Notes from Paul Johnson’s Tuesday news conference, including a flu bug that’s hit the team. Or, as it’s better phrased during Georgia week – “KILLER FLU PARALYZES JACKETS”
1. Johnson paid homage to Georgia, saying “certainly, we’ll have to play our best game of the year to have a chance in Athens on Saturday.” He noted the talent and the defensive improvement over the last four or five games. As he’d mentioned Monday, he noted quarterback Aaron Murray, tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Tavarres King on offense and then “six or seven NFL guys, at least, on that defense.”
He mentioned the accolades that outside linebacker Jarvis Jones receives, but said that inside linebacker Alec Ogletree “just jumps off the film at you. The things that guy can do, the way he runs and makes plays, he’s a special player, as well.” He liked safeties Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, also. Or, as properly reported during Georgia week, “JOHNSON DISRESPECTS UGA CORNERBACKS.”
Johnson wasn’t ready to call this Georgia defense the most talented he’s faced since coming to Tech, “but I don’t think you’re going to play anybody with more talent than them.”
Line of the conference: “They’ve got some big jokers. That nose tackle (John Jenkins), they list him at, what, 350? That joker’s gotta be closer to 400 pounds. He’s huge.”
2. Johnson said that Georgia played Georgia Southern’s spread-option offense the same way it did Tech’s the past two years.
“I don’t think there’ll be a big guessing game as to what we’re doing or what they’re doing,” he said. “I think it’ll come down to execution and try to maybe have the right thing on at the right time.”
He does figure that playing similar offenses will help Georgia.
“They’ll be accustomed to the speed of it more so than they would if they hadn’t played it, I would think,” he said. “Anytime you play something two weeks in a row, you’re probably going to be better at it.”
(Georgia week translation – JOHNSON TO UGA: YOU WANT SOME OF THIS?)
3. Johnson thinks A-back Orwin Smith (injured ankle against Duke) will play. There isn’t a set plan for replacing him. “We just kind of play and somebody else will be in that spot,” he said.
Offensive tackle Will Jackson will be available to play. He practiced Monday. He last played in the Boston College game, sitting out the past four with a shoulder injury.
4. The A-backs in general have filled their roles effectively. The development of Synjyn Days is obviously noteworthy. He played the third most snaps Saturday against Duke (30) after Smith and Robbie Godhigh. His improvement and that of others are a credit to position coach Lamar Owens.
According to the post-game stat sheets, Tony Zenon did not play against Duke. Johnson said that it’s not a reflection on him doing anything wrong, just the depth of the position. Smith and Godhigh command most of the snaps, and then there are others worthy of playing time also.
“Now, the next week, Tony could be getting the 30 snaps that somebody else got,” Johnson said.
5. Tech will need to pressure quarterback Aaron Murray, since, he said, “if you don’t get to him and he has time, he’s going to pick you apart.” Last year, with ample pocket time, Murray was 19-for-29 for 252 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Tight end Orson Charles had five catches for 95 yards.
Given the strength of Georgia’s defense, Tech’s defense has to figure out a way to get some stops.
“You don’t want to get into a game with them where you have to score every possession,” Johnson said.
6. On Maryland’s departure to the Big Ten: “I think in the landscape of college sports now, that’s going to happen more than you know, and if they feel like that’s best for them, then that’s what they need to do.”
7. Several players are dealing with the flu that was going around the team last week and kept defensive end Izaan Cross out of the Duke game. Johnson has it himself. He called it “a viral thing” and said that it’s been taking three or four days to get out of the system.
A few players have it now, he said, but “you just don’t want a large group to get it Wednesday, Thursday,” he said. “That’d be the killer.”
8. True freshman defensive end Adam Gotsis got his first start in Cross’ absence. “I think he’s got a really bright future and going to be a good player,” Johnson said. “He’s a freshman and he’s learning every week, but he’s got the right attitude and the right mindset. He wants to be good and I think he’s going to work at it.”
(JOHNSON UNLEASHING GOTSILLA ON DOGS)
9. Johnson said the offensive line has played as well as it has in his tenure in the last few games. In the past three games, Tech has set records for putting the most defenders to the ground in Johnson’s five years, reaching 101 in the Duke game. He attributed it to playing with more energy and effort and an accumulation of experience.
“What they’re doing is they’re playing hard, they’re getting a lot of guys cut off and they’re getting downfield and getting a lot of guys on the ground when they get downfield,” he said. “When you do that, it gives you a chance to hit some big plays.”
10. Johnson again gave praise to quarterback Tevin Washington, calling him consistent and solid. Sometimes, Johnson said, he’s borne the brunt of criticism when teammates haven’t done their jobs.
“I think he’s been resilient, he’s kept a pretty good attitude,” he said. “He’s just been a good kid, a good teammate, somebody that likes to compete. I think he’s gotten the max out of his ability.”
(I think this is near the highest compliment that Johnson will offer a player of his.)
Regarding quarterback Vad Lee, he said that he has swagger and that “I think he’s got that ‘it’ that guys have.” He said he has tried to bring him along at a pace so he doesn’t lose the confidence and swagger by getting thrown to the wolves before he’s ready to handle it.
“You want that guy to think he can beat the world, so we’ve kind of brought him along slowly,” he said.
Redshirting freshman Justin Thomas, he said, has the same “it factor” quality.
(JOHNSON GUARANTEES BACK-TO-BACK HEISMANS FOR LEE, THOMAS)
11. Johnson was asked about the criticism he’s received while managing a relatively successful run in his first four seasons. If Tech beats Florida State (a large if, certainly), he would become the first Tech coach to win two ACC titles. For whatever a Coastal Division title is worth, this is his third. (Tech shared with Virginia Tech in 2008.)
“The thing I think that’s changed a lot lately is it’s instant gratification,” he said. “It’s weekly now, or nobody wants to look at a body of work. I was thinking, this is my fifth season. I think there are three coaches that were here when I came. (Frank Beamer, Jim Grobe, Tom O’Brien) It’s about the same as in the SEC. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
(JOHNSON: THIS IS MY FIFTH SEASON) (they can’t all be gems)
Thanks for reading. I was asked to remind you that Johnson’s radio show is Wednesday evening. I can’t say I’ve ever been, but I usually listen, either live or on podcast. It’s usually a good listen. More information here.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog