Paul Johnson Weekly Press Conference

Sept. 6, 2016

Opening statement:
“We are excited to get back home this week and have a chance to play at home. I’m looking forward to having a chance to play again. We didn’t play as well as I would have hoped a week ago. I think you have to give Boston College some credit, they played well, but we can hopefully play better than that. It is going to be a big challenge for us this week to try and up our game. I am sure Mercer is excited about having the chance to come here and play at Bobby Dodd. They have a number of players from the metro Atlanta area and a lot of in-state players. I know what that would be like for them having coached at Georgia Southern at one time, so I am sure they are going to be fired up and excited to play and we need to be as well. It is our first home game and a chance to get back out there and see if we can’t execute and play a little more physical and a little better than we did a week ago. “

On facing a highly motivated team (Mercer) with a lot of in-state players and matching their intensity:
“You would hope you would do that no matter who you play but I think especially this week, the guys who played, there are still a few of them who learned a valuable lesson a couple years ago when we played Georgia Southern (a 42-38 win in 2014). We came out with some intensity and got into the game, and then we got up 35 to 7 and put it on cruise control and almost lost the game. It will be a challenge to come out and play and play consistently. Mercer has a lot of kids that have played football. Their quarterback has played every game since they started back (in 2013) and they have some experience on the offensive line. Defensively, they’re not as big as most teams we are going to play but they run around pretty well. They also have the advantage of coming off playing a team that is very similar to us in style last Thursday night (The Citadel), so they have had all (of) camp and two weeks to get ready to play. There probably isn’t a lot that you’re going to do that will surprise them. I am sure they are coming in with the attitude of ‘there is nothing to lose, caution to the wind and let’s go play and see what happens.’”

On facing an athletic quarterback that can pull the ball down and run (Mercer’s John Russ):
“We seem to have that problem at times. We have to do a good job at staying in our rush lanes and trying to contain the quarterback and continue to fight to get pressure when they do drop back and throw. My take watching them, I think they would rather run the ball if they can, but they are not afraid to throw it if you stack the box. Certainly, if you give them the numbers they will throw bubble screens out there.”

On who needs to “make the jump” from Week 1 to Week 2:
“Who do I look to make a jump? All of them. None of them were very good. Some areas were better than others but I mean you go right down to physicality on offense, eyes on defense, leverage, missed tackles, missed assignments, misalignments. I mean all the stuff you have to do every week we can get better at all of it and we need to. (Place kicker) Harrison Butker was pretty good, so hopefully he can continue to build. Other than that, I think everyone out there can probably get better.”

On Justin Thomas being more of a vocal leader:
“I thought he did a good job on Saturday. He handled himself and that was a real positive for him. Last year, when things were going bad, just body language and all that (wasn’t ideal) but he did a much better job (on Saturday). I thought that he really made some improvements in that area. I think as far as the team goes, they believe in him. They have seen enough in practice and games and he is a pretty confident kid. I mean I don’t think he is doubted himself at all. I think he would be the first to tell you he could probably play better but it’s as much mentally as it is physically for him.”

On Mercer perhaps being a team that Georgia Tech could overlook:
“My challenge to our guys this week, I told them the same thing I told you: it’s about us. It’s about who you want to be and what you want to be. Do you want to be dead average? Because that’s how you played on Saturday. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and call you average. Or do you want to be good and if you want to be good, you better work and come out and play better and play harder, more physical, more accountability. It doesn’t take ability to look at who you’re supposed to look at. That’s not hard. Everybody should be able to do that, as opposed to try to stand and guess what play is coming. Just do your job and do it to the best of your ability, as hard as you can do it. Are you going to be perfect? No, nobody is ever perfect. But you’ve got a chance of being much better if you do what you’re supposed to instead of trying to freelance and do those kinds of things.”

On Mercer:
: “They’ve got good skills guys. Watching them on tape, their quarterback is a good player. (No.) 84 … Marquise (Irvin) is pretty good. They’ve got some pretty good skills guys. Their running backs are adequate. Anybody you play will have good players. Certainly there are teams that will have really good players but everybody is going to have some good players so you have to get ready to play.”

On Georgia Tech’s true freshmen:
“We have planned on playing some guys but we’ll just let it unfold as the year goes out. It’s a long season. Fortunately we’ve done really well on the injury front so we haven’t had to (play a lot of true freshmen) but there’s some other freshmen (that didn’t play last week against Boston College) that are going to play.”

On what pleased him last Saturday:On importance and urgency of strong start against Mercer:
“I think we try to do that every game. You want to get off to a good start in very game. But I’m a big believer in you play one play at a time and good, bad or indifferent, you’ve got to let it go. Sometimes it’s harder to let the bad ones go more than it is the good ones but if you don’t, you’ll just put yourself in a bind. I always usually tell them right before we go out or at the hotel or sometime, I’ll reemphasize the ‘one play at a time’ deal. It’s your first game at home, you’re coming off a game where you didn’t perform really well, if I’ve got to motivate you, you’ve got to go sit your butt over there on the bench. You ought to be motivated to come out and play. That’s all overhyped anyway. Guys that want to play, play. I said last time we won 38 games in a row at home at Georgia Southern, we’d come out of the same locker room (as the opposing team) and they’re all jumping up and down, (saying) ‘We ready, We ready.’ Well when the game started, they weren’t ready, the other team. Our guys were just quiet, they walked on the field. They were ready because they knew how to play. You can jump and shout and dive and turn cartwheels but the first time someone hits you in the mouth, all that goes away.”

His final grade of last Saturday’s game:
“C-minus or D-plus. It was good enough to win but it was dead average. We didn’t lose. You’ve heard me say all the time, ‘The best way to win sometimes is not to lose.’ Well, we didn’t lose. But I’m not sure we won. We just maintained and didn’t lose. At the end we found a way … I guess you could make a case to say we did win at the end because we had to drive down and score. So it wasn’t all negative. I just want our guys to understand what the expectation level is and it’s not okay to go play like that. I don’t care if you win or lose, it’s not acceptable.”

On pass rush against Boston College:
“As a general rule, you’re going to get most of your pass rush from outside and then you’ve got to push the pocket from the inside, you’ve got to move it. That’s what happens when the quarterback escapes a lot and (he) pull(s) the ball down and (he) come(s) out. You’re not getting the push inside or you’re either countering and you’re running out of your lanes and you’re opening up huge holes because you’re on different levels. As a general rule, your pass rush guys are going to be the defensive ends from the outside. If your defensive tackles are leading the team in sacks, it probably means your ends aren’t very good.”

On the Bobby Dodd Stadium playing surface:
“I think (director of athletics grounds and turf management) Chris May has done an unbelievable job on that field. I see him. He’s out there seven days a week and that’s his baby. We’ll see when we play four games in a row but right now it’s really good. I give him a ton of credit. He has busted his tail on that (field). He really has.”

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