July 20, 2008
Read what seniors Andrew Gardner and Vance Walker had to say during the player’s interview session of the ACC Football Kickoff on Sunday at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga. Check back later today and tomorrow for quotes from Tech head coach Paul Johnson as well as audio clips and photos.
Georgia Tech Player Quotes
2008 ACC Football Kickoff
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation * Greensboro, Ga. * July 19-22
Senior offensive tackle Andrew Gardner
How is the transition going with the new coaches and the new offense?
Everything has gone very well so far. Everybody has adjusted to the new staff and the idea that we have new coaches. It’s an awkward feeling at first but I think the transition has gone well and we are all excited for the start of camp. Coach Johnson expects to win and demands a lot out of us, but we respect him for that. He has his offense, he believes in it and has made believers out of us. He’s a my way or the highway kind of guy so you either buy in or hit the road.
I think this offense has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to start running it. It’s the kind of thing that if everybody buys in and executes properly then we will be able to rack up a lot of yards and score a lot of point.
Why do you think there is so much potential with this offense?
I think if you look at a team like Navy, they don’t have a lot of ACC caliber athletes but they were still able to score a ridiculous amount of point. This kind of option attack hasn’t really been seen recently in the ACC so unless they played Navy in past years it is going to be new. It will be tough to prepare for with a lot of misdirection so teams that play us will really never know what’s coming at them. It’s the kind of offense where any play can break and we have the talent that when guy’s get into space, they can make things happen.
Have you ever run this kind of offense or played against it?
In high school, we had maybe one or two option plays but certainly were not an option based team. I don’t recall ever playing any option teams in college either. We’ve played spread option teams like West Virginia, but not one like ours.
What’s it like running an offense you have never seen before?
It’s definitely been an adjustment. It’s different but we are all up for the challenge. We knew whoever the new coach was we were going to have to learn a new system anyway. When it comes down to it, football is football. For us lineman, our stances and our splits are different. In previous years, we were in more of a balanced stance, but now we are out wide. There is a lot more aggressive pass protection and blocking, but less straight drop back.
One of my high school coaches played at Georgia Southern, so a lot of our stances are similar now. It’s a readjustment but it’s going back to what I used to do.
A lot of it is just using different terminology for things we already know. We have some very smart guys at Georgia Tech and we’ve done a pretty good job of picking it up. It’s a complex offense, especially for the skill players, but we have the personnel to run it effectively.
Will this be a fun offense for the fans to watch?
Absolutely. Like I said, we are going to get a lot of yards and score a lot of points. If we get it going and the quarterback is making the right decisions then it’s going to be exciting. You’re going to see those A-backs on the pitch and out there in space so they will be able to show off their moves one-on-one. There will be some break-a-ways and quick-scoring drives. We’ve seen on film that when teams are expecting run and it’s a pass there are some wide open receivers.
Was there any concern after the sloppiness of the offense in the spring?
I can see why the fans especially would have that concern, but that’s why you have spring ball. Stats don’t count and its an opportunity to learn the new offense and work out the kinks. It takes more reps to prefect any offense and we are all committed to doing whatever it takes to reach the next level. Our skill players have been working on their own this summer on pitches and stuff so we will be ready to start practice at the end of the month.
Was spring a little weird with all of the player changes as well?
It is always going to happen with a coaching change, but you can’t worry about it. The big thing is that the guys here are the committed ones. For the guys that didn’t want to be here, it’s probably better for themselves and the team that they did leave. You don’t want anyone that doesn’t want to be here talking bad or bringing the rest of the team down. You want everybody moving in the same direction and doing what’s best for the team.
With all of the new players, coaches and offense do you think this is going to be a rebuilding year?
This is my last year of college and all of the seniors and I are going to do everything in our power to go out winners. We’re tying to jump out of the gate and surprise people. I’m not looking to be 3-9 this year and then 10-2 next season. I want to win now and so does Coach Johnson. He doesn’t talk about building for the future. He talks about winning now. If your goal is to transition into next year then you set yourself up for failure. Our goal is to get everything done in camp and be running on all cylinders by the season opener against Jacksonville State. Nobody is going to be perfect in game one, but that’s the goal.
