Quarterback Justin Thomas spoke with the Technique and other media on Monday to discuss his thoughts on the team’s recent performances and his outlook for the future as the Jackets prepare for Florida State.
Even with all these new faces, it seems like you’re getting closer to what you were doing last year offensively.
Thomas: Yeah, I think we have been trying to progress each week. I think I’ve seen some progression, and we just have to take it one week at a time. We’re improving, and we have to keep improving each week like we have been. There were a lot more running lanes this past week for me and the A-backs and the B-backs too. I think everybody did what they were supposed to do, and I think it opened up a lot more.
Is it fun to play with Marcus Marshall, another home run threat like yourself?
Thomas: It’s fun, just having a guy that you can hand the ball off to who can break. It makes your job easier. That first long run he had kind of calmed us down and let us know that we were doing what we needed to do, and it help us out, truthfully.
Does it work both ways? If you are playing well, does it make it easier for him, and
Thomas: Definitely. The defense can’t just key on one person. They have to take one of us, and whoever they don’t take will make them pay, even guys on the perimeter and with the receivers. If they give us the opportunities, we have to make them pay for it.
Marshall was just named ACC rookie of the week. Any comments on that?
Thomas: I think it’s big for him. It would be better if we had a win to go with it, but it’s just something that we can’t worry about because we still have to play for each other and find a way to get a win.
What did you see from Will Bryan on Saturday? (Note: the true freshman right tackle made his first career start in place of the injured Errin Joe.)
Thomas: I didn’t really see him too much. I can’t really see what he’s doing [during the game], but from watching film, I did see that he did some good things out there, and we hope that he can continue to get better. That was his first game that he really actually played as a true freshmen, so I think he did well, and we will need to keep improving.
What has been Marshall’s biggest area of development since the first game?
Thomas: I think it’s just seeing more and being able to do more. From coming straight out of high school where you’re not in a three-point stance coming out of the backfield to doing it [every play], the more he gets used to it, the better he will be at it.
Coach Johnson said that a lack of confidence may be a reason for the team’s offensive struggles. Can you tell that in the huddle?
Thomas: I don’t know what’s going through their minds, but as young guys who haven’t played that much with this offense, it can happen. You can’t really play how you want to play because your mind is thinking about what you want to do. I think that the more they get in tune with the offense the faster they can play, which we have been seeing as the weeks have been going along.
How helpful is it to have Michael Summers and Ricky Jeune healthy again at receiver?
Thomas: It’s good to have those guys. If you can hit some plays on the outside, it backs the safeties up a little bit because they have to respect the passing game. When the guys get opportunities on the perimeter, they have to make the most of it.
The offense finally started clicking again [during the game] against Pitt. Would you say that having the receivers back was the difference?
Thomas: It can help, but I think it was just that everybody went out there and executed better, me included. Marcus [Marshall] hit some big plays and found the running lanes. I think it’s more about off-the-field things. As guys do it more, the better they will be at it.
How long does it take a quarterback to develop chemistry with a receiver?
Thomas: You just kind of know what your guys can do and what they can’t do, so you know how they are going to play. [Jeune and I] have been together and working a lot this past offseason, and we communicate. Before his touchdown [against Pitt], he told me how his defender was playing him, and it worked out.
Does he have the tools to be an explosive receiver?
Thomas: I think so. He’s a big physical receiver, and we have Mike [Summers] on the other end who can outrun the defense and set us up to make plays. I think we have two guys out there that can make great plays on the ball, and the more we jive together, the better it is going to be.
Coach Johnson said you had a great practice last week. What did you work on?
Thomas: Last week, I went out there and made sure to work on small things, just the basics of doing what I needed to do, and I guess it showed last week. I tried to be a little more aggressive and it worked out for us.
What has the offense been gameplanning most, looking ahead to beating FSU’s defense?
Thomas: I don’t want to say “gameplan”; you see what you see pretty much every week. Their guys can run, and they are going to be physical, and you just have to go out there and be ready to compete for four quarters. It’s not going to be easy.
Is it a must-win game, considering the losing streak?
Thomas: Every game is a must-win. You don’t want to go out there and be like “We can take this or not,” so we’re going to try to win every game we play.