Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Coach Brent Key

LaMiles Brooks

Jordan Williams

Sylvain Yondjouen

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Folks, it is 2:30, and it is time for us to welcome in Georgia Tech. We are here in the grand ballroom, the second floor of the Westin in Uptown Charlotte.

Georgia Tech will be our fourth and final school here on this first day of the 2023 ACC Kickoff Media rouser. Head Coach Brent Key will be at the podium for 15 minutes, and then we'll be joined by our student-athletes.

Questions for Coach.

Q. You took over midseason last year, and now you've had kind of an offseason to kind of implement what you want. Can you tell us kind of the -- I guess the key areas that you wanted to improve on when you took over and how -- what kind of progress you've made in the offseason since then?

BRENT KEY: How long do we have right now? We've got a lot of things we've got to get better at.

You talk about the continuation of last season, but I don't see it that way. Every season is a new season. We have new players. We have new coaches. It's a new program.

Do you have a little bit of insight and knowledge previously on the roster and strengths and weakens and things to improve on? Yeah, but it's a constant evaluation of your roster. It's a constant evaluation of the staff. It's a constant evaluation of every part of the program that needs to improve.

I don't care if you win 15 games or lose 15 games in a year, there's always things to improve on. That's my job. My job is to find those things, to focus on the small things, to focus on the details, and to focus on what makes a difference in winning and losing.

So really from the top-down every part of the program is a constant state of working to get better, improving -- it starts with improving your staff, improving your roster, improving in the weight room, strength and conditioning, improving your fundamental play in football, improving every position across the board. I mean, there's only one way to go, and that's up. That's the way you have to trend.

Our goal is to win games. That's on the field our job. People ask about expectations and how you feel leak you're going to do and those things. I mean, how am I going to sit here and say we're going to put a number count on the amount of wins we have? Well, now I'm conceding the other games? I don't feel that way. I don't operate that way. I don't want these guys to operate that way.

Our job is to go out and do as good as we can possibly do at all times.

Every part of the program, that being said, is working to improve.

Q. You brought in a new strength and conditioning coach after you were hired. How has the summer program gone, and how has that helped in the development of the team in preparation for the season?

BRENT KEY: I feel like it's going well. I think probably better to ask these guys how they feel as far as their strength and conditioning and those things.

But really all these things, do we know now? We have a gut feeling, but really we'll find out day six of preseason camp. We'll find out day 12. We'll find out in the fourth quarter of game one really how all that has improved and where we're at as far as our stamina and toughness and endurance and strength level and can we sustain those things.

Q. Every assistant coach has things they would do differently if they were the head coach. Doesn't mean right or wrong. Just your kind of take on things. Were there a few things in your mind that you kind of couldn't wait to implement once you really got full control of this program?

BRENT KEY: You say wait until you had full control. There's always things as an assistant coach that you are making notes on, good and bad. I don't think there's something you say, oh, I can't wait for that to happen. I worked for Nick Saban, and there are things, of course, would you do different than Nick would. No one can emulate one person. You have to be yourself and be true to who you are, number one, or these guys are going to see right through it. They're constantly looking for fractures and cracks and things. You have been true to who you are. You can't be somebody else. You have to be genuine, and that's what I want myself and the coaching staff to be all the time.

Are there things you're going to emulate? Yeah. Are there things you're going to do different? Yeah. I hope every guy on our staff now is taking notes and preparing themselves to become a head coach one day because that's what I want. I want a staff of people that grow. I've been very fortunate to be around two head coaches in my career, in George O'Leary and Nick Saban that promote growth on their staff and promote elevation of people within their staffs, and were happy when people were able to move on and get those types of opportunities, and I want the same thing for our staff.

Q. What does it mean, first full season as tenure as head coach of Georgia Tech? What are you expecting kind of your goals to be heading into the prime time game to open the season against Louisville?

BRENT KEY: Expectations? I don't even know who the starting quarterback is, so it's hard to put expectations on. My expectation is they go out every single day and do the best they possibly can to improve. That's our expectations.

