Oct. 12, 2017
Andy Demetra | Inside the Chart
Why the pained look, Ricky Jeune?
Your Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are 3-1 and on the cusp of the top 25. You’ve caught three touchdown passes, already surpassing your total from last season.
Oh, that’s right. The subject had turned to Jeune’s other football team, the New York Giants, whose 0-5 start has put the Long Island native in a state of anguish.
“My guy Odell [Beckham, Jr.] is out, man. They really need some help right now,” the redshirt senior wide receiver winced.
Sounds like he might know a guy…
For now, Jeune will reserve his highlight-reel catches for the Yellow Jackets, who will look to take sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Division Saturday when they face No. 11/10 Miami (Fla.) at Hard Rock Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network).
“Overlooked wideout” may be one of the more tired tropes of the option offense, but Jeune’s play has already commanded attention. So has this: with his 10 catches, he’s on pace to lead Tech in receptions for a third-straight season.
The last Yellow Jacket to do that? Calvin Johnson.
“It’s good getting rewarded for all the work you put in,” Jeune said.
It also confirms the praise he received from wide receivers coach Buzz Preston, who said this spring, “He’s been loyal to the program. And when guys have been here for five years like he’s been and stuck it out and never been a guy to complain and just go about working and improving themselves, those are the kind of guys that you like to see the story end really well for.”
Long bouts of introspection can be rare from Jeune, known as one of the quieter players on the team. There’s irony in that, by the way: he can actually speak two languages. Jeune also knows some French, a skill learned from his parents, both Haitian immigrants. It’s all his grandmother speaks.
His teammates, though, are more than willing to pick up the slack. Head coach Paul Johnson said that Jeune was nearly voted the Yellow Jackets’ offensive captain this week. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall edged him out by “a couple of votes.”
At 6-3 and 210 pounds, Jeune has both the speed to beat cornerbacks on double moves and the physicality to shield them on sideline routes. He has also earned kudos for his perimeter blocking – an unglamorous skill, but one that Johnson says never gets overlooked by NFL scouts.
Jeune says he has learned to take the same satisfaction in throwing a physical block as making an acrobatic catch.
“It’s all mental, your willingness to block. Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it,” Jeune explained. “I take great pride in blocking. You have to in this offense.”
It has led to touchdowns he otherwise wouldn’t get credit for. When discussing his 63-yard touchdown run against North Carolina on Sept. 30, B-back KirVonte Benson, seeing Jeune pin his defender, noted, “I saw Ricky down the field blocking, I knew it was destined to be a touchdown.”
Jeune last played at Miami in 2015, a rainy affair that Georgia Tech lost 38-21.
“Every step I took, there were puddles of water,” he recalled.
It is part of a dubious stretch in which Tech has lost seven of its last eight to Miami, a streak marred by all sorts of football witchcraft against the Jackets. The Hurricanes (4-0, 2-0 ACC) recorded two interceptions and five pass break-ups in a 24-20 win over Florida State last Saturday.
“They take chances and they play hard,” Jeune said of Miami’s defensive backs. “I know talking to Coach Buzz, we have to attack the ball when it’s in the air or they’ll make a play on it.”
The Hurricanes know he can make a play, too: Miami has used suspended starter Dayall Harris to play the role of Jeune on its scout-team offense.
With first place on the line Saturday, Jeune feels ready to make an impact.
“We’re looking forward to this game. To me, this is a real true test to see what Georgia Tech football is all about,” he said.
So even though Tech ranks next-to-last in the nation in passing offense, you can spare the narrative with Jeune. He feels neither underappreciated nor overlooked in the Yellow Jackets’ offense. As evidenced this week, his leadership is well-cemented in the Tech locker room.
And unlike his Giants, Jeune will play in a meaningful game this weekend.