"Getting into Georgia Tech, they return 15 starters from last year that went to their ninth straight bowl game. In a matter of fact, there are only six teams in the country who have played in nine straight bowl games and they happen to be one of them. They have won six of their last seven opening games, including going into Auburn last year which was highly ranked and beating them pretty good. In fact they have beaten one nationally ranked team each of the last 11 years and six ranked opponents in the last four years.
"Chan Gailey is their head coach and I have known him for awhile. He has coached in college 16 years and I think he had a couple of years in the XFL or USFL. He coached 14 years in the NFL, including a stint as head coach with the Cowboys. He has turned over the offense to Patrick Nix who was a heck of a player at Auburn. Coach Nix has been there five years and been the offensive coordinator for three years and anytime you have a new play-caller, it obviously causes some uncertainty. It forced me to do some research back to Henderson State in 1999-2000 when he was the head coach which is in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. We actually came up with some tape when he was the play-caller. Two things about their offense last year which struck a chord with me is that they only gave up 10 sacks last year and in the third quarter doubled the output of all their opponents. They are great coming out of the box in the second half as they outscored their opponents 79-37.
"Obviously Reggie Ball keys their offense. He is a dual threat with run and pass and he has been starting for three years with 36 starts in his career. He is the third leading rusher on top of it last year and he was only sacked eight times. The one thing we have to be ready for if something happens to Reggie is that both the second and third team quarterbacks are left handed. So it is something you have to be prepared for in case Bennett or Garner gets into the game. At running back there are three guys who are mentioned and a lot of people know about Tashard Choice the transfer from Oklahoma who was sitting behind Adrian Peterson. Last year he rushed for 513 yards and a 4.4 average and six rushing touchdowns. They're not afraid to play Rashaun Grant especially on third down and he is a heck of a kick-off returner as well. Rashaun was slowed by injuries last year and only played in five games after having a pretty stellar freshman year. Jamal Evans came in from Irving, Texas, and fortunately for them, they got him in the spring and from all indications the 67 touchdowns he scored in three years when he was in high school is not a myth. So they are pretty loaded at that position and Mike Cox returns as their fullback and even though he didn't have a carry you can't forget about him especially in the passing game because he has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield. It is interesting at tight end because Mike Matthews was the starter last year and now he is the back-up. He got hurt and wasn't full strength later on in the year and the back-up George Cooper who took over is now the starter. So you have two veterans back at tight end and they are both big bodies 6-4-260 and 6-4-270. At wide receiver everybody knows about Calvin Johnson. It is no mystery. He is 6-5-235 a junior All American Candidate caught for just under 900 yards last year and averaged 16 yards a catch. What really bothers me on top of everything else besides his athleticism; in fact he has caught a pass in every game he has played in and in the last two years has accounted for 40 percent of their passing game. He has drawn 16 pass interference or holding calls so that is like 16 more long throws that he has brought to the offense in addition to the ones that are obvious. James Johnson will play opposite of him but has been nursing some injuries both in the spring and training camp but he is ready to go. Chris Dunlap who we expect to see is also a heck of a kick returner and we expect to see Greg Smith and Maguire in the game as well.
"The key to their offense in addition the quarterback and that #21 guy is obviously this offensive line. They have five starters back and everyone talks about the four returning starters in Andrew Gardner and Matt Rhodes left tackle and left guard and Kevin Tuminello in the middle with Nate McManus at right guard and really Mansfield Wrotto is a starter too as he has started 32 games at defensive tackle and by the way he wore #97 as a defensive tackle now he is wearing #68 as an offensive tackle.
"Coach Tenuta is one of the best in the business there is no question about it. In the last two years they have been ranked in the top 25 nationally in just about everything. Total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and when they play good teams, they usually shut them down. A case in point Auburn and Miami last year had a combined 80 rushing yards between the two of them. They had 21 interceptions last year and ranked 13 against the run and held opponents to 29 percent conversions on third downs and had 36 sacks. So we are obviously concerned about that defensive coordinator who is a heck of a coach. Coach Gailey has come out and said the defensive line is probably the strongest area of the football team with guys who have played a lot and they have moved guys around a lot in spring and in this camp. They have played tackles outside, they have played ends inside, so it is tough to get a complete fix but we do know they return Adam Oliver and Joe Anoai and Joe is their most experienced guy with 23 starts as a defensive tackle. Probably the key guy beside Darrell Robertson manning the other end who was the third defensive end last year is Darrel Richard who is coming back after a red shirt year do to a knee. This has allowed them the flexibility to move Wrotto back over to the offensive side of the ball. They return two starters at linebacker. Phillip Wheeler has moved to the inside to the middle linebacker. Last year he was an outside linebacker last year and their main guy is Michael Hall who is a two-year starter and has played all three positions and is the fourth leading tackler last year. Apparently Gary Guyton won the other outside linebacker position. He was their fourth linebacker last year and started against Auburn so it isn't like he never started before.