Our expectations is to go play clean football. Our expectation is to go and be disciplined. Our expectation is to be the toughest team on the field every week we play. Our expectation is the next week after we have a game on tape, they turn the film on and say, damn, I don't want to play that team. That's how I want our team to play. That's how I want to cover kicks on special team and stop the run and run the football. That's my expectation.

I know who these guys are. I know they're tough. I know they're smart. We have to show it on the field. We have to play collectively. We have to play together. That's my expectations.

If we do all those things and put those things together, we'll have the outcomes that we want.

Q. Y'all have a lot of new faces in the wide receiver room, whether it's transfers, incoming freshmen. What are your expectations for that group, and how does the offense get more explosive this season?

BRENT KEY: Another expectation question. Have we not said it. My expectations are not defined by wins and losses and production. My expectations are defined by our guys going out and playing as hard as they possibly can. So expectations are hard. They really are, to say because I don't live in that world because now you put expectations on these guys, and say they don't get one. Now are they a failure? These guys are going to graduate from Georgia Tech, man. They're not failures. Not at all.

So undue expectations are different for me in the way that I look at things.

Now, to talk about the receivers, they're young. They're inexperienced. They're green now. They are. Do they have a chance to make a massive improvement because of some ability and skill sets that we've brought in? Yeah, I think so.

But I don't know that. They've been running around without pads on all summer. I mean, yeah, running 10.2 is great. That's world-class. But put pads on; can you still do it? I don't know. I don't.

We hope there's improvement there because in college football now, the easiest way to be explosive is through the receiver room. That's the way college football is.

I mean, to have one guy that can take a bubble pass or one guy that can take a five-yard hitch or stop route and be able to turn it into a 40-, 50-, 60-yard gain, you have the ability to beat somebody one-on-one.

I have high hopes. I have hopes that we improve. Just like every other position. I think we have some talent influx there that's going to allow us to be more explosive, yeah.

Do I think we have a play caller on offense that knows how to get the ball in those guys' hands different ways? Yeah. Now, how it all works out will remain to be seen, and hopefully our expectations are all met come September 1st.

Q. I know you hate expectations, so I'm going to ask about the past a little bit here.

BRENT KEY: The past?

Q. Yeah, the past.

BRENT KEY: I hate that worse than expectations.

Q. Oh, my. Man, you got me stumped, Coach.

BRENT KEY: I'm kidding.

Q. In terms of the turnaround from last year, it was quite literally historic in nearly every sense of the word. Inheriting a team that was 1-11 in their last -- I'm sorry -- 1-10 in their last 11 games against ranked opponents with an average score of 12 to, I believe it was, 43 and a team that hadn't won more than three games in the season since Paul Johnson was there, you come in and win four in eight games and beat two ranked teams in that time. When you look back at that, how did you accomplish that? Do you feel a sense of pride in that being the groundwork that's laid for this team going forward?

BRENT KEY: Find the right the way. I was extremely proud of those guys for some of the things they overcame, the way they worked.

But there's not one of these guys right here, not one guy on our team that tells you that 4-4 is acceptable. Let's be real. We finished 4-4. That's .500. That doesn't get you anything in this game nowadays. It really doesn't.

That's why I'm saying, we have a long way to go. We have a lot to improve on.

Was there momentum last year? Yeah. It's a new staff. It's new people. But what I do know is that when I look in that team room and I sit in front of these guys and I look out and I know what they have beneath them, I know the grit that they have, I know they're smart, I know they're intelligent, I know they can do those things. It's our job as coaches, my job as the head coach, to continue to give them the tools to do that.

How did it happen last year? We quit waiting on bad things to happen. We went out there starting to expect to win as opposed to waiting for something bad to happen to end up losing.

It's contagious. It's a growth. It's a disease that happens. Winning grows in your locker room just like losing does. They're the same way.

You talk about culture, that's what culture is. What are your expectations? What do they expect to do? I expect them to walk on the field every week and expect to win every game we play. Is that going to happen? Probably not. Look at the history of college football. It's hard. It's hard to win.

But to expect to go on the field and be able to go and compete regardless of who you are going against, that's what they have to do. That's what we have to preach as coaches. That has to be our expectation as coaches.

