Johnson Pauses, Then Tells It Like It Is

Anyone who has ever asked Navy football coach Paul Johnson a question knows that he rarely, if ever, pauses before giving an answer. However, when asked to name three things his Midshipmen players were currently good at, there was an eerie silence. After some serious contemplation, he eventually responded by saying, "We've covered kick-offs fairly well."

He then quickly added that Navy has also "run the ball pretty successfully."  But when it came to thinking of a third element the team is excelling at, well, don't hold your breath because according to Johnson, he'd be "hard pressed to come up with another one."


He did however say there were some "positives" that he took away from watching the Ball State game film, including a noteworthy blocking accomplishment by the offensive unit.


"There were 141 defenders to the ground, guys that got cut, and that's the most I can ever remember.  That's a positive.  The offensive line had a lot of defenders to the ground – probably more than they ever had," said Johnson.


To put that number [141] into context, Johnson said he thought that for Temple and Rutgers he was able to count about 70 times his offensive unit put defenders to the ground in each game.


"You figure you need about one to one-and-a-half [defenders on the ground] per play to be decent," he added.


So was Johnson ready to single out the offensive line as a unit that has performed well so far this season?


"Not at all - They've done some good things in [the Ball State] game but pass protection has been less than stellar.  We don't have anybody that's all-world.  Nobody's done a great job including me or anybody else.  When you're 1-2 it ain't like your setting the world on fire," said Johnson.


As for three aspects the Navy team isn't doing well right now, Johnson was back in his comfort zone as he quickly rattled off a list.


"Way too many missed assignments.  Red zone - both sides of the ball hasn't been good - scoring and defending.  And third-down conversions…more so on defense but we'd like to be around 50 percent on offense."


As for the defense, there has been a lot of talk about simplifying things.  What does that mean? 


"The best way to win a game is not to lose it.  And the best way I know to lose a game is to not do what you are supposed to do.  I don't care if you're Attila the Hun, if you line-up in an inside technique and you're supposed to be in an outside technique, you're going to get gashed.  And it doesn't matter if the guy blocks you or not.  Now if you line up in an outside technique and the guy still blocks you, ok, you did what you could do and he just beat you.  You gotta give yourself a chance," said Johnson.


"It's the same way on offense.  I may be able to bulldoze everybody I'm trying to block but if I don't block the right guy, it don't make a [expletive].  I'm not going to win if I don't go to the right guy," he added.


Did that mean that Coach Johnson was getting more involved in Buddy Green's defense?


"It's really not Buddy's defense, it's Navy's defense.  There are a lot of coaches over there – 5 of them.  I have a lot of confidence in those guys and I'm going to give them my thoughts and my suggestions, but I've done that all along.  But you have to let guys coach.  I don't have any shortage of confidence that they know what's going on.  We just have to execute better," said Johnson.


According to Navy's defensive coordinator, the team has never really run what he would call a complicated scheme since he arrived along with Johnson in 2002.


"We've always been very simple here.  Every game plan [on defense] since I got here was pretty simple," said Green.


But after the Ball State game, the staff agreed that it was necessary to "reduce the package" on defense even more.


"We know with the youth we have out there we want to try and take as much burden as we can off our two inside guys, and the guys up front, and everybody," added Green.


There were some bright spots on defense and when asked for some positives, Green was quick to point out his newest starting cornerback.


"I was really impressed with the way Darius Terry played in this last ball game.  He won that job in practice leading up to the [Ball State] game.  [He's] not very tall, not very big, but what he's done is work extremely hard on his strength, on his lower and upper body. He is strong for his size."


Johnson concurred about the sophomore saying, "I thought Darius showed up.  He played really hard and he made a lot of tackles.  He played really well last year on the scout team and he had a really good fall camp." 


If you are worrying that all of this praise will go to the young defender's head, well again, don't hold your breath. The question regarding what he thought about Terry's performance prompted Johnson to say the following:


"You know the type of person I am. I'm going to tell Darius when he does a good job and I'm also going to tell him when he misses tackles and if that destroys him, so be it.  I'm going to tell it like it is.  I think that maybe part of the problem we had to start with was everybody was telling these guys how good they are.  And you know it was hard to tell them that maybe you aren't as good as everybody tells you are.  And you gotta work."


Johnson wasn't done.


"The other teams here understood it was hard work and hustle and that's the thing you try to implant.  Now you've got to be careful you don't go over the line and get too far that other way.  And that's what you do when you've coached for 25 years – you know where the line is."


But at some point, with such a young and inexperienced defense, would there be a time that Johnson would need to build up their confidence?


"Yeah, that's part of coaching.  It's just like this week.  I went in on Monday and I didn't get after them.  I said, ‘Hey guys here's the good news, here's the bad news.  The good news is over half the yardage they got we were misaligned or whatever.  We can fix that…if we're not getting run over.  We got a chance to be ok if we can do these things.'   Same thing on offense and that's part of coaching.  You can't just beat the [expletive] out of them all the time."


Three people who haven't been beaten up so far this season are the quarterbacks for Temple, Rutgers and Ball State.  Navy has rarely been able to muster enough pressure to get into the backfields of their first three opponents.


"Have we had a sack this year?  [If so] it was probably on a busted play," said Buddy Green.


"[And] third down conversions…I counted seven times we had pressure coming off one edge and the quarterback bootlegs right into it and we miss the tackle.  Those are opportunities for sacks…opportunities to get off the field.  We've got to take advantage of opportunities.  It's something - I promise you - we work on very hard," added Green.


Even with the loss to Ball State, both coaches concurred that the morale of the team was high and that once Monday hit, it was time to forget about the defeat and concentrate on an improved and experienced Duke team.


"They've got everybody back – they may be the only team in America that has everybody back [on offense].  They have some wide receivers that can go get it.  They will throw the deep ball," said Green.


"They'll be big and physical and they'll be a challenge to us.  They're going to come in here and try to mash us.  We've got to stop them from running the football if we're going to be successful," said Johnson. Top Stories