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Playing on a String

April 2, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– Even if you’ve heard the phrase, “playing on a string,” in conversation about offensive line play and understand what it means, you probably never stopped to think that while the concept is great in theory, it won’t work as well without knots.

Five of them, actually.

The better offensive lines are not always those with the most talented players, although that surely can be a boost in the right direction.

O-line play is more about how well those players work together, how well they anticipate what is going to happen in front of and beside them when whirling dervish defenders go every which way.

The ability to adjust on the fly, play-to-play, even within plays, is paramount.

Good thing Georgia Tech’s new center is both a thinker, and a knot.

In the knot department, the 6-foot-3, 283-pound rising redshirt sophomore is considerably larger than his predecessor by most measures of heft and height.

Yet two-time All-ACC center Sean Bedford was a thinker supreme, a rocket scientist in training. You know his story; smart, smart man.

Brawny or not, Finch will have to think quickly in a pinch. It’ll be his job to quarterback the offensive line, and he played very little center at Kennesaw Mountain High, and even then he generally snapped shotgun style.

Tech coach Paul Johnson doesn’t much care for the shotgun.

“I played some center last year, but predominantly guard,” Finch said after Friday’s practice, the first of the spring that was conducted in full pads. “In this offense, once you know one position, you pretty much know them all because . . . it’s five [linemen blocking] as one. Center came a lot easier.”

Finch spelled Bedford at times last season, and spent more time working at left guard. He prefers the direct snap despite his lack of experience doing it because it better enables him to, “run downhill at somebody,” after the snap itself.

Really, though, a larger part of his job description will revolve around how well he can figure out what the opposing front seven is doing before they do it.

“If I recognize the defense, I’m supposed to call it and that makes it easier on us,” he said. “We don’t have to think as much [on the fly].”

That makes it easier to “play on a string,” as if bonded together.

To hear tell, there’s bonding going on among the Yellow Jackets in and beyond the O-line.

After last season, there was static around the Jackets suggesting that team chemistry was less than stellar, that multiple agendas had a fractious effect. Really, that was somewhat apparent as Tech lost five of its final six games.

Several steps have been taken toward remedy, and Finch was proud to pull out one example after practice.

During a chat with some sort of dunderhead who asked what was being done about these nefarious issues, Finch pulled a talisman of sorts from under his shoulder pads. It was hanging around his neck.

At the end of a simple chain was an orange dog tag engraved to read, “C.L.I.M.B.”

Finch explained: “We’ve come up with this, C.L.I.M.B. . . . it stands for championship . . . leadership . . . is . . . my . . . behavior. We’ve had some people like, `Woe is me.’

“I think we got rid of that attitude, and we’re going to redeem ourselves because to go from the Orange Bowl to the Independence Bowl is not acceptable by my standards, and I’m sure it’s not up to everyone else’s standards.”

To be transparent, team chaplain Derrick Moore apparently is the originator of the C.L.I.M.B. push, but it seems a positive that Finch said “we” when talking about the metamorphosis that Tech fans surely hope is truly happening.

“We needed something to bring us together, and D-Mo, our chaplain, was able to find something we could all buy into,” Finch said. “We’ve been doing the C.L.I.M.B. program every week in team meetings. We have different installments, a manual. It’s about 11