Oct. 11, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Paul Johnson doesn’t pull punches when asked about his players.
He’ll come down on a player who’s not doing his job. It’s not a malicious attack and it’s not hurtful.
It’s just enough of a pebble in the shoe to get that player’s attention and let him know he’s being watched and has been noticed.
Conversely, on Tuesday at his weekly press conference, Johnson offered a pat on the back for positive attitude to a few players who don’t hear their name called and won’t appear in scouting reports or game predictions — a topic upon which Johnson also pulled no punches.
It was the kind of gesture that keeps players’ morale high and lets them know their efforts are not for nothing and are being noticed. The players getting the pat on the back were reserve B-Backs Charles Perkins and Richard Watson.
“Their attitude has been really good,” said Johnson. ‘I think Charles [Perkins] has worked really hard in practice. In fact, I grabbed him yesterday and told him he’s busted his tail really hard. Last week he practiced as hard or harder than anyone. We’ve just got to get some ball security stuff worked out and some things like that and we need to get him in the game.
“Richard Watson’s a great kid,” Johnson continued. “He’s like anybody, he wants to play but I think he’s a good team guy. He’s had a great attitude. I talked to Richard yesterday for a long time. Not about football, just in general, with school. I told him how much I appreciated his attitude and the way he’s approached things. Both those guys have been real positive.”
That can’t always be easy for either of them, as neither touched the ball against Maryland and Watson, a redshirt junior, hasn’t carried the ball since the season opener. But you wouldn’t know it from the way they’ve practiced, continued to work hard and found ways to contribute.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Morgan Carter also earned Johnson’s praises Tuesday morning. The transfer from Rutgers, who earned a spot with Tech as a walk-on, was given props for throwing a key block on Tony Zenon’s 79-yard kickoff return that opened the second half and leading to Tech’s third touchdown, extending a 14-3 halftime lead to 21-3.
Finding unsung heroes is getting easier and easier each week, it seems each week more and more of them are popping up. It’s part of the reason that Georgia Tech keeps finding ways to win even when they’re not playing their best football.
The Jackets, who moved up to No. 12 in the country, are 6-0 heading into Saturday’s game in Charlottesville, against a Virginia Cavaliers team that is 3-2 (0-1 ACC), but whose losses have come to North Carolina and Southern Miss, both 5-1. They are a cause for concern.
“They’re experienced. They’ve got a lot of seniors that have played a lot,” said Johnson. “They’re big on the defensive line like most people we have played. It’s not any different than most people you play in the league. Statistically they’re one of the better teams in the league right now. They’re in the top 25 in the country [defensively]. It’ll be a challenge. We’ll have to play a lot better than we played last Saturday.”
Johnson is positive the team will. He always is.
That positive attitude appears to have caught on.