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October 30, 2012Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson spoke with the media about the challenges facing his 3-5 team heading into the Maryland game this week.
On the personality of the team?
"There are a lot of different personalities; it is still a young team. There are basically three seniors on offense and two that play on defense so at times we have a hard time staying focused. The maturity level is probably not what you would like all of the time, but you can't put one description on them really."
On the difficulty of Maryland?
"I think every game is hard. It's hard to win games. Like I've said before, everyone wants to win. Nobody just rolls out there and lets you win games so it's tough. Our guys understand the importance of the game, and they also understand the importance of the game for Maryland. Maryland's trying to get to six wins, too. I'm sure we're going to get their best shot and they are going to come out and play as hard as they can play, so we have to do that too.
On where the loss of focus is manifested?
"I think it can happen anywhere. It happens in the game. The game before last, clearly we lost focus at halftime when we got way up. I think that it can happen series to series sometimes. Momentum is a big deal I think, especially with a young team and when things don't go well early, they can get down really quick. It's hard to put your finger on exactly when it can happen. There's no exact formula or time I don't think."
On Dan Radakovich's exit?
"I think Dan and I have had a really good relationship, not just professionally but also from a personal standpoint. He would come to my office and we'd talk about things, and he visited my office three or four times a week. As far as from a program standpoint, you move forward. I'm sure they are going to hire a qualified person to be the Athletic Director and what I've got to do is make sure that we're given the means to be successful on this level. That's something that each different person will have their idea about; we'll have to sit down and share ideas and get their philosophy and go accordingly. But I'm excited for Dan. This seems to be a good opportunity for him and he seems excited about it so I wish him the best. As far as the players - I don't think the players pay much attention to who the AD is."
On the missed tackles being a focus issue?
"Well tackling has been an issue so clearly we've got to do a better job of teaching them to tackle. We need to improve on tackling in a lot of areas. You ask how wide can you go on that side of the ball, and we've been going more wide than we ever have. But you still only have a set number of people to play, and I think the missed tackles are going to come when you play better athletes. Some guys are harder to tackle than others, but you've got to keep practicing it; we practice it everyday.
"The other you thing you have to do is you've got to play hard enough so that if one guy misses it, there's two or three more guys coming. Once they get here we have to teach them to get down, bend their knees and put their eye on the target. Everyone's looking for the big hit, but there's no wrapping up and hanging on. If you're the first guy there, your job is to stop him, to wrap him up. It's the second and third guys who need the big hit. I can't tell you how many times I've seen on tape, and not just with our guys, where a guy came in for a big hit and it just knocked him from one gap to another and he's gone. A big hit does you no good unless you knock the guy off his feet."
On the relationship between starting QB and the backup?
"Those guys seem to get along fine. I've sat in a lot of meetings with them and watched them in practice and I think they pull for each other. I don't think there's any animosity there."
On any friction between backups and starters?
"I think there are a lot of times through 30 years of coaching that I've seen the backup and starter not get along. It is human nature if you're the backup and you want to play and you're competitive. I've seen older guys who wouldn't give any of the younger guys any advice or any kind of help. You've seen it all through the years but I don't think that's the case right now."
On the Bowl game being extra practice?
"It's important. I don't look at it as much as practice for the next year as I do putting a positive end to the season. Certainly this year hasn't gone as we have envisioned or how we would've liked but sometimes that happens. Just like I said to someone yesterday, you take the conference games and we have been in the game up until the fourth quarter. It's not like we're going out there and getting steamrolled by people. We just haven't finished and haven't won a game. You can make a great case that we had a chance to win the Virginia Tech game, a chance to win the Miami game, and if you win those two games you're probably looking at a whole different scenario. I'd be a lot more concerned if we were trotting out there and getting our butts beat 56-3 or 41-7 and you were never in the game and you never had a chance, then you might be looking at making some changes in what you were doing and what you're coaching.
