On the day before his team will report for the start of fall camp, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was in his newly renovated office, showing off his “smart glass” windows that look onto Bobby Dodd Stadium. At the flip of a switch, the panes transform from clear to tinted.
“Recruits like it,” Johnson said. “They think it’s pretty cool.”
Johnson also addressed more substantive topics Wednesday in an interview with the AJC, including his prospects for various players, the team’s work over the summer and his hopes for the season. Questions and answers were edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Are you more optimistic about this team than years past?
A: I’m always optimistic. I think that this is a good group. They seem to have worked really hard in the offseason. They’ve got a good attitude. We’ve got a big challenge early, but I think we’ve got a good nucleus of guys that we’ve played and they’re providing pretty good leadership and (I’m) really excited about some of the young guys. I think we’ve got some real athletic kids.
Q: Is there any reason to think this team isn’t capable of winning the ACC?
A: No. I think we’re capable of doing that. We were close last year.
Q: What will be the biggest challenges between now and the start of the season?
A: The big thing is just getting good quality work and trying to keep everybody healthy. You want to find that happy medium where you get game ready and you do those things but you don’t want to lose a bunch of people in practice. That’s always a challenge.
Q: Do you expect B-back Charles Perkins to make more of a run at the starting spot than last season?
A: Well, it’ll be interesting to see. I thought he would probably make more of a run maybe in the spring. But he’s very capable. He’s got ability and he’s just got to be consistent and do some of those things. There’s probably not a huge drop-off probably between him and David (Sims) right now.
Q: You mentioned at ACC Media Days that you could see quarterback Vad Lee playing this year. What are your plans for him?
A: I don’t have any particular plans to use him in any certain way right now. I’m just saying that, depending on what happens in fall camp, he could be the backup. I’ve never had a season where the backup quarterback didn’t play, especially if (quarterback) Synjyn (Days) ends up playing some other spots.
Q: What’s the timeline for deciding on moving Days? You had said that if he doesn’t beat out Tevin Washington in the first two weeks of fall camp, “I don’t want him standing over there in a baseball cap.”
A: It’s not two weeks. Synjyn’s going to take reps at quarterback probably every day in practice, but if he’s not playing quarterback, then we’ve got to get him some reps at some other positions and see if we can get him on the field.
Q: Do you feel like wide receiver Darren Waller is close to figuring things out?
A: I think he’s like a lot of young guys. He just has to mature. Physically, he’s got all the tools.
Q: You had also talked about highlighting A-back Orwin Smith.
A: I just said that there’s situations where he’s been good with the ball. If it’s even up, we’ll try to get him the ball more. That’s about it. He’ll determine how much he gets the ball by how much he plays.
Q: Are there ways to do that in an option offense?
A: There’s all kinds of ways. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him. There’s all kinds of ways you can give it to him. It’s like I’ve told people before. ‘Well, why wouldn’t you give it to him if he’s averaging 10 yards a carry?’ Well, if we just handed it to him, he wouldn’t be averaging 10 yards a carry. You’ve got to get it in the right spot.
Q: What kind of progress do you expect the defense to make?
A: I don’t know. I think like everybody needs to play better if we’re going to be successful. We need to be better on third down. There’s no big secret there. I think at times we played well last year. In the latter half of the year, we gave up a lot of points.
Q: How much of a burden is on nose tackle T.J. Barnes to produce?
A: I don’t think any more than anybody else. You hear fans say that and the media and this, that and the other, but it’s just a position like anything else. If you go back and look, the production we’ve had from there has not been like we’ve had a ton of production. The system doesn’t really warrant itself to that. He’s just got to be solid. He’s worked awfully hard. So I’m hoping he’ll have his best year.
Q: Did anything happen with recruiting Penn State players?
A: Not really. We didn’t get into it a whole lot. There was a kid from Atlanta, I think a defensive end (C.J. Olaniyan, who moved to Michigan), that we talked to his high school coach. That was one kid and we didn’t pursue it (further) and he didn’t either. That was about it.
Q: What concerns do you have about replacing Julian Burnett, not just his play but his leadership?
A: I think anytime you lose a player of his caliber, it’s a blow to the team, and he was a leader on the team. Not only was he a good football player but he was a leader. So, yeah, it’s a big loss.
Q: Have you been watching the Olympics?
A: Occasionally I’ll flip it on, but I haven’t seen a whole lot. I watched the gymnastics thing last night with my daughter. My daughter told me who won. It was a little anti-climactic.
(This is the print version. I’ll add the rest Thursday morning.)
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog