GT's Chan Gailey Press Conference on Clemson

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Georgia Tech Head Coach Chan Gailey:

On Calvin Johnson’s game against Clemson two years ago?

“I don’t think I was that surprised by what happened in that game, because I’d been on the practice field with him. It was a time when, maybe, everybody else realized what he was capable of and what he was going to be, but it didn’t surprise me or any of the other coaches.”

Did the bye week come at a good time as it turns out?

“Since it came here, it was the perfect time (laughter in the room). You spend more time on Clemson. You take time with guys that are a little banged up and try to get them well. You do the best you can to prepare. It really has been a fortunate situation. And with no school yesterday and today (Tech had its fall break), we’ve been able to spend some time with them, and that helps tremendously.”

How is your team health-wise?

“We’re okay. We’re not 100 percent. We’ve got some guys who have some things nagging, and we’ll continue to rehab them and get them ready. We’re not 100 percent, but we’re fairly close. For mid-year, we’re not bad.”

What stands out from the Tech game and Calvin’s performance at Clemson two years ago?

“All of it, from the first catch where he ran behind the guy and came out of no where to catch the ball. Then the one in the corner of the end zone. Everyone remembers the last play, but there were a lot of things in that ball game that were big.”

Did that game speak as much for Reggie as it did Calvin?

“We picked out Calvin because it was the first time people recognized him and noticed him as a glimpse of what was to come. I think it was more a testament to our whole football team, nobody giving up. The word we used that week was perseverance. We realized we were going to have to persevere to win that ball game. The guys did. They never gave up. The defense did an unbelievable job on second-and-one at the end of the game. Yeah, it was Reggie. Yeah, it was Calvin. But it was a bunch of other people, too.”

You go back 10 or 12 years and all but one or two games have been decided by six points or less. Do you know going into this game that it’s likely going down to the last game or last series?

“That’s the way you anticipate it happening. They probably expect it to go down to the wire, too. I think we both feel that way.”

On the challenge of facing their offense, which has been very successful running the ball.

“They’re a very physical running team. Their offensive line and tight end are doing an unbelievable job of blocking. They create problems for you because they run the ball so well, and that’s really helped their passing game and a new quarterback. They’ve got three guys who can run the football. It’s a challenge for our defense to try and stop their running game.”

How much has Chansi Stuckey meant to them?

“Stuckey’s a great player. He makes things happen on the reverse, on the quick screen, down the field in the middle. He makes things happen in a lot of different ways. That’s why he’s valuable. He’s not one-dimensional. A guy like that in your offense helps your quarterback, your running game, a lot of things.”

How has Reggie handled his highs and lows and being in the spotlight for a long time?

“In the second game of his collegiate career, he was carried off the field on the shoulders of the student body, and they were chanting ‘Reggie, Reggie, Reggie.’ Where do you go from there? That’s awfully hard to be able to handle that as an 18-year-old. That’s hard to handle as a 28-year-old or a 38-year-old, much less an 18-year-old. It’s not been easy for him. But he’s learned a lot and handled things well through the years. He’s such a great competitor, and I’m pleased that he’s having a good year this year. He just needs to keep going.”

He seems to mirror the way the team goes. Is he, in many ways, the pulse of the team?

“I think it’s more the quarterback position. The quarterback position in the game today does that. Every now and then, you run across a situation where the quarterback position doesn’t have a big influence on where a team is, but for the most part, that’s the way the game is today. I’m not saying that’s good, I’m just saying that’s the way it is.”

Is there an example of something that stands out for you about Reggie’s development?

“I think there are a lot of reasons, not just him being a four-year starter, though that’s part of it. We’ve got experienced players at every other position for the first time in his career. The offense that Coach (Patrick) Nix has put in and done a great job with probably fits him very well, and he feels very comfortable doing it. So, I think there are a lot of plusses that are playing into him having the type of year he’s had thus far.”

On Clemson running the football to power its offense.

“They are epitomizing the old coaching adage of putting people in position to be successful. Their taking their players and allowing them to do what they do best. That offensive line – allowing them to do what they do best. That quarterback – putting him in position to be successful. Don’t ask him to do something he can’t do … yet. They’ve got great runners; use them. They’ve got Chansi Stuckey; use him. They’ve got Aaron Kelly; use him. It’s been very impressive to watch them morph into what they are today from where they were.”

On putting together the present run of five wins. Is there a different mindset that has prevented (so far) the stumbles that occurred in past years?

“I don’t know. If I knew, I would have fixed it a long time ago. I wouldn’t have waited until this year to do it. I don’t think you ever put your finger on things like that. You go prepare your best each week and see what happens. That other team is doing the same thing. They’re preparing their best that week and hoping to win one. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Was the atmosphere in Blacksburg the closest thing you have seen to what you’ll face this week, and did that experience make you more ready?

“Auburn was pretty raucous. Clemson up there two years ago was pretty nasty. There are a lot of tough places to play. You can go to NC State, and it’ll be tough. There are a lot of places that can be tough.”

Do your players handle that as well as anybody does?

“I think so. I think they go out and play their game. They don’t get intimidated by anything. They have a great deal of respect, but I don’t think they’re intimidated whatsoever.”

On Clemson’s defense overcoming key injuries.

“They may have had some injuries, but I don’t think they’ve missed a beat. They play with a lot of speed. They rotate a lot of defensive linemen through there. Clay has moved into the middle now and is going sideline to sideline. They’re doing an excellent job on defense. They’re playing typical Clemson defense to me. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in years past. They’re a very good defensive football team.”

Can you figure out what the computers (rankings) have against your football team (Tech is ranked 19th in the BCS rankings)?

“I think I’ll sleep okay (laughter ensues). If that was my biggest problem, I wouldn’t have any problems.”

On Tech defensive end Michael Johnson’s two plays at the end of the Maryland game.

“(It was a) tremendous confidence builder. He always plays hard. It’s not going to up his level of play. But it’s going to allow him to play with more confidence, and his production and his confidence had probably taken a step up. He’s a great player that we can now put in the ball game in certain situations and expect him to be able to handle his side of the field. He’s just a sophomore.”

What does it say that the four highest-rated teams in the ACC do not include Miami, Florida State or Virginia Tech?

“Any year in the ACC, anybody can step up. That’s what it probably shows. I think most of the coaches realize that you’d better be ready to play every week. You can’t take a week off, because there’s somebody waiting there ready to move up a notch. This is a pretty strong conference, in my opinion, top to bottom.”

Have we seen the last of having one or two schools dominate the conference?

“It would be difficult for one team to remain at the top year after year in this conference.”

What has Calvin Johnson done this year that has made him better?

“He understands coverages better. He understands where people are in the zones, and where the creases are … the few times he sees zone. He’s done a good job of running with the football after the catch. That’s something he’s always been able to do, but he’s had more opportunities and made more big plays that way this year.”

How much of Calvin’s statistical numbers this year is his improvement, how much is Reggie’s improvement, and how much is placing more emphasis on getting him the ball?

“You could say a little bit of all that. Patrick Nix has done a great job of coming up with some new and better ideas to get him involved in the offense. It’s a little bit of all that.”

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