Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson Talks About Thursday Night's Game

by - Senior Writer -
Tech head coach Paul Johnson said the Yellow Jackets will kick the ball to Clemson's C.J. Spiller, shown here returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown against MTSU on Saturday. (Front page photo: Icon SMI)

Clemson fans were thrilled when star running back C.J. Spiller returned the opening kickoff of the 2009 season for a touchdown on Saturday, and after the game, Middle Tennessee State head coach Rick Stockstill said he was disappointed because the plan was to not let Spiller come anywhere close to the football on special teams.

Paul Johnson, however, said he has no qualms about kicking to Spiller, and knows the Tigers will get Spiller the ball any way possible, so Tiger fans will be looking for a repeat performance.

Johnson is the head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Tigers’ opponent Thursday night when Clemson travel s to Atlanta to take on the 15th-ranked Jackets in a nationally-televised ESPN game.

“We do not plan to kick it out of bounds on purpose,” Johnson said. “We plan on kicking it. We got to kick it and cover it. Get the guy with the ball; that is what you play. We are getting ready for Clemson. We never get ready for individuals anyway. We are going to do what we do. We do not change by who the personnel is on the other team.

“He [Spiller] is going to get the ball so many times and you have to tackle him when he gets it. He is a great player but it would not be any different than trying to tackle Jonathan Dwyer in practice or a scrimmage. When he has the ball you have to wrap him up. You have to rally to the ball and more than one guy has to get there. You have to be aware of how they use him. “

Johnson said in a press conference on Wednesday that he was impressed with the Tigers against Middle Tennessee State, and expects the usual fireworks that usually occur between the Tigers and Jackets.

“Historically, they are a very good football team,” Johnson said. “When you watch them on tape, without a question they have as good athletes, or maybe better, than anyone we play in the league. I am extremely impressed with them after their first game. They made some mistakes that they will correct. They flew around and play hard.

“They play about eight to nine defensive linemen that all look the same and are a chore. On offense they have [C.J.] Spiller, who can go the distance any time he touches the ball. They have Jacoby Ford at receiver and some big running backs as well. I thought their freshman quarterback really handled himself well for his first game. It will be a formidable challenge for us this week.”

Like Swinney, Johnson has said that trying to prepare for such a formidable opponent during a short week is hard and even tried to move last week’s opener against Jacksonville St. moved to last Thursday night, because their next game is also on Thursday night, at Miami. The ACC, however, nixed that idea, saying it would be an advantage that the Tigers wouldn’t have.

“It’s a hassle,” Johnson said. “It is tough. We put a full day of practice in yesterday. We got in early this morning and we will work through the day. Tomorrow, we should be up to speed where you would be on a Wednesday of a normal game week. The first couple of days are the hardest. You get done on Saturday and then you come back on Sunday and practice.

“Fortunately, in Saturday’s game, nobody played more than 40 plays on offense. Most of the key guys didn’t play that many. On defense, a few guys played 50 but they are secondary guys. Actually the game was not as bad as a scrimmage during camp as for reps and those types of things. “

However, he also said that the advantages of playing on Thursday night in front of the nation far outweigh the disadvantages.

“I think there is no question that it could help if you play well on national television,” Johnson said. “The thing about the Thursday night games is that unlike Saturday games, you are about IT. If anybody is watching they are probably watching your game. You get a lot of good exposure. Fortunately, last season we had a great game on Thursday night against Miami. We had a great crowd, played well and we won. It was a lot of fun. Hopefully, we will have the same type of atmosphere and we will play well. “

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