Q: How is camp going so far?

A: It's going good. Everyone has camp legs and is a little tired. Overall as a team everyone is flying around out there and really enjoying themselves. I feel like as a team we're closer this year on and off the field than we were last year or past years.

Q: What did you think of today's scrimmage? It seemed like you were a jack-of-all-trades lining up at A, B, and QB.

A: It was interesting. Coach Johnson met with me this summer and said he wanted to get me the ball a lot more because I'm physical in short-yardage situations. He's trying to put me in wherever I can fit in and get me the ball. I think that pretty much speaks to my game; I'm versatile. So hopefully that turns out pretty good for us this season too.

Q: Obviously the A-Back [position] is more in your wheelhouse probably since you played it the last couple years. Do you have a preference?

A: Not really. I just want the ball in my hands and I want the team to win. I feel like with the ball in my hands we have a great chance of winning because I'm tough to tackle.

Q: How far along are you guys this year compared to last year at this time?

A: I think we're probably further along even though we have a new quarterback in Justin Thomas. Justin was new to the offense when he came in but he impressed me. When he came in I was still at quarterback. He impressed me with his knowledge of the game and how calm he was as a quarterback. You never really see him rattled. At the A-Back position we have a lot of seniors. A lot of people don't think we have depth at the D-Line, but I feel like the core guys that we have are going to hold it down.

Q: There's a lot of talk about the hurry-up. We saw it in the spring a little bit, we've heard about it in the offseason, and we saw it for maybe one or two series today. How much have you all worked on that so far?

A: We've worked on that every day, every practice. Every practice we work on the hurry-up, oh my goodness, especially at the end of practice. I feel like it helps [practicing] when we're tired because it makes us be more mentally focused. I think it's going to be a big factor when we run it this season because a lot of defenses are probably not going to be able to get lined up and get their calls. We're going to know what we're supposed to be doing, so I'm looking forward to running it during the season.

Q: Last year coming in to camp the offensive line was banged up. This year you have 3 or 4 different lines coming in. They're all fresh and you're running them through. Have you noticed a difference in how well they're doing?

A: Yea, I think the O-Line as a whole has progressed in knowing the calls and who they're getting. That's one of the big things with our offense. Playing A-Back and B-Back and knowing the different calls that the linemen have to make, and I see they're making the right calls because that's what I see too. It's reassuring knowing that the line is making the right calls and blocking the right people. I'm really looking forward to this year. I'm really excited.

Q: Last question for you - Last night there was some late-breaking news in the Ed O'Bannon and the NCAA trial. Have you all heard anything about that, the outcome, or do you have any sort of opinion on what that means?

A: No, we haven't heard anything about it. I haven't heard anything about it.

ATLANTA, GA - Despite ominous forecasts this morning's weather turned into the complete opposite of the spring game. The temperature was in the 70's and the skies were dry, a welcome change for coaches, players, and fans. Unsurprisingly all parties enjoyed a more crisp result in all three phases of the game along with a few big plays sprinkled in.

Highlighting today's action was a big effort from Tim Byerly. He and Justin Thomas split snaps with the first unit during the day's first drive that ended with a ~45 yard Harrison Butker field goal. The drive opened with two consecutive passes, the second of which was a back shoulder throw from Thomas to DeAndre Smelter that resulted in a 10+ yard gain for a first down.

Throughout the day Byerly looked sharp, highlighted by him ripping off a 50+ yard scamper for a touchdown midway through the scrimmage. Under Byerly's direction the option looked as fluid as it ever has this early in fall camp. Also seeing action at QB were Matthew Jordan, Brady Swilling, Chase Martenson, and current A-Back Synjyn Days.

Jordan pushed through normal freshman QB mistakes and showed flashes. He followed several overthrows to receivers with a deep completion down the right sideline to Darren Waller that simply confirmed his long talked about potential. When option plays broke down he showed off his athleticism. It's clear Matthew is coming along but will need more time and repetitions to see significant playing time.

