Talkin' the Talk

April 19, 2012

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

It’s time to put up or shut up for the Georgia Tech football team.

Their 14 spring practices and two scrimmages are in the books. In that time some questions have been answered while others have been opened to the floor.

The final proving ground is tonight’s annual T-Day Game, the centerpiece of “Friday Night On The Flats.” Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m., with kickoff at 7:45. For more information visit www.ramblinwreck.com/sports/m-footbl/12springgame.html.

While the official White and Gold teams have not been announced, there is an issue that has fractured the team.

Who has the edge heading into the game: The offense or the defense?

It’s a question that, predictably, has drawn mixed opinions.

“I’d probably say the offense,” said redshirt-senior quarterback Tevin Washington, the incumbent starter, whose three first-half rushing touchdowns keyed White’s 27-7 victory over Gold in the 2010 game (he also scored White’s lone touchdown, Gold’s 21-7 win last year). “The defense only has so many looks they can show us and we have so many different things that we can do to them, as far as scheming and different play-calls.

“I think there will be a trick play or two just to keep the defense honest,” Washington added. “I’m sure they feel like they’ve got a pretty good game plan going into the spring game to stop us, to shut us down. It’s not going to work. It never does.”

Senior cornerback Rod Sweeting offers a dissenting opinion.

“It’s going to be competitive but I’m sure the defense is going to win it,” said the senior corner, who had 37 tackles (19 solo), fourth on the Jackets in 2011. ” We’re just going to line up and play our defense. We’re more competitive. We stay aggressive so I feel like we’re going to win the battle.”

Sweeting plans to once again be active on a run-defense that plans to show improvement from last season. He expects to see less action on pass plays, however, although he invites any quarterback he faces to try him.

“I hope they know what will happen but if they throw it my way they’ll find out,” said Sweeting, who led the team with 10 pass-breakups last season and had three interceptions, tied for the team lead with junior safety Isaiah Johnson.

Sophomore Zach Laskey and senior T.J. Barnes were a little more diplomatic in their predictions.

“I’m going to give defense a little bit of the edge but if we execute 100 percent then the offense will be fine,” said Laskey, who saw time at B-Back during the Spring after returning kicks as a freshman. “I think we’re looking pretty good. The past couple of scrimmages we’ve moved the ball pretty well.”

Laskey agreed with Washington that the defense should be prepared for some trickery although he was not prepared to offer any specifics.

“I’d have to kill you if I told you,” he said, breaking into a big smile. “We have a few trick plays I’m pretty sure we’ll use. We’ll show some things.”

Barnes, who will be playing in his final T-Day game, stayed neutral, preferring to see a strong balanced effort on both sides of the ball.

“It never looks good if your defense is shutting down your offense. You might think, ‘Well, maybe we might have a problem on offense,'” he said. “If the offense is beating your defense, you might think, ‘We might have a problem on defense.’  So it’s more in the middle. We’re all trying to compete and just trying to get ready for the fall.”

Barnes did offer a potential wrinkle that defense could throw in.

“Putting me at safety. They haven’t done that. It would be a surprise to me also if they put me back there,” said the 6-7, 347-pound defensive tackle, with a laugh. “Or put me at B-back. You know I’m going to the house.”

Head Coach Paul Johnson, who’d probably prefer to see Barnes attacking the opposition’s offensive backfield than attacking from Tech’s, had no prediction as to who had the edge tonight.

“I have no idea. Which day is it?” he said. “There are days the offense works the defense and days the defense works the offense. So who knows?”

Johnson did offer what he considers the deciding factor.

“It will probably be about turnovers,” he said. “Whoever turns the ball over the least [will win]. That’s usually what happens.”

It did last year, as Gold, led by QB Synjyn Days, one of several quarterbacks in competition with Washington, converted a pair of early turnovers into two early touchdowns.

So who has the edge, offense or defense? Barnes said there’s only one real way to find out.

“I would say tune in early so you can make the decision for yourself,” he said.

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