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Friday Press Conference Transcript: Jimbo Fisher & Paul Johnson

  • Chris Nee


    JIMBO FISHER: Well, first of all I'd like to say we're very proud to be here and honored to be here. I think our kids have worked very hard this year and this is one of our goals to be able to get this game and then the next goal is to win this game, and I think it's a great step for our program and where we're going and the direction we're going. We've had a very good year, first 10‑win season we've had in I think nine years, regular season, and another divisional title, now we need to finish it off and play well and really looking forward for the opportunity and very proud to be here and represent the ACC on our side and looking forward to a great game from Georgia Tech. I know they're a great opponent ane our kids will have to play very well, but we look forward to the challenge and look forward to this opportunity.

    Q. I imagine one of the keys to winning this game is stopping that triple option. Talk about that, how difficult it is to defend when you haven't seen it.

    JIMBO FISHER: Oh, yeah. It's just hard to simulate. In other words you can get your assignments and what you're going to do but during the game you're going to have to make adjustments and see as the speed of it comes at you. Practicing is one thing, and one thing in practice, and you have your assignments and you've got your leverage and you want to do all the things we do, and we think we've got a great plan, but we have to good get used to the speed of it and how well they execute it. It'll be a huge challenge for us, there's no doubt.

    Q. Did you see what you needed to see out of your kids in practice this week, both physically and mentally, to lead you to believe that they put last week behind them?

    JIMBO FISHER: I did. I'm very proud of the way we practiced, from the first day on Monday. Sometimes Monday will linger even a little bit after you've lost, but it did not show this week. Kids come out. You don't have a chance to win a championship. You go through our coaching staff. We've got coaches who have coached 25, 30, 30 years on our staff and they've got one ring, two rings, maybe three, maybe four or five. That's not a lot. You don't get opportunities to play for a championship very often. I mean, no matter what. We even said like last year, for instance, University of Alabama was national champion, but wasn't even its own divisional champion or conference champion. Those opportunities don't just jump out at you, and we have a great opportunity for us to achieve another goal where we're at and very proud to be here, and our kids understand that they've earned the right to be here and they understand how important it is to play for a championship in our conference.

    Q. Really tough loss last week losing Tank. What are the plans?

    JIMBO FISHER: I ask him for 13 guys, because he plays like two or three guys. They won't give them to me, though. You know, all of them: You're going to have to have Giorgio, you are going to have Mario, Toshmon Stevens, all those guys. You know, it's just a great opportunity for those guys to step up just like when Brandon went down, we were worried. Can Tank really have that kind of year? Well, he did. We have other great players, and it's not just going to be that defensive end, it's going to be collectively as a defense, all the things we have to do, and it's‑‑ football is not a one‑man game, and that's the great thing about football. No matter‑‑ he's going to have help around him, he has to do their assignments when they're in the game and Bjoern will take care of his side, and we'll have to keep rotations and things there and more depth. When young players you never heard of and all of a sudden they get an opportunity, and they jump up and somebody else is a hero. That's what sports is about and that's the great thing about it.

    Q. Can you first talk about Bjoern and when you first saw him what you thought? Did you think you'd get what you have now and kind of his development?

    JIMBO FISHER: After he got to our place, yes, and when he was up there, he was very intriguing because he hadn't played much ball, but we loved his size, his athleticism. Our guys said, well, Coach, he'll be an offensive tackle. I said, no, he's not. He's going to be defensive end. Even all of our defensive guys said he's too big, and I said, no, we like big ends.

    He had to convince our defensive coaches. They had never had those kind of ends before, which I had been on teams with them ‑‑ the big, long guys, the heavier guys. They used to have those guys as tackles. I said this guy moves too well. We watched‑‑ James Coley did a great job, we were recruiting another young man, Will Tye, on our team from his team, and we saw him on film and loved him. Then we saw him practice basketball, which he wasn't a basketball player, he was just doing it, but you watched the fluidity, the way he moved, and he videoed and brought it back and we saw it. And then you saw him play on film, for a guy who hadn't played, how instinctive he was on film, did things‑‑ not technique‑wise but just feel for the game, and then when he came to our place and started playing and practicing after about two or three weeks we said, man, this guy, he definitely is the real deal, so we were very fortunate to have saw him and gotten him.

    Q. What excites you about the process of being here in these championship‑type games, and also, what's the take you get from your players in terms of their level of excitement?

