Sunday Morning Quarterback

Aug. 14, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Statistics were not kept, but even without knowing them and even if you did not see Georgia Tech practice Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium, you would be encouraged upon learning of comments that dovetail directly to a critical point.

“That was as good a passing scrimmage as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” B-back Preston Lyons said.

After stating his strong affinity for schematic changes in Tech’s pass protection schemes, center Jay Finch was asked if he was encouraged by the Yellow Jackets’ passing successes – even as Tech was without injured wide receivers Stephen Hill, Tyler Melton, Daniel McKayhan and Jeremy Moore.

What he said was as notable as how he said it, which was r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w in order to better emphasize how he felt. “It was great,” Finch confirmed.

Indeed, if the Jackets can ramp up the efficiency of their passing game, their chances of competing in the ACC’s Coastal division figure to ramp up as well.

Head coach Paul Johnson on Saturday pulled back the curtain a little on Tech’s 2011 squad, and when the Jackets’ practice was open to the public for the first time, three items bore most watching (in no certain order):

The look of the passing game. As stated, it appearedsignificantly improved as Tevin Washington passed for more than 100 yards, including a63-yarder down the middle to A-back Roddy Jones. Synjyn Days threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to A-back Orwin Smith. A-backs were often on the receiving end, althoughfreshman wideout Jeff Greene had a nice morning. The defense. It, too,appeared improved, at least when most projected starters were onthe field. Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu was hard to miss. Ball security. Thiswas a hot button problem last season, and again Saturday there wereissues, even in the red zone where the Jackets suffered nightmareslast season.

If you were in Bobby Dodd Stadium, it was more impressive than quotes.

The Jackets were not throwing it around like Peyton Manning, but given the difficulty they had last season, Saturday appeared like a big step forward.

On the biggest play, Jones wiggled free down the middle, Washington lofted it to him, and Jones ran the ball down to the shadow of the north goal line. Unfortunately, reserve B-back David Sims – who ran the ball well much of the morning – lost a fumble on the next play.

Johnson commented that Tech’s defense spent most of the practice/scrimmage gearing for the run, and the defense clearly bit on a play fake on that one.

So? All of Tech’s opponents are going to play run-first against the Jackets.

The key is seizing on those opportunities more often than the Tech offense did last season. That involves several things more than just the pass itself. There’s pass protection, the quarterback’s sense of timing, receivers and the QB reading coverages similarly, and receivers running the right routes accordingly.

Jones was asked if Tech has worked more on the passing game in camp.

“I don’t think so. I think a lot of it comes down to the things that we did over the summer in putting together the seven-on-seven [passing drills without coaches],” he said. “Just being in the right spot [is critical]. Whenever Tevin has time, we have to be where he expects us.

“If he has time, and we’re not there and he can’t find us, it’s just like him taking a sack. A lot of it comes with understanding.”

Washington soon afterward completed an intermediate pass in the right flat to Orwin Smith for a 35-yard game. Not long after that, he found Greene down to the 1-yard line. That play set up Washington’s 1-yard sneak for the first of the two touchdowns the offenses scored.

“I’m very encouraged. It was a lot better today than it has been in a long time,” Washington said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

For that to continue, the offensive line will have to continue keeping pass rushers from moving in the direction of Washington, Days or whomever is at quarterback.

Pass protection was a sight better Saturday than most of last season.

Finch said some changes in pass-blocking techniques have helped. He would not go into detail, lest he risk the rather of Johnson and the staff, but it was clear that he liked the new way of doing business.

“We changed some things, and I think it’s for the better,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us up front playing as a unit.”

The Jackets have today off, their first off day since fall practices began. Did you see the practice/scrimmage Saturday? Let us know what you thought at stingdaily@gmail.com.

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