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@GTPaulJohnson Press Conference Quotes

Aug. 26, 2014

Opening Statement
“Good morning. In some ways it seems like it’s been a long time since we played and in other ways it seems it’s come around really quick again. We’re excited to be in game week. I know the guys are excited to play somebody in a different color uniform. The first game of every season is always exciting and I think the guys always look forward to it especially when you have the chance to play at home.” Justin Thomas’ first year as a starter “I feel good about Justin. He played a great deal the year before. He fits what we want to do. He’s had a good spring camp and a good fall camp. And for that matter, so has Tim Byerly. So I feel good about that position being able to deliver what we want to do with the offense.”

Controlling emotions in season-opener
“I don’t think it matters who you play, the first game there’s going to be the butterflies, the excitement and the adrenaline flowing. You just have to settle down. Everybody’s different, but Justin has been on some pretty big stages — a state championship in high school or playing here in critical times. His demeanor is not one of real excitement and high strung. He’s a more laid back type of guy anyway.”

Wofford’s Defense
“I think they’re very well coached. When I was the head coach at Georgia Southern we had the opportunity to play them every year and Mike [Ayers] and his staff have done a good job. He’s been there quite a while. They’re probably not as big as some of the guys we’ll play, but they’ve got great quickness. [Tarek] Odom’s a really good player. They have another outside linebacker, a senior, [Travis] Thomas who’s a good player. It’s not like they’re going to lineup and not know what they’re seeing. We’re very similar to what they do offensively. I’m sure it will be a good test for us.”

Comparing Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly to past quarterbacks
“Probably not quarterbacks here [at Georgia Tech].I would compare Justin a little bit to a cross of Lamar Owens at Navy and Greg Hill at Georgia Southern. Greg was really quick. Lamar was more quick than fast. Greg was really fast too. I think Justin’s a little of both. He’s got a good release. I said earlier Tim is not slow, but he’s more of a run through you than a run around you guy. He reminds you a little bit of Josh Nesbitt in that way. Very tough. Hard-nosed. Not afraid to put his head down and get a yard when you need it.”

The return of Isaiah Johnson
“I think it gives it a lot of stability. He’s played a lot of football. He’s probably going to be rusty a little bit early in the year because he missed a year of playing. But you can’t substitute all of the things he’s seen and all of the experience he has back there. You talk about playing and not being rattled and all of that, well the more you’ve been thrown in the fire the better you should be. The more second nature it should come to you. Hopefully he will bring that to that position and hopefully so will Jamal [Golden]. They’ve both played a lot.”

The health of the team
“Well I think it’s crucial. And the more you play, the more crucial it’s going to be. At this day in age, I don’t think there’s any team out there that has unlimited depth. There are always going to be positions that you are thin at. Keeping guys healthy is key to having a good season no matter what you do. And if they’re first team players that means they are first team players for a reason. That means they’re better than the guys backing them up. So making sure that those guys are healthy and get to play, the better you’re going to be. Charles Perkins came to Georgia Tech with a shoulder injury with which most people wouldn’t be playing. When they finally did the surgery on it, the team doctors didn’t think he would play again. That [injury] didn’t happen at Georgia Tech. That happened in high school. That’s the case with a lot of these guys. And then when you get to a higher level where the game’s a little faster and a little stronger it shows. But I think Shawn [Green] and Charles both could have great seasons if they stay healthy. Charles has had a really good camp and I think he’s back to his old self. And Charles has played a lot. We forget that a couple years ago he started a couple games at B-back. He’s played a lot.”

The return of Jamal Golden
“Well Jamal was tremendous as a return guy before he got hurt. Two years ago he was really great and last year he got hurt so we only got a few games out of him. I think he’s a weapon as a returner, but we think DeAndre Smelter is a pretty good returner too. So you have two guys back there who can return punts and kicks. One of the key things we’ve talked about as a team this year and one of the five or six metrics we are going to measure this year is field position. They can do so much to that. I think that’s a real team stat. It involves the defense, the special teams and the offense. That’s something he can help out a bunch. If you just get a first down every return, that’s a big deal.”

The differences between the offenses of Georgia Tech and Wofford
“It’s pretty similar. They do the same thing. What we run and what most people run in college is pretty similar. There’s a little difference. We’re under center and they’re in the gun. Wofford does a little bit of both. Wofford will look like what we did a year ago. That’s the best way I can describe it. They’re in the gun about half the time and they’re under center half the time. In fact, they run a lot of the same plays we ran out of the gun. Then they try to run some of the very same plays we run under center.”

The differences between the blocking schemes Georgia Tech and Wofford
They’ve got their ways of doing it just like we do. The scheme of things are the same. It’s just like any team that’s in the gun doing a zone read. It’s the same thing. They’re reading guys. If they don’t close down, they hand the ball off. If they do close down, they pull it. They’re just zone blocking. We zone block sometimes. Sometimes we veer block. The misnomer that on every play we try to cut guys is just ridiculous. It’s never happened. People think that we just line up and try to cut guys. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The expectations of true freshman KeShun Freeman
“Well KeShun [Freeman]’s not starting. He’s going to be the backup to [Roderick] Rook-Chungong. He came in early and I think he’s got a really bright future. He’s got a great motor and good quicks. He’s tough. And he cares. And by saying that I mean it’s important to him to be right and to do the right thing. He wants to be really good. And my experience has been, guys who want to be really good if they are truly committed, they usually end up being pretty good especially if they have the ability he has. I think the sky’s the limit for him. I think he’s going to be really good. Is he going to come out here and be Derrick Morgan as a freshman? I don’t think you can expect him to do that. He’s going to make some mistakes, but he’s also going to make some plays. And what I’m saying is that when he makes a mistake he takes it to heart. It bothers him. He wants to be right. And usually guys who are accountable like that end up being pretty good.”

Coach Paul Johnson’s relationship with Wofford head coach Mike Ayers
“We’ve had a good relationship. Like I said, I was in the Southern Conference for five years at Georgia Southern and Mike was the head coach at Wofford. Before that I knew Mike when he was at East Tennessee State. He was the defensive coordinator there for a while – actually the head coach at East Tennessee State. I’ve known Mike for a long time. We’ve never really had time to sit down and talk football and share ideas simply because even when I left I had a lot of young protégés still at Georgia Southern who were still in the league with Wofford. This is probably the first time now that we could sit down and talk and we find ourselves playing each other. I’ve got a great deal of respect. Wade Lang is the offensive coordinator there. He’s been there from a player to a coach. He’s probably been there for 20 years. They do a good job. All you have to do is watch the tape and you can see they know what they’re doing.”

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