    JIMBO FISHER: They're very excited because you know, like I say, you don't get the opportunities to go play on a central stage for a championship. That's what they all want to do. For us, it's our program, it's a step to creating a culture of winning. That's what people don't understand about winning, you just don't magically walk in and‑‑ because you win a year or two, that's not a culture of winning. You get used to being in these situations, you get used to being in these environments, you expect to go to them you expect to play well. We got here a couple years ago, we had a great team against. We played, they won the game. Now we need to take another step and move to where we're going, but it creates a culture of winning; two out of three years we've won the league. Your kids start expecting that. It's the way they think, it's the way they eat, it's the way they breathe. Whether you lose a game or two, you keep getting in the hunt enough, the good things are going to happen to you; the ball is going to bounce right, you're going to make the plays you've got to do, you're going to be healthy, you're going to win all the championships, but you have to get here and understand how to deal with these environments and atmospheres before that can happen, whether we‑‑ we automatically want instant gratification. As fans and media we're like the kids; we want all the glory without the sweat. There's a process of becoming good, and when you're in these environments consistently, those kids get used to that, you get used to it, and you play better.

    Q. Can you talk about EJ and his development maybe more as a leader, kind of an off‑the‑field locker room guy for you?

    JIMBO FISHER: Off the field our kids love him because he's the standard by which you have to live. I mean, as a person, as a student, and then as a team leader and competitor and how he practices, how he plays, the injuries, the bangs, the bruises. I mean, he's a true competitor in all senses of the word. And when your team leader is that way, your team has that mentality. You take the mentality of your quarterback. Other positions are great and you can have them, but when that quarterback is a competitor and he's tough and he represents the right things, it sets the tone across the board.

    You can influence the other guys, and to me that's what a great player does, not just his play on the field, and if he plays poorly or not, but his effect on the other players as people, as students and as athletes is as much as I've been around, and that to me makes him a great player.

    Q. When some of us go back this far, in the late '80s and early '90s when Miami and FSU had those great teams‑‑

    JIMBO FISHER: I was around then. I was down there a bunch.

    Q. The running joke was especially against the Big Eight schools back then was that Miami and Florida State put the option out of business.

    JIMBO FISHER: I remember telling him he was a bad coach and that he couldn't coach.

    Q. What is Georgia Tech doing with their option offense that might be different or better than the options that you used to see out of a Nebraska, Oklahoma team?

    JIMBO FISHER: Well, Nebraska did it more from an eye formation if you remember. They weren't a true wishbone. Oklahoma was a true wishbone. This is a combination of a‑‑ it's a bone, it's a wing with motion. They can get into the bone, but they do it more and it allows them to have more vertical passing game because they have receivers as slot receivers on the ball where they can get vertical more, and they're more hybrid receiver running back‑type guys.
    This is more to me like the old Georgia hambone, the one they ran with Tracy Ham and all those guys back when Erik Russell was at Georgia Southern all those years when they used to bring the guys in motion. It's a version of the wishbone, but it has more passing and more versatility with it. You remember Tracy Ham, I know he was a 1‑AA player, and I know we can't talk 1‑AA and 1‑A, but the guy could run it and throw it, and that's where this offense created a little bit different than the Jamelle Holieway guys. But then Oklahoma was more of an eye power trap than the option game with old Turner Gill and those guys. It was a little bit different. They're a little bit different style of offense that way.

    Q. At that defensive end spot when it comes to rotating those younger guys, is it like running back where you sort of go with a hot hand who's effective during the game?

    JIMBO FISHER: Well, it can be hot hand but also endurance, how the game is going, how they're playing. There's a large number of things that will decide in that. And sometimes you've got to let them play through some mistakes. Guys are going to make mistakes. You can't jerk them every time they make a mistake, can't play. You've got to let them play through, and like not just the defensive end it's going to have to be our defense collectively doing what we have to do.

    Q. You brought one kid from Charlotte on your roster, a punter, Cason Beatty. Tell us what we need to know about him?

    JIMBO FISHER: One, he's an outstanding young man, he's a great Christian young man. He's an excellent student, great representative for our team. We're glad to have him just in general as an overall person. He's a great student. As a punter I think the sky's the limit for him. He's really only about a year before we got him, very explosive leg, did a great job of kicking balls inside the 20. His leg at this time‑‑ the great punter we had last year Shawn Powell, he's every bit as talented as Shawn, and he's learning to punt, and he's big strong guy. He's not a little guy. If you watch him, when he snaps that leg there's a lot of explosion and athletic‑‑ he played quarterback at different times in his life, so he's a good athlete, and that really helps him with his balance and consistency, and I think he had a great year for us as a freshman and I think he's going to be a very good player in the future. And he's even a better young man.

