“Good to see you today. We’re getting ready to play Georgia Tech, we all know that. We’ll be in Atlanta on Saturday at high noon. That’s probably a good thing - we’re used to waking up early, so that shouldn’t be a shock to our system. We’re playing Coach [Paul] Johnson and his offensive system again, and his teams have historically done a great job. They’re probably top five [team] in America in rushing during the time Johnson has been there, the last seven years. They’re just good at what they do.
“It all does start with the quarterback, Justin Thomas. Like most offenses, if you have a quarterback who can run your system well, you have a chance to move the ball and put points on the board. He does a great job. He’s thrown for 364 yards already and run for 144 – he’s their second-leading rusher right now. Outstanding player. I think the thing you say about him, he’s very tough, mentally and physically. He can bring a team back from being behind. He did it, really in Game 1 [against Boston College], I guess. He’s done it before in his career. Certainly he did it one of the years I was at Georgia, a couple years back. He made some beautiful plays and set them up for a field goal and took the game into overtime because of his athleticism and his ability to throw the football. He is an outstanding player.
Marcus Marshall was their leading rusher last year, he had 650 yards. Last year against us he had 74 yards, had a big day. I coached his brother over there, Keith Marshall, at Georgia, so I know the family. J.J. Green is another guy I coached at Georgia, who’s now over there doing a good job, he’s an ‘A back’ for them. Their leading receiver is Ricky Jeune. He has seven catches for 108 yards and averaging about 15 yards per catch, which is pretty typical. [Brad] Stewart is their No. 2 guy.”
Up front, their center [Freddie] Burden, I guess this will be his 30th career start. He has the most experience up front. I know [Shamire] Devine is a guy that while I was at Georgia, I tried to recruit and got beat there in the recruiting process. He’s a massive guy, 6-foot-7, 370 pounds, and a really talented guy. I know he got banged up a little bit last week, so I don’t know how he’s doing. It’s an outstanding system and Coach [Johnson] does it as good as anybody.
“Ted Roof on defense has the 15th scoring defense in America, they’re doing a wonderful job there…up front he has three returning starters coming back: No. 42 [KeShun Freeman], No. 91 [Patrick Gamble] and No. 41 [Rod Rook-Chungong]. Most good defenses start out with a front four that can play ball and penetrate and do those things, and they do a good job of that. [P.J.] Davis, the linebacker, he is the most experienced linebacker coming back. He was the leading tackler last year - had 77 tackles. He’s No. 2 on the team with 24 tackles right now, so he kind of heads up that group. Their leading tackler is No. 14, Corey Griffin, their safety - he has 25 tackles and he does a good job. They don’t show Lawrence Austin as a starter in their base defense, but when they’re in their nickel defense, he’s their nickel. He plays a bunch. Everybody is playing three-receiver sets. He’s really a starter, the way we see it.
“It’s the first conference game. It’s very crucial for us in that regard. Everybody in the Coastal is trying to win it, us being one of them. It’s very important to us for a lot of reasons, but that’s probably the most important reason.”
On any common thread in his historic success against Georgia Tech during his time at Georgia…
“Not really. There were different head coaches and different schemes. Since Paul [Johnson] was there, I think he was there seven years, [we went] 5-2 and the games that were lost were against Paul Johnson’s teams. We won one that I think was in overtime, so it could have been 4-3 really easily. I think even last year’s game was really close. Very, very evenly-matched games, for the most part.
“The common thread is can you defend the triple option? Can you defend the spread option? It’s not all option football, but they have that element to it. When they have a quarterback runner who can throw as well as they can, it creates more problems than you want to be dealing with. That’s the biggest part. Obviously the offense has to move the ball and has to score, get touchdowns in the red zone and not field goals, we can’t turn it over…those are things that will get you beat against anybody.
“But when you have two teams that go high-tempo, there’s a lot of possessions. You might have 12 possessions in a game, or 13 or 14 - a bunch of them. If one team goes slow and chews up clock, you might get eight possessions in a game. Then, all of a sudden, they seem more precious - and they are more precious. You better take advantage of it. I think that’s one of the things – they can make people feel very uncomfortable. Let’s say you’re a high-tempo team, you want to get the ball back, you want to go score. If you go three and out and Georgia Tech goes for a 13-play drive, eight-minute drive, and all of a sudden you don’t get the ball back for all that time, you’re not used to that. Then everybody gets a little uneasy. We have to find a way to keep that from happening.”
On if Georgia Tech’s rushing numbers are down compared to previous seasons…
“I don’t think so. Clemson obviously did a good job and knocked their numbers down in yards per gain. That’s a rarity. As a matter of fact, that was the most rare game ever, I think, against that offensive system, as far as the number of yards that Georgia Tech was able to have in that game. Very unusual. The other thing too is when the opposing team gets points on the board, it’s hard to continue to stay in the mindset that you want to be in. Everybody has a responsibility to take care of business. They’re trying to get us out of our game plan, we’re trying to get them out of their game plan, basically.”
On if Georgia Tech’s ability to control the clock is countered by Miami’s high-play propensity…
“In some ways that’s a blessing. If you get points, it’s great. If you go one-play drive, four-play drives and take a minute and ten [seconds] off the clock, and they go get a seven-minute drive, if you do that enough times, your defense is going to be on the field longer than it needs to be. I’ve always felt like the defense is allowed to have a three-and-out, but it’s very difficult to get a three-and-out against this team, the way they go about it. Coach Johnson probably leads America in going for it in fourth down, and his percentage of making it is extremely high. When you add that to it, that’s just more time being chewed off the clock and less opportunity for our offense.”
On the play of true freshman wide receiver Ahmmon Richards…
“You can tell Ahmmon really loves football. The personality, when you meet him in recruiting or meet him in the street, or whatever it is, he’s just this guy who is pretty calm, reserved – a very well-spoken guy. Then, in the game, something into him. He loves the game so much that he’s a very fierce competitor. I like that about him. [Mark] Walton, if you watch Walton practice every day, you can see why he plays the way he plays. He’s probably the most energetic player in practice every day. There are probably a couple that rival him, but for the most part, not only does he love the game, he loves the practice. He loves the process, the grind of it…it doesn’t matter, he eats it up. I don’t know. There’s something in him that he has a rare love for not only the game, but for practice and preparation.”