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Paul Johnson Weekly Press Conference: Game 3

Sept. 19, 2017



Opening statement:

“I was happy that we got through the Jacksonville State game without any serious injuries. I thought that we got off to a slow start, especially offensively, and then I think we scored five-straight touchdowns once we got the defense to turn the ball over some and gave the offense a short field. I thought that overall we played much better in the Jacksonville State game than against Tennessee and it was good to see that improvement and to get out of that game on short rest was a positive.

“Disappointed that we didn’t get to play the Central Florida game, although I understand the circumstances and everything there, but we would have loved to play in the game. We took that time and had couple practices, some fundamental stuff and a little bit about Pitt. Got a jump start introduction and then that leads us into this week where it’s good to be back on a normal week. This has been kind of a weird season to begin with but it’s nice to be back in a routine and open up the ACC schedule at home.”

On who stands out individually and as a team when looking at Pitt both offensively and defensively:
“Offensively, I think they have good skill players. [Quadree] Henderson is dynamic and they try to get him the ball in a lot of ways. They have a stable of good running backs. It’s a little uncertain with their quarterbacks right now, whether it will be [Max] Browne or [Ben] DiNucci, but we kind of get ready for their system. One is a little more quarterback-run game than the other one, but that’s the stuff you see every week so you have to have a plan for that as you go in. I would guess [DiNucci] would be the one who starts, but who knows, they both may play.

“Defensively, they’re replacing a lot of guys. They probably get back who I would consider their best player this week in [Jordan] Whitehead, the safety. He was serving a three-game suspensions and he comes back. They’re a very aggressive defense. They stunt and blitz a lot. They’ve played against two pretty good offences. One that ran the ball on them fairly well in Penn State and the other one that threw the ball. They’ve had to face two top-10 teams in back-to-back weeks and when you play defense that way against really talented teams sometimes you struggle. They hit big plays on them and that’s kind of what’s happened to them.”

On whether going into conference play is it more of advantage to have time off or to have played before the week before:
“I don’t know. I think it’s hard to tell. From a purely rest stand point, you’re going to be more rested because it would have been three games in 13 days had we played [Central Florida]. But when you’ve got a lot of young guys who haven’t played, you lose those game reps that you can’t really get in practice. You try but it’s not the same.

“That’s one part. The other part is when you don’t play a game, in my mind, that’s akin to losing. Because you’re trying to get a certain number of wins and if you don’t get to play then you may as well count it as a loss because you can’t win the game. So that’s why we were disappointed we didn’t get to play. You know our guys, in general, – everybody does – they’re conditioning, lifting, preparing to play games and then when you don’t get to play one, that’s a negative. And for us, we’ve put in a good amount of time game planning because we didn’t find out we weren’t going to play until 2:15 [p.m.] on Monday and coming off our game on Saturday, we spent the next two days getting ready to play the game. So all that was just in the trash can. You throw all that work away.”

On whether or not, more than any other season, there’s less of a feel and understanding of the team now going into conference play:
“Yeah, I think that we’re still trying to gauge and prod and figure out who we are in some areas. There’s no question about that when you’ve only played two games. But at times, we’ve opened up the season with conference games so who knows? We’ll find out a lot more on Saturday.”

On if you anticipate the return of Whitehead to change what Pitt does on defense? And will they do less stunting, etc. with your style of offense?
“No. They’re going to be aggressive. They stunt blitz, they’re a big zone pressure team now. They might not show up because we’re not throwing it 40 times and it doesn’t look like a blitz, but they’re running stunts and 2-3 exchanges and they’re doing a lot of moving, a lot of stunts and a lot of blitzing.”

On how the younger players have continued to progress and get better as the season as progressed:
“All those guys are all probably in the two-deep or right on the fringe of it so they’re all going to play at times during the year. It’s just situation-warranted and how much they get better in practice and gain experience and truthfully how people stay healthy. There are all kinds of things that go into that.”

On whether or not he’s looking forward to the team getting into some type of routine and/or rhythm after playing two games in five days and then not playing a game in 13 days:
“Yeah I am and I think our team is. I’m really looking forward to it. And right now, unless something changes, it’s going to be just for two weeks and then be right back at (break) it again. It’s nice to kind of get into that routine and it’s good for the players to be in a routine. I think everyone does better when they’re in a routine.”

On the new renovations to the lobby of the football facility and the reaction to how it looks:
“I think any time with facilities, if you’re not doing anything than you’re falling further and further behind. That place hadn’t been touched in a long time. When we agreed to let the Atlanta United use our stadium, there was a certain sum of money that they put in there that was going to go to the football program or for whatever we wanted to use it for. And that’s what we chose to use it for. For recruiting, to help modernize the entrance and spruce it up, we’ve got an NFL board upstairs with all the – well not all of them, but several of them – but all the guys that have signed with NFL teams and even the ones that maybe just had a cup of coffee with them.

“All that stuff helps with recruiting and helps with facilities, so it was a positive that our administration allowed us to do that.”

On whether he thinks Saturday will be like the last two games against Pitt where it’s been high scoring and has come down to three points:
“You don’t know. I hope not. I hope one team is high scoring and it’s us. They came down to the last possession – both games. Two years ago, the kid went and kicked a 56-yard field goal on the last play and then up there a year ago, we failed to make a fourth-and-less-than-one and that was as much our fault as theirs with what we did and the way we lined up. So it’s been those kinds of games. Could be. I have a lot of respect for Pat Narduzzi and their staff, they do a good job and their kids play hard. Who knows? We’ve just got to cut out the mental mistakes and the errors and when we’ve got the chance to hit big plays, we’ve got to hit them.”

On where he sees Ricky Jeune fitting in with the other wide receivers that he has sent to the NFL at Georgia Tech:
“Demaryius Thomas is different. He’s kind of a freak. Ricky would be closer probably to DeAndre [Smelter]. Darren [Waller] was a big, tall receiver. Steven Hill was a tall receiver. Kevin Cone played like five years in the NFL. Ricky is probably somewhere in-between Kevin and DeAndre. But he’s worked really hard to change his body. He hasn’t missed a practice or one day of camp. He’s willing to do the dirty work; he’ll do whatever you ask. It’s like I told somebody that in the Tennessee game, nobody realized that on the only two-point play, he had that corner so pinned. He had them down in there, if we pitched the ball, it would’ve been a walk-in. And just things like that that he does that nobody sees sometimes. And he’s developed into a leader. By example. He’s not a talker, he’s a quiet kid.”


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