    Q. When you guys came here a couple years ago did it almost feel like a bonus? That was kind of early. There wasn't expectations.

    JIMBO FISHER: We didn't look at it that way. We didn't look at it that way. You get to them, you've got to take advantage of them. We thought we had a very good team coming in, and that team lost a couple games, but we lost one by a missed‑‑ a tailback hit the quarterback, remember, and we was going to score on the 1 and we had a missed 40‑yard field goal or we'd‑‑ we'd have only had one loss that year to Oklahoma. We knew we had a very good football team that year, and we wanted to win when we got here. We didn't look at it that way from any aspect. It's all the same to us.


    PAUL JOHNSON: Good afternoon. First, let me say how excited Georgia Tech is to be here in Charlotte for this game. I'd like to thank the committee, the ACC and everybody for all their hard work in planning and putting this event on.

    Before I get started, I'd also like to congratulate Michael Kelly, who's meant a lot to the league and wish him well in his new job, and I was just talking to Barb, and I guess this is going to be her last event, so we wish her well.

    Again, excited to have the chance to play in the game, and looking forward to it. So with that, throw it open to some questions.

    Q. On Sunday afternoon I guess when you spoke to us, you talked about how you hoped the kids would rebound well from the Georgia loss. That was before you had any practices. Since then have you seen what you wanted to see out of them in practice?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think so. I think we've had a good week of practice. You know, there's been some energy, and I think the guys understand what a great opportunity we have to be in the game. So I feel like that our guys will show up and play well.

    Q. Orwin Smith listed as doubtful, did not practice on Thursday. Plans on replacing him?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, we didn't have Orwin last week. If he doesn't go, we kind of play that position by committee anyway, but B.J. Bostic will probably start opposite Robby Godhigh. We'll go again and see if Orwin can go. I think doubtful is probably about right but just not final yet.

    Q. When you reflect upon the season so far, is there any particular thing on the positive that really surprised you about how this team kind of came together? And on the other side of the fence, was there something that probably you did not get as much as you had anticipated?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, let me start with the second half of that first. I think that we kind of had a season, two seasons in one. We started out early, and we had a couple of really tough losses in the league, you know, to open up in Blacksburg and be up with 40 seconds to go and end up losing the game in overtime, and the same thing with Miami, who everyone thought at the beginning of the year, that those two games were going to be the pivotal thing in who would be here in Charlotte.

    So I think that both those games, especially the Miami game, affected us more than one week. We got to the bye week, were able to rebound a little bit, and the positive thing for our team is we won four conference games in a row and two of them on the road, and I think that they were resilient and fought back and fought their way back to the top of the Coastal Division.

    Q. Can you just talk about what you view as kind of the keys to winning this game?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think it's going to be, like most any game, the turnover battle will be huge, you know, especially for us. We need to be on the positive side of that. We need to be not only efficient in running the ball, but we're going to have to score some points and not give up big, explosive plays in the kicking game. We've really struggled with that aspect in a lot of games this year. And if we can do those three things, you know, I think we can hang around.

    Q. Can you talk about EJ Manuel and kind of what he brings and what you do to stop him?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think clearly he's an outstanding player. He's very athletic. Not only can he hurt you throwing the ball, he keeps plays alive. He's a good runner. And he's experienced. He's played a lot of football.

    It's a challenge. I don't think you ever stop a guy like that. I think what you do is you try to contain him. We've got to find some ways to get pressure on him and try to mix up what we do. We can't become‑‑ in a situation where he knows exactly how we're playing all the time. If you do that, he's going to tear you up.

    Q. Another Florida State related question: Bjoern Werner this week was named Defensive Player of the Year. Is he a guy that you have to do anything different to account for or do you just run your offense and let the chips fall?

    PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think that's a very deserved honor for him. He's quite the player and a great pass rusher. You know, we've got to do what we do, but we'll be very much aware of where he is, especially if you're trying to throw the ball on passing downs and that type of thing. I think with a lot of stuff we do, we'll always have to block him. He'll be a read key or a pitch key in some of those kind of things. But he's an outstanding football player.

    FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

    Chris Nee of 247Sports.com. You can follow me on twitter @CNee247.