Aug. 3, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
If you think as a Georgia Tech football fan that the past seven months or so have felt like time served in purgatory, well, imagine head coach Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets.
Take the way last season and the Independence Bowl went, throw in some uncomfortable rear-view mirror analysis after the season that suggested the team’s chemistry was foul, and then add recent developments that need not be re-hashed, and . . . Wednesday felt like release day.
Good times are here again! Football is back.
The first day of practice included all 105 players on the roster (walk-ons cannot participate yet), although a couple were not running around, and Johnson said he “was encouraged” by much of what he saw.
Tevin Washington was sharp at quarterback, the coach said, showing no signs of ill-effect after knee surgery. Wide receiver Chris Jackson has been re-instated to the team pending the arrival of grades which Johnson said he expects to be hunky-dory. And importantly, there was energy.
Tech is looking forward to a football re-birth on many levels for multiple reasons. Wednesday was a big step – but not the first – in that direction.
“I think you always look forward to the first day,” Johnson said. “Every season starts brand new. It’s a new group of guys, and it’s fun to get out there.”
Some offensive players will be available to comment Thursday and some defensive players will chime in on Friday.
Wednesday, Johnson was the lone mouthpiece of the program and he seemed at peace, not agitated, nor anxious, but rather content to finally have his team back at it.
You’re surely more content with that notion than you were with recent conjecture and folderol.
Looking forward, the Jackets won’t get to working in full pads until Sunday, and fan day is Saturday (4 p.m.) in Bobby Dodd Stadium.
It’s not too early, however, to send your thoughts and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and in coming weeks we’ll try to raise your level of contentedness (if that’s a word).
Meantime, a little housekeeping:
There was some bad news Wednesday. When Ken Sugiura of the AJC asked about Denzel McCoy’s status, Johnson explained that McCoy will be on medical scholarship this season and his football career is likely over – before it began at the college level. He redshirted last season.
As for details, they may surface elsewhere or even here in due time. Even in that depressing tale, there was a bit of lift.
It has been said by some insiders that McCoy has a tremendous sense of humor, great personality and that if not for his medical situation he would have become a four-year media favorite for sake of his congeniality.
Johnson clearly shares some similar feelings about the young man, and in talking about him he left a positive impression to carry forward.
“He’s still going to be a part of the team,” the coach said. “He’s such a great kid. He’s got a great attitude. [I told him] `There’s things other than football.’ He came here to get a degree from Tech, and he’s going to hopefully do that. He’s got his whole life ahead of him; it’s just not in the cards for him to play college football. We’ve got to look out for his well-being.”
Good thing McCoy’s medical condition was diagnosed before it became a problem, right? Johnson also said that defensive end Izaan Cross had lost some weight, and caught the coach’s eye running around on Day One.
The boss also seems ready to turn the page on all the problems that Jackson has had. He was, you might remember, the first player to commit to Johnson’s first recruiting class at Tech, in 2008, but backed out and went to Alabama.
He played a little DB for the Tide, left, redshirted at Tech in ’09, was injured in ’10, kicked off the team in the spring, and now he’s in the fold once again.
His story may turn out to be one to remember, if it keeps playing out. There is surely some serious persistence in play here.
“I’m encouraged by the way he’s handled himself off the field,” Johnson said. “He’s worked extremely hard, and done everything we’ve asked him to do to give himself a chance to come back and contribute to the team.”
First crack out of the box (does that mean in the new indoor practice facility?) Wednesday, the Jackets worked on punting and punt returns. The coach said that was both atypical and important because Tech needs to improve dramatically in both areas.
That’s taking what happened in the past, and trying to spin it positively into the future.
Asked near the end of his interview about trying to move past recent events that landed the Jackets in the news, events that need not be re-hashed, Johnson neither dwelled nor sulked.
Quick, succinct, and looking forward, he said, “Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. You worry about things you can control. I know what happened. I know we did and didn’t do so you just put it behind you and move on.”
There’s your theme.
Again, thoughts to email@example.com.