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September 3, 2014

Johnson teleconference quotes

Opening Statement: It was great to finally play last week. We're excited to get off to a good start and win the game. Having said that, there was a ton of things we have to clean up from week one to week two. I think Tulane is coming off a Bowl season a year ago, opening their brand new on-campus stadium. I'm sure the atmosphere will be great and they will be excited to play. Got a lot of things to correct and hopefully we're going to make a lot of improvement from game one to game two.

Q. Tony Zenon is playing his first game in New Orleans since Katrina. What do you like best about him?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think most of all, Tony is just a great kid. He's had a really good camp. I think he brings a lot of experience to the table. He'll be one of our game captains for this game.

I think he's good at running the ball and he's good in the throwing game. He's been in the program for a while and he knows what the expectations are and knows his assignments and knows what to do. I'm sure he'll be excited to get back to New Orleans.

Q. When you decided to sign him out of high school, what did you envision his role and has he done what you thought he might be able to do?

COACH JOHNSON: When he plays in the slot for us, what we call eight-back; he's big enough to play that position. He's really physical for a little guy. He has got great feet and can block, and he's good in space with the ball. So hopefully we can get him out in space with the ball some and he can do his things on Saturday.

Q. And how much do you think it will mean for him to come to New Orleans for the first play? He says he has relatives who have never seen him play since peewee.

COACH JOHNSON: I'm sure it's going to be exciting for him to come home and as you said have some family around him and watch him play. I'm sure that he'll be fired up and ready to go come Saturday.

Q. Hoping to get your evaluation of the offense last week; how do you think Justin did overall and the production offensively overall?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think overall, it was good. There was nine possessions and we scored on six of the nine and missed a 30-yard field goal on the other one. So really should have scored on seven of the nine possessions with five of them being touchdowns.

The second half was better than first. I thought Justin settled down and we played very well in the second half. A little bit of nerves maybe in the first half. He overthrew some people that were pretty open and missed a couple reads in the option game. But we're excited about him. I think once he settled down, he played very well.

Q. I wanted to talk about Justin Thomas and his link-up with DeAndre Smelter and how you saw them come together in that opening game and going forward knowing that not only did he lead the team to victory speaking on Thomas but that he had such a good relationship on the field with Smelter.

COACH JOHNSON: DeAndre Smelter is a very talented player. I think he's had a really good camp. He showed signs a year ago; I think he's better this year than he was a year ago. He's a good player. Justin was able to get him the ball, and if you get it near him, he usually catches it. He's physical and has got good speed. I think the chemistry on our team is really good. I think the guys genuinely get along well. They like each other; not just in and DeAndre, but the whole group. So they are a fun group and fun to be around and fun to coach.

Q. You mentioned wanting to clean up a few things. What are you looking to do as you go from whole forward to presumably a better test with Tulane?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, we have to play better defensively. We missed a lot of tackles, had far too many missed assignments, and let them possess the ball more than what we probably needed to do.

And offensively, you've got to be -- you can make a case that it was pretty good from a scoring -- percentage-wise, possessions. There's some things we missed out there. We missed some open guys and we had a couple missed assignments in pass protection and that kind of thing. There's always things you can clean up. Special teams, I thought Harrison kicked the ball well on kickoffs but then he missed a short field goal. We had some poor decisions in the punting game, more so punt return than the punt game, but those things we've got to clean up.

Q. Wanted to ask you, what specifically do you think Tulane does, or is there anything you've seen?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, I think they have pretty good balance offensively. I was impressed with the freshman quarterback. I thought for a first game he showed a lot of poise and played well. The running back has really good speed. Defensively, I'm sure they didn't play as well as they would have liked in the first game but the quarterback from -- Tulsa got hot there in the second half and he made some really good plays. But they had every chance to win that first game, and truthfully probably should have won it. I'm sure they are going to be excited and open their stadium and we are excited to come and have another chance to play this week.

Q. I see you gave up 270 yards rushing. I know a third of that came on one run. Can you talk about where you need to make the corrections there to do a little better job against the running game?

COACH JOHNSON: Well, we need to tackle better and most of it was missed in the second level. But, you know, when you play an option team, and Wofford is a pretty good team. I mean, maybe physically they are not like the teams we play, but they have a good idea what they are doing, and scheme-wise, they are pretty tough to play.

When you miss tackles and let them stay on the field on third down, then they are going to accumulate some yards, and that's what we did. As you mentioned, they got 94 of them on one play. It was disappointing that we missed the tackles that we did.

Third down defense wasn't great but a lot of that was because of first down defense. We gave up four or five yards on first down and we know firsthand how that works. If you can do that and you're a running team, it's going to be tough for the other team to get you off the field most of the time.

Q. Fundamentally you're not upset at all --

COACH JOHNSON: Well, tackling is fundamentals, a lot of it we've got to do better. We've got to play harder on both sides of the ball. That's something that we kind of try to pride ourselves on is playing hard and we can play a lot harder than we played last Saturday, and we are going to need to.



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