"In the secondary they have done a nice job of overcoming the injury to Joe Gaston who is a heck of a player and is lost to a knee injury last spring that is going to keep him out this year. One of the ways they did that was to take Jamal Lewis from corner and put him back at safety and that was a nice way of handling that loss. He will be back there with D.Jay Jones. As far as the corners go, obviously everyone knows about Kenny Scott as a shut down corner for the last couple of years and I anticipate either Pat Clark or Jahi Word-Daniels will be the other starter with the other one playing in the nickel so we will see a lot of both of those guys.
"Another uncertainly on this team is they have a new coordinator on special teams, Charles Kelly, this is his first year there. They brought him over from Nichols State we looked at some Nichol State tape in addition to sitting there and seeing what they do on special teams. Durant Brooks sat out last year after transferring from Georgia Military Academy as their punter and he has been impressive from what I understand. Travis Bell, their place kicker, has a strong leg and they also have a kick-off specialist Mohamed Yahiaoui who wears #9 as a true freshman last year had 12 touchbacks. The snapper is Bret White and he is new. I have already mentioned Grant, Dunlap and Clark as returners but in addition and the one guy I didn't mention was Corey Earls an incoming freshman and I think he has a chance to get in the mix as a returner and as a receiver."
Do the players watch all the hype on TV the night before the game and do you care if they watch it?"First of all, the night before the game they don't have any time to watch the shows. The night before the game by the time we get there get checked into the rooms and go have dinner and have meetings, it is pretty close to the time to go to bed. So that doesn't leave a lot of time on Friday night; so that leaves Saturday morning and I tie up Saturday morning too. So there are a lot of those shows they are missing because there is something going on at that time."
How do you want Brady to handle all the hype about the Heisman and other things?"He knows when we go we treat these trips as a business trip. It is not a pressure thing when we are around the hotel and there is a lot of camaraderie and I like the players to be around the players and I don't think they are worrying about too much outside influence. I think he, as well as the rest of the guys, managed the road trips very well last year and handled themselves very professionally and I like to think it will be more of the same this year."
Is Mike Turkovich healthy and ready to go?"That will be a day-to-day thing this week and I'm not bringing him unless there is no risk to the kid. Is he practicing today? Yes, but I'm not bringing him unless there is no risk to Mike."
Are the players ready for the proper coin toss call this year?"The players are ready to play against someone else and I'm sure Georgia Tech feels the same way. It gets old going against each other and I don't think the coin flip is going to be the issue right now whether we start on offense or defense; we will get that straightened out and see if we can't do a better job of that. If we win the toss you don't have to question what we are doing. We are not deferring."
Was it difficult finding Henderson State and Nichols State tape?"I wasn't the one doing the research, thank God. I was the recipient of it showing up but they came up with both of them. You don't know if that's the way it is going to go but I know there is a couple of different ways they can go both offensively and on special teams and because you have so much time to get prepared for the opener in training camp you can try to prepare for everything. But there is always going to be some uncertainty and there are things that are going to happen that you will just have to adjust on the fly."
How would you describe the character of Asaph Schwapp after the problem in last years Michigan State game and throughout last season and this camp?"I don't like labeling sophomores like seniors as far as mentality goes, but I have often talked about certain players like Zibby and those guys with that toughness that's pretty obvious to see. Asaph seems to have that exact same toughness physically and more importantly mentally. That never seemed to faze him one bit last year and has led to expect better things out of this year."
How does the routine change from a night game compared to a day game?"One thing that happens is I send seven coaches out recruiting as soon as practice is over on Thursday. You can go on the road recruiting for six days during the season so one of our days will be this Friday. So we don't meet offensively and defensively on Friday night we meet with special teams as a whole team then I take the quarterbacks. So our normal Friday night offense and defense meetings are on Saturday morning - so that ties up Saturday morning. So Saturday morning we will meet offensively and defensively and go through all of our final preparations. If there is some downtime it will be in the early or mid-afternoon just when they are getting ready to eat the pre-game just before they head over to the game."
If there is downtime, is there a negative to them watching a game on TV especially an opponent?"I watch them myself. I do the same thing so one of the ways I like to keep loose is by flipping on a game myself so if there is one on there, I'd probably be turning it on. I'm the worst person to watch a football game with because all I do is analyze the game. You wouldn't want to watch a game with me."
Would you talk about Darius Walker going back home to play?"It's funny because I had Darius and his mom in my office yesterday and we were talking about this same thing. About how many tickets you can get your hands on and it is the same problem everyone has but it is a little different when you're going home. That's one of the things I'll talk with the players in the meeting this afternoon. Because we have multiple players from Georgia and the southeast and that will give me the opportunity to talk one more time in a general setting the pros of having so many family and friends make the shorter trip to come see you and make sure that doesn't become a distraction and you stay focused on the game."