"In my mind though, we're not that far away. We played one throw-out, MTSU, and they're better than people think they are, but we no-showed. Bottom line. No excuses. The team that beat us Saturday is pretty good. They've got a pretty good football team. I don't care what their record is, they're pretty good. I imagine they're going to finish 8-4, with their losses being to two top 10 teams, and Boise State who has lost one game. And in the Utah game, they turned it over, had multiple chances to win the game; they missed the kicks. I was talking to [BYU Head Coach] Bronco [Mendenhall] before the game and he told me they had 28 seniors. That's a pretty good football team."
On any changes due to the weather scenario?
"Not to my knowledge. Of course, that probably wouldn't come to me. That would go through the Athletic Director. But I think one of our operations guys talked to one of their operations guys and they think it's going to be out of there by tomorrow. Having lived there I'm sure they have no power because whenever the wind blew 12 MPH we had no power. But they tend to get it fixed pretty quickly once the storm stops."
On Maryland's offense?
"Well you try to make your educated guess. They're not going to be able to get too far away from what they do in three days. So you try and figure what you would do if you were them. To me, if you're as good as they are defensively; you're going to be real conservative to make sure you don't lose the game on offense trying to do something the guy can't do. I fully expect that we'll get a real dose of them trying to run the ball. We hadn't exactly set the world on fire against the ball with their tight ends on Saturday, so I'm sure we'll see that. It's important that we get fixed what we didn't do well on Saturday, so that if they go the extra with that at least it's halfway fixed. I mean Boston College didn't think a week ago their QB was going to throw the ball 43 times. They're going to try to get it to their playmaker. Their No. 1 is an electric playmaker who is a freshman. They have two running backs who are great players so their offensive line is pretty good too. So I think they'll try and make it as simple as possible for the QB and make the other guys carry their load."
On Tech's defense vs. BYU...
"We had a lot of missed tackles. You can go back and watch any game film historically the same and watch. The very first drive was crucial. We had a chance to stop them on third down, twice actually, then we had them fourth down and we had a missed assignment. Nobody takes the pitch on offense. All those are big deals because if they don't score that series or we get them stopped, who knows what the emotion of the game is.
"What you strive to do is always strive to play the perfect game and it's hard to reach, but I don't think you lower your standards and that's what I try to get across to those guys. You have to play the perfect game. They've got players too. Once in a while their players are going to beat you. If you're playing basketball and I'm guarding you, if we play long enough, you're going to score. It's my goal to keep you from scoring and stop you from scoring as much as you can score. The attitude going in is: you're not going to score. And if you fall short of that then you have to look when it's over and say "well, I stopped you 85% of the time and that was good'. If I stopped you 65% of the time, some guys would think that was good, but for me I wouldn't think that was good. That's the way you look at it. Nobody ever grades out 100% I don't think. I mean, you get amazed when you scrimmage each other and the offensive tackle graded out at 90 and the defensive end at 82. It doesn't make sense to me, but it happens a lot of the time. It never comes out to 100 so some people think it is good enough, others don't."
On Maryland's defense?
"They're big and physical upfront; they've got a lot of good linebackers and they've got two corners that can lock guys down and they play hard running the ball. Joe Vellano has been playing a long time and is a really good player. The other inside guy, who has played better, they're over 300 pounds, they run pretty good and the linebackers are good. They've just shut down people. People have had a hard time running the ball against them and they play well in the red zone. When they get down there they don't give up touchdowns. That's the way you stay in the game. If you're struggling offensively, if you don't give up any points, it doesn't take but one play to get back in the game or take the lead. That's the way they play the game. Realistically if they don't miss a 30-yard field goal against NC State, they're sitting there with only one loss in conference. They've been in every game right on down until the fourth quarter."
On Maryland's injuries in the QB position?
"I've never seen anything like it, and the severity of the injuries. I'd have to think back through the years, where someone might be down to a fourth guy in a position for a week or two, but I've never seen that many season-ending injuries. You see that kid in the Boston College game get hit, and you wonder because it was a pretty good shot, but then he came back in so I would've had no idea he tore his ACL. The kid has got to be pretty tough."
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