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October 19, 2016

Paul Johnson

Greensboro, North Carolina

COACH JOHNSON: I think the bye week is coming at a good time for us. After seven straight games, we're pretty beat up. We took Monday off and we'll take the weekend off and get ready to play Duke, who is always well-coached, always well prepared and really for the last two years have had our number. So it's a challenge for us to get ready to play them down here.

Q. I'm working on a story on Freddie Burden and I know he's somebody that's been in your program now for five years, a three-year starter and has dealt with a lot of adversity over his career. I thought if you could kind of sum up what he means to you all and what he's done over his career, how would you do it?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, let me start by saying I'm really proud of Freddie. I think that what he's accomplished, he already has his degree, some of the things that he fought through with his dad, Willy, being here in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant.

He's been beat up a little bit injury-wise. Last year he was hurt a lot. And he's just always fought through it. Been a guy you could depend on, a guy that's going to be successful, I'm sure, in life, because of the way he approaches things and the way he handles things. I'm really proud of what he's been able to accomplish and what he's done.

Q. Obviously the quarterback is kind of the point person in your offense, but how much does the center do, especially that a guy that until he got there had never snapped a ball?
COACH JOHNSON: He was a tight end in high school. They are a big part of what we do. We've got two seniors on offense, he and Justin, that's it, and so he has a leadership role on the offensive line and then a role on the overall offense, as well.

Q. At this juncture, with five games remaining, four in the conference, where have you seen the most improvement in your team and where are the areas that you still are not where you want to be?
COACH JOHNSON: I think we're getting better offensively. We start three true freshmen on offense, or at least we did in the last game and we're playing some young guys. But I think if you go back and look, since the Clemson game, we've kind of made some steady improvement. We were awful in that game.

So that's probably where we've made the most improvement.

Q. And then on the flipside, areas you're still not --
COACH JOHNSON: We're struggling on third down defense, that's for sure. It's not been good. We haven't gotten very many turnovers. I think in seven games, we might have gotten six turnovers and only one or two really came when the game was probably (inaudible) so that's something, third down defense and forcing turnovers, we've got to get better at.

Q. Coming up in the bye week, what are three things that you have to work on to get ready for Duke?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, right now we're concentrating on us. You go back during the bye week, No. 1 for us is get healthy. No. 2, we're going to go back and we have a good, fundamental practice for a day or two and give the coaches some time fundamentally and while at the same time start and prepare for Duke.

And I think three, just try to get ready. You get an extra day or two to get ready for the game. It seems like everybody we play in our league has an extra week before they play us, I guess is just the way it falls.

Q. What type of coach is Coach Cutcliffe? He seems like a good coach. He's known for more like a quarterback guru.
COACH JOHNSON: He's done a great job there at Duke. He went in and took a program over that was kind of floundering. They are a tough out. Like I said, they have gotten better and better, and I think he and his staff do a really good job. He's been a solid coach throughout his career. He does a good job.

Q. I was going to ask you about the bye week thing. As you said it does seem like an uncanny number of teams get a week off to prepare for you guys with your odd offense, but having the week off to prepare for Duke, is it much of an advantage? I know it is in terms of healing up and everything, but in terms of preparing for Duke in that they run a pretty vanilla offense, right?
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't know if I'd call it vanilla. Any time you have an extra week, it's going to help you no matter who you play or what you play.

So you get extra time to prepare, you get extra time to heal up, yeah, there's no question. You'd like to have an off week before you played everybody. I think most everybody, if I'm not mistaken, I believe most everybody in our division has had at least a week or a half a week or something before they play us. I could be wrong.

Boston College, of course, was the first game. I think Miami maybe, I can't remember, but sure is uncanny how that works.

Q. The other thing is, you mentioned it earlier, too, that Duke has had good luck against you the last two years. They have kind of forced to you throw the ball both of those years -- well maybe you were behind and had to throw. Maybe that's what it looks like. But I'm just saying they have had success against your option. Is that a scheme thing or a personnel thing or -- it's just two years.
COACH JOHNSON: Well, I don't know, we like to do both. We're 6-2 against them. It could be both. Two years they beat us. Six years we beat them. So they won the last two years. I think that they have played well. We haven't played well.

So what we're hoping to do is not turn the ball over and throw it to them, and play better, and see if we can come out on the top end. I think they are very well-coached. They always have a good plan on offense and defense, so you have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves.

So certainly they have had a good plan against us the last two years. They play option teams very well. They had a good plan against Navy, against Army. So you have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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