Paul Johnson Interview - Part 2

In the second part of the Coach Johnson interview, we find out if there will be any position changes, the use of the passing game, and thoughts on open practices.

Coach Johnson Interview - Part 1

In what areas do you think Jonathan Dwyer can improve?

"There are a lot of areas. The one that jumps off the map is blocking. Certainly he can do better at that. I think he'd be the first to tell you. Jon's very blessed and a very talented young man. It's only going to help him and get in the flow and to understand better that experience will help."

You did some tinkering with the roster in the spring. Are you going to be moving any more players in the fall?

"We might. It's just trying to get the best eleven players on the field. It makes sense to me that if you have three stacked at one position and they are better athletes than someone at another position, then you might move them. Naturally you don't want to move Morgan Burnett to defensive tackle. You try to get your best eleven on the field."

Do you have anyone specific in mind?

"I don't think there's anybody."

Could somebody like Jemea Thomas be in that category?

"I think it's going to be tough for Jemea. If he's going to have a chance to play at a-back we'll have to evaluate him for a couple of weeks. If he's going to move to safety we have other guys who've gone through camp, so I'm not ready to pencil him in ahead of guys who we've recruited to play there. We recruited him as an athlete. We'll see after we get out there. If he's not going to be in the mix at a-back then yeah, he might be over there. You do the same thing with those defensive linemen. You move them over to offense."

Do you think there will be more rotating done on the defensive line this year than last?

"It just depends. I could see that possibly. We'll see how it unfolds. We still have two weeks before they report to camp. I'm worried about a couple of guys and their weight. It's not what we talked about. We'll see. It may open up a spot for those young freshmen."

How do you feel about the talent level on the defensive line?

"We lost three seniors that were good football players, but I think we'll be fine. If you go back and look, Vance was really consistent but he played the last part hurt. Darryl was consistent but I don't think he had any stats that jumped off the wall at anybody. We lost some good players, but I think we have some guys that can play."

At Navy and Georgia Southern, your teams improved significantly on offense. How much is that a matter of repetition and how much is a matter of confidence or is it the same?

"I think it's all involved together. Anytime you do something more, you're going to get better at it I think. I don't know what's going to happen this year, but I know this. It's night and day between last spring and this spring. We have a long way to go and we have to be more consistent. I'm encouraged by what I saw this spring."

Is it confidence that plays a big part?

"I don't know that confidence has ever been a problem here. The last few years in coaching for me, the kids have been pretty confident."

Can you be more specific about the things you saw that gave you confidence?

"Knowing what they're trying to get done rather than being just rote. I've got to do this or I've got to do that. Now they can use their abilities to play and do things. At quarterback, I'm hoping we'll have a much better understanding and get ourselves in better plays. We don't have as many bad plays.

On the offensive line, two things. We're going to have depth, which will help us, and I think they can play faster. We were at times not good up there last year. We're still going to be fairly young up there but I think we got some competition. Basically we return all five starters from the last six games and there's a chance two or three of them will get beat out. There's a chance we could have the same five starters and there's a chance we won't. It won't be because they're hurt. That in itself will be better. It's competition. We'll be able to play more guys and keep them fresh."

Is there anything new on Roddy's possible return?

"He'll be ready for fall camp. He'll go through everything except it will be non-contact. We expect him to play. If not, we'll have somebody else ready to play."

Will Kyle be ready for camp?

"It doesn't look good right now. That's the one guy that doesn't look good. He'll be going to see a specialist on Thursday. As of right now, we won't bring him into camp."

Emmanuel Dieke is listed on the second unit in the new depth chart. Can you talk about the progress you've seen from him?

"I think he had an okay spring. He worked hard. I don't have the depth chart in front of me. Once you get past the first group over there, it could have been anybody. He's worked hard. He's had a good summer and he's put on weight so we'll see. I know Derrick Morgan will be a starter. Robert Hall had a good spring. After that, it's kinda... Anthony Egbuniwe did some good things."

You're going to have a couple of weeks of practice open in the fall. How do you feel about that?

"I've always had open practices pretty much everywhere I've been. There's just too much information that gets out. I asked people not to do it, but they do it anyway. You don't want to be paranoid but you also don't want to do anything that's not going to help your team. The first couple of weeks will be fundamentals and we won't be game planning. Once you start getting ready for other teams, you have to shut it down. We're way more open than most anybody anywhere. I tried to find a happy medium there because you want the fans to have some access. It's like I tell the players all the time - Abuse leads to restrictions."

What did you work on to improve the short passing game?

"The same thing we worked on last year. I didn't notice it being a whole lot better. We'll see this fall. We're not going to win throwing the ball three yards. If I want to gain three yards, I'll give it to the running back. If we throw it we'll try for big plays and getting it downfield. Therefore, you're probably not going to complete 65 or 70% of your throws. The number I'm more inclined to look at is the passing efficiency numbers. If we throw the ball for 140-150 yards per game, we'll be pretty good."

Going back to the practice question, what ways is it different now than at Navy or Georgia Southern now that you have the Internet?

"I think you get more exposure here. The one thing about Navy you couldn't get in because you couldn't get through the gate. They'd have to show their drivers license and all that to get through the gate. At Georgia Southern, we always had people out there but it was more of a social function there. They'd just hang out. It was the same guys everyday. I gave them all coaching shirts and they sat on the side and watched practice. Here you have more people and with the advent of instant messaging, you have people out there trying to video practice. They post it on YouTube. It sounds paranoid, but I can promise you they got guys that look for that stuff on other teams just like we do. It helps if you can catch one of their drills and see how they line up against this and that. You have to wonder about it going into a game."


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