I've seen coaches walk out on the field scared. How can you do that? You only get 12 opportunities to go on the field and play every year. 12, fewer than any other sport that's played.

Of all the work that take place in football, you have 12 opportunities to go on the field. Why not go on the field expecting to be the absolute best you can be and compete and win every single game? Because if you don't do that, you're not even getting past the first quarter.

That's what they were doing last year. They bought into the truth. They bought into having ownership on the team. We're still learning that every day.

You talk about ownership, if I told everybody in this room right now, you guys all have ownership in what we're doing, but with ownership comes -- now you're responsible, all right? Now you can't point and say, it's his fault or it's his fault or that coach's fault. That's truly having ownership.

How do you continue to grow with it? How do you hold people accountable? How do you hold people accountable when you have ownership in a program? We have 120 guys, and I truly believe I want every one of them to have a bit of ownership like just like the coaches and assistant coaches.

Now you have a well-oiled machine, and everybody is working together for the same goal. Now there's no finger-pointing. Now people aren't talking, not my fault, not my play. You can't do that because you're all in it together.

Q. Have you studied the new clock rules? How much will you work them in camp, and how much of an impact do you think it's going to have on game play, both offensively and defensively?

BRENT KEY: Yeah, we've studied it very in depth. I'm probably the only crazy person at the beach. Everybody is reading John Grisham and whatever my wife reads. I don't know what the books are. I'm reading the new rules book. I'm at the beach. I've got Diet Coke and water, and I'm reading my rules book sitting at the beach.

Yeah, I'm taking pictures of it and sending it to Buster and to Thacker and the new rules, those things. We talk about it a lot. We talked about it a lot when we got in on yesterday. We had an hour conversation on it.

It's important. There's not a lot of rule changes this year, but it could be a very pivotal rule change in how you use the clock.

Clock management is so important, and now that line of demarcation really at two minutes of when the clock stops and doesn't stop and how to utilize that, you've got to work it in practice.

We have referees at every practice. We have down in distance. We have different situations. We've got to work those. We have to understand now, all right, when the clock continues to run or if it doesn't, now it pauses on first downs. All those different scenarios. When those quarterbacks go out there and they're leading the team when you are in two-minute drive or on defense and you're defending now in those situations, not only do the coaches know, all right, but the players also have to be able to know and have repped it.

Impact on the game? I see the studies and talk about six minutes to eight minutes off the game. I don't know. You really start digging into it, and you say maybe it could be a few more minutes.

I've heard five to seven plays on each team, which is kind of leads to one and a half, two possessions a game. I've seen sometimes three- or four-point differential, so you have to really factor all those things in, when you are putting the plan together and you have to be able to go out and practice those things, because now maybe playing for field position versus a long kick or a field goal or going for two and how it impacts all those situations in the game.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, you are 15 minutes on the dot. Thank you very much.

BRENT KEY: Go Jackets.

THE MODERATOR: LaMiles Brooks, you are up next. Five minutes with our first student-athlete.

Questions for LaMiles.

Q. You guys graduated two big leaders in Eley and Thomas last year. Who has stepped into the leadership role on the defensive side of the ball, and what have you seen from the two additions that you guys made through the transfer portal?

LaMILES BROOKS: Leadership-wise I would say myself, D'Quan Douse, and Sylvain here. We've all kind of already been leaders on the team in a sense, but now that Ace and Charlie are gone, we're here to continue to push the message that they pushed. Obviously from the head man himself.

The new additions, two linebackers, Andre and Braelen. Excited to see how they come in and play in the fall. You know, they had a good spring, been preparing well in the summer, and it will be a show this fall.

Q. LaMiles, during the last ten years I would say Georgia Tech has been struggling to find its identity and culture within the city of Atlanta. Is there a personal emphasis to change that for you from a fan perspective and a team perspective?

LaMILES BROOKS: Could you reword that?

Q. Is there a personal emphasis for you to change the identity and culture from a fan's perspective and a team's perspective of Georgia Tech?

LaMILES BROOKS: From a team perspective, the culture that I feel that we're trying to create is a culture of winning obviously and doing all the little things right. The little things add up, whether positively or negatively.

