Paul Johnson Interview - Part 1

In the first of a two-part interview with some of the local media, Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson talks about improved depth, increased competition for starting jobs, the incoming freshman class and other subjects as the Yellow Jackets prepare to kick off the 2009 season.

Paul Johnson - Profile

How do you feel about the depth situation this year as compared to last year?

"I think it's a lot better this year. It should be night and day especially at some key positions. At the running back position, we have a lot more depth. I think the secondary has a lot more depth. We have a lot more depth on the offensive line. It's just better all the way around."

Will that equate to better personnel on special teams?

"Well it's still going to be the same guys but they're going to be a year older and hopefully they'll be better at it."

Will the addition of players like Jerrard Tarrant change the dynamics of the return game?

"If you got a good returner, it always helps the return game if he's the guy back there. We worked on the return game in the spring and we'll work on it in the fall. That's an area we can make a lot of improvement."

Some of the guys are saying they look up to the players in the secondary for leadership.

"Morgan Burnett is a leader. Generally the players that are good and work hard are the leaders. I don't think you can look at one position grouping. I think Morgan would stand out. I think Josh [Nesbitt] would stand out. Brad [Jefferson] works hard, and the Bedford kid (Sean Bedford) works hard."

Which unit do you think is going to have the most competition for playing time?

"I don't know. It could be interesting. There are a lot of them. I don't think there's a group where there's not any competition. I don't think I could have said that a year ago. There's going to be competition in the secondary. There's going to be competition at linebacker and the defensive line certainly. On offense, the offensive line. Last year, we tried to piece things together. We've probably got twelve guys fighting for five spots. The a-backs there's going to be competition. At b-back, I don't know if anyone can replace Jon but he won't have to play as much. I think anytime you bring in new players and new talent, there will be competition. We didn't lose many players except for the defensive line."

Were there any players that you red shirted last year that you were tempted to use?

"I don't think they were ready to play. The ones we held out we could probably use Tevin [Washington] after the first two QBs got hurt, but it wasn't fair to him. We played freshmen in the secondary (Rashaad Reid and Cooper Taylor). We had to out of necessity. I don't think the offensive linemen were ready to play. What I generally try to do is if they can help us win I'll play them. We'll see about this class. Maybe there are some of them that can play."

Were there any players that stepped up in the spring or any surprises?

"I don't know about surprises. I mentioned Bedford. I think he was a pleasant surprise. He worked real hard. He's going to compete. He's got himself in a position where he's fighting for a starting job. Marcus Wright had a good spring. He's in that category I think. There's competition at a lot of places."

Do you know from off-season workouts which freshmen may be ready to compete?

"No, there are those that look good in shorts and those that look good in pads. We need those that look good in both. I think there is a handful that might play. I have an idea in the back of my mind but I think I won't form an opinion until I see them."

Would playing in the kickoff classic at the dome be something of interest to you?

"I don't know. It would depend on the situation. If it helped the program, we certainly don't need to bring in teams from our own league to play in it."

How do you feel about the quantity and the quality of the off-season workouts?

"I think as a whole, the group has worked hard. It's like anything, you have some that worked harder than others. I think overall we've had a good summer. The guys have been committed, they've shown up and they've worked hard. I think we've laid a good foundation for a good fall camp."

How soon will you be able to tell about the true freshman?

"It might be right away for some and it might be a week before the first game for others. It might not be just athletic ability. It might be how quick they can grasp the system. I'm not going to put a kid back there and return a kickoff and that's all he's going to do. We'll probably have a good idea of it two weeks or a week before the first game."

With preferred walk-ons, do you think you have a better quality this year? Some of those guys that can come in and help on special teams?

"I think there have been a lot of good walk-ons in the program. I think what we've done and will continue to do is have those guys come in and show us that they can play and earn a scholarship. I think in Georgia, with the Hope Scholarship, it sets up very well for a walk-on program. I think the key thing is the kids getting into school. It's hard getting into school."

We only have two or three experienced safeties. How did Kamaron Riley and Jon Lockhart look in the spring?

"Some days they were okay and some days they weren't. They are like everybody else. There's flexibility back there too. Cooper has played back there and Mario [Edwards] has played back there so there is some flexibility."

Do you change your approach going into camp with eleven games in a row to open the season and with the five-day turn around?

"Clemson has the five day turn-around too. The first two weeks of camp, you're worried about yourself and you're not preparing for an opponent. We'll be playing against each other just trying to get back into the groove, working on getting the pads low, and execution and then we'll gear into Jacksonville State. You have got to get ready to play Jacksonville State. You saw what happened last year against Gardner-Webb. We weren't ready to play. That's the first game, so that's who we get ready to play."

Stay tuned to for Part 2 of the Paul Johnson interview later today. Top Stories