April 7, 2007
ATLANTA–Quarterback Taylor Bennett threw five touchdown passes, including two each to redshirt freshmen Demaryius Thomas and Correy Earls, and tailbacks Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant combined for 120 yards rushing in the Yellow Jackets’ final spring scrimmage, played in cold, windy conditions Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field.
Bennett and the first-team offense did most of their damage against Tech’s second defense, but the Yellow Jackets’ number one defense also had its moments against the second offense. The Jackets collected five sacks, including two each by defensive end Darrell Robertson and tackle Vance Walker, and linebacker Shane Bowen had the game’s only interception. Linebacker Gary Guyton added two tackles for loss.
“Both the first-team offense and the first-team defense, at the first part of the scrimmage, were both doing what they’re supposed to do [against the second units], and that was good,” said Tech head coach Chan Gailey, entering his sixth season on the Flats. “It’s the best that the first offense has moved against the first defense all spring.”
With super star wide receiver and soon-to-be first-round draft pick Calvin Johnson looking on from the sideline, Thomas and Earls did their best to impress the Tech crowd. Earls opened the scrimmage by catching a 70-yard touchdown from Bennett on the very first play and then added a 30-yard scoring reception. Thomas had six catches for 87 yards, including touchdown catches of 18 and 25 yards. He came up with several tough catches in traffic.
“He’s turned into a very good receiver,” Gailey said of the 6-3, 220-pound Thomas, who also caught two touchdowns in last Saturday’s scrimmage. “I think he’s got a chance to be extremely good before it’s over with, but we’ve got to walk before we run.
Tech displayed its offense balance in the scrimmage as starting tailback Tashard Choice, last year’s ACC rushing leader, carried five times for 56 yards, and backup Rashaun Grant added 64 yards on five carries. Grant’s performance, in particular, was encouraging as the Jackets look to utilize his versatility to complement Choice.
“He’s got an excellent skill set, so hopefully we can take that and turn it into some productive touches for him in the fall,” said Gailey of Grant.
Bennett, the junior lefty from St. Louis, Mo., completed 10 of 15 passes for 197 yards but deflected the credit.
“It all starts with our offensive line,” he said. “Those guys work their butts off every day, and I’m thankful for everything they do. They make me look good, and they make Tashard and all the backs look good.
“The receivers are doing great. Demaryius Thomas has stepped in and done a great job this spring, and so has Correy. We’ve got a couple of guys hurt, but they’ll be back, so we’ll have a good receiving corps.”
True freshman Steven Threet, bidding to earn the backup quarterback role behind Bennett, completed seven of 11 passes for 51 yards, including a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Barrick. A redshirt freshman from Moody, Ala., Barrick has worked with the first-team offense all spring with projected starter Colin Peek sidelined by injury for the spring. He finished with four catches for 29 yards.
Junior transfer Calvin Booker also worked with the second-team offense and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Miles King, while redshirt freshman Byron Ingram added a 21-yard scoring pass to Andrew Smith.
“We’ve progressed tremendously this spring,” said Bennett. “We’re going to move this thing into the fall, full steam ahead and try to start off right where we left off here. We’re excited.”