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October 29, 2014

Paul Johnson

COACH JOHNSON:  I tell you, we were very pleased and excited to get a big road win last week on the road against Pitt.  I think Pitt's a very good football team.  We were able to take advantage of some mistakes they made early.
Looking forward to playing another really good football team this Saturday in Virginia.  I think without question they do a good job.  Defensively they're one of the better teams we've played.  Offensively they have a ton of weapons.  It will be a huge challenge again for us this week.

Q.  Ball security, such a big emphasis for you especially offensively.  What are some of the things that you teach defensively?  How gratifying was it to see that five‑minute span where it fell into place for you guys?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, it was a great break for us.  I think like most teams, we have ball disruption periods where we work on trying to strip the ball, punch it out from behind, do all those things.  Quite honestly, a lot of times you're just fortunate when that happens.
I think you make an emphasis on it, try to coach it.  But going into the Pitt game, we didn't have very many.  Hopefully we didn't use all of them up at one time.

Q.  Paul, P.J. Davis has really emerged for your defense this year.  What's he doing that's allowed him to be so productive for you guys?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, P.J. has made a lot of big plays, no question.  He's a guy who is a pretty good hitter.  He loves to play the game.  We just got to get P.J. a little more consistent so it's not all feast or famine.
Certainly he's made a lot of big plays for us and a lot of tackles.

Q.  How much did playing as a true freshman help him out in terms of how he's played this year?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think the experience has been good.  Anytime you get to play a lot of reps, you hope that you gain from that.  Certainly he has.  I think he's a very confident young man.  Like I said, he's got a good motor and he likes to play.

Q.  Last year when did you kind of get an idea that you would definitely play him as a true freshman?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, early on we had to have him just from a depth standpoint.  He came into camp and earned some playing time.  We knew right from the start that he was going to play.

Q.  When you recruited him, did you recruit him solely as a linebacker?  I know he played runningback in high school, as well.
COACH JOHNSON:  We recruited him as a linebacker.  We actually had him in our camp, looked at him as a safety because he's undersized.  Fortunately for us, at the end of recruiting we had a scholarship, and he had tested very well in our camp, done some good things.  We thought worst‑case scenario, he'll be a good special teams player.  He came in and developed into one of our better linebackers.

Q.  Was it just a depth situation that had you play him at linebacker last year?
COACH JOHNSON:  No, we recruited him as a linebacker.  Size‑wise, he's a little undersized so we weren't sure he was going to be able to do that.  We knew he would be a great special teams player.  I think he's exceeded our expectations at linebacker.

Q.  I noticed in your press conference earlier this week you talked a little bit about that this year offensively, you're getting back to more of what you've done through the years.  Can you talk a little bit about that, how the offense has performed this year.
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think a year ago we got into some of the gun stuff.  We were trying to do a lot of things maybe to fit the personnel that we had playing at the time.  Truthfully we didn't do our base stuff very well.  We weren't very good at running the triple.  We were still an option team, but certainly not like we are now.
During the off‑season we just decided, and I decided I was going to get back to the things that had been very successful for us in the past.  Fortunately for us, Justin Thomas has a great skill set.  That's what we like to do.  To this point he's played very well and distributed the ball very well in the option game.

Q.  Although you are a run‑based offense usually, you also have a pair of pretty talented wide receivers.  Can you talk about what they bring to the offense.
COACH JOHNSON:  They bring a lot of big‑play capability.  Both those guys I think at least they're going to have a chance to play on the next level.  We've been fortunate since we've been here.  We've always had big wide receivers who can run from Bay Bay Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, to Stephen Hill to these two guys.
They're not going to get double covered.  Truthfully it's a great offense for a receiver to play in because you're going to have chances to make a lot of big plays.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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