Sept. 28, 2015
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson met with members of the local media on Monday to preview the Yellow Jackets’ upcoming home game against North Carolina. Saturday’s game against the Tar Heels will kick at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
“Well, good morning. Glad to have a chance to come back home and play. Even though it has only been two weeks, it seems like an eternity since we have played a game here. We are anxious to get back to work and see if we can get better. We are disappointed with the result last week on the road, but we have got to move on. We have got to get ready for a very talented North Carolina team who beat us a year ago up there in a high scoring shootout. I think that we are better defensively and we are going to have a chance to find out. We have to see if we can get our bearings offensively and can play better than we have the last two weeks.”
On the one thing he wants to see improve on offense
“We have just got to execute better. We have got to coach better, but we have got to execute better. We are getting critical mistakes on third down, third and short, fourth and shorts. I mean, just inexcusable stuff from guys who have played. So when you do that, you never get in a rhythm, you never get anything going. And then I think that we have guys who have started to press. And when they start to press, it gets worse when they get out of the system and start trying to do things on their own. We just have to get some continuity and clean it up. I thought that we had it really simplified last week, but clearly we did not do a very good job getting them ready because we had a lot of mistakes.”
On Ricky Jeune’s performance at Duke
“I thought he made some plays in the passing game. Certainly, we need to utilize him, but we have got to let it come to him. We just cannot be looking for him all of the time. I think Brad Stewart is very capable of making some plays. He just has not yet. And we will try to find a third guy there to spell him some. Now that is a work in progress. Again, losing Micheal Summers at that position was a killer. Christian Philpott misses all of the summer and camp with being hurt so it puts him behind. We just have got to continue to work there and see if we can’t get us a rotation, steal some snaps with some of those other guys, so those guys do not have to play 80 snaps.”
On if he will look at the personnel this week in practice on special teams
“Yeah, we will look at everything. As poorly as we played offensively, and we played poorly, that is the most yards and the most points they [Duke] have given up all year. We killed ourselves. Basically, we gave up three scores in special teams. You snap the ball over the punter’s head, you give up a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return to the 1-yard line. I don’t care who you are playing, you better be really good if you are going to win that game. It is really a credit to the kids that we had chance. And we had a chance to win, had a couple. If we could have finished off some drives just to fight back and come back from that. So, certainly that is an area we have got to clean up.
The kickoff return was a really good kick. It was down to the goal line, it was high, and had hang-time. The punt was a long punt, and I think he kicked it 57 yards, but you have to cover the dang thing. We had two or three guys who run by the ball and miss tackles. Anytime you look at the tape, it is never as good or as bad as you think. When you watch it, there are always going to be usually little things that you could differently that change the total outcome of a play or whatever. Once in a while, you will just get run over. Like I have said before, physical superiority cancels all theory sometimes. But that really has not been the case. We self inflict on ourselves enough damage. To their credit, these kids keep fighting and they don’t give up. But, they dig themselves such a hole. Seven minutes in, we are 19-3 down. You dig yourself into a pretty good hole on the road against a good defense. That is not where you want to be.”
On Justin Thomas being the most experience player and competitor
“He tries to push. You have got to play within the system. There is nothing wrong with the system. We have done it for 35 years. It works. You have got to play within the system and you have to let everybody do their job. And the last example, the fumble, it is a give read so hand the ball off. Now, there are a lot of things that can happen, but he [Thomas] is trying to make a play. He is trying to pull it and outrun them because he is trying to make a play. Would you have made the first down on third and four, I don’t know, but you would have dang sure got positive yardage. If you did not, it would have been fourth and one and you line up and play again. But, that is what happens when you start trying to press. And this week, we have got to fix ourselves. It is like I told the coaches, `we have to fix ourselves.’ North Carolina will have a good team when they come in here, but I am more worried about fixing our problems. We have problems that we have to take care of from an execution standpoint.”
On if Justin Thomas’ pressing has had an effect on teammates
“No, I still think that they look to him for leadership. I do not want to even suggest, remotely, that is the problem, that he is pressing. He can play better and we can coach better, but that is not the issue. He is the guy who gives you a chance. When he is getting all the pressure, if you watch, the first guy seldom gets him. I mean, he keeps things alive and he does stuff. When I say ‘press sometimes,’ I think he tries to do too much as opposed to just relax and play and let it come to him. He is a good enough player and a good enough athlete that it is going to come to him anyway.”
On if there is any effect on the guys who player here last year who were in a similar situation with two back-to-back losses
“I don’t know, you would have to ask them. To me, we have got to get ready to play the next game. You take it one game at a time. And as hard as you try, I think that some guys get ahead of themselves. If you go back and you look, last year’s team got much better as they year went on. That is what this year’s team needs to do, they have to get better every week as we play. And if they do, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.”
On the teams’ overall confidence after two losses
“I do not know. You would have to ask them. I think that generally, today in society, kids are pretty confident guys. I think our guys have played enough here and they have had enough success offensively. I think that they are disappointed in the way we played because that is not normal.
You never are going to be perfect all of the time, but I think they know we can play a lot better than we played. I don’t think the confidence is an issue, I think they are disappointed. Because when they watch it, they cannot believe it. They cannot tell you why they did that. We have just got to relax and play.”
On the defense improving from game at Notre Dame to the game at Duke
“I think the biggest thing is we are better on third downs. This game, we created and got some turnovers in the second half, which was big and got them [Duke] off of the field. But, the third downs in the second half were big. They took some shots. They threw it three times on third and one and did not get any. So you are off of the field. The defense did a nice job in the second half of not giving up big plays and giving you a chance to come back in the game. They played their tail off in the second half.”
On what has gone into Tech having the fewest penalties this season
“We have always been good with penalties. Now I say that and we will have a hundred this week. But if you look historically, we have been pretty good that way.”