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April 26, 2013

Q&A with Paul Johnson

COACH JOHNSON: Good morning. We actually concluded our spring practice Friday night with our spring game. Felt like we had a productive spring. Got a lot of things done. We had several starters who missed spring practice due to post-season surgery. But I think that was good in that we got a lot of young guys a lot of reps.

Encouraged by what I saw in the spring with our guys. They're working hard. Looking forward to having a great summer and coming into the fall being ready to play.

Q. How different will this defense look with your new coordinator now in charge?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think clearly it's a different scheme, so there were some different things. I think a big emphasis this spring was just kind of running the ball, playing hard. We worked a ton on tackling and fundamentals. I'm encouraged by what I saw. I think the guys enjoyed playing this kind of style. It's aggressive, up-tempo. The proof will be in the pudding when we play. I think we're better. I hope we will be.

Q. What area do you leave the spring pleased with and what areas do you have concern about going into the fall?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, we ended up most of the spring with only one scholarship wide receiver playing. We had a couple guys with off-season knee surgery. They just got back this week. We had two others that pulled hamstrings in practice.

That area we didn't get as much work as we would have liked. We had two of our starting linebackers who missed spring practice. So it's another area that probably we didn't get as much work as we'd like.

At the same time you're developing a lot of depth, a lot of young guys are getting reps there, too.

Q. Vad Lee had his moments last year where he looked outstanding. How strong is his situation at quarterback or how strong is the competition there with younger guys pushing him?

COACH JOHNSON: I think there is good competition there. Vad had a good spring and so did Justin Thomas, a young freshman we redshirted. I think that will go right on through fall camp as a competition. We're excited about both of them. I think they both athletically are as good as we've had here.

We'll let it sort itself out. I feel good about playing with either one of those guys actually.

Q. Last year you used two quarterbacks. Are you comfortable if it came to that, using both guys consistently?

COACH JOHNSON: If it gives us the best chance to win, I am. I'm not committed to doing that, I'm not 100% against it. I think right now, Vad is the starter. He has a little experience and edge in play, but there's not a wide gap.

Q. How much, if at all, do you change your offense through the years and how much your personnel changes what you do?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think each year it's changed, probably more to us than the normal eye might see or understand. We try to find things that have given us problems and try to find ways to tweak that and take advantage of doing some things that if we feel like people lined up that gave us some issues in certain areas. But all in all, I have to say really since 1985, the base offense is still very similar to what we ran then. I mean, the core principles of it are pretty much intact. You have some wrinkles here and there. We've added some things. If you watched us play in 1985, it's probably not a lot different now truthfully.

The second part, how do we change the personnel. I think you have to adapt to your personnel. When I was at the University of Hawaii doing this, we inherited some throwers and receivers, we threw the ball a little more.

I think you play to the ability of the guy that's playing. I could see possibly throwing the ball a little more with these guys. I think they're a little better at it than what we've been playing at, if we can get the protection and the guys that can catch it. It's not just one guy, it all intertwines together.

We're not going to get away from what we've done. We've been fairly successful offensively. You can always be better. If you go back and look through the years, we've had some success doing what we do.

Q. If you do have some receivers who emerged this spring, if you could see using Vad's arm a little bit more this fall?

COACH JOHNSON: There's a difference in having a strong arm and being a good passer.

Q. True.

COACH JOHNSON: So I think Vad is a work in progress. He'd be the first guy to tell you that. Certainly he has the physical tools and the abilities. So does Justin. Justin can throw the ball, too, a lot better maybe than people think.

Q. Who are some of the receivers you're looking for some progress for during summer?

COACH JOHNSON: Darren Waller is a guy who has all the tools to be a really good player. He's 6'6", 230 pounds. There's been days in practice that he looks unstoppable, then there's days that he's not. He's got to become consistent. Anthony Autry is a freshman, started some last year, hurt his knee about seven or eight games in. Michael Summers is a redshirt freshman. Travin Henry got hurt last year. He'll be a redshirt freshman.

I think any of those four guys probably could step up. We have two true freshman coming in as well and a couple other guys in the mix. But I would think if anybody is going to come to the front, it's going to be one of those four I mentioned.

Q. Paul, you played both of the new teams coming in, Syracuse and Pitt. What kind of changes will that bring to the ACC? Anything significant that you see with two new teams coming in like that?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't know about changes to the league. I mean, both the schools you're talking about, Syracuse and Pitt, both come in with a great football tradition, a storied past. Both played in bowl games a year ago. They're going to be very formidable opponents. I'm sure as the thing gets closer, we'll know a little bit more about them as individual teams. But I think they bring a lot to the league, no question.

Q. Do you find teams in different sections of the country may play a different style of game?

COACH JOHNSON: Probably. But I think that's overblown a little bit. I think it's more a function of what style that they choose to play. Both those teams are probably a little more back oriented, power football, pro style offense than maybe, say, some of the spread teams. There's plenty of teams in our league that play that way already.



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