Johnson - I'm Responsible for the Bottom Line

With the news of the release of Coach Dave Wommack today, Coach Johnson took time out from his busy schedule this afternoon to discuss the change, what transpired on defense this season and who may be hired.

When did you realize that a change may be needed?

"I think towards the end of the season. It was a gradual process through the last year and a half. Dave's a really good guy and he's knowledgeable at what he does. It wasn't working for us to the degree where I felt we had to get to where I wanted to go. I have to ultimately do what I feel is best for the program. We got away with a lot of games this year. It was a long process. It wasn't something that happened in one game."

Was it the strategy or the schemes?

"It was just the results. I just felt that when we played the better offensive teams we struggled. That's not all we were doing. We have some personnel issues. We have some other things that we have to address. It certainly wasn't all Dave. There comes a point where you have to make a decision and you choose to go a different direction. I just felt to get where we needed to go we had to change directions."

Do you have a timetable to fill the two openings?

"It will happen when it happens. I kinda have an idea what's going to happen. I think you think everything through and make sure it's the best decision and you want to make sure that it all fits. I was in no hurry to fill Jeff's spot because this time of year a lot of things happen. Guys move up and guys move around. It's the nature of the business. I held everything until we could see where it's at and then you fill them accordingly."

Is there a certain scheme you're looking for?

"We really didn't go through a bunch. We were basically a 4-3 team. I'm not crazy about any particular scheme. I'm more crazy about results. I'd like to have somebody that had experience and can fix things and we can get better and recruit to; we'll find somebody that is good I'm sure."

Is there anything in particular that needs to be fixed?

"We need to take a long hard look at personnel and where they're playing. Ultimately I'm responsible for the result. I have to do something that I think will improve the results. I'm a bottom line guy. I don't care if we're a 4-3 or a 3-4 or an eight man front as long as we're making progress and improving. We probably played one of our better games defensively in the bowl game. I think it will be good for the program to get a fresh look at it and see if we can't build on it."

Do you see help coming from some of the redshirt freshmen?

"What we're trying to do is build a program so we redshirted most all of the freshmen linemen. The last game withstanding we got whipped on both sides. That's been an ongoing issue, at least for one side of the ball for the past two years. We have to get better on both sides of the line of scrimmage."

Was your decision one that you had made going into the bowl game?

"It wasn't a one game type deal. If you look at the bowl game I think we played better defensively. They were not one of the better offensive teams coming into the game. I think you have to be real careful when you take a one game scenario on anything. This was more of a thing of the last season and a half."

How do you stay calm with players and coaches leaving?

"Every year is different and each team will have its own identity. From a coaching standpoint there's very few times that you don't have changeover. You're dealing with a large number of people. Jeff had a chance to be a head coach. That's great for him. That means we're having some success here. The other situation is tough. I think Dave is a great man. He's a very knowledgeable football guy but it wasn't working. You can either stand still or try to get better. My nature is to try and get better. You lose guys every year. There's a chance we could lose four juniors. We'll see in the next few days. If you do we look at it like we lost ten seniors. You're going to lose guys every year. You hope you have guys to replace."

How bad did injuries affect the play of the defense?

"I don't think there's any question that they did. We were thin up front to begin with. Robert Hall was a killer. We lost him early in the year. Kyle Jackson not being there hurt us depth wise. That's part of football. At the end of the day you're going to be measured on the results. Nobody wants to hear the labor pains they just want to see the baby."

Will Jeff's replacement more likely be someone you've coached with as opposed to the defensive replacement?

"Both of them will more than likely be someone that I know."

What was Dave's calling card when you hired him?

"They were an aggressive defense at Southern Mississippi. Honestly, I don't care about the scheme. I've been out there long enough to know that there are great 4-3 guys; there are great 3-4 guys and there are great 8 man front guys. What you're judged on is the bottom line. It doesn't matter how you go about doing it but rather are you getting it done. For the most part I got involved this year and might have been more of a hindrance than a help. As long as things are going well you probably don't see me over there."

Will there be any other staff changes?

"I don't think so. Not that I plan. We'll sit down and Wednesday we'll have an end of the season deal. I'm in the process of sitting down and looking at every aspect."

Would any of that be the defensive coordinator's decision?

"We'll sit down and talk about it but no I don't think the defensive coordinator would have the option to come in and fire guys that are already here."

What about the special teams coach?

"It's a little bit of a misnomer. We've had all the coaches involved and I'm going to take a look at that and see if that's the way we want to continue that. I thought we improved this year. Basically, Jeff had the title and coordinated each practice and who's turn it was, the meeting times and those types of things. He coached the kickoff team and every other one was assigned to somebody else. It wasn't like he was in charge of all the special teams."

There are some internet rumors about Al Groh?

"I'd be real careful about reading anything on the internet. Anytime you can post something without putting your name to it. I don't know about that. We'll sit down and try to make the best decision and see who I feel gives us the best chance to have the best defense we can have. I can assure you that nobody has been hired. I've talked to a lot of people about the position. It will sort itself out."

What about the recruits?

"I think we're okay. I don't think we have any that were directly recruited by Dave. I'm sure some of the guys that their position will be impacted but we'll talk to them. I don't foresee it being a big issue right now." Top Stories