Coach Johnson and all of the coaches believe in us. There’s no way to know 100% until we get out there for the first game, but I do know that if we don’t believe in ourselves then it won’t work. The only option is for everybody to get on board and do their best. If there is just one person that doesn’t buy in then it’s not going to work properly. The thing about this offense is that is requires a lot of things from different people at the same time. If anyone has any reservations about the offense, and I don’t think there are, then they are keeping it to themselves and not letting it affect their game or their teammates.
How big would it be to beat Georgia in the last game of the regular season?
No question that would be huge. This is my last year here and I have never beaten them. Of course, we want to beat them badly but out initial goal is to focus on Georgia Tech. We want to have a good camp and come out strong against Jacksonville State but I’d be lying if I said beating Georgia wasn’t important.
How hard is it to focus with all of the preseason hype surrounding Georgia?
It’s not a distraction at all. It’s something that is always there so that’s the way it is. It doesn’t affect our focus at all. We know that the Georgia game is always there at the end of the season and we’ll have the chance to prove ourselves on the football field. There are 11 games before Georgia and we focus the same amount of attention and effort on each one. Right now, it’s get ourselves ready and then it’s Jacksonville State on August 28. If we start worrying about Georgia now then its going to be a long season.
Do you think Coach Johnson is a little miffed that people are calling this a rebuilding year?
I think so. I think he is tired of hearing from the doubters about the offense and whether it can work in the ACC. The only thing we can do now is go out on the field and execute and prove all of the doubters wrong. When we see him say in the paper that he believes in us, that makes us feel good and we are going to do nothing but give him our maximum effort.
What have been the differences in conditioning this year?
There’s been a lot more running, especially the tackles. On a lot of plays, you are expected to run 20 yards downfield and try to get the safety. There is a lot of second and third level blocking so we have a conditioning test that we have to do before camp that we did not have in the past. Some of the lineman have been put on weight loss plans over the summer. In this offense, we do a lot more running and bottom line is, we just needed to be in better shape. There is more expected out of lineman in this offense than in year’s past. This is the kind of offense that can be real fun for an offensive lineman. Once we get going, we can knock people over. I think the guys are really excited to get going.
Senior defensive tackle Vance Walker
How do you think the team will do this year?
It’s not an issue of everyone buying in because I think everyone has bought in. We just have to get everything down offensive and defensive wise. It’s not as big of a transition for the defense as it is for the offense, but if the offense can get it down I think it will be a very special season. I talked to a couple of guys from other teams that played against Navy in the past and they said that it was an explosive offense.
What is it like having a new offense this year?
Having a new offense this year is very demanding but once everyone gets on the same level, it will all come together.
Does the defense feel responsible for taking the pressure off the offense this year?
That’s our main concern. We know it may take a little time to get the offense rolling, but even if they are rolling by the first game of the season we still need to play well. Coach Johnson’s offense gives the whole team in general more ball control with the offense so we [the defense] get more time to rest and I think that is a big thing that will help us out a lot.
Last year, whether it was a fumble or our fault that we were on the field for awhile, we didn’t get as much time to rest. Knowing what we did last year, if we can do something where we don’t have to be on the field as much, it can make a huge difference.
What is Coach Johnson trying to change about the team?
A lot of people played for themselves last year and Coach Johnson wants us to realize that the scoreboard doesn’t read Georgia Tech vs. Georgia Tech. That’s what he has been working very hard to instill in us and it’s the biggest thing he wanted to get rid of.
What are your impressions so far of Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack?
We all like Coach Wommack. He is a great person and he has a great charisma about him and he is very exciting so we believe all his stuff. It’s not even about believing, we know what he has done and we on the defense know each other well so we think it will work.
What is so special about Michael Johnson even though he hasn’t started a game yet?
I can’t answer why he hasn’t started a game, but I do know his attitude and passion about the game is that he always wants to play and he is very professional which is good. He has come in the game in the past in certain passing situations and has been strong at dropping back and this year he could be strong at stopping the run so we will soon find out.
Can you talk about the players that transferred after last season?
We know that come game day, everyone that is here wants to be here and I can’t blame those who left, but I have faith in someone who wants to be here.
How much can the defense flourish this year as being unpredictable?
Last year everyone had a set job, so to speak. One person would drop back and I would take out the tackle or cost inner space. This time around we still have our responsibilities but there is a little more freedom. I may be in a three technique and just have to play the line or pass rush which gives me an option to go to the A gap or B gap. I don’t think my blitzing is a button because the bottom line is we are trying to get to either the quarterback or running back and stop them, and so if we can do that without blitzing then why not.