It appeared the defense spent much of the day in the 4-3 as opposed to the expected 4-2-5, a sign that the defense will be dynamic depending on who they line up against. The main benefactor of this was linebacker P.J. Davis who saw time with the first team defense as the third LB. Showing up big throughout the day was safety Dominique Noble who had at least three big hits that got the team and crowd excited.

A few other random notes:

  • Synjyn Days lined up at A-Back, B-Back, and QB. The snap at QB was one play inside the 5-yard line as we've seen from him in the past. It'll be interesting to see whether he continues to get snaps at B-Back with the first team given the depth situation at running back (A and B). He looked good during his limited time at B-Back, which included a swing pass and run for 15 yards out of the backfield.
  • A-Back Tony Zenon continued a strong fall camp with a couple nice runs and a diving 20-yard catch
  • Tackle Bryan Chamberlain appeared to mostly line up at LT as opposed to RT where he played last year
  • DE Jabari Hunt-Days was not a passive observer. He was loud and encouraging from the sidelines and was completely into the game. While playing mostly with the scout team, near the end of the scrimmage he played 1 series at DT with the first team defense.
  • DE Kenderius Whitehead showed why coaches expect big things out of him next year with a touchdown saving tackle in the red zone
  • On the scout team you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who had a better day than RS SO A-Back Isiah Willis (#29). He made an athletic catch on a pass that took him out of stride, had several nice runs, and showed good burst. Physically he looks the part and could easily be a contributor in the near future.

Overall there was no dominant unit, a good sign when you're playing against yourselves. With three weeks left until the season opener let's hope the team continues to make strides and arrives at Bobby Dodd on August 30 completely healthy.

Tim Byerly #18 QB

Q: How's practice going so far?

A: It's been a good few days. We've been in shells and helmets for most of the time. It's been pretty productive so far. We should get a good look on Monday when everyone puts the pads on.

Q: How are you and Justin splitting snaps right now?

A: Justin is with the 1's. I'm with the 2's. Occasionally I'll go over with the 1's and Matthew Jordan will work with the 2's.

Q: What's it like working behind a healthy O-Line?

A: Oh man, it is awesome. We have a ton of depth there. Shaq and Trey Braun are really taking control and making sure the new guys know what they're doing. That helps Justin and I a lot. We feel way more comfortable going up to the line. We don't have to check a play to a better position outside since we're more balanced. It helps us a lot.

Q: Paul Johnson has compared you to Josh Nesbitt. How does that make you feel?

A: Josh did a great job and he was very successful in this offense. To be compared to him is a great compliment.

Q: Have you watched any of his tape?

A: Oh yea, we watch it all the time. I even look back at bios online, including Coach Johnson's from his days at Navy. Josh is a fun player to watch.

Q: We're all familiar with Zach Laskey as he's been in the program quite a while. How are the rest of the B-Backs looking so far?

A: Matt Connors - he knows what he's doing every play and is a real physical guy. Donovan Wilson - he's one of the hardest workers on the team. Then C.J. Leggett, the new kid, he did a lot in High School. He's probably ahead of the learning curve right now. He is very willing to learn and he's up to speed on the physical side of things. If we can get him up to speed with the playbook then I wouldn't be surprised to see him play.

Byerly fields media's questions

Q: What are you personal goals this year?

A: I would like to play, of course. Overall I hope to develop some kind of leadership role. And ultimately, I just want to win.

Q: Like Josh Nesbitt you have a reputation for playing well in the trash as Paul Johnson alluded to in his press conference 30 minutes ago. As you're moving around in there who is the guy you least want to see coming the other direction right at you on our team?

A: Adam Gotsis is not one to mess around with. Jabari is not fun to mess around with. Quayshawn as well. I would prefer they not be there, but if they're there, they're there.

Q: How are things going with the WR group so far?

A: We've probably been more on the same page than we have been at any point this year. Darren Waller, DeAndre, and Michael Summers - those are our big 3 that we're looking to this year in terms of making big plays. They are big guys. Justin and I have worked with them a lot this summer running routes. Those are going to be our big-time players. We're going to need that as that balances our playbook. If you can throw it out wide 3-4 times a game they're going to be looked at to make a play.

Q: Are there any new players that are standing out?

A: C.J. is standing out. Qua Searcy is looking pretty solid as a receiver. He's a little small but he's got great hands and runs good routes. C.J. will be the big-time guy there. He's here to work and he comes out with his game-face every single day. Zach and Matt have done a great job coaching up C.J. to be game-ready.

Q: The D-Line lost a lot to graduation and during the offseason. How are they looking so far?

A: We'll get a better look at that Monday when we go to full pads. It's an opportunity for some guys to step up. With a leader like Adam [Gotsis] on defense, he'll make sure those guys are ready. It doesn't matter who we have - guys will be ready to step up.

Jamal Golden #4 DB

Q: How are special teams looking so far in camp?

A: We just got a new coach - Coach Ray - who came in. He's a very intense coach and I'm very excited to play for him. I feel like special teams is going to be one of our strong points this year.

Q: What kind of changes has Coach Ray made to coverage, the return game, or in the way you go through practice drills?

A: Practice drills are a little different. They're a little more intense and a little more organized. But honestly it's too soon to tell. He's a great coach, he's intense, and he gets after you on the little things. If you don't do the little things right then he's not going to put you on the field.

Q: Are you completely healthy?

A: I'm good. I'm good to go. I'm 100% and it's a great feeling to be back in fall camp with the pads on.

Q: Obviously you get a lot of attention for your ability in the return game. I know you take a lot of pride in being a top safety as well. What have you done to work on that aspect of your game?

A: Stay in the film room. I stayed in every meeting last season when I got injured. I've been to every workout this offseason. I'm learning the game as much as I can so that it slows down and I can play fast.

Q: What are your personal goals this year?

A: Be top in the ACC. Right now I'm most worried about our team goal which is to get to Charlotte. Really my personal goal is to do whatever I can to get us to Charlotte.

Q: Due to departures the D-Line is short on depth. Are you guys doing anything special defensively or team-wise to account for that lack of depth?

A: We're doing our regular stuff. Obviously we lost Jeremiah, Euclid, and Too Tall to graduation. We have some guys ready to step up. Adam Gotsis is obviously going to be a good player. Shawn Green has played - I guess people forget about him, but he's played a lot and is a good player too. Tyler Stargel and KeShun Freeman are at the ends. And then we have guys like Pat Gamble and Francis Kallon, so we have guys on the D-Line. We're going to make plays there.

@CuseJacket interviews Golden

Q: What young guys have looked good so far on defense?

A: KeShun Freeman has looked really good. Then you have the Austin twins who have come in and have been very impressive. They're very skilled. They're still learning the game right now but I feel like they're going to be very good players.

Q: Superlatives- Who is the toughest guy to cover on offense?

A: I'll give it to Tony Zenon. He's very shifty. It's hard to see which way he's going to break. He's the toughest A-Back to hit. Then at WR you have Darren Waller and Deandre [Smelter]. They're both big guys. They're hard to cover and they can go up and get the ball. They give me some great competition as do the rest of the guys. It's a competition every day.

Q: Who's the one guy on the O-Line you least want to see pull on an offensive play or release to the second level?

A: Shaq. Shaq. Definitely Shaq.

Q: Sounds like there might be a personal experience in there somewhere.

A: Yea, I've gone against Shaq many-a-time. With our OL, they fire off the ball and move very well. They get up to the 2nd level very quickly, so if you don't see them they can get you.

Q: Who is the toughest guy to tackle?

A: Tim Byerly and Donovan [Wilson] are tough. It's hard to pick one person. Obviously Zach Laskey is a bruiser. They're all tough runners on offense.