Fourth segment of interview with Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. This portion deals largely with the quarterbacks, including the upcoming competition in spring practice.
Q: Going into spring practice, where do you have to get better?
A: We’ve got to get better at everything. It’s like when you watch the thing, we weren’t as good at running the triple (option) as we need to be by any stretch. Certainly, we need to be more efficient throwing and the same things every year. I don’t know that it’ll ever change. It’s always going to be like that.
Defensively, you (have to) get better at rushing the passer, being consistent tackling, better in special teams. There’s no any area I can say, ‘Oh, wow, we’re really good there.’ We were pretty good offensively on third downs. I think we led the country or were second (in third-down conversion rate). We probably were in the top 3 or 4 in (fewest offensive) three-and-outs. That’s always a positive. You’d like to get more three-and-outs on defense.
Q: The problems in the passing game, would you say it was a system-wide matter?
A: I don’t know if you can say it’s system-wide or not. We were pretty efficient the first four or five games.
Q: I mean, would you say it was system-wide as opposed to just one player or a position group?
A: Talent, too. I think as the competition level got better, we weren’t quite as good. We could do it against some people and other people, we struggled. Sometimes, it’s matchups and different things. You’re always looking for what will help you in that area. Can you tweak things? Can you do some things that will help you?
Q: How close is Tevin Washington to his ceiling?
A: I don’t know. I think he got a lot better. I think he’ll have to continue to get better or he’ll get passed. But he’s had a knack for doing that. I don’t think anybody thought he would be the quarterback last year and he didn’t let the guys beat him out. I’m sure in their mind, they’re coming this spring to beat him out right now. There’s probably two or three that think they can beat him out. (But) they’ve got to do it. And we’d be a better team if they do. And it’ll make him better fighting ‘em off. Competition’s a great thing.
Q: I imagine the quarterback competition is one you’re looking forward to a lot, especially given the hand you have in coaching those players.
A: I have not had the time to work with those guys like I have in the past. It’s something I miss. I’d like to get more time to do that. Brian (Bohannon) is pretty much coaching them. There’s so much going on (as head coach). You can stick your head in now and then, and during the game, I call the pays and I do that, but during the week, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, not like you’d like to.
Q: Do you have any plans to change that?
A: You always have the intention of it changing, but part of being the head coach is you’ve got a lot of other duties. You’re not the quarterback coach. You’ve got a lot of things that happen, a lot of things you’re dealing with. That’s why you hire a guy to do it and you’ve got to trust them to do it.
Q: I remember you telling a story about (former Georgia Southern coach) Erk Russell telling you after you’d become head coach to work with the quarterbacks, because that’s what you do best…
A: I watch practice every day and I’m around the drills and I’m always watching. If I need to go get involved, I will, but Brian’s been doing it now for four years and he knows what he’s doing. He knows what we’re trying to accomplish. You have to trust that he’s going to do a good job with them. I think he does.
Q: Where do Synjyn Days and Vad Lee have to get better?
A: Just get more consistent and be better. They’re both athletic and they bring something to the table. Synjyn’s a really strong runner, big. Needs to take better care of the ball, be consistent that way. I think for Vad, it’s just playing, learning the system. I would hope that he’s going to look a lot different this spring than you would expect a true freshman to come in in the fall.
You’ve got Dennis Andrews in here now. He’s going to be a little bit behind, then you’ve got Justin (Thomas), who’ll come in in the fall. Hopefully, this spring, we can sort out the Vad-Synjyn deal and know where that stands. And as compared to Tevin, we’ll see where they stand.
If both of ‘em beat him out, then we’ll see where you go, but you’d hope within 15 days, they’ll start to give you some idea of how that’ going to unfold.
Q: Are you hoping that after spring practice, you’ll have a good feel for who’s going to be the guy?
A: I don’t know if in 15 practices, if you’re going to know that, but certainly, you’ll be a lot closer to it than you would otherwise. What we’ve got to do is find a way in the spring to make sure that we give ‘em enough reps to get ‘em a chance to do it. Tevin’s played a lot; he might be the guy that gets less reps because he knows the system.
When we scrimmage on Saturday mornings, he may get a series or two with the [first string]. We’ll see how it goes. But you’ve got to let the other two guys play if you’re going to find out who’s going to be the better of the two.
Q: There was a school of thought that you might have been better served if Lee had gotten playing time early. I’m wondering what you thought about that.
A: We were one penalty away from probably winning our division and going to the ACC championship. At what point would have put him in? The other kid (Washington) was leading the country in passing efficiency for six weeks. He was 6-0. Are you going to take him out and put a true freshman in?
You’re not going to waste a year of eligibility to put him in in the fourth quarter when you’re ahead 70-20. I mean, I’m not. It’s like, in my mind, we didn’t even get Synjyn in enough. There’s no way you’re going to get three of them enough reps.
Thanks for reading. Part 5, which I think will be the last one, will be posted Wednesday morning.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog