July 21, 2008
Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson Quotes
2008 ACC Football Kickoff
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation * Greensboro, Ga. * July 19-22
What are your thoughts on preseason polls?
It really doesn’t matter much at all right now. I think you can come up with the top two teams or so, but after that I don’t really think you can realistically do it. That’s why you play the games and we’ll see in December how close they come.
What is the one thing that your team has to do better as you get ready for the season opener on August 28?
I think we just need to be more consistent. There were days in the spring when we looked pretty good as a football team, but then there were days for some reason or another that we faltered. We are continuing to learn and I think the key is to just improve every day. That’s all you can ask for.
It’s tremendously important. No matter where you or what you do this summer conditioning plays a big part. I’ve been pleased with the work ethic of our guys this summer. We’ve had the majority of our team on campus this summer and they’ve worked extremely hard. Hopefully when we get started, you’ll see the benefits of that and won’t have to worry so much on that aspect of the game and can go straight into trying to get ready to play.
How many decisions personnel wise do you have to make?
We’ll certainly have to make quite a few. We’re not set on the line-up really on either side of the ball like you would be if you had been established. There are few sports for sure that we are going to have to decide and it will depend on how much of the system those guys can grasp.
How much of their seven-on-seven voluntary stuff was done to work on the timing of pitches?
We didn’t do a lot of pitches in the seven-on-seven. They were throwing the ball. We ran some option stuff this summer. They can set up their drills, but it’s a little bit harder to do that when its seven-on-seven. Our guys went out there a couple nights a week over the summer to do that and I think attendance was pretty good. We’ll see what kind of carryover we have when we get going this fall.
Can you explain why you say your offense really isn’t that different and some people are exaggerating it?
I think it’s kind of funny, actually. I don’t know how anyone even knows what kind of offense we’re going to run. We haven’t played a game yet. You can color it any way you want. It doesn’t matter what you do on offense if you can’t execute. If everyone understands what you’re trying to do then you can all be successful. I get a kick out of when people ask me if it will work on this level. Last time I looked we were playing a division I schedule at Navy. We played five or six teams from the ACC and we played Notre Dame every year so I don’t think it’s a question of fundamentally will it work. We’re going to execute and run it just like any other offense.
Do you think your offense requires more of a learning curve than some other offenses?
Not really. It’s just like anything else. I think it’s successful and the neat thing that I like about it is that it’s a system. If you go back and look through the years, it’s been a different type of deal for different teams. There were years at Hawaii where we threw the ball for over 200 yards a game. Basically, when we were at Georgia Southern we didn’t throw the ball for a lot of yards but when you look at the scores most of the time we were so far ahead at halftime that there was no need to throw the ball in the second half. We still threw the ball for 100-150 yards a game and most of it was just in one half. If you can rush for 360 or 380 yards and throw for 140, you’ll be pretty good.
Can you look back at your time at Navy? How special was it what you did there and putting up those kinds of offensive numbers?
The Naval Academy was a very special place. We had an opportunity to work with some outstanding people and I really enjoyed our time there. I think you have to give those young men who played the credit for turning things around. They battled hard and bought into what we believed from day one. I look back on it as a very fond experience. It was very gratifying to see those guys go to five straight bowl games.
How much of a difference does it make now that you are at Georgia Tech in terms of the caliber of athlete?
The offensive system is big enough that we won’t have to change it. What exactly we do within that system will depend on the individual. Will we throw the ball more at Georgia Tech than we did at Navy? Probably, but we’ll see what gives us the best chance to win. At Navy we led the nation in rushing the last two years so it was hue of us to shorten the game. That was the way we needed to play in order to be successful. If we can throw the ball with a little more efficiency at Georgia Tech then we may not have to rush it as well. Bottom line is at the end of the game you want to have more points than they do and it doesn’t matter how you get it.
How much does the caliber of defense you have now at Georgia Tech compared to what you had at Navy affect the offense?
There were years at Navy when we had a pretty respectable defense and then there were a couple years when we were atrocious. I mean it…we were bad. It certainly affects the way you play the game. You may not take as many chances on offense if you have a good defense. The other way to look at it now you can take more chances. We can throw the ball deep more and can do this or do that because we trust our defense will get us the ball back. There’s a lot more pressure calling plays when you have to go score for score with the other team.
Can you talk about Josh Nesbitt? Do you have enough confidence in as a starting quarterback?
I’m excited about Josh. I think that he possesses all the physical tools that you look for in a quarterback. He can throw the ball better than people think. He has good speed and is strong which makes him tough to tackle. Going into spring practice Josh was still a freshman. It doesn’t matter what offense you run. You’re not going to look like John Elway after seven days of practice. I think he’ll grow, as will the rest of the team and I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Don’t forget. We also have some other guys who I think can be excellent quarterbacks. We’ll go into fall and I think everybody assumes that Josh will be the starter and I hope that’s true. I hope he separates himself, but I won’t be afraid to play one of the other guys if he doesn’t.
Did you expect people to leave because maybe they didn’t buy in or didn’t believe?
I didn’t hold back on anything. We want people who want to buy in and be here. We don’t want guys around who don’t want to be here. I’ve learned in life that there are some guys who don’t buy into anything. I think the people leaving got blown way out of proportion. We had a tight end that left because we don’t have that position in this system. We had a quarterback who could have returned but he graduated in May and got his degree. He had another year of eligibility left, but realized he probably wasn’t going to play in our system because he wasn’t suited for it. Therefore, he looked for some place he could play another year of football. We had an offensive lineman leave. I can’t think of anybody else who left because of the system. James Johnson, our receiver, needs about 14 hours I think to graduate and was just beat up. He started spring practice and came in and told me he didn’t think he could do this anymore. It had nothing to do with the system or new coaches. He said he wanted to graduate and get a job. I respect that. In regards to D.J. Donley, we’ll see if he transfers. He told me he just doesn’t like Atlanta. There again, it doesn’t have anything to do with new staff or the system. I asked him if he wanted to play defensive back and he told me it doesn’t matter where he played. He had some personal stuff going on and went home to sort it out and we’ll see what happens. If you look around the country, any time you have transition there’s going to be changes. Nobody’s going to say this is too hard for me; I don’t want to do it. It’s much easier to say, I don’t want to do that, I’m going to go somewhere else where I don’t have to be as competitive.