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Paul Johnson Conference Quotes

Sept. 11, 2012

Opening Statement:
Good morning, it’s great to be back. Coming back off of a good win, I think that clearly everybody understands that the competition level is going to increase this week and continue to move up, but I was proud of our guys the way they bounced back from a tough loss. It looked like we had the momentum and looked like we were going to seal the deal. To Virginia Tech’s credit, they came back. Our guys could’ve let that linger. But they didn’t, and I thought we came back and played extremely well defensively early in the game.  We had a few hiccups on offense, and a penalty that killed a drive, and some different things, but all in all there were a lot of positives and we need to continue to get better this week against Virginia. It’s a big game and I tell our guys all the time from a conference standpoint: If you want to be in the conference race, you can’t lose conference games at home. We’ve got them coming in, they’re 2-0 and flying high so it will be a challenge for us this Saturday.

On moving Will Jackson to offensive tackle…
It’s kind of a situation where we’re working to get our five best guys on the offensive line and get some depth, early on in camp we were counting on Morgan Bailey, but he’s been injured and is having a hard time getting back out there. Will can still swing and play both, he’s one of our smarter guys, but if you look at it you have Shaquille [Mason] who had been sitting out who is also one of our best players, so it enables us to get Shaq out there at the same time with Morgan and Will, and continue to bring Bryan Chamberlain along as a redshirt freshman. He started the last game and did some things and Tyler Kidney started and played some, but we talked about trying to leave Ray Beno on the left side where he’s more comfortable, and by moving Will to right tackle we can do that. If by chance Morgan Bailey gets back out there and can stay out there and play, Will can always slide back in because he has played guard for two years.

On why the defense seems to be playing a lot faster….
As we move along in the competition, we will increase there too.  We’re hopeful; I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen. I thought for three quarters we played real well at Virginia Tech, and in the last game the first group played extremely well out there.  We will continue to get better; I think it is guys that have just played. You’ve got a lot of guys over there that have played now, are a little more comfortable and have a lot of confidence. We hope to carry it forward.

On the type of problems Virginia presents offensively…
Well, their quarterback has played really well the past two games. He has completed about 65% of his throws I think. The running back is a great player, great receiver coming out of the backfield. Our big problem is last year they ran flat over us. They rushed for 270 yards and kept the ball for most of the time. We’re used to winning the time of possession pretty handedly and they did a good job of holding onto the ball last year, and staying on the field so that will be a challenge. It’s a lot of the same guys up front, same running backs, so we’ll need to see if we can’t stop the run.

On Virginia’s offense against Penn State last weekend…
I think Penn State’s probably pretty good up front, defensively. They look to be pretty good on tape. It was just kind of one of those games. The other thing is they turned the ball over a lot. That gets you out of sync and you lose your turn, and they had four turnovers so when you do that it’s hard to get into any pattern or continuity. I’d like to think they’ll do that again but I’m not going to kid myself. Most time you’re not going to follow up with the same kind of deal so we have to be ready to maximize. The thing that was impressive to me is defensively Penn State missed some kicks, but they kept getting the ball in the red zone and Virginia kept making them have to kick. They didn’t give up the scores and stayed in the game, and so they found a way to win as a team. When you can do that without playing your best game, and I don’t think they did, then that says something about them as a team.

On this game being a measuring stick of how far the defense has progressed…
Yes, I think that’ll be another clue. As I said before the season, I think you have to play four or five games before you really know where you are. You’ll have an idea about your strengths and your weaknesses and all that, four or five games in, but this will be a challenge. This is probably the best offensive team we have played to this point, I would think.

On where were you during 9/11…
I was the head coach at Georgia Southern and I was sitting in my office watching some tape, and the secretary came in and said “You need to turn this off.” I remember turning on the TV and the first one hit, they thought it was something funky, but with the second one you knew something big was going on. That’s basically what I remember. We were getting ready for a conference game against Wofford or somebody, and you kind of just stop preparing and figure out what you’re going to do with the team for the rest of the day because you knew it was something major. Of course they ended up cancelling all the games and doing all that kind of thing, but I remember I was watching film in my office.

On maybe playing Vad Lee in conference games…
We’ll see. I’m going to try and play him some. I’m not going to commit myself to saying he’s going to be in on the second series or third series or whatever, I’ll play it by feel to some degree. Vad and I will know that and nobody else will, but I think he did some positive things and he’s got great upsight. I’ll be the first to tell you he has a lot of things to work on, but the thing that is remarkable about the position is that the most popular guy on the team is the backup quarterback. And once Vad plays for awhile, it’ll probably be Justin Thomas. Everywhere I’ve coached, that’s just the way it is. Anthony Harrell went in at linebacker and knocked the snot out of some people and caused two fumbles, and nobody wants to know if he’s going to play again. Trey Braun went in as offensive guard and played really well, but nobody’s wondering when he’s going to play again. It’s the nature of the position, but he’s got ability and we’re going to try and bring him along, and not throw him to the lines. He’s still a redshirt freshman and still has a long time to be here and a long time to learn, but we’re excited about where he is.

On the team’s attitude after the win against Presbyterian…
I can assure after the film session on Monday that they did not feel very good about themselves. I mean, they got taken to the wood shed on several things.  I’ve challenged them, the ball was out, and we were told too they were overmatched. They can look at the film, they’re not dumb; they know we haven’t arrived. Thus moving positions and shaking some guys up, and the way practice is structured we’ve got some issues on the perimeter, we’ve got some issues in a lot of places that we need to get cleaned up. So I don’t think they’ll kid themselves by being full of themselves. Not yet; not after one game.

On sophomore running back Zach Laskey
He did really good running. He’s still got some work to do blocking, but they all do. We have to do a better job coaching them at that position to block.  I think the more he plays, the better he’ll get at it. The good news is they’re not afraid to block, not afraid to run up in there and do what they have to do. It’s kind of relaxing and as you can imagine, for a guy that was in his first start at home on a Saturday night, he forgot he was on the punt team. He was pretty keyed up and fired up like a lot of young guys will be, so the more he plays, the more relaxed he gets, the better he will do. Charles [Perkins] is battling through some injuries a bit, but he’s trying to fight through, and Broderick [Snoddy] is learning the position so we’ll see when we get David [Sims]back full speed how it sorts out. Zach’s got some quickness and he hits it up there pretty good. 

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