linemen like Brad Honeycutt told me that when I was on my visit that, when I was talking about how good Calvin was, he thought I was lying. But then he saw him during seven-on-seven in the summer and he apologized for thinking that.
Is there any connection that brought you both here at the same time, or was it more of a coincidence?
I think it was mostly coincidence because they really didnt recruit us together. Everybody had been on Calvin a long time, and my recruiting status started to shoot up during the later part of my senior year. I just kind of continually got more attention throughout the year. Georgia Tech was really were I wanted to be, so when they offered, it was pretty much a done deal because thats where I wanted to come. He and I talked about it a little bit, but I dont really think they had any strategy for going for the both of us.
Were you a late bloomer, or were you flying under the radar?
I was really skinny. I played my senior year between 230 and 240 pounds. By the end of my senior season I was 240 pounds. My junior year, I only weighed 200 pounds.
You played tackle in high school?
Yes. I didnt get a lot of attention before my senior year. I got a little over the summer, and everybody pretty much told me that they liked my footwork and my athleticism, but that I needed to be bigger before they could recruit me. That was pretty much what Georgia Tech told me. And when I gained weight, I guess a few of the very first guys that they liked…I was maybe the fourth or fifth guy on their list, and the first couple of guys didnt commit so there was an offer for me.
You also looked at Wake Forest and Duke as well as Georgia Tech?
Yes. Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Duke ended up being my top three.
Did you give any thought to the fact that you would be playing on the same field as Calvin Johnson if you played here?
No, not really. I was just excited to have a playmaker like that on the field with me. I was just glad he didnt go to Georgia, really.
Were the two of you close in high school?
We were friends. We weren’t like really good friends that hung out all the time, but we talked to each other, and we hung out a little bit. We were in different circles a little bit, but we were friends. Its kind of the same right now, we talk some. But mostly when I hang out with guys on the football team, I usually hang out with guys from the offensive line. You sort of tend to hang out with guys from your position groups.
Did you grow into your body, have a growth spurt, or what [during your last year of high school]?
I think it was just started to fill out. I had been tall for a while, I dont think Ive grown much since Ive been in college. I was really skinny the entire time that I was in high school, and I never really got a whole lot stronger. I guess my body just started to mature some because I went from 240 pounds my senior year to weighing about 290 now. I guess Ive just grown into myself.
Did you ever imagine that you would be all-conference and a freshman All-American your first year?
Id hoped. I guess its something you always hope for but you never really know.
What is it like to go from fifth on a recruiting list to that?
I think Georgia Tech was pleasantly surprised. I know it made my high school coach feel good because he pushed me so much for recruiters and it turned out well. I think he gave Gailey a hard time about that.
How much more are you doing offensively with Patrick Nix as the offensive coordinator?
They’ve changed some things. Some have stayed the same, some theyve taken out, and then there is new stuff too, obviously. But for me personally, I dont pay a whole lot of attention to what the wide receivers or backs do, or the way they are hitting the play, or if they are running the counter, or what back is helping us block. I just try to focus on what I do. They may be doing a lot of stuff I dont even know about, but from my point of view, were doing a little bit of new stuff
From your point of view, how much is new?
Most of it. Even things that are carryover have been tweaked and changed, nothing is completely the same.
What is different?
I dont know how to say whats different. The techniques are the same. Just because the play is blocked differently, doesnt mean I do much more different. Were not running the same thing that we did when we first got here. With Samford, we were just trying stuff out. We didnt run the ball a whole lot against Samford, and I guess thats because it was something they were trying to work on for that game. We havent even had a chance to run a lot of different stuff in the games. There is stuff that we have in the playbook that we havent run yet.
Most offensive linemen like long drives, how do you adjust with the different types of plays this team has added in?
For me, when we are doing a lot of passing, I try to take a lot of pride in that aspect as well, trying to keep the pressure off of Reggie [Ball]. So I take as much pride in keeping the defensive end or linebacker or whoever my responsibility is, off of Reggie as I do from knocking the defensive tackle five yards off the ball and having the ball run right behind me. So every play, whatever is called, I get my mind prepared to do whatever Im supposed to, whether its pass block or run block. I guess Ive been playing so long, that its not that hard to switch my mind from one thing to another because it comes so naturally.
Was the Troy score an attention-grabber for you?
It did surprise me a little bit. When we were on the sideline, you could see the scores at the bottom of the big screens. When we were out the entire second half, we were checking the scores and seeing that Troy was beating them, and it was surprising, but I never thought that Troy would be a pushover game. They always have the tendency to play well against really good opponents, so they are the kind of team that you have to prepare for just like anyone else that you prepare for. And I think that they will be a good test before we start the ACC games.
Jamal Lewis, Junior Safety
Have you enjoyed watching the film on your interception return?
I always enjoy watching that. Ive watched it two or three times, and being able to see that block that Darryl Robertson made was great.
How is the secondary different from last year, and what stands out the most?
I just think we are younger than those guys last year, but we also learned a lot from them. They were very knowledgeable as far as the game goes, they taught us a lot to be able to come out here and start this year and help the defense and the team as a whole.
Do you think that, as a group, this secondary is faster than last years?
I think were a little bit faster than we were last year. We have a little more speed.
Is anyone teasing you about your pick?
Nobody really teased me. They just made little jokes asking if I was cramping up.
How different is Troy’s passing attack [from Samford’s]?
It’s close to the same thing. They spread them out a lot and try to catch you off guard, just like Samford did.
Are there any receivers that stand out on Troys team? Not really. They are all good as far as talent, but I think they are equal.
What is the hardest part on moving from outside to inside?
Last year, I played the nickel position, and that really helped me. It helped me as far as learning concepts and formations, so it was helpful moving outside in. Also, on the corner, youre all by yourself. You feel better back there, at safety you have more guys to help you out.
Do you get to help more on run support? Yeah, being able to play the run, being able to sit on tackles, and get my angles and leverages right has been pretty hard, but I think we got it down.
Have you added weight to your frame to play in the secondary?
Yeah, Ive gained 5-10 pounds.
Is it better to blast someone or take it to the house?
I think its better to take it to the house. I like doing both, but I guess when you take it to the house, the fans really get into it, as do our teammates.
Will it be different, having Avery (Roberson) out there with you?
In a way, but Avery brings a lot of experience out there, and I think I could learn things from him.
Do you pay attention to Tech’s defensive standing in national rankings?
No, not really. I dont pay much attention to the newspapers or the media and what they are saying. It would be nice to be ranked nationally, but its not something we focus on.