April 21, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech football head coach Johnson didn’t ask too much of his troops in Friday night’s annual T-Day Game.
“We wanted to stay fairly vanilla. I didn’t want to do a whole lot,” he said. “We got out of the game tonight and nobody got hurt. That’s what you want out of your spring game.”
Johnson couldn’t say that about previous practices and scrimmages, which led to a multitude of injuries that left him with the bare minimum 10 offensive linemen.
But scaling down the offenses didn’t mean the game was bereft of excitement.
The game, won 31-7 by White, had plenty of robust hitting and some exciting plays and left the crowd of 18,125 as well as the team feeling good about what had been accomplished during spring practices.
The quarterback situation didn’t really change. Incumbent starter redshirt-senior Tevin Washington, who led a couple of second-half scoring drives, is still the starter, while redshirt-sophomore Synjyn Days and redshirt-freshman Vad Lee each did what they did best — Days and Lee and did so from different teams, as they switched sides in the second half.
“If we had to play tomorrow [Washington] certainly would be the starter,” said Johnson. “That’s about all I can say on that right now. We’ve got all summer and 33 days to practice. It’s about who works hard this summer, who comes in ready to go. But [Washington] clearly has a better understanding and a better presence of what’s going on as he well should. He’s been here so much longer. The other guys are both very talented and they’re good at certain things. They have to get better at where their weak spots are.”
“If we had to play right now they both bring different things,” he added. “The guys behind Tevin, so they would be situational players, probably. The goal is to make them not situational players and to be able to do the whole thing.”
Neither the White nor the Gold ran the ball effectively, but that didn’t surprise Johnson, who felt fortunate to get enough players to man an offensive line.
While the patchwork units predictably struggled, they earned the praise of Johnson for their courage under difficult circumstances.
“Even with the first group, you had two guys playing where they don’t normally play, the right tackle and the center,” he said. “That was the first group. The second group was all over the place. I think that second group had, three freshmen, walk-ons. They’re pretty beat up. I’m pretty proud of them. They fought through it. They stayed out there. None of them went down.”
Staying up was not as easy for ball-carriers, as the defense, especially the linebacking corps provided some robust hitting.
“That’s basically knowing his assignment. Full-speed Brandon making a full-speed play,” said junior linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu. “That’s what you can expect from him he doesn’t know how to stop. We have a lot of speed. Having players like that in the corps is definitely good.”
Redshirt-Freshman LB Jabari Hunt-Days also was superb and nearly opened the scoring — not to mention winning bragging rights against older brother, Synjyn — but he dropped an interception with nothing but open field in front of him.
“I told him ‘My ankle’s a little hurting, but thank you very much (for dropping the pass),”‘ Days said with a laugh. “He’s a great player. I’m glad he’s at Georgia Tech and not UGA. I feel like he’s going to contribute to the team greatly.”
“Jabari stepped up, I’m proud of him,” Attaouchu added.
Attaochu was as excited about redshirt sophomore Quayshaun Nealy and the entire linebacking corps.
“We bring speed and we bring power at the same time,” he said. “Quayshaun did a good job making the calls. He is very instinctive. He’s also going to have a lot of interceptions. The young guys are coming on, as well.”
Two of those young guys led to the first touchdown of the game on the first drive of the second half, when redshirt freshman linebacker Tyler Marcordes stripped Days and sophomore DB Corey Dennis picked the ball up from out of a scramble and ran it 36-yards for the score to turn White’s 3-0 halftime edge to 10-0.
The offenses proceeded to come alive in the second half, as each of the QB’s led at least one touchdown drive.
If there was one issue Johnson had it was with the amount of balls hitting the number of balls being put on the ground.
“It’s actually been a lot better but tonight the ball was out way too much,” he said. “Certain individuals who had it out and it’s guys who have had a problem with that. So that’s an issue. No question.”
On the whole, however, there was no question that the night format was a success.
“It’s not what I prefer but I thought we had a great crowd,” Johnson said. “I thought it was fun, the kids enjoyed it. The fans had a good time. So all-in-all I think it was a positive. We had a great crowd. I thought they were really good.”
Now comes the long summer and the chance to build on what was accomplished during the spring.
Redshirt-sophomore A-Back Tony Zenon, who caught a touchdown pass from Lee on a fourth-and-11, knows there’s a lot of work to still be done, but he’s focused.
“The main thing we worked on the A-Backs together is we wanted to catch every ball within 10 to 15 yards,’ he said. “Throughout the season we’re going to have those quick passes so we want to make sure we’re efficient and be able to move the ball and get first downs.
“Roddy [Jones] was a great blocker and a playmaker. We’re going to try to fill their shoes,” he added. “We still have ‘Big O,’ Orwin [Smith, who didn’t participate for much of the spring as he recovers from toe surgery]. I think we had a good spring overall. Everybody knowing his assignment, everybody competing. We’re all like brothers so we want to compete and make everybody better.”
Johnson is eager to see how the team grows from what he feels was a successful Spring.
“There are a lot of guys who have gotten better,” he said. “[Redshirt-sophomore defensive end] Anthony Williams has done some things. The secondary’s played well for the most part. [Redshirt-junior A-Back] Robby Godhigh had a good spring, [redshirt-junior wide receiver] Jeremy Moore, [redshirt-sophomore A-Back] Deon Hill’s come on. There’s a lot of guys that have gotten better.”
Throw in all the injured bodies healed up and fall is looking more and more interesting.