Tech gets ready for ACC showdown against Clemson

- Georgia Tech head football Coach Paul Johnson told reporters Monday that Clemson will be the biggest challenge that his Yellow Jacket team has faced this season/

Tech hosts the Tigers Thursday in a key ACC showdown at Grant Field in Atlanta.

Following are comments from Coach Johnson at his news conference:

Opening statement:

“I thought we got better Saturday, and each game we’ve improved in different areas, but there’s still work left to be done. The way we finished, especially our offensive performance in the 4th quarter wasn’t as clean and crisp as it could’ve been. The way the games have gone, we haven’t run as many plays and possessions, but it’s worked out okay; the bottom line is the point total. Having said that, we’re happy to be 3-0, and we’ve got the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far this year on a Thursday night on a short week. It’s going to be a quick turnaround against a very, very talented team.”

\On the similarity between this year’s Clemson team vs. last year’s:

"It’s a lot of the same guys, but they’ve got some new offensive linemen. Defensively, they’ve had to replace some guys, but they’re still big and physical. The stat that sticks out to me is that defensively, they’re giving up 18-percent third down conversions. They haven’t been as prolific as they were last year on offense, but they started to play better last Saturday. They dropped some balls and were their own worst enemy, but I’m sure we’ll get their best on Thursday. They’re still very talented, and [Mike Williams] is as good as a player I’ve seen in a long time; he’s a top-notch receiver, and they’ve got other good receivers as well.”

On comparing Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb to Clemson RB Wayne Gallman:

“Gallman has been a good player for them for a couple years, but it’s a different style. Clemson plays closer, in style, to the way Mercer played than the ways our other two opponents we’ve faced this year have played in terms of what they do: spread you out, try to get their guys the ball in space. They’re more geared towards that way than a power team.”

On getting the team to focus on a better start this year:

“We don’t talk about last year, other than the fact that [Clemson] beat the fool out of us; they beat the fool out of a lot of teams last year. If you watch the tape, we were not a very good football team last year, and they were. We were especially bad in that game, at least offensively, but we weren’t much better on defense in that game either, if you really want to know the truth. We just have to play better. I think we’re a little better than we were a year ago, we’ll see if they’re better or the same.”

On the difficulty of continuing where he left off with the same guys he’s had back from a great season before:

“I don’t think you could always say that, there’s a possibility maybe. Every team is different, you don’t always know, and just because you have a lot of guys returning doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go right back to where they stopped playing. We lost a lot of guys that were critical to the success of the 2014 team that didn’t get enough credit: the running backs, the A-backs, the receivers on offense. Defensively, we had most of them back, but truthfully, in 2014, it wasn’t the defense that helped us that much; we were good offensively. I’ve had other teams, like at Georgia Southern, where we won back-to-back national championships where a large part of the same team came back in and picked up right where they left off the year before, so it varies.”

On whether Coach Johnson has prepared any practice simulations or strategies for playing against Clemson QB Deshaun Watson:

“We’ll start that today with the scout team players, but it’s hard to have anybody be Deshaun Watson. We’ll have quarterbacks who run their things and probably run a couple huddles on the scout team before the week’s over to get accustomed to their pace and tempo, so as soon as one play finishes, the other group is on the line with the next play off the cards. But we do that against everyone that runs tempo. And they’ll assign jerseys on defense so we’ll know who’s who. If you’re running two groups, there will be two quarterbacks, and two completely different scout teams.”

On the difficulty of planning for Deshaun Watson:

“I think it’s difficult planning for their team, he’s a great individual player, but they’ve got a lot of other great individual players. Like I said, if you look, their skill levels are very high. All their receivers are good, their RBs are good, they have big physical offensive linemen. And Watson is the guy that makes it all go, and he’s very talented as well. So they’ve got plenty of talent.”

On facing Clemson LB Kendall Joseph:

“Like I said, they have very good players; they’ve done a very good job recruiting. They’re deep.”

On the potential advantages of a short week:

“I don’t know much about a short week that’s good. The only thing is both teams have to do it. You just get ready and play.”

On whether the atmosphere of Thursday night games helps performance:

“We’ve always had a really good atmosphere for night games, but I think Thursday night games, in particular, have been really good. Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd on Thursday night, and it’ll be fun for the guys to go out and play.”

On whether the short week helps in terms of not building up Clemson as being nationally ranked:

“That’s not the way I work. We just have to get ready to play. I look at this as a great opportunity, and I never try to make it a one-game season, no matter who we’re playing, or build it up to where the hype is too big. We just have to go play, go out there and play as hard as you can and execute. If we can do that, we’ll be in the game. We can play with them, we’ve played with them before. The bottom line is that we’ve played them nine times, we’ve beaten them five, they’ve beaten us four. The last few years, they’ve won at home, we’ve won at home. We just happened to play them at their place two years in a row. They’ve won three of the last four, the three of which have been at Clemson.”

On whether or not this year’s defense can feed off the good performance of the offense similarly to the 2014 team:

“Truthfully, the first game is the first game, I don’t get too excited about the first game. A lot of it depends on who you play. If you take away the first series of last week’s game and the first series of the second half of that game, we were pretty good. We started to get a little more pressure once we got up there, because they had to become more one-dimensional. I think if you get ahead of people, you make them more one-dimensional. The other thing is that if we’re playing well offensively, not turning the ball over and making penalties, there’s a huge difference. I was glancing at a stat chart from the rest of the conference, and that’s where I noticed the 15 possession tidbit from the Virginia Tech and Boston College matchup. Contrast that with our game: we had 8 possessions, so that’s about half of their game. So if you can get people into an 8 or 9-possession game, and you’re very efficient on offense, it puts a lot of pressure on them on offense; if they’re concerned about falling behind two touchdowns, that’s like being four touchdowns down against a team that’s playing 15 possessions.”

On whether having played two traditionally defensive Power Five teams early in the season has prepared Coach Johnson for Clemson:

“We’ve played two teams that supposedly have good defenses, but they don’t have the cast like Clemson does. This is the most talented team we’ll have played, by a mile, and that’s not a knock on the other teams. I think Boston College has some really talented, hard-nosed players on defense, but they’re not the same type of physical guys that we’ll see against Clemson.”

 

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