Sept. 6, 2009
by Simit Shah, OSR Associate Editor
OSR Sting EXTRA
For Jerrard Tarrant, that’s how long he said it felt like since he’d played in a real game.
In reality, the last time he stepped out on the field was nearly three years ago in December, 2006, at the Georgia North-South all-star game after a stellar career at Carrollton High School.
The sophomore cornerback made up for lost time yesterday, shining in Georgia Tech’s 37-17 season opening victory over Jacksonville State
He electrified the crowd with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown near the end of the first half.
“The punter tried to rugby-style the kick, but he actually kicked it great [for Tarrant, at least], so I had an opportunity to return it,” he explained. “My blocking was set up perfectly so I could make a cut to the right and a cut to the left. I had lead blockers so I knew I was going to score after that.”
Tarrant actually knew he was going to score in the week leading up to the game, telling anyone who would listen that he was going to return a punt for a touchdown against the Gamecocks.
“He already told us what he was going to do,” linebacker Brad Jefferson verified. “He backed up his talking. He just couldn’t wait to get out there.”
Tarrant ignited a specials teams unit that hadn’t returned a punt for a score since 2003, and his 87 total yards on three returns were the most by a Yellow Jacket since 2002.
“Jerrard is a special guy back there returning punts, so if we can get in the way a little bit and give him a chance to get started, I think he is going be special returning punts,” head coach Paul Johnson said.
In addition to returning punts, Tarrant turned in a solid effort as the team’s starting cornerback, registering a few big hits against the Gamecocks. “I felt like I did pretty good,” he said. “There are a few things I could have done better, leverage wise, being here or being there.”
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, “It was good to see him. He’s got some real good quickness, speed and can change direction. He had the punt return. He’s obviously helped us. We have so much more confidence back there when he’s the punt returner and playing corner.”
After redshirting as a freshman, Tarrant missed all of last season dealing with legal issues. He was reinstated to the Tech program in February, and has impressed coaches and teammates during practice.
After the game, he was quick to admit that he was nervous before the game. “I had butterflies from the hotel this morning to the first kick,” Tarrant said. “After my first play on defense, I was pretty good.”
Fellow defensive back Morgan Burnett, a member of the same 2007 recruiting class as Tarrant, played moderator.
“He was excited and nervous at the same time,” Burnett said. “I just told him to relax and have fun. If you’re nervous, that’s a good thing. He relaxed and had a good time, and you see what he did out there.”