#STINGDAILY: Off Center Just A Tad

April 13, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

As football scrimmages go, you could make the argument that Georgia Tech’s run at it on Saturday morning never got off the ground because, well, the ball kept ending up there. It was more like futbol, or soccer.

Coach Paul Johnson was frosty afterward, downright wintry. He has more of a decision to make regarding the quarterback position than many fans might think, and it’s hard to think straight when your quarterback can’t get the ball to start a play.

Whether asked specifically about the Yellow Jackets’ problems or something different, the boss was in a mood to talk (vent) about issues with the center-quarterback exchange.

First comments: “The center can’t snap the ball. I’ve never seen anything to beat that.”

A fairness doctrine of some short ought to be invoked here.

Two of the Jackets’ top three centers – two-year starter Jay Finch and redshirt freshman Freddie Burden – are out with injuries. Catlin Alford is in the mix, but he and senior tackle Ray Beno – who has toggled from his left tackle spot, struggled to get the ball up or back in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

It didn’t matter if the quarterback was under center on in shotgun formation; the ball was a free agent. Johnson: “It’s pretty hard to play when every other play the snap goes over your head, or rolls back or whatever.”

In a way, the Jackets are back to where they were last spring when there was a quarterback widely assumed to be the man and another young man making a run.

Vad Lee, darling of the fan base in 2012, pressed Tevin Washington before. Now, redshirt freshman Justin Thomas – the ridiculously fast lad from Prattville, Ala. – is pressing Lee.

They are both going to play in the fall; bank on that. How much is TBD. That acronym would’ve worked before every snap early Saturday.

Even the quarterbacks were cranky after the two-hour session. Coaches like to say that players can play faster and more aggressively when they’re confident in what they’re doing. Generally, that’s about knowing the plays, the reads.

But when you’re not even sure if you’re going to get the ball from center, well, it doesn’t matter if you know the play and the reads.

“That’s pretty much accurate,” Lee said. “Once you can’t get the snap, all you’re worried about is the snap. The quarterback has to worry about 10 different things, and once you can’t get the snap you’re just worrying about getting the snap.

“I was definitely frustrated today simply because we couldn’t get anything going.”

Later in the scrimmage the offense started rolling, although that came with spunky QB Tim Byerly running the show and a walk-on center Michael Muns putting the ball where it needed to be put.

Asked about the success of the offense later, when no front-line players were being deployed on either side of the ball, Johnson said, “I think it was more a reflection of the offense not dropping the snap. The problem was, the first three or four series we couldn’t get a snap. We were trying to work on some [Shot]gun stuff, and it’s just futile.”

Thomas, being younger, is a little more hesitant to be critical. But his guff was up as well. “Things happen. You’ve got to overcome adversity,” he said. “You think about the ball coming out.”

The good news is the Jackets were not side-tracked by a lack of talent; they were thrown off by players being out of position because of injuries. Plus, it’s spring. Were this the fall, many injured players would be out there in spite of their ailments.

“I just wasn ‘t very happy, but it’s something we can fix,” Lee said. “We’ll get it corrected, and I think we’re going to have a great spring game [Friday].”

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