#TGW: Eagle-Eyed

Aug. 22, 2016

Jon Cooper | The Good Word –

It’s rare to find a Saturday that Justin Thomas takes an offensive play off.

On Saturday, Thomas took ALL of them off.

He did so with the blessing of head coach Paul Johnson, who also gave much of the first-team offensive line and many on the defensive side of the ball the day off from the team’s final scrimmage.

“It was ragged but I kind of expected it. We held a lot of guys out,” Johnson said. “There was some good and bad. The ball was on the ground way too much, so that’s good for the defense. Offensively there was too many fumbles.

“It was a lot of the backups and guys that we wanted to look at before Monday,” he added. “We had a lot of contact, a lot of scrimmaging and that’s why I wanted to hold some guys out.”

Saturday’s final scrimmage allowed quarterbacks Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall the opportunity to get some reps, as both played with the first team.

Not a lot was settled as far as backup QB.

“It’s situational,” Johnson said. “It’s like I said all along. It would depend on the situation who I send in, the type of game, the way it was going, what we were doing.

“Today, I was a little disappointed, “ he added. “They missed some stuff that should be easy. But they haven’t played a lot, so that’s why you do it. That’s why you practice.”

There were good things offensively, especially from the receivers, as they converted a couple of long third downs — including a third-and-19 and a third-and-11 — as the offense scored on its first possession. Redshirt sophomore A-back Clinton Lynch went the final five yards of the 12-play, 70-yard drive.

Johnson said there’s lots of depth at A-back and will see plenty of fresh bodies getting an opportunity to carry the ball.

“I don’t know who’ll start,” Johnson said. “It really doesn’t matter. I mean you’ve got J.J. Green who’s going to play, Clinton (Lynch) is going to play, Qua Searcy is going to play, Ike (Willis) is going to play. Lynn (Griffin) will play some. You’ve got Austin McClellan, you’ve got Nathan Cottrell. So there’s guys. We’ve got guys there.”

Wide receivers were a positive on offense Saturday, making several big plays.

“I thought they caught the ball a little better today than they did in the first scrimmage,” Johnson said. “Ricky Jeune made some nice plays with the first group. They got themselves behind down and distance two or three times and he made a couple of really nice plays on third down to make catches.”

Starters Jeune and Brad Stewart each played only the first series, allowing the likes of Mikell Lands-Davis, Harland Howell and Jalen Camp an opportunity to cement their roles.

Kicker, one position never really in doubt, continues to look as strong, as expected. Senior Harrison Butker provided a highlight on Saturday, booming a 48-yard field goal to complete a seven-play, 39-yard drive. The kick had plenty to spare, as it reached the stands.

Freshman quarterback Lucas Johnson capped an 11-play, 79-yard scoring drive with a 16-yard run but that was later, with all first-teamers out.

Johnson hasn’t closed the door on freshmen seeing the field, especially early in the season.

“It could be a million of them,” he said. “It’s like I said before, everybody’s going to Ireland and we have four home games in a row, so they’re all going to be dressed. If we need them, we’ll play them.”

With one week to go in fall camp, the Jackets now turn to Boston College.

Johnson feels the team is ready to move on to the Eagles and admitted he was pleased with what he’s seen over the past three weeks.

“I think we had a good camp overall. We got after it pretty good this camp,” he said. “We’ve done most of the heavy beating. There’s not a lot of that left, the contact work. We got a lot of that in. Now you’ll have to get pieces of it but most of that’s done. It’s more game plan stuff and refining and separating it into scouts and when you have fewer people you can get a lot more reps for them, too.

“My big concern now moving forward to next week is to focus in on Boston College and get the guys fresh for the first game,” he said. “That’s my big thing about first games. I want them to have their legs and be ready to go.”

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