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August 31, 2016

Paul Johnson

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAUL JOHNSON: Well, good morning, or afternoon, I guess. Yeah, we're excited to have the opportunity to travel to Dublin and play in this game. It seems like it's been a long time since we played a game. Certainly last season was not what we had hoped for or expected, and I think this is a chance to go and see if we can't reestablish ourselves to start the year. We certainly are playing a football team that we know is going to be physical and was outstanding a year ago defensively for sure, you know, in the top five in the country in most every defensive category and return a lot of players, so it's going to be a great measuring stick for us to see how much progress we've made since last year.

Q. Last year you opened up against Alcorn State, but here you've got to open up against a conference opponent in an unusual setting. As far as the makeup of your team and the experience level of your team, is this a group that can handle this kind of an opener?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, we'll find out. I mean, we don't have very many seniors. I think we have two senior starters on offense and probably four or five defensively. But it's an experienced group. Because of the injuries a year ago and because of a lot of things that happened, a lot of these kids have played. You know, you never know until you play the game, but we've had a good off-season, I think a good fall camp, and I think they're chomping at the bit to get out there and see if we've improved.

Q. How do you account for, in your scheduling of this trip, keeping your players on a sleeping schedule and all of that because of the time change difference. You're playing at 7:30 in the morning here, but there it'll be a different time. How do you account for all that and still keep everybody's bodies and minds in the right time zone?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I don't know that there is a set answer for that. I think that we're going to leave today after practice, tonight really, and we'll get in there at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning and go check in the hotel and then go practice and just try to stay up and end the day probably around 7:00 or 8:00 their time at night, or 9:00, whatever it is. I'm sure we'll be tired, and get up the next morning and try to be on that time frame. But that's all I know to do. I wasn't going to go over there and try to spend a week or extra days. Both teams have to do it, so you just go play.

We're used to playing at 7:30 in the morning here. We do that on our Saturday morning scrimmages. That's what we have them is early in the morning on Saturdays. At least our kids have done that for several years, so that won't be new for them.

Q. Will there be any windows of opportunity at all for your staff and your players to enjoy the setting and the surroundings to any extent?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, yeah, we've got a couple things planned. I mean, tomorrow after practice we've got a group coming in to do some Gaelic games and we'll have a chance to be involved in that. We're going down to a little fishing village to mess around for dinner tomorrow night. The host people have a function.

Then Friday, we'll go through our regular Friday, but we'll have a tour of Dublin, a bus tour, where there's not a lot of walking around, but we'll take the guys and show them Dublin and part of the countryside. So there's some. Obviously we just have to try to find a balance.

Q. Last year you had two freshman running backs that were pretty productive in Marcus Marshall and Clinton Lynch. Can you talk about how much does experience help at that position, that they've had a year under their belt and they're coming back?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, it helps a lot. We've got a lot of guys back and more depth at those positions. This is the best camp that I've had here as far as injuries. We've got everybody available that started camp for this game with the exception of one freshman who was probably going to redshirt anyway.

You know, we're going to have another freshman starting running back. Marcus is going to play a lot, but we've got a couple guys who were injured back in today sitting out, and I'm not sure Clinton will start but he may, but there's going to be four or five guys playing that position. We've got more depth than we've had here in a couple years at those spots if we can keep guys healthy.

Q. Obviously you have a very experienced quarterback in Justin Thomas, but I've been told Matthew Jordan is in the mix. Is he going to definitely play or is he just available to play if anything happens with Justin?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, he's the backup quarterback, and we'll see. There's a chance he could play, there's a chance TaQuon could play, too. We'll just see how it goes and go from there.

Q. I was just hoping you could tell us where you feel the offensive line has made some of its biggest strides going into this game.
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think they've been able to practice together for all of camp, and with the exception of Freddie most of spring. Freddie Burden is going to end up being -- he's a three-year starter, so he's back in there anchoring the line. I think he's going to have a better year. Certainly a lot of his distractions are gone away now. And then the other guys, the two -- we started two freshman tackles a year ago, and I think they've matured a lot. Will Bryan is actually playing guard now. He's the starting guard. Shamire Devine is healthy and playing, and he's a big guy that brings some things. I think physically and athletically this is the best line we've had.

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