Paul Johnson Q&A

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s fifth season played out hardly as anyone could have predicted, with two overtime losses in the first four games, the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, an appearance in the ACC title game after a 2-4 start and a bowl-game win over preseason No. 1 USC.

The Yellow Jackets head into the offseason with the momentum of the bowl win, their first after seven consecutive bowl defeats, and Monday’s news that outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu will return for his senior season. Johnson spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the season past and the offseason to come.

Q: You ran some four-wide stuff out of the shotgun at the Sun Bowl.

A: We’ve done it before. We do it every time we get in the (shotgun) pretty much most of the time.

Q: I imagine you might do more of that?

A: We’re going to look to expand some of that with (quarterbacks) Vad (Lee) and Justin (Thomas).

Q: How is Justin’s arm?

A: I think he’s good, but we’ll see. He’s got a strong arm.

Q: Could you see more of the passing attack that you ran at Hawaii?

A: It’s possible. You’ll play to your personnel a little bit. We’ll expand some of the stuff we’re doing in the “gun” but we’re not going to totally get out of what we do.

Q: How much does beating USC remove some of the bad taste of the season?

A: I was just happy for the seniors and for the guys to win a bowl game. There’s so many misnomers or myths and I guess they’re not really myths until you do it. But we were 2-2 in bowl games at Navy and it’s like the thing about it here is, we had a couple we should have won and we didn’t.

We should have won the Sun Bowl a year ago and we didn’t get it done. So the thing that was good for them, I think, and to me, it was important to finish 7-7. It’s better than the alternative. You finish on a positive and you’ve got that to work off of all offseason and into the spring.

Q: Would you describe it as a relief?

A: It’s probably a relief to some of the players or whatever. You don’t have to hear about (the losing streak) until we lose the next one.

Q: How do you evaluate the season?

A: It wasn’t as good as we would have liked, clearly, but I think we dug ourselves out of a hole. We got into a huge hole when we started 2-4 and we played some good football teams. I don’t know if people realize, we played 10 teams that were bowl eligible. They can talk about strength of schedule all you want but when it’s over is how you decide strength of schedule.

Q: Could the season have turned out differently if you had beaten Virginia Tech in the opener?

A: Who knows? I think maybe. I think had we won that game or had we beaten Miami either one, (it could have). You’d like to think if you win the Miami game, maybe you don’t lose the next one but that would be taking away from Middle Tennessee, who played their butt off. They played hard.

Q: How do you evaluate how the offense played?

A: If you look at stats, I think we averaged 40 points a game in the league. The last three games weren’t as good as you’d like, but we also played three pretty good teams (Georgia, Florida State and USC). I get a kick out of people, they talk about, “Well, when you play really good (teams, you don’t score as much).” Well, why the hell do you think they’re good teams?

You should be more concerned if you play a team that’s giving up 40 points a game and you score 10. When you play a team that’s given up 10 and you score 15 … But we can play better. Certainly we need to. We didn’t finish the way we would have liked.

Q: Is there anything you can put your finger on in those games?

A: We just didn’t finish drives the last part. I think you have to give who you’re playing credit, too. We played against a lot of good players.

Q: B-back David Sims came on strong at the end.

A: I thought he ran hard the last two games, really hard.

Q: It must be encouraging to have him back for next season with two years of experience and maybe healthier.

A: It’s like we said last year. I think we got O.K. production out of the position when you add all the guys together. But we need to have more explosive plays out of that position, bigger plays.

Q: Have you decided if you’ll return coach Dave Walkosky to a special teams-only position (after he took over the defensive line after Groh’s firing)?

A: Right now, the plan is more than likely, he’s going to go back to special teams. That’s what we hired him for. It’s not until we firm everything up. This time of year, I’ve learned through the years, you never know what’s going to happen. You’re one phone call away from losing a guy or two or three guys. You just don’t know.

Q: Is inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days as good as he looked against USC?

