Aug. 3, 2013
HEAD COACH Paul Johnson
“Good afternoon. Here we are at another season. It seems like the older you get the faster it goes. I’m excited about this year. I think we’ve got a good group of guys that have worked extremely hard in the off season. The last three practices have been very productive. The work ethic has been really good; effort and intensity. We’ve got one more tomorrow with just shoulder pads and helmets, and then we’ll get in to full pads on Monday and start cranking it out. I’m really encouraged so far. Of course with all camps the big key is keeping guys healthy. I feel like we have a chance to have a pretty good football team if we can get everybody to the gate.”
Have you seen anyone at the center position that you feel can fit into that spot?
“We always work a lot of guys there. Ray Beno has played there for the last half of spring. Jay Finch will be back at some point in camp. So that gives you two guys. Thomas O’Reilly is actually playing center with the second team. We’ve got some other guys; Will Jackson has snapped. There are guys we can move around. You hope you don’t have to go there, but if you do we’ve got a plan.”
How do you prepare for such important games when they’re close together like North Carolina and Virginia Tech?
“Fortunately, for us, at least offensively we’ve kind of got a system. We’ll run the system and we’ve played each other enough to know. It’s probably going to be a little tougher on our defense because they’ve [Virginia Tech] got a new offensive coordinator and we’re new on defense. Both teams have the same amount of time. The only difference being we have a conference game against a team [North Carolina] that is going to try to run a million plays. Virginia Tech has got to play Marshall, and I’m sure Marshall will show up and give them what they got. And they have to travel. That’s the way it falls so that’s the way we’ll play.”
By the time you get to October 5th you’re almost done with the division, you’re going to get a good read on this team pretty early.
“Yes, we can set ourselves up to be in good shape early on or we can dig ourselves a hole like what happened last year. The start of the season is really important. I think also playing two Division I AA teams is something you’d rather not do. That makes the schedule even more important to get off to a good start for bowl eligibility and those kinds of things as well.”
With all the experience you have coming back, how advantageous is it to get off to a good start?
“I hope it will be advantageous. It’s probably much better than the other way when you don’t have a lot of guys coming back. We’ll see. You have to play the games. I don’t think right now anybody knows how good anybody is going to be. I like our football team. I think that they work hard. I’m hopeful that we’re going to be a little better than people think we are. I think we have a chance to do that. We’ll see when we start playing the games.”
How important is it early on to get your second defense some quality reps?
“I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about winning the first few games and getting off to a good start. Everybody has their opinion. To me, I don’t think that it’s rocket science when you’re playing a 4-3 against what we do. We played a 4-3 defense the last six games of the year. Everybody talks about all the new stuff and it gives you something to talk about, but look at the film and tell me how many times Jeremiah Attaochu was dropping last year. He was rushing the passer. He’s lined up in the same spot. It’s a little bit different for the linebackers. The biggest difference I think is with terminology and with the defensive guys getting their expectations across, more than it is actual playing. You have to beat blocks and be good tacklers. That’s what you have to do.”
What kind of leadership are you seeing from the lettermen?
“I think it’s been good. I think we’ve had a good off season, a good summer. Like I said, the team is working hard. This morning we had a really good practice. There was competition, and they were kind of going back and forth at each other a little bit and having fun. That’s what you have to do. It’s good to have a big senior class for the experience more than even the leadership I think. You don’t’ have to be a senior to be a team leader. Certainly our quarterbacks do a good job leading. On defense you’ve got Jabari Hunt-Days who played a lot and was a pretty good leader last year as a middle linebacker. But you do have guys over there that have played. Jemea Thomas has played a lot; Louis Young and Isaiah Johnson when he gets back out there and Jeremiah Attaochu.
“So there are a lot of different guys, but I think that anytime you can have a lot of experience that’s a positive because they know more what they’re walking in to. It was interesting this morning we were running a pass skill and I cut behind the huddle and one of our freshman receivers was out there. He got rocked out of bounds pretty good and on a jam coming off kind of like ‘hey welcome to Division I’. You know it’s a little different in shorts and helmets running around. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those guys who have played and been here kind of know what it’s about.”
Can you talk about fan day and what it’s like to reach out to the Ramblin’ Wreck faithful that come out here to join you today?
One thing I can say is that I am humble and blessed to be here and to have this opportunity. It’s always a great feeling to give back and reach out to the ones that care for you on the field every Saturday. I look forward to being able to see everybody out there and how happy they are and making their day.
You are not in full pads yet so what are you focusing on individually and paying the most attention to right now?
I pay attention to being mentally prepared. We are putting in a lot of different things before each meeting. I am definitely just going over notes and all of the adjustments before practice or when I go out there. We have a lot of young guys that are coming out. We are just showing them what to do when they get into the situation. I just prepare myself before every practice to go out there and to get mentally tough for practice before we put on the pads.
How has learning the 4-3 gone for you so far?
It’s been great. Ted Roof has simplified the defense tremendously to make it simple. It’s just been a great fit for me. I’m an outside linebacker now. All I pretty much do is run everywhere so just being conditioned well and things like running to the ball and playing hard is pretty much what I do. I am looking forward to it.
What’s it like to have fan day and have a chance to see the fans before the season gets underway?
We love fan day. It’s a chance for us to interact with our fans and show them how much we care about them and how much they care about us.
Is the offseason a kind of crazy being a running back in this system?
It’s been a tough offseason. We’ve been really hitting the weights hard. We’ve been coached on getting bulked and trying to get a little bit bigger. They put us through hell and back. While you are doing it, it’s tough, but once you are done, you are like man it’s worth it.
How much fun is it being a running back in this system where week-to-week it’s unlimited with what kind of game you could have?
When I came here, that’s exactly why I came here. I knew that the running backs get the ball a lot. It’s like any week you never know how many carries you will have.
Can you talk about fan day and getting the chance to meet the fans?
Fan day is exciting. You get to see a lot of kids and get to interact with a lot of the Georgia Tech faithful and it’s just fun for us to kind of get a break from camp and see the normal world instead of just seeing all of us, each and every day, each and every hour.
No pads yet, but how eager are you to strap them on and get this offense running with some pads on?
So far it’s been great. There have been some great practices. We have been flying around good with great energy. When the pads come on, that’s when real football starts and that’s when you start to see people go up or down. Hopefully we have a lot of people that go up on the offensive side and the defensive side and so far so good. We went against the defense today and there was a good period where everybody was competing and even the defense was. I really enjoyed seeing us compete.
How exciting is it being the centerpiece of this offense?
It’s exciting. This is why I chose Georgia Tech. This is why I play the quarterback position because I like the ball in my hands. I like to distribute the ball to people. I’m not selfish at all. I’m just the man that’s distributing the ball I guess and trying to make plays for the team.