So I would say a culture of doing the small things right.

Then from a fan base standpoint, just the expectation of winning, like Coach said. Not waiting for bad things to happen. As players we shouldn't do that. As coaches we shouldn't do that. As fans we shouldn't do that as well.

Q. How easy has the transition and the coaching transition been for you knowing that you had your secondary coach retained as well as the defensive coordinator?

LaMILES BROOKS: It's been great. Myself as well as all my teammates have maximum trust in both of them. For Coach Tillman it was nice having him last year. He has been in our shoes, Georgia Tech grad, played in the NFL. He has played where all of us want to play.

So just taking small gems from him, the different techniques he teaches us and allows us to go out there and perform has been amazing.

And for Coach Thacker, I don't think he gets enough love. I think he is a very underrated defensive coordinator in college football. He rarely calls bad games, if any at all, to be honest.

Knowing that I have both of them back who fully support me as well as my defensive teammates is great.

Q. I was just curious about what's kind of different about this team right now? I know you just finished kind of your summer OTAs, and just what's different maybe with the vibe with this team right now compared to a year ago?

LaMILES BROOKS: I would say the fun we're having. We enjoy being around each other. I think the bonds and the relationships that we've created throughout spring and the summer will positively affect us going into the fall.

Being able to look to our left and right and say that we know the man next to us, it will allow you to go out and feel the need to compete for the man next to you as well as, once again, just honing in on the little things.

I think once we excel in those, it will make substantial changes.

THE MODERATOR: LaMiles, thank you. You can switch places with Jordan, and we'll give Jordan his five minutes at the podium. Questions?

Q. Obviously you came in, and you were a very young freshman, but now you're the leader of this offensive line. Just talk about the leadership perspective for you this year getting to mentor some of the newer guys on this offensive line.

JORDAN WILLIAMS: It's definitely a newer feeling. Especially coming off of playing as a true freshman and having somebody tell me what to do for most of the plays my freshman year.

Then looking at where I'm at now, I'm in a position to where I can hopefully give out some useful tips to the freshmen or anything, but really any tips I give out or something, it's either something Coach Key told me or something that sounds good enough that Coach Key told me. If he is around me, I look at him, and he will give me a little...

That's really how it goes with the leadership. It's really for me watching film and giving them coaching tips on film.

Q. Coach had mentioned there is always room for improvement. What are you looking to personally improve upon for the season? What are you looking to capitalize on for the season?

JORDAN WILLIAMS: Really blocking on the second level at linebacker. Hand placement. Hand placement, yeah. Really everything.

Hey, playing offensive line is a game of technique. You have to perfect your craft. Really what Coach Key said. My hand placement, my footwork, really everything. I'm in a position where I could play guard or tackle, so I'm just trying to stay ready for anything.

Q. You have a head coach, like we just saw, he was an offensive line coach. Geep Wade, a brand new offensive line coach. What's it like having a head coach that has the history of the offensive line, and how is your new relationship with Geep Wade?

JORDAN WILLIAMS: My relationship with Coach Wade is good. He is a cool laid-back coach. Well, no, I'm not going to say laid-back. He is not that. He is not that laid-back. He is definitely still hard on you and everything.

He definitely is preaching the right stuff, telling everybody what they need to hear. It's not about what you want to hear. It's about what you need to hear, and he does a good job with that making sure everything -- keeps everything black and white.

One thing Coach Key really always did with us. So there's no questions in the air about where are we at with this, what position am I going to be playing at with that? You always knew.

But having an O-line coach and an O-line head coach it's pretty funny at practice when you are just going through Indy or something, and you can see Coach Key just staring us down like a hawk, like he is just ready to give a little correction or something.

Q. Jordan, in terms of the leadership part that you all talked about and in terms of how Coach Key has referenced accountability multiple times and what not, we all know that the best teams come when the players are the leaders and they police themselves. So what does that look like for you being an older guy, being a guy that's played since you were young? What does that look like in terms of accountability not only for yourself but instilling that in a younger offensive lineman and younger players on the team in general?

JORDAN WILLIAMS: I feel like that goes into having a good relationship with everybody, so everybody will be willing to take your advice and be able to listen to whatever points you have to give them.

