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Paul Johnson Press Conference Quotes

Oct. 15, 2013

Opening Statement
“Glad to be back at home this week. Finally we get a chance to come back. We had two pretty long road trips and neither ended as successful as we would have liked. We’re playing a Syracuse team that I had really the first chance to take a good look at on Sunday morning and Monday. I’ve been impressed. I think they’ve got some good players since they’ve made the quarterback change. They’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball and getting their running game going. Defensively, they’ve got some good guys inside. [Jay] Bromley and the three linebackers are all really good players. They’ll be a huge challenge for us. We’re looking forward to having a great week of practice and correcting some of the mistakes we made. We have to get away from the penalties, turnovers and beating ourselves. The guy’s attitudes have been good. They were good yesterday so we’ll work hard this week and see if we can’t play our best game of the year on Saturday.

Talk about Cuse’s running game…
“The running backs are both different. They are kind of a one-two punch. Jerome Smith is a big guy. They list him at 220 pounds, but he looks bigger than that on tape. He’s a physical guy. He’s got pretty good speed because he took one about 65 yards against Clemson and we know they run well. They’ve got a little change up back [Prince-Tyson Gulley], who is not quite as big, but comes into the game and gives them a different dimension. They have a big offensive line; a lot of zone scheme, split zone, zone option so a lot that we’ve seen. Then their quarterback, he’s not a blazer, but he’s a hard guy to tackle. He pulls the ball down a lot on the pass plays and doesn’t make negative plays. He’s hard to sack. He’ll pull it down and get a positive play and keep the thing going. They’ve done a very good job running the football the last couple of weeks.”

On Vad Lee’s struggles…
“I think he’s actually getting better with his reads, his fundamentals and his technique on some of the option stuff. He’s getting his weight transferred; he’s doing ok there. We did not run a lot of read option against BYU simply because of the way they were playing and we thought had a scheme to take advantage of the ball on the perimeter. I think in the running game he is getting better. Is he perfect? No, but nobody is. We’ve got to protect him better in the passing game. That’s the bottom line. He can help himself by getting to the right spot in his drops. He’s all over the place dropping right now. But you can understand that with the pressure he’s getting. It’s hard to get set up when they’re beating you to your spot. We have to work on all that and get better.”

Has Justin Thomas played well enough to earn more playing time?
“I think Justin has done some good things and we’ll continue to evaluate and monitor it. If Justin has a good week of practice, then odds are he’ll get to play some this week. It’s ironic, I was talking to Vad yesterday and we were watching the tape, and I knew the answer, but I asked him, ‘It’s different when you’re the starter and you play every snap then when you’re going in.’ He said yes it really is. We were just talking and one of the quarterback draws came up and the play he ran to the right with the linebacker got him by the foot and got him down, I said ‘last year that guy wouldn’t have caught you” and he said ‘that’s what my mom said’. But there is a difference when you’re playing 65 plays as opposed to 15 or 20, just like with Justin, when he comes in he’s fresh and so there may be some value in getting them both in the game a little bit for that purpose.”

Talk about Syracuse DT Jay Bromley…
“I think he’s a good player. He’s a big guy who has got some quicks. He’s an experience guy and he’s got good pad-level. He’s got a good football IQ and he’s a good player. They slide him out to end sometimes in the nickel stuff and make him an edge rusher. He’s just a good defensive lineman.”

What was BYU doing offensively that gave you trouble?
“They were throwing it over our heads that tends to give you trouble a lot. We were in three-deep when they hit the post, which is when we had a young guy in safety jump a crossing route and our corner got on top of it. Then the second time we just got run by and we should have turned around and played the ball where we got the interference call. They hit some pass plays and they hit some play action. Their quarterback did a good job executing. Then a couple of zone read plays we had a couple of guys not play their responsibilities. If you’ve got the quarterback and you don’t take the quarterback, there is going to be a big play. It was just a myriad of those things.

“Down on the goal line we turned a couple guys loose with bracket coverage. One guy is in bracket coverage the other guy is not. It’s the same stuff that happens when there are breakdowns a lot. In the second half, we didn’t have so many. We turned the back loose one time, but he dropped the ball. We got lucky. In the first half they weren’t dropping any and their quarterback was playing well. I think he is a good player.

“I keep coming in here and saying they are good teams, but the bottom line is we’ve played three good teams. They are what 15-3 overall. The team we played out there in Provo is 60-9 I think at home. So they’re a good team. You can’t make mistakes and expect to win. The positive is that we’ve been in all three games. We’ve had a chance to win them all without paying our best game.  I think that makes our guys when they watch the tape more determined to correct the things and stay away from the self-inflicted stuff and play. That’s what I’m excited about. Their attitude is good. Our they disappointed? Yes, but they can see why. As a coach you get frustrated when you go in there and watch the tape and see your guys get run over. But that’s not the case.”

Talk about Syracuse’s defense.
“I think it’s an aggressive blitzing style defense. They’re a stunt blitz team. Sometimes what we do offensively limits people that way. You can give up a lot of big plays if you get caught in certain blitzes against the option. But I don’t think they’ll change their identity. We’re fully expecting a lot of stunts, a lot blitzes and that kind of thing. They haven’t played an option team anything we can find. Scott [Shafer] hasn’t really played one in a long time, so you have to try to look at their tape and look at what they do. What I always try to do is look at it and day ok if I was him what would I. How would I adjust my scheme to play what they’re doing. That is what we’ll practice against and we’ll take a couple different looks and think of what would be the best way for them to play us and if they don’t play us one of these two ways we like our chances. So we’ll get ready for what we think will be the hardest and you go from there. The nature of what we do is built in anyway. We can actually play without hitting the right thing and it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a 4-3 or a 3-4. There are rules built in which is a neat thing about it. But they are very aggressive.”

On what Syracuse does offensively…
“I think they want to run the ball. They try to spread you out but I think they want to run the ball. I don’t think there is any question about that.”

On prepping for teams that have not faced option recently…
“It happens a lot. When you change coordinators or you change whatever, it’s not that unusual.  It’s unusual in conference games normally because you have played. In nonconference it’s not that unusual. When we were at Navy or at Southern and we were in the playoffs, you would play teams you’ve never played or never seen. It’s not that unusual.”

On Vad Lee’s progression as a quarterback…
“You have to manage the game. We talk about that all the time. We can play second and eight. It’s hard to play second and 15. Just like on the option plays, no matter who the quarterback is, if it’s iffy on the read and you’re not sure, hand the ball off. If they tackle the guy, you’re going to be second and eight, especially if it’s iffy. If you pull it, reverse field and start going the other way and try and make a big play, now you are looking at second and 15, second and 16. That’s happened a little bit. Then we’ve had the penalties that got him behind the eight ball. Vad is a very competitive guy. He’s like all quarterbacks. They all want to win. He wants to win. As you said, he hasn’t played a lot and he’s just trying to make plays.

“The guys you can get away from in high school, you can’t get away from. You can’t reverse out and outrun everybody. You have to trust your teammates. It’s just like the other night. Every time they would pop up a guy backside, he would want to stop and go back that way. You can’t do that. The guys were picking him up. You just have to go play side. If the guys play side and don’t get the block, you play second and seven. When you are not winning, then you start pressing and you start to make plays rather than play within the system. It’s experience. Like you said, it’s experience.

“I think Vad Lee is a very talented guy. He’s going to be a good player. As I said in here before, people made him superman before he ever played a game and then they kill him because he can’t live up to their expectations. He’s getting better every week and he’s going to be a good player. You have to give the kid some time. He’s got to have some help. He can’t do it himself.”

On what parts of offense can help Vad Lee…
“They could help him by catching the ball. The first series we have a drop where it could have been a first down where he does scramble and make a play. They can help him with protection. We could help him when he reads the option right and gets the ball pitched and we knock guys down on the perimeter. We don’t run into the guys on the ground and fall down. There’s all kind of areas that you can help him. It’s just like with any football team. You are not going to block everybody, every play. Maybe somebody breaks a tackle and scores. I can think of in the last two or three games, deep passes. Post routes or whatever, he puts the ball right there and we don’t catch it. They knock it out of our hands. We had almost the same identical play that their guy made the touchdown play on.  We don’t catch it. If you catch a couple of those for him, you make some plays, and then all of a sudden his stat line looks different. Is he blameless? No, just like nobody is. I’m not blameless. The coaches are not.

“Everybody has got some accountability and it’s not always the quarterback. I keep saying that as coaches, we evaluate. If I thought he was just playing so poorly, then you’d play somebody. That’s not the case. Would I like for him to play better? You bet. Would he like to play better? You bet. He’s not the problem. He’s not the only problem. He’s getting better. I think he will continue to get better.”

On defensive personnel changes for BYU game…
“I think P.J. Davis has been pretty consistent all year. He plays with a high motor and high energy. I think that what Coach Roof feels like, is that some of those guys, the starters, haven’t played up to his expectations. There needs to be consequences. So if you don’t play well, you’re supposed to take the quarterback and you don’t take the quarterback, something has to happen. It doesn’t do any good to just say don’t do that again. Take your guy. So you give somebody else a chance. I think that’s what happened. I think they did okay. Pat Gamble is a guy we moved out from tackle to end because we finally got Shawn Green back. We actually have Francis Kallon coming along. There’s a guy that everybody wanted to come in on day one and be DeMarcus Ware or something who played a year of high school football. He’s learning. He’s getting better. He’s getting better every week. So he’s to the point where he’s off the scout team and he’s over there with the defense and he may play some. It gives you another guy inside, so we can move Pat outside. Again, he’s a redshirt freshman. Hopefully he will keep progressing. We’ve got Shawn Green back from injury. He’s hurt again but we had him back from injury. That enabled us to move Pat outside. So it’s always a thing. You are trying to get your best players on the field. “

On Adam Gotsis’ progression as a player…
“I think Adam has gotten better too. He had a really good game at BYU. He had a couple of sacks. I think he’s an ongoing work in progress with his hands. We are trying to get him to use his hands more. Adam is a tough guy and loves to play. He’s got good quicks and good speed. He’s probably a little better when he’s moving because he’s not the biggest guy inside. I think he’s getting better. There’s another guy that is a sophomore that is going to be a good player. The more he plays, the better he gets, the better he plays.”

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