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Air Jackets? Don't Laugh

Sept. 3, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Caught between hither and yon upon the edge of a holiday weekend, and verging on a trip to Philips Arena to cover an Atlanta Dream game before fleeing town, there is not much here to add to about Georgia Tech’s 63-21 win over Western Carolina. Perhaps you have something to contribute.

Or, how’s this for a thought? What if the Yellow Jackets turn out to be a passing team this season?

Is that impossible?

Don’t say that head coach Paul Johnson’s not wired to go that direction. He’s tilted that way before, as offensive coordinator for Hawaii. And what about this? What if Tech’s offensive line is – gasp! – better equipped to pass protect than run block? That might be the case. There has been talk of changing pass pro schemes in the offseason, and voila! The Jackets nearly tripled their output of any game last season. No sacks allowed, either.

This is not to suggest that quarterback Tevin Washington is suddenly a future Heisman Trophy candidate, nor that wide receiver Stephen Hill is going to follow in the footsteps of Demaryius Thomas.

But Hill and Washington are, as Tech assistant athletic director for media relations Dean Buchan pointed out Friday, the only duo in school history to hook up on three of the 24 longest pass plays. Joe Hamilton and Dez White were the only other duo to make that list even twice.

As Hill scored on pass plays of 82 and 77 yards Thursday, certain dreams came into play, dreams that were unthinkable a short while ago. Sure, the opponent had quite a bit to do with Tech passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns. That’s 99 more passing yards in a game than a Johnson-coached team has passed for in his three-plus seasons at Tech (266 at Mississippi State in 2009).

It’s necessary to note, however, that while Tech receivers rarely had difficulty getting open thanks to the opponent, there was a design, a conviction, about the passing game that has rarely been evident in Johnson’s Tech attack.

Washington, whose passer rating of 312.80 surpassed the single-game rating of any player in any Division I game last season, may not have looked like the second coming of Warren Moon or Peyton Manning, but he sure didn’t look like Tevin Washington, circa 2010, either.

“He was really calm,” Hill said of Washington. “That’s what I like about Tevin. He’s by himself, calm and collected.”

Similarly, Hill rarely seemed related to the out-of-rhythm guy wearing his uniform last season.

“There were a lot of things to work on (editor’s note: true, that), but there were some positives, especially Stephen Hill,” Johnson said after the game. “He played like we thought he could. That will be a confidence booster for him.”

Was that a confidence booster for you? Or, are you hung upon the caliber of opponent? Whatever, let me know. There was a TEPID contribution to the mailbox Friday. Do something about that. Here you go: stingdaily@gmail.com.

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