Johnson wraps up spring on teleconference

Kelly Quinlan, Publisher
Jackets Online
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Danny Karnik/GTAA

Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson spoke with the media on Wednesday about the conclusion of spring practice and gave his thoughts on several topics to the ACC media.

PAUL JOHNSON: Good morning. I thought we had a very productive spring. I think that we got a lot of things done, had a lot of young guys, young players, and we were able to evaluate them to a great extent, and all in all, I don't think we lost anybody for the season injury-wise, so when you can do that, that's always a positive, as well.Happy with the outcome of spring, and hopefully we can take that and have a great summer and come into fall camp ready to go.

Q. What did you learn about your quarterbacks during spring ball?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, we had four guys who were actually playing quarterback this spring, and I was pleased with all four. Matthew Jordan went down about the second week of spring, but that enabled -- we had a couple redshirt freshmen, Lucas Johnson and Jay Jones, who had really good springs, and so did TaQuon Marshall, so I was happy with our quarterbacks. I think we could play with any of those guys.

Q. What area did you leave spring ball thinking we still have some work to do in August to get this thing shored up?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if I would single out any. We've got to work in all the areas. I don't think that we're set anywhere. But I think we made progress in all the areas, and right now I wouldn't have one that I would single out. We've got probably less experience up front on defense inside than anywhere else, but I think some guys had decent springs there, as well. We'll just have to come back in fall camp and get everything cranked up and try to make sure that we're better in all facets.

Q. Just to look at what a team -- I know there's been a recent endorsement for Justin Thomas, your former quarterback, when it comes to a team taking a chance on him or taking a look in the draft or outside of the draft, what can you say about what a team would get with Justin Thomas and if you feel he could fit in the next level?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, they'd get a tremendous playmaker. The guy has been a three-year starter at a Power Five school on our level, and he's got tremendous play making skills. He's a tremendous athlete. I think he has a lot of position flexibility, and he'd just be an asset to any team.

Q. When you look at position flexibility, where could you see him at the next level?

PAUL JOHNSON: I think he could play quarterback. I think he could be a slot receiver. I think he could play corner. There's a lot of places he could play. He's just a really good athlete. Personally, I think he could be a quarterback at the next level in the right system.

Q. There was a recent story on ESPN that suggested that Georgia Tech is one of the prime factories for turning out pro wide receivers; do you find that a little ironic considering the offense you run is so ground oriented that that would be an area where you'd be singled out?

PAUL JOHNSON: Not really because I've said before, if you're a really good wide receiver, you couldn't have a better system to play in than this one. You know, you might not catch 100 balls, but you're going to catch 45 and over 1,000 yards and average 20 yards a catch. The pro scouts really like our guys because they will block. They're more complete players. They tell me they have a hard time finding that. You know, if we don't have the most, we'll be right up at the top of the league in wide receivers in the NFL. We may have more than any other team in our league. Probably do.

Q. There's a growing trend of guys enrolling early, freshmen coming in and playing spring practice that first year. Have you taken advantage of that, and do you think it's much of an advantage or not?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think it's an advantage for them if they want to do it because they gain a spring practice which is invaluable to them compared to the guys who are trying to come in in the fall. It's a little bit harder for us because of the math requirements and some of the stuff they have to have to get in school early. But we've had several, and Dedrick Mills was a great example. He came in early and was able to start as a true freshman and have a great year. So yeah, it's beneficial, but I think they want to have to do it. We don't try to force people or encourage them. We let them make that decision.

Q. Talk about your quarterbacks vying for the position of quarterback this year. Talk about the three players you saw in the spring. What do they look like?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I thought, as I said earlier, they all had good springs. TaQuon Marshall is a little bit bigger than Justin. I think he has some of the same attributes. He played as a true freshman at slotback for us, at A-back. Good athlete. The two redshirt freshmen, Lucas Johnson is about 6'4", 215 out of San Diego. I think he's a good dual-threat guy. And Jay Jones may be the quickest, fastest guy we've ever had here at quarterback. They're all talented, and then Matthew Jordan is a little bigger, a little more physical, and he was the backup a year ago, so he was out there for the first couple weeks of spring, as well.

Q. What was one thing you saw during spring that was something that didn't go well last year that you saw during the spring that might be something you could fix in the fall?

PAUL JOHNSON: I don't know if I'd single out anything that -- our pass rush was a little better this spring than maybe last fall, but I don't know if that's good or bad. Maybe it means our pass blocking is not as good. Until you start playing, I try not to put a lot of emphasis on what happens in the spring. It's more about teaching and learning the system and developing depth and those kind of things.

Q. Just wondering what you thought of Dedrick Mills this spring; he said he felt like he was able to hit the holes just a little bit faster, and he felt obviously a lot better now that he's been in the system for a year. What's your takeaway of what you saw?

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think he had a good spring. His big challenge this spring was to try to improve as a blocker. He's been a pretty good guy with the ball in his hands, and I think he did that. He's a little bigger. We limited his interactions, and when we scrimmaged during the spring game he didn't play very much. But I think he had a decent spring, and I think he improved in some of his blocking, which is the area that he really needs to get better at.

Q. Have you seen more maturity out of him this spring?

PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, I think -- well, you hope so. I mean, Dedrick is always -- he's not a bad kid. He just kind of got -- made a couple bad decisions, and it's part of growing up. Hopefully moving forward he'll stay ahead of that curve because like I said, he's fun to be around. He's a good kid, and he works hard in football.

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