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TOE MEETS LEATHER ... from the ACC Kickoff

July 21, 2008

By Wes Durham

Listen to Wes’ interview with Paul Johnson.

Lake Oconee — The second day of the pre-season football meetings featured the twelve head coaches. Rookie head coaches Paul Johnson of Georgia Tech and David Cutcliffe of Duke, drew plenty of attention, but most of the focus was on Frank Beamer and Tommy Bowden, with Virginia and Clemson predicted to finish in virtually a “dead heat” for the conference crown.

The pre-season poll can be viewed here

Curious that Georgia Tech received one vote as the eventual conference champion. That’s exactly the number of votes they received two years ago when they made a run to the final game in Jacksonville.

Read Paul Johnson’s thoughts on the ACC Kickoff.

When Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets report for practice in 10 days, he will be looking to build on the success that the Tech program has had since its inception. There are other coaches who have taken over programs that have enjoyed success, and while no two programs are the same, it is interesting to get thoughts from some coaches who have just done it, or have done it recently.

When asked if there is a specific key, Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen states it very simply. “Get the right people on the bus. Just because you’re on the team, doesn’t mean you are on the bus. Go to battle with only the people who share your same goals. There are some guys who want a jersey, but don’t want to pay the price to be successful,” he said.

“I guess we were lucky to have some veteran guys at Maryland who were tired of losing and just decided that it wasn’t going to be that way anymore. Then we were able to get off to a good start and it was pretty unreal.”

Friedgen led Maryland to 10 wins and the ACC title in his first year. But the work wasn’t done overnight.

“Chemistry is going to be very important. The trait is created by unselfishness, which is also very critical too,” Friedgen said.

Butch Davis took over a North Carolina program last year, and while the Tar Heels only posted four wins in his first campaign, it’s likely that his second edition could be one of the most improved teams in the ACC, if not nationally.

Davis says that the blueprint was easy because it came from the top.

“Everybody associated with Carolina wants the football team to be successful. Whether it was the AD, the Chancellor or Board of Trustees, each group had the same vision. When it comes to your players, they had to learn to trust us. Likewise, we had to learn to trust them as well,” Davis said.

“Our players learned that preparation was important. You don’t have that long with them during the week and focus during practice would lead to a good result on Saturday. I think they learned that preparation was an important part of being good. It all added up to a good football environment that we can build on.”

Johnson has already found some of those traits in the upcoming version of the Yellow Jackets.

“No matter what you do, guys have to buy in to what you are doing. I think we accomplished that in the spring. When we get back to practice for the fall, we will already be there,” he said.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford will have his football forum tomorrow morning to conclude this year’s event.

See Wes’ previous entry.


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