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Football Spring Practice Notebook

April 20, 2011

Georgia Tech 2011 spring practice notebook:

All practices during the week are closed. Saturday morning practices are open.

Wednesday, April 20

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The Yellow Jackets final practice before Saturday’s T-Day Gamewas relatively light. The players wore shorts and helmets forTech’s 14th practice of the spring. The rosters are set for theT-Day Game, although they will not be published until Saturday. Thecoaches divided up the teams as evenly as possible. “I just want tosee guys compete,” Johnson said when asked about his expectationsfor Saturday. “We want to take care of the ball on offense, but atthe same time, you’d like to see the defense (force someturnovers). It will be fun for me. I’m not really involved in thecoaching, I just get out there in the middle (of the field).” TheNFL schedule was released on Tuesday. It’s worth noting that theYellow Jackets and the Falcons play at home on the same weekendjust three times during the season — Sept. 17-18, Oct. 8-9 andNov. 26-27.

Monday, April 18

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Georgia Tech’s 13th practice of the spring, under idealconditions at Bobby Dodd Stadium, got mixed reviews from the head coach. “Ithought Saturday we had a pretty good practice, but there was not alot of intensity out there today,” Paul Johnson said. On the injury front, the Yellow Jacketscontinued to practice with inside linebackers Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond wearing yellow jerseys. Wide receiver Jeremy Moore returned to practice Monday. Big things areexpected out of junior defensive end Izaan Cross, a returning starter. “Izaan knows hislimitations,” defensive line coach Andy McCollum said. “He is a physical player. He’s got tocontinue to work on getting off blocks and he needs to be a betterpass rusher. But, Izaan wants to be successful. He comes out everyday knowing what he needs to work on.” Two of the nation’s largestregional sports network — Fox South and Comcast Sports Southeast– were on campus all Monday morning to interview Johnson, AlGroh and several Yellow Jackets. Remember, Saturday is GeorgiaTech’s T-Day Game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The game will begin at noon and admissionis free. More details coming soon.

Saturday, April 16

The Yellow Jackets practiced for just under two hours Saturday,including 80 plays of an intra-squad scrimmage. Grant Field seemedto hold up extremely well despite some serious thunderstorms inMidtown Friday night and Saturday morning. Credit to Tech’s groundscrew and facilities staff which year after year produces one of thebest playing surfaces you’ll ever see. Although there wasn’t muchscoring — a one-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Tevin Washington and Justin Moore’s PAT accounted for the only points — both theoffense and defense had good and bad moments Saturday morning. “Itwas hot and cold,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “There were too many mistakes and too manypenalties.” The offense got off to a good start, driving 70 yardson 13 plays. The old veteran, senior A-back Roddy Jones, had a productive morning. Jones broke free for one40-yard run and was on the receiving end of a 30-yard pass fromWashington. Other big plays on offense included a 35-yard pass fromWashington to Orwin Smith, and a 30-yard run by senior B-back Preston Lyons. The defense played without inside linebackersJulian Burnett and Daniel Drummond, who sat out with minor injuries. Tech willhave closed practices Monday and Wednesday. The annual spring(T-Day) game is next Saturday at noon.

Friday, April 15

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The Yellow Jackets will have a practice on Saturday morningthat is open to the public. Practice begins at 9 a.m. and fans areasked to enter through the north end of Bobby Dodd Stadium. A pair of former outstanding defensivebacks were in attendance at Friday’s practice — Ryan Stewart, theformer Detroit Lion and current radio host and ESPN personality,and Mario Butler, who is hoping to get drafted later this month.Following practice, when a reporter asked Paul Johnson if he was frustrated, the head coach put thingsinto perspective. “Unless things are perfect I am going to befrustrated. What I talked to the team about today was that I havehigh expectations of them. I want them to have those same highexpectation.” Trivia question: Among Georgia Tech players taken inthe NFL draft since 1970, which position group has produced themost draftees? A. Defensive back; B. Offensive line; C.Linebackers; D. Running backs.

