Aug. 1, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
With all due respect to the joys that come in advance of a season, and the “new car” smell that has adorned Georgia Tech football for the past two-plus years, Sean Bedford takes time to look back at the stench of the Orange Bowl past.
The Yellow Jackets won the ACC title last season, but big steps must be taken if Tech is going to continue to compete at that level and beyond. The Jackets must be better on both lines.
Bedford – the only Jacket voted onto the preseason All-ACC squad – is supremely qualified to weigh in on the O-line. The senior center was All-ACC last season, he’s ferociously bright, and he knows better than perhaps most that the score in a 24-14 loss to Iowa did not sum it up. It was worse than that.
The Jackets’ zone blocking scheme, their supposed edge in quickness, their misdirection . . . none of it worked. The Hawkeyes utterly dominated, especially in the first half.
So, look for changes in attitude and perhaps a little extra latitude (girth) in some players.
“When you get beat like that, I think there’s a lot you can take away,” said Bedford, an aerospace engineering major who is on Outland and Rimington Trophy watch lists. “Foremost, we have to go into every game with our mind right. Any time you have that long between games and type when you’re in a place with as many distractions as Miami, you have to stay focused.
“Any time you’re smaller you’re kind of at an inherent disadvantage. We’re working to get stronger, and working as a unit on our chemistry and technique. I’m up to 285, played last year at about 270. Any time you work toward equalizing that [gap in size], you work on technique.”
Do NOT look for Tech to change its blocking scheme beyond some tweaks akin to those made every year by every team.
There will be differences, however. Some players are bigger, and some who were especially large before – like interior linemen Omoregie Uzzi and Nick McRae – have leaned out. All are stronger. New director of player development Neal Peduzzi has added offseason running to the regimen, and linemen have endeavored to muscle up.
Tech appears to have more depth again at the interior line positions. “I think we’ve got a chance to be better on the offensive line,” coach Paul Johnson said. “We’re going to be young there.”
Senior B-back Anthony Allen said, “Uzzi’s lost some weight, he’s moving a little better and one of the most improved lifters of the year was Will Jackson. The whole line, period, has really improved.”
As Johnson begins his third season as head coach at Tech, the Jackets are less likely to find themselves pinched on the O-line as in the past two seasons.
In the transition from former coach Chan Gailey, several players were moved from other positions to the line because they fit the scheme of offensive line coaches Mike Sewak and Todd Spencer better than some existing linemen.
With a few recruiting classes in the program now, this shouldn’t happen any more: Bedford came to Tech as a walk-on defensive lineman. Brad Sellers, who started last season at tackle, was a tight end under Gailey and Johnson and his staff tried him briefly at A-back.
Perhaps nowhere else in college football last season was there a starting tackle who had been a running back.
“A big matchup [in the Orange Bowl] was Adrian Clayborn against Brad Sellers. Typically, you’re not going to see an offensive tackle dwarfed by a defensive end,” Bedford said. “He fought his (tail) off, and I can’t say enough, but Brad probably played that game at 255 and Clayborn was at about 290.”
Clayborn was named Orange Bowl MVP. Sellers graduated.
Tech is not scrapping its offensive line style nor the general body type of those playing it. These size mismatches will still happen, although there are few players in the nation anywhere near as ferocious as Clayborn.
Yet while some O-linemen will be a bit bigger, the bottom line is the Jackets want to be stronger across the board and be better at what they do. And they want to be in sync; here more than anywhere on a football team, chemistry matters.
“I don’t think there’s any other sport where you have to have five guys who work in perfect unison,” Bedford said. “We make an effort to do as much as we can together . . . dinner at least once a week, video games, and most of the people on the off line would agree that our best friends are on the off line.”
With Tech’s man in the middle helping orchestrate, the Jackets seek to be better.
“Sean Bedford is the smartest man I’ve ever met in my life, and probably ever will meet in my life,” Allen said. “I’ll definitely listen to anything he has to say.”