A: He played really, really well in the bowl game. That’s the best game he’s played. He was physical. He’s got a bright future. He’s got all the tools. He’s big, he can run, he can be physical. I’m excited about him. I’m excited about a lot of the young guys over there. I think we’ve got some good young players.

Q: Will wide receivers Anthony Autry and Travin Henry (both rehabilitating knee injuries) and safety Fred Holton (lower-leg surgery) be ready for spring practice?

A: Anthony should be good to go. Travin should be good to go. They (and Holton) should all be good for the spring.

Q: What about safety Isaiah Johnson (lower-body injury suffered in bowl practice)?

A: Not spring. He had major surgery. Hopefully we’ll get him ready for fall.

Q: What was your reaction to the ACC going 4-2 in bowl games?

A: I think that you have some conference pride. You’re also worried more about yourself. I think it’s good anytime the league can win. There’s no question there’s a media frenzy for a couple of the other leagues.

Q: With 15 commitments, are you still trying to add to the recruiting class?

A: We’ve got most of our guys committed. We still may be able to add a guy or two.

Q: What are some areas that you want to dig into and improve?

A: I think we need to strive to be way more consistent defensively than what we’ve been. If you just call a spade a spade, we weren’t very good, or at least consistent. We’ve played (some good) games. You can say the same thing on offense. We weren’t consistent.

Q: After five seasons, is the team in the position you’d want it?

A: You’re always looking for better players to help yourself but I think we’re in position from a depth-wise (perspective) and that kind of thing, numbers-wise. We’ve got to create a few more or find or help develop a few more marquee guys.

I’ve said from the start that I think there’s no question 1 through 85, the roster is far better than when I got here. If you (look at) 1 through 7 or 8, I don’t know. So that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to improve that 1 through 8 because I know 1 through 85 is better.

Q: Is that simply a matter of recruiting?

A: I think some of it’s (being) young. Did anybody know Bay-Bay (Demaryius) Thomas was going to be that good? I mean, clearly not. He redshirted his freshman year, didn’t he? Or Michael Johnson. Vance Walker. Those guys weren’t highly recruited guys. People can rewrite history all they want, but they just weren’t. They came in and they worked their tail off and they became great players. Who’s to say that some of the younger guys aren’t going to do that?

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

104 comments Add your comment

GT Librarian

January 7th, 2013
7:38 pm

we should get mich state’s DC they were 4th over all in defense and 10th in scoring

jacket backer

January 7th, 2013
8:02 pm

Sorry to hear Kelly is leaving for FSU…..Hope we get the real deal as a DC……This will be a very important hire for CPJ…..Cautiously optimistic about 2013…..

Go Jackets!!

GT in CT

January 7th, 2013
8:05 pm

Interesting interview, especially the last two answers. I’d feel better if he just came out and said, “We need to do a better job of recruiting.” But there’s maybe a hint of that.

Big JIm

January 7th, 2013
8:44 pm

Get your head out of your arse you moron, get out of 1972, and throw the GD ball!

And I dont mean with 50 secs on the clock and 80 yrds to go to try and win the game. Or the once or twice a game 50 yard bomb/incompletion.

Or better yet…do the school, fans and football program a massive favor and QUIT!

GT70

January 7th, 2013
8:55 pm

And he would want to come to Tech why?

Russell

January 7th, 2013
9:00 pm

Thanks for the Q & A Ken. Good job!!!

George Stein

January 7th, 2013
9:02 pm

That was insightful, Big Jim. Tell us more!

Dogkicker

January 7th, 2013
9:33 pm

just win baby

CT_Jacket

January 7th, 2013
9:35 pm

Young players will be inconsistent. Hopeful that next year is even better with a more favorable schedule and 16 starters returning along with some key players returning from injury. I hope those two big lineman in this class play right away to help get more push.

As far as the playcalling, I think that we might move from 12-14 passes per game to 16-18, but it’s not going to be a wholesale change. However, I think that Vad Lee will be more accurate than Nesbit or Washington. He’s also a lot faster than both and will make the run game more dynamic.

GT-UT

January 7th, 2013
9:36 pm

Interesting on the 1-85 comment. I’d have to agree. Same idea with the 1-8. I say we have to be more physical if we are to win a NC. Alabama is BIG. We need to get bigger.

Call a “spade a spade” and get real. We are too small. I challenge the concept that our Tackels at 280 shouldn’t be 300. Period. Of course, I have no idea how these kids get that big anyway.

Supersize that order, mutt

January 7th, 2013
10:12 pm

Big Jim should change his name to Big Dick, since that’s what he is

Augusta Jacket

January 7th, 2013
10:39 pm

Careful there, SS. Don’t you know not bother trolls? They shizz where they eat.

Supersize that order, mutt

January 7th, 2013
10:43 pm

gt40pinhd

January 7th, 2013
10:45 pm

i hope Tech Forever is correct: thompson from ala is coming as dc.
if he’s working for ala, he must be a good recruiter! and we need that.

Paul in NH

January 7th, 2013
10:46 pm

Interesting interview.

1 4 GT

January 7th, 2013
11:20 pm

Interesting comments. Not to be critical, but I just love coach speak. Answers your questions without really saying too much. Much like the Sunday AM pols on TV!

Nice CPJ interview

January 7th, 2013
11:33 pm

[...] CPJ interview Paul Johnson Q&A | Georgia Tech Reply With [...]

ignition

January 7th, 2013
11:39 pm

I liked the last two answers. This year Tech will have 6 or more senior starters on defense and around 4 or 5 on offense. But I’m more excited about the players redshirted.
As far as getting bigger, look at the redshirts, and the players recruited for the o-line … The lines will get a lot bigger.

Wrecked

January 7th, 2013
11:43 pm

wow he’s stupid enough to think the roster is better than when he got here?Not many people agree.

1 4 GT

January 7th, 2013
11:48 pm

Not really a fan of either ND or Bammer. Gotta give the devil his due though. Bammer looks like a sure enough dynasty. They’ll be really hard to beat next fall too.

ignition

January 7th, 2013
11:54 pm

@ wrecked it’s called reading comprehension …

SoCal_GT_Fan

January 8th, 2013
12:26 am

This is why I like CPJ. He’s honest. In the last two Q&A, CPJ does mention that he doesn’t have any of the play makers (i.e. roster 1 thru 8) that he had that first season but the overall depth has improved. I would say that’s a honest assessment and something I agree with. We don’t have any Dwyers, Johnsons, Morgan’s, and Burnett’s. But we are “solid” everywhere except the kicking game (hopefully this Harrison Butker kid will alleviate some of that). Perhaps you can say Attaochu comes closest to an “impact” player but he was close to nonexistent in the first half of the season.
It looks like after this recruiting class, we are getting some bigger O-linemen (not just DeVine and Hall but also the Auburn transfer Thomas O’Reilly) than what we’ve traditionally recruited under CPJ. They are all WAY over 300 lbs. I don’t think they have necks. Seriously.
We are also recruiting more physical running backs. Both Donovan Wilson and Travis Custis are over 210 lbs and close to 6′ tall. Last year we got Marcus Allen (6′2″, 210 lbs) although I’m not sure if he’ll be playing RB or LB. At the beginning of CPJ’s tenure, we got the 5′5″ to 5′10″ 170 lb RBs. Seems like we are upping the physicality of this running offense.
I would like to see us get another D-lineman (Jay Ellison perhaps???). We’ve just whiffed on way too many of them lately (Tuitt, Tomlinson are two that immediately come to mind). We don’t have a chance in the world of stopping Gurley/Marshall & Co. if we don’t have a D-line that can take control of the trenches.

GT-UT

January 8th, 2013
12:42 am

SCGTF…I hope you are right. I like the TO when we are up a score or two and just impose our will on Defenses. That death march sure is something. Bigger is better.
Go Jackets!

superDawg

January 8th, 2013
6:15 am

pj said you dug out of a hole into a 6 -7 season begged your way into a bowl game and finished .500.Middle tenn.state should have played usc.

Jacket Detective

January 8th, 2013
7:29 am

@superDawg.
That 5 yards is going to eat at u guys for a long time.
Just think if the ball had fallen incomplete or the player had been better coached to drop it if not in the endzone.
To drop a pass intentionally would have taken a Saban coached WR.
With an incomplete pass, Georgia scores on the next play and then wins the NC.
So close.
Too bad.

Mark Richt

January 8th, 2013
7:34 am

I woulda, shoulda, coulda be a better coach but as long as these fools pay me over 3 mil a year, who cares?

Mark Richt

January 8th, 2013
7:37 am

Anyone want to join my off-season missionary trip?
Bringing backward and poor people into Christianity is what is important.
Not football.
That’s not your value system?
Guess u should have hired someone else.

Ho hum

January 8th, 2013
7:42 am

After reading the Q & A I just can’t understand how tek fans can embrace that guy – I mean really.

Sven Ottle

January 8th, 2013
8:41 am

GT-UT check out the size of the 2 OL coming in from Tri-Cities. Big ‘uns!

gt4ever

January 8th, 2013
8:44 am

LOL, solid at every where else… According to who… Your grand mother, who knows little or nothing about football… The following statement says it all..

I’ve said from the start that I think there’s no question 1 through 85, the roster is far better than when I got here. If you (look at) 1 through 7 or 8, I don’t know. So that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to improve that 1 through 8 because I know 1 through 85 is better.

Completely DELUSIONAL! He has and will continue to run this program off the cliff!

MrPhoenix

January 8th, 2013
8:46 am

And just think Jacket Detective, the dwags want to talk about Reggie not being able to count.

JM

January 8th, 2013
9:00 am

I agree with the last statement. Hard work pays off. I am glad the team continued to work hard through a tough season and finished strong.

JM

January 8th, 2013
9:00 am

Coach Johnson’s last statement…

Taylor King

January 8th, 2013
9:07 am

Love the last answer. Those were guys he didn’t recruit and really didn’t develop. I wish he would quote the guys that he has recruited and developed into top talent since he has arrived but his answer would be no one.

Birmgham Jacket

January 8th, 2013
9:49 am

This guy is a Dud.

I hate it when coaches (or fans for that matter) downplay recruiting and perseverate over the unusual “diamonds in the rough”. Recruiting is what matters the most folks. Ask Notre Dame!

JOHNSON IS A TOTAL COP OUT, IN THIS REGARD, AND HAS FAILED MISERABLY WHEN IT COMES TO SIGNING THE CALIBER OF TALENT GEORGIA TECH IS CAPABLE OF SIGNING.

No. We will never recruit like Alabama. But we should not be recruiting like Duke, Wake Forest, U. Conn and Temple, either.

Johnson’s got next year and probably 1 more, just because we can’t afford to fire him. But no AD worth his salt is going to put up with his silly offense, division-2 caliber recruiting and (as a result) half-empty stadums at home games.

Freddie Blassie

January 8th, 2013
9:53 am

Georgia Tech would have beaten Notre Dame last night. Talk about a puffed up team getting exposed as the fraud that they (and the idiots who wanted them there) were. There is no way in hell Notre Dame should be in the top ten. One football player on their team, No. 80, was the only guy on the team who could play. The linebacker who won all the awards, No. 5…. My Tie or You Tie, could not start on most teams in the top ten.
Hell to Notre Dame promoters. It was the biggest con job ever on the poor advertisers for this game and the poor schmucks who paid the high prices. There have been better deals on diamond rings on the corner of Pryor Street than this matchup “blockbuster of a game”. Notre Dame should be back at the bottom they’ve inhabited for the last twenty years.

Would'a, Could'a, Should'a

January 8th, 2013
10:04 am

UGA would have beat Notre Dame last night. They COULD have, and probably SHOULD have beat Bama for the chance to be there last night and win the NC if Richt, Bobo, and Murray even had a clue

THANK GOD THEY DIDN’T !!!

Supersize that order, mutt

January 8th, 2013
10:06 am

@ Freddie Blassie……there was also no way in hell that ND should have been in the 1980 game that the mutts won to win the NC that year. Hell that was the same ND team who had to come from behind just to TIE a bad GT team in Atlanta.

Birmgham Jacket

January 8th, 2013
10:11 am

@ Freddie

“Georgia Tech would have beaten Notre Dame last night.”

As much as I love my Jackets…. NOT A CHANCE…. AND NOT EVEN CLOSE. ND by 14 or

If you want a reference, ND beat a Miami team that has whipped us 4 straight times 41 to 3 this year. Also beat BYU which totally dominated us at home.

What you don’t appreciate Freddie, is that in all seriousness, if Alabama really wanted to, they could beat this year’s Georgia Tech team anywhere between 60-70-80 points, to absolutely nothing.

Take your gold glasses off, and cut back on that kool-aide.

Ugablows

January 8th, 2013
10:11 am

Mark Richt, hey man if your such a great christian then why are you still a millionaire?

ramblingbuzz

January 8th, 2013
10:16 am

Look……I was convinced after the MTSU that the team had quit on CPJ. That was not the case. In spite of all the talk about him being an arrogant donkey’s butt, the team kept playing for him. And we did score 2 of 3 TDs in the bowl game on short passes instead of winding up attempting field goals. Maybe CPJ’s not the guy you want to drink a few beers and shoot the breeze with, but I’m pretty sure he knows a good bit of football. Now if he hires a DC who can make a difference, GT football should be in pretty good shape.

Tech Troll 13

January 8th, 2013
10:53 am

One thing I think is worth noting about recruiting. In the past, you recruited seniors, but now you’re having to recruit HS Freshman and Sophs to establish the relationship. CPJ didn’t really recruit this area for Navy, so he had to start from scratch. It seems to me that the recruits are getting bigger and better.

Tech Troll 13

January 8th, 2013
10:55 am

@ Ugablows

You don’t know much about Christianity, do you?

Supersize that order, mutt

January 8th, 2013
11:15 am

As much as I dislike Richt (as a coach at UGA), his wealth, whatever it is, is HONESTLY gained, and there is no incongruity between being a Christian and HONESTLY earning big bucks. Obviously there are some so-called Christian ministers out there who have not HONESTLY earned their money. But, regardless of anything else, Richt IS an honest man. And I know that he doesn’t just hoard his earnings; he does give to charities and mission endeavors. I still don’t like him, but that’s another story. LOL

82Dawg

January 8th, 2013
11:22 am

@Supersize…..well said!!

Supersize that order, mutt

January 8th, 2013
11:25 am

@ 82Dawg…..thanks. I may hate the mutts with a passion, but I don’t like seeing anyone slandered, even a mutt. :)

4th and Long Gone

January 8th, 2013
11:28 am

If you thought the quarterback competition this year was interesting, wait until next year. Everyone is assuming Vlad Lee will take over, but I am not so sure that Justin Thomas will not beat him out. Unfortunately, GT’s two (and only) marquis players play the same position. If they had two players of that caliber on defense, GT might be in good shape. At any rate, should be interesting next year.

Supersize that order, mutt

January 8th, 2013
11:34 am

@ 4th and Long…..Actually, I think we might. Gotsis, Kallon, Attaochu, and a few others may well shine under a new DC.

4th and Long Gone

January 8th, 2013
11:36 am

I would like to see CPJ and coaches reach out (more?) to the high school coaches. As all the UGA trolls like to point out, a whole lot of high schools run a similar type of offense. GT should sponsor (if they don’t already) coaches clinics during the summer. I know when CPJ first came, one of his priorities was to recruit in-state, trying to build up future good will. I don’t know if that is still his philosophy, or if he has finally concluded that UGA’s hold is simply too strong.

Nate

January 8th, 2013
11:43 am

Agreed Supersize, I actually like Mark Richt and yes I’m a GT fan. He represents what is right in college football. I admire his morals, values, and respect him for the individual. I wish our fans would worry less about Richt and Company and support our team.