Really you want to be accountable as a leader just so -- because you got all the younger guys looking up to you. You don't just want to be an older dude, like not going through the motions, not doing the right thing because you really never know what younger guy is paying attention to you.

Q. How tough is it for you transitioning to blocking for a new quarterback sort of trying to learn his in game tendencies being that you are not used to playing with him?

JORDAN WILLIAMS: I don't think I've ever really thought about the offensive line like that because really, like, when you build up on reps, you kind of just get a feeling for it. We've gotten so many reps with every quarterback that you really have a good feel of what anybody could possibly do in the game.

Then you just know from watching film, watching practice film seeing how all of them play, you have an idea what can come out of it.

THE MODERATOR: Jordan, thank you. You can switch places for Sylvan Yondjouen. First question for our young man from Belgium.

Q. Sylvain, you are a player that obviously coming from Belgium you experienced football late and started playing late. How have you made the transition as rapidly as you have to become as good as you are at this sport that a lot of guys are playing from 4, 5 forward to be where you are today and to be seen as a leader on this team in a sport that, again, is fairly new to you by some people's standards?

SYLVAIN YONDJOUEN: I think personally it's just the coaches I've been around, listening to what they say. I've been told that I'm a very coachable person. I get coaching a lot because I don't know the game. They always know it better than me, so there's no point for me to argue what they tell me or something.

I really just are doing what they say, and it works out. For the past few years, I can see getting better at the stuff I didn't do right at the beginning. It's really practice on practice. It's doing it again. What Coach Coleman talks about it is fundamentals, and I think that's something that I didn't know at first. The basic stuff, you know, about football you keep it all your life.

Yeah, that's what I learned this past five years and just getting better at it.

Q. Just curious how much of an inspiration was seeing what Keion did last year and seeing him get drafted in the second round and seeing that potential because you did have games where you could even argue maybe you outplayed him a little bit in your role. Just kind of what kind of inspiration, I guess, is that for you to see that?

SYLVAIN YONDJOUEN: It gives me a lot of motivation to keep working hard because I saw Keion at the beginning of the season or even when he transferred, at first he didn't really play a lot, and then he played way more last year.

Just seeing him work every day, he would come in, get treatment, get in the hot tub, get stretched before everybody, after everybody, stayed longer after workouts, and it just shows that if you put your mind to it and you keep working for it, it will pay off.

That's what I'm trying to do just like him. Just keep working, head down, and we'll see where I get. Yeah, I'll put 100 every time.

Q. Coming from Belgium, how much or how has your teammates helped you adapt to the Atlanta culture, swag, food, all that?

SYLVAIN YONDJOUEN: A lot. My freshman year it was a different team. There was a bunch of different stuff I did and enjoyed my freshman year. It was just a year of discovering America for me, really just feeling what college was because you heard about it back overseas, but you don't really believe it until you see it.

Yeah, I mean, I went through a lot my freshman year seeing stuff. Yeah, I mean, you get used to it. I've been four years in Atlanta now. Four, five years. I think I got acclimated well to it, yeah.

Q. Having multiple stops in 8 of 12 contests demonstrates your consistency as a defensive end. How do you ensure that you maintain your level of play even in physically demanding games?

SYLVAIN YONDJOUEN: Sorry. Can you repeat that? I'm sorry.

Q. How do you ensure that you maintain your level of play even in physically demanding games?

SYLVAIN YONDJOUEN: Hydration. I think I have one right here. Recovery and hydration. It's something we really work on right now during the summer. It gets very hot and humid in Atlanta, so I think a lot of water, drinking water. I mean, that's what I do personally.

I have to drink way more water than usually because the heat really affects me. I think the recovery part is where you only get one body. That's what an old coach told me. You only get one body, so you have to take care of it as if it's your last one. You can't go nowhere without your own body.

That's recovering, stretching, water. So, yeah.

THE MODERATOR: That's a lesson for everyone in the room, and we will end on that note. Georgia Tech, good luck this year. Enjoy the rest of your day.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
135337-1-1253 2023-07-25 19:29:00 GMT

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