Notes from coach Paul Johnson’s Tuesday news conference
1. Johnson called Saturday’s game with North Carolina “a huge game for both teams” given that Tech is trying to keep its bowl hopes alive and get back to .500. North Carolina will try to beat a team that it’s lost to three years in a row.
2. Johnson has talked with the team about the possibilities for Tech to reach the ACC championship game, which most likely will require the Yellow Jackets to beat North Carolina Saturday and Duke next week just to have a chance.
3. Regarding Miami and its possible self-imposed bowl ban due to its NCAA investigation, the Miami Herald reported that there is sentiment among high-level school officials to pass on the bowl ban if the Hurricanes make the ACC championship game.
4. Johnson said that the results in the ACC this season indicate that the teams, particularly in the Coastal Division, are evenly matched.
“All of the games have been fairly close,” he said. “Some of the things, you can’t explain. You look at Virginia. N.C. State beats Florida State in Raleigh and then Virginia goes in there and hasn’t won a game and thumps them.”
5. Stopping UNC running back Giovani Bernard will require multiple players converging on him when he has the ball.
“He’s got great speed,” he said. “You’ve got to try to hem him in and rally around him. The first guy’s not going to get him down every time, so you’ve got to have more guys coming. Clearly, he’s the key to their success.”
6. To prepare for UNC’s high-tempo offense, Johnson is altering the Tech scout-team offense.
“I think what you can do is you run two groups, and as soon as one’s finished, the next one’s up there running it again,” he said. “It’d be impossible to go any faster than that. You replicate it the best you can.”
Tech will obviously try to bend the pace of play towards its slower tempo. He noted that in the North Carolina-N.C. State game, each team had 20 possessions, whereas in Tech’s win over Maryland, Tech had nine possessions.
“It’s going to fall somewhere in the middle,” he said. “I would doubt there’s going to be 20 possessions. If we can get off to a good start and get that thing slowed down, maybe they don’t want to go as fast.”
7. Johnson talked at length about up-tempo teams like North Carolina and Oregon. He pointed out that an up-tempo offense will have more possessions in a game, thus giving it more opportunities for scoring, but at the same time, it’s also putting its own defense on the field more often, giving the opposing offense more chances to score. (”kicks at the can,” as he terms it)
To Johnson, what is more telling about an offense isn’t necessarily points and yards, but efficiency or points per possession. He pointed out that there are other teams besides those two that run up-tempo but aren’t nearly as successful, and there are teams like Notre Dame and Alabama that play a power game that has proven potent for both.
“There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat,” he said.
8. Line of the day: “Clearly, Alabama’s not going to play like Oregon. Coach (Nick) Saban would have a hissy if he won 63-55. He’s not going to play that way where both teams get 20 possessions and it becomes that way, where, if you play that way, you don’t sweat it.”
9. Against Maryland, he said the Tech defense “had some issues with our eyes and doing some of the things, especially in the second half, but for the most part, we probably played as well in the first half defensively as we’ve played in a while. You also take into consideration who they were playing with, too.”
He also thought the offensive line came off the ball hard, playing with intensity and playing well against a highly-ranked defense. He mentioned that the number of Maryland players blocked to the ground, 80, was the most this season, “I mean, not even close. It was guys getting after it, playing with some urgency. That’s the way you’ve got to play if you’re going to have a chance to be any good.”
10. Johnson’s evaluation of quarterback Vad Lee: “I think he’s getting better every week. I think that it’s been good the way it’s happened for him. He hasn’t been thrown out there. I think as quarterback, it’s also good to be able to stand over there and watch the other team play for a series or two and get a feel for it and know where they are and know what the checks are and know what’s happening as opposed to just kind of getting thrown out there and not knowing it. I think both quarterbacks bring something thing to the game. Tevin has a lot of experience. He’s played a lot of football. You’re not going to line up too many ways that he’s not seen or doesn’t know what to do. Vad brings a lot of athleticism and a lot of energy when he comes out there. You kind of get two different things out of both those guys. As he progresses, as I’ve said all along, the more he gets accustomed to doing what we’re doing, the better he gets at it, the more he’s going to play because, clearly, he does bring some athleticism to the position.”
11. On play-calling for Lee: “We’re to the point now with Vad where he’s going to run the same stuff that everybody else runs. Early in the year, that was not the case. He just couldn’t do it. Thus when he went into the game, it was a different set of plays. It was stuff that I felt like he could do better and handle and that played to his strengths.”
12. With North Carolina using three wide receivers and a tight end, Johnson acknowledged “it may dictate some of the things we do.” Tech has been using its base defense even in nickel situations since the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, matching up a linebacker against slot receivers. Having Brandon Watts back would help, as he played nickel back for Groh.
“What it may enable us to do is play some different people at that outside linebacker position in certain situations for cover or whatever,” he said. “We don’t have any plans to wholesale change what we’re doing.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog