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Paul Johnson talks option, recruiting and The Varsity at Quick Lane Bowl press conference

Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson spoke Wednesday at the Quick Lane Bowl introductory press conference in Detroit, also attended by Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck.

The Jackets and Gophers will meet in the Detroit bowl Dec. 26 (5:15 p.m., ESPN).

Johnson, who will step down as Tech’s head coach after the bowl game, addressed various topics:

Johnson opening statement: “Well, good morning. Again, let me start by thanking the Quick Lane Bowl for inviting Georgia Tech, the people at Ford, the city of Detroit. Our program, our administration and our football team are excited to be coming here to play in the game. Georgia Tech has a rich tradition of bowl games. I think they’re one of the few schools that has played in almost every bowl game in America, and this will be our first trip here. So, this will be something new for our program and it’s one that our players and fans and everybody in Atlanta is looking forward to.

Congratulations to P.J. (Fleck). They had a great finish to get bowl-eligible and to be here. They have a team that’s fun to watch. I’ve started to break them down the last couple of days and it ought to be a heck of a game. It’s kind of a contrast of styles, so it’ll be interesting, but we know it’ll be a huge challenge in front of us. So, looking forward to being here and look forward to answering any questions that people might have.”

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Johnson on how important the extra two weeks of practice and bowl game preparation is to building his football program: “When we talk to our team about playing in a bowl game, certainly our No. 1 goal is to try to win the game. But we also want our team to enjoy it and have some fun. So, we try to find that happy balance with preparation and practice and enjoying the trip and enjoying the bowl game. When I was a younger coach, I worked on staffs that, not only the players but as a coach, you dreaded it. It was like going back into two-a-days and keeping the young guys out after the other guys went in, and none of those kids want to do that.”

Johnson on his retirement and on the emotions he has with the Quick Lane Bowl being his last game: “My big focus on this game is it’s about the players. It’s not about me. And everything I want to do, I want to do about the players. They’re the ones who got here, they’re the ones who won six of the last eight games.

“If it’s the last game, it’s the last game. If I decide I can’t live without it, I may come back. Right now, I just don’t know. I know that I’m going to take a year off and evaluate where I am. It’s hard to tell you how you’re going to react. I don’t know.”

Johnson on different schemes being used in different regions of the country: “I’m probably a little bit different than most coaches. I don’t know how many different styles there are. People categorize as what we do as different, that’s OK. We’re not much different than zone read teams. There’s hardly a team in college football now that doesn’t run some kind of an option at some point—now they don’t run it like we do, it’s different, just like there’s a lot of teams that are inside zone teams or outside zone teams. I think that sometimes the weather can dictate a little bit how you play and that kind of thing. But all and all in my 40 years of coaching, it comes down to blocking and tackling and doing the basics, you’re not going to trick many people.”

Johnson on he if takes recruits to the Varsity restaurant on campus: “The Varsity is kind of a drive in that’s been a staple in Georgia and Atlanta. It’s kind of famous for the hot dogs and the onion rings and the frosted oranges and you can’t come to Atlanta without stopping in the Varsity. But, if you eat there more than once a month, you’re probably not going to survive. You’ll be greased out. (Laughter) But, no, we don’t take recruits. But, it is right up from our offices, it’s about a block. During the season myself and a couple of the other coaches, we’ve got too old and feeble to run every day, so we’ll go walk and we make sure that once every three or four weeks that we end up walking to the Varsity and kind of killing why we’re walking. But, it’s a neat place and if you come to Atlanta, everybody probably has to check it out.” 

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