Hope you are well. The good folks at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame held their Pigskin Preview Tuesday, inviting coaches and players from every college football team in the state to meet with reporters. I went and compiled these sound bites, including two from the typically straight-shooting Paul Johnson, who took a poke at the expected (at least by some) return of Florida State. Our intern Meghan Rose filed this story about their reaction to Terrelle Pryor getting nabbed for selling memorabilia, including an opinion from linebacker Steven Sylvester.
Anyway, I was able to speak with Johnson for a little bit about the team. I’ll share the first part and then share some more stuff later.
I first asked about the 2013 Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, which both Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan and athletic director Dan Radakovich (now on Twitter!) acknowledged was a possibility. Johnson did not strike a terribly optimistic tone.
“I don’t know about 2013,” he said. “We’ve talked to them about playing in the game for some time, but it’s got to be the right deal for us to give away one of our home games.”
In 2013, Tech has six home games scheduled – Clemson, FSU, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Elon and Georgia. (The one non-conference road game is BYU.) Most years, Tech has seven home games. The home-game thing, as you might expect, is a sticking point with Johnson, although Tech would have had to give up a home game with Western Carolina to play USC this year, a game Johnson, Radakovich and USC coach Lane Kiffin had agreed to before talks broke down when Pat Haden replaced Mike Garrett at USC AD.
To Johnson, the “right deal” is “if you have the right opponent and maybe it’s not giving away one of our home games,” he said.
Johnson said USC would have been a “fun game.” I won’t try to divine who else would constitute a “fun game,” but that will evidently be Stokan’s charge if Tech is to play in the game in 2013.
On a different topic, Johnson sounded far more optimistic about the offensive line than he has previously. After one spring practice, he questioned their motivation, saying, “If you don’t want to play, it won’t matter” that the incoming freshmen will push for playing time. The same day, he was asked about the B-backs competition, and Johnson replied that they “don’t’ really have much of a chance, if you want to know the truth,” implying the offensive line wasn’t opening up holes for them.
Tuesday, however, Johnson said “everyone else” is more concerned about the line than he is. He said the improved defense, injuries and coaching kept the line from performing better.
“They’ve taken a lot of the brunt (of the criticism) and everybody wants to say that, but I think when they get out there, they’ll be fine,” he said. “Offensive line’s not where we’ve problems. We’ve had problems stopping people. That’s where we need to be better.”