Aug. 8, 2009
Head Coach Paul Johnson
“We’re excited to be getting started here on the second season. We have a good nucleus of players back and I’ve been encouraged by the way that we have started out camp in terms of our work ethic. Everybody has good focus and attention to detail. It can certainly get better and has to get better, but it is way ahead of where we were a year ago at this time. We’ve managed to get through six practices now and a couple of them were pretty physical. We had a nice scrimmage this morning without any serious injuries. I don’t think we are in danger of losing anybody we are counting on playing this year for any length of time so knock on wood. A big thing about camp is trying to stay healthy and if you can do that, then you have a chance to do some good things.
“The schedule is awfully tough to start with, which can be good or bad. We’ll know where we stand in the ACC by October, so it’s a big challenge to get ready early on. I think the guys are just looking forward to having a chance to get better and start a new season. Expectations are high and I think their expectations are high.”
On the expectations for the season by the media:
“I think the expectations are more for everybody outside the program. As a football team and coach, you always have high expectations. Everybody starting out in fall camp has high expectations. Nobody comes into fall camp hoping they can win five games. Everybody thinks they are going to win all their games, a conference championship, etc… I don’t know that it’s any different for the players than it’s ever been. The difference comes from the fan base and the media. They (the players) need to learn how to handle that a little bit, but we are six days into camp. Somebody asked me yesterday what the players thought about the preseason (national) ranking and I can honestly tell you that no one has mentioned it. I have never heard a player mention it and we are just going out there in practice and moving on.”
On the high expectations placed on Jonathan Dwyer:
“Jonathan [Dwyer] is such a gifted young man and he’s a great player, but I’m going to be on him to be as good as he can be. Potentially, the sky is the limit for him. There are some things that he can do better and it’s just my nature to tell him when he does something good, but if he does something that it not so good then I’m going to let him know about that a lot harder. Because he has so much ability and can be a great player, we are going to push him and make him be his best. His weight is up a little bit from where he played last year, but if you watched practice this week then you would see he can still go through there pretty well. It’s not like he’s slowed down a great deal, but I just know he could be that much faster if he would drop a few pounds. That’s where I need to push him to be in the best condition he can be and challenge him on his blocking. Those are areas where he is not as good at as running the football. When I challenge him, I don’t want to take away from the fact that he’s a great football player. He’s earned all of the accolades that he has gotten. He’s pretty good right now, but I think he can be better.
On the play of the freshman so far, especially Stephen Hill and Izaan Cross:
“These guys are just getting a chance to play. I think Izaan [Cross] is very mature for his age and strong. Will he play this year? He might. We are still just six days in and we’ll know in a couple weeks. He’s got a chance. In a perfect world, all of those guys would be a lot better if you could red-shirt them and then rest them for next year. If they can help us win games and good enough to get into the rotation and play meaningful snaps, then we’ll play them. A big part of what we tried to do this morning was get those kids a lot of reps. Whenever Stephen Hill came in (today), I was trying to look for him, get him the ball and give him a chance to make some plays. He didn’t disappoint. He made some plays, so if he continues to do that then he’ll probably play.
“Several of the freshmen stood out this morning. I thought Orwin Smith stood out when he got out there and had the ball in his hands. As a walk-on, Robert Godhigh got some people on the ground. Now if he continues to do that, I can guarantee you we’ll find a place to use him. Jemea Thomas was running around and shows up a lot. If he continues to learn and do that, we may be able to use him. You just don’t know right now. Some guys we will play and some we’ll hold onto, but we won’t make that decision for a couple of weeks.”
On the depth this season compared to last year:
“We’re in a better position this year depth-wise than we were a year ago, no question. We’re still under our scholarship limit by three or four and still may need to have some of the guys I would rather red-shirt play to get through the season. After this year, I think we’ll be around where we want to be depth-wise. We still have a really young football team. As I’ve said, there are only six seniors on scholarship. Next year, we should catch up and be back at our 85 scholarships.”
On the preseason poll:
“I don’t pay any attention so that’s why I don’t vote. I think it’s crazy to have a poll before the season starts. There shouldn’t be one until three weeks into the season. It’s really unfair. The way the process is right now, a team that’s one through six or seven can afford to lose a game and still stay in there. If a team that’s 12-20, if they lose, then they have no chance of getting back up to the front. It would make far more sense to me to do it three weeks into the season then you would have a better idea of who was who.”
On the strength of the ACC this year:
“I think the conference was strong last year. Overall, we (the ACC) had the best won-loss record of any BCS conference against BCS conferences. Sometimes perception is reality and all you hear about here is the SEC. Head to head last year, the ACC beat the SEC. What happens is the ACC has not had the marquis team at the top. The SEC has Florida or LSU who have won the national championship recently so it tends to go that way. We played three SEC teams last year and went 2-1. Wake Forest beat Ole Miss, Duke goes to beat Vanderbilt and I could go on and on. Clemson kills South Carolina, but all you hear about is what would happen if you had to play in the SEC every week. That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times you do that. It’s still going to be the perception unless you have somebody at the very top.
“I think the ACC will be very balanced again this year. I don’t know if there is one team better than everybody else. That’s what the SEC has had. That one or two teams who are better than all the rest and we haven’t had it. There is more parity. Everybody has good players.”
Is there as big of a focus on beating Georgia this year as there was last year?
“We had six team goals last year and one of them was to beat Georgia. We didn’t talk about Georgia all year, however. It’s a rivalry game and what I wanted to do was embrace it and not shy away from it. Does it mean more than another game? Yes, playing Georgia means more than playing (some other teams) probably. In a perfect world, they all should mean the same, but to our fans they have different meaning. To them it’s more important, until you lose to (one of those teams). I wanted our guys to understand that it was a big deal, but it was the last game of the year and we honestly didn’t talk about it until it was time to play them. We made some plays, were fortunate to get some breaks and won the game. They (Georgia) could have won just as easily as we did, but we found a way to win the game and you move on. Nothing would be better than for both teams to come into the game this year undefeated. It would be great, but we have a lot of big games before that one. Our team set our goals the other day and we keep them private in the locker room, but we want to go undefeated at home. Georgia is playing here, so yes we’ve got that as a goal.
“I’m big on letting the team set its own goals. Each team is going to come up with something a little different. I appoint one guy at each position to be the spokesman. They meet with the team and then we all come together and they tell me what’s important. I get their six or seven goals and then put them up in the locker room. I talk more about how you achieve these goals than about the goals themselves.”
On the tough beginning on the conference schedule:
“It’s not just Clemson, Miami and North Carolina. The next two are Virginia Tech and Florida State. Those are our first five conference games. It’s tough, but the thing you have to do is get ready to play Jacksonville State and then we’ll worry about Clemson. You can’t worry about them all at once. You worry about beating Jacksonville State and then we’ll have five days to worry about how to beat Clemson. If you’re successful as you go down the line, then each one becomes bigger and bigger. Our goal is to be playing for something meaningful in November. If you can get to that point, then that’s all you can ask for. What will that take? I don’t know, but we’ve got enough guys that have played and hopefully they understand that. That was one of the things we need to be better at this year is consistency. We threw some clunkers in there last year where it was like we didn’t give our best effort at times. Sometimes you can say that’s a young team and sometimes we need to find that hot button to push so we don’t have the clunkers.”
On playing Clemson right off the bat with less preparation time because of it being a Thursday night game:
“It’s not ideal, but Clemson is in the same boat. We both play Saturday and then turn around and play on Thursday. I think as long as both teams have the same deal, then we have no qualms. The one that’s tougher is the next Thursday night when we play Miami. They play on a Monday and then get all that extra time to get ready for the following Thursday night. We have to turn around from a Thursday to a Thursday. It’s no different than if they had a bye the week before. It is what it is and you just have to get ready to play.”
#21 Jonathan Dwyer, RB
On different expectations this season:
“I do not think the expectations are very high; I think they are the same for us. We have a target on our backs, but I do not think we did the best that we could last year. We messed up on some games we should have won. I still think we can surprise some teams this upcoming season.”
On staying grounded with all the hype:
“Actually, I do not think any of us have paid attention to it. Especially at the beginning of the summer, listening to what people thought of us. Some people still doubt us and don’t believe that we can have a good season after last year. This summer we have just been working out and going hard; just competing. Being ranked 15th is all good, but it is better to be higher. We are just trying to get to that point and win the ACC Championship.”
On being more comfortable in the offense:
“We have had a lot more time to expand the offense, instead of just worrying about certain plays. Now, everybody is very up-tempo with the offense and knows what is going on. We are going to try and expand the things we can do, and show how athletic this team really is.”
On individual accomplishments being motivation:
“They motivate me to go out there and play for my teammates. All the awards are great and everything but I will not be satisfied until we win the ACC Championship or if we are a BCS contender.”
#9 Josh Nesbitt, QB
On the defensive line:
“We have a great team and a great defense. I think they are picking up the slack that everybody thinks we are going to have on that side of the ball. They are doing a very good job this year so far.”
On being more comfortable in the offense:
“Last year, I really did not know what I was doing. Now it is about taking things from the film room and going out and executing on the field.”
On being comfortable with the reads:
“Yes, I am comfortable with the reads. It is just the defense that we face during camp; they throw different things at you. You have to be on your feet and adjust accordingly.”
On pressure going into this season:
“We feel no pressure at all, because we control our own fate. Whatever we do, we just have to take everything from the film room and put it out on the field.”
#8 Demaryius Thomas, WR
On bigger passing game this season:
“Maybe it will be, but it was not really that bad last year. I hope there is more this year, but I really do not care right now. I just want to win. If we do that, I will be fine. And if we do pass, I will just have to capitalize on that.”
On freshman wide receiver Steven Hill:
“He is a good player; he just has to learn the offense more. I think the coaches like him a lot. I took him under my wing because I just want everybody to get better. So I got to help them out and watch film with them. I just want everybody to be on the same page.”