Wednesday, April 13

One former NFL player and a few NFL hopefuls were in attendanceat Wednesday’s practice. Travares Tillman, who played for four NFL teams from 2000-08,took in most of the two-hour practice session. Also on hand wererecent Yellow Jackets, Nick Claytor, Dominique Reese and Jerrard Tarrant. The Yellow Jackets spent the last two periodsWednesday working on the hurry-up offense (and defense). One of themore interesting and wide open position battles is at B-back, wherefour players are competing to replace Anthony Allen. Preston Lyons and Richard Watson bring some experience to the group. SophomoreDavid Sims, who moved from quarterback, and athletic redshirtfreshman Charles Perkins are the new guys in the mix. “I think thecompetition at B-back is great,” Lyons said. “It makes everyonebetter. Obviously it’s a friendly competition. We support oneanother.” Another intriguing battle is in the secondary where atleast eight players are competing. “There are lots of battles goingon, lots of good competition,” secondary coach Charles Kelly said. “All of them, so far, have been physicaland that’s one of the things that we stress.”

Monday, April 11

Interview with junior linebacker Julian Burnett.

With the 2010 seniors gone and the 2011 freshmen class not yetin school, Georgia Tech, like many schools, is working with alimited number of players during spring practice. Add in to the mixthat a few Yellow Jackets sat out of Monday’s practice because ofminor injuries and there are barely enough bodies to have a first-and second-team units. “We are just trying to have enough people toplay,” head coach Paul Johnson said. Johnson indicated that a depth chart will beput together once spring practice is completed. There are a numberof battles taking place at almost every position group. Oneposition group that has looked sharp this spring is the defensiveline, where starters Izaan Cross, Logan Walls and Jason Peters return. “The defensive line, as a whole, hasgotten better,” Johnson said. “Any time you have experience andolder players it helps.” The Yellow Jackets have five practicesremaining prior to the April 23 spring game. Sophomore J.C. Lanier is making the transition from defensive line tooffensive line this spring. Lanier is making progress and he iscertainly getting the reps. “I’m getting a lot of reps and bothleft and right guard,” Lanier said. “I think I played 63 snapsSaturday (in the scrimmage). I’m trying to keep the agressivenessyou need to play defense, but stay more composed. Most of the time,right now, I’m thinking too much.”

Saturday, April 9

Interview with junior quarterback Tevin Washington.

Georgia Tech held an open practice Saturday morning in Bobby Dodd Stadium and the Yellow Jackets crammed in more than95 plays into 90 minutes of an intra-squad scrimmage. “We werestill pretty ragged,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “Probably a little better than last week butwe still have a lot to get accomplished in the next two weeks.”Part of the ragged play can be attributed to a host of nagginginjuries to the offensive line. Will Jackson, RayBeno and Morgan Bailey all sat out, and the defense took full advantage.The offense produced three touchdowns — one-yard runs byquarterbacks Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days, and a 50-yard pass from Days to A-back Deon Hill — and sophomore Justin Moore booted a 30-yard field goal. One of severaldefenders who enjoyed good days was sophomore cornerback Louis Young, who had a violent tackle of A-back Orwin Smith that forced a fumble, and he had an impressive passbreak-up while covering Stephen Hill. Smith made up for the fumble on the offense’snext possession with a long run and a reception. Defensive endChristopher Crenshaw and linebacker B.J. Machen, playing on the second-team defense, combined for asack of Days. Every healthy player on the roster saw action,including a number of walk-ons who had their moments in the sun.Coray Carlson recovered a fumble. Quarterback Darryl Dickey completed a long pass to Jamie Alvarez. The day ended when cornerback Jemea Thomas intercepted a Dickey pass. The Yellow Jackets havesix practices remaining prior to the April 23 spring game.

Friday, April 8

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The Yellow Jackets will have an open practice Saturday morningat 9 a.m. in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Fans should enter through the north side ofthe stadium. What is head coach Paul Johnson looking for at Saturday’s practice? “Guys thatwill compete and play with some fire.” Johnson indicated he did notsee that fire in Friday’s practice. A large turnout of high schoolcoaches were on hand at Friday afternoon’s practice as part of theGeorgia Tech coaches clinic. Sophomore David Sims is listed as a B-back and quarterback and could seeaction at both, but he has spent most of the spring learning theB-back position. “He’s still getting comfortable in his stance,”said Brian Bohannon, coach of the B-backs and quarterbacks. “He’smaking some improvement, getting better. David is a good athlete.”How would Bohannon evaluate junior QB Tevin Washington so far this spring? “He’s gotten better (sincelast season), no question. He’s really worked hard at it. He’strying to be a leader.”

Wednesday, April 6

Wednesday’s practice came in ideal conditions — a chamber ofcommerce day of weather on the Flats. Former Yellow Jacket standoutDemaryius Thomas was a guest at practice on Wednesday. Thomas,a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos, was enjoying asolid rookie campaign (22 receptions, 283 yards, 2 touchdowns)before a season-ending injury. Head coach Paul Johnson was asked by the media about sophomore Daniel Drummond, who has made the move from B-back to insidelinebacker. “We felt like Daniel was a big kid who could run, andhe played defense in high school. He’s still learning his wayaround, but we’re pleased with what he’s done so far.” DoesDrummond have a mean streak that so many good inside linebackershave? “I think he does,” Johnson said. “We’ll see. In the scrimmageon Saturday he had some good plays and some not-so-good plays.”Sophomore Jay Finch looks like he’s a strong candidate to replacetwo-time All-ACC center Sean Bedford. “Jay got to play a little at center last year,”Johnson said. “I think he has a lot of ability. He has to learn howto maximize his potential.” The Yellow Jackets will have anotherclosed practice Friday afternoon. Saturday’s practice begins at 9a.m. and is open to the public.

Monday, April 4

Photo Gallery | Watch Interview with Jemea Thomas

And just like that, we’re one-third through spring practice.Five practices down, 10 to go, including the April 23 spring game.Today’s practice was Tech’s third in full pads and the temperatureat Bobby Dodd Stadium was around 80 degrees. How did the headcoach feel about Monday’s practice? “It was ragged,” Paul Johnson said. “Rough around the edges. A large part of itis mental, so guys just need to push through.” Johnson indicatedthat the Yellow Jackets came out of Saturday’s scrimmage relativelyinjury-free. Only two players who suffered minor injuries Saturdaysat out of Monday’s practice. Following last Saturday’s scrimmage,11 members of the football team joined 50 other Georgia Techstudent-athletes cleaning up one of Atlanta’s roughestneighborhoods. Read the storyand see the video here. Defensive coordinator AlGroh on Tech’s three returning starters on the defensive line:”It was a big transition in style for those kids last year. It’sobvious how much more comfortable they are this year.” A reportersuggested to Groh that the secondary, while inexperienced, appearsto be athletic and deep with the likes of Rod Sweeting, Jemea Thomas, Louis Young, Isaiah Johnson, Fred Holton and Ryan Ayers. “Don’t forget Michael Peterson,” Groh said of the senior cornerback. “Hisoff-season work is apparent.”

Saturday, April 2

The Yellow Jackets held an open practice this morning atBobby Dodd Stadium and the majority of the 90-minute practicewas dedicated to an intra-squad scrimmage. Both the offense anddefense had their moments, but it was the defense that caused thebiggest stir among a group of reporters in attendance. One of theoffensive highlights was a touchdown pass from redshirt freshmanquarterback Synjyn Days to redshirt freshman A-back Tony Zenon. One of several defensive highlights was aninterception by redshirt sophomore Jemea Thomas, who has moved this spring from safety tocornerback. “Jemea is a good player,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “He’ll find a way to get himself on thefield.” Sophomore Daniel Drummond appears well on his way to making thesuccessful transition from B-back to linebacker. “He (Drummond) hasgood football instincts,” defensive coordinator AlGroh said. “Football means a great deal to him. He has a niceupside.” Good story by Matt Winkeljohn in this morning’s Sting Daily onsophomore center Jay Finch. If you’re not getting your free subscription toSting Daily, you’re missing out. Get your free subscriptionhere.

Friday, April 1

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Saturday’s (April 2) practice is the first of the spring thatis open to the public. The Yellow Jackets will practice in Bobby Dodd Stadium beginning at 9 a.m. Fans can enter on thenorth side of the stadium. Restrooms will be open on the concourseon the north end. Today was the first day the Yellow Jackets werein full pads. Construction continues on the MaryR. and John F. Brock III Indoor Football Practice Facility,which is why the Yellow Jackets are practicing this spring inBobby Dodd Stadium. Randy Waters of 11 Alive did a nice story on the facility earlier this week. FollowingWednesday’s practice, head coach Paul Johnson recognized Tech’s members of the ACC All-AcademicTeam – Roddy Jones, Will Jackson and Logan Walls. Former Tech kicker Scott Blair was also an All-Academic selection. Daniel Drummond and J.C. Lanier are among those playing new positions. Drummond hasmade the move from B-back to inside linebacker. Lanier moved fromdefensive line to offensive line. Wide receiver Jeremy Moore is back in practice after missing all of 2010 witha knee injury. Moore suffered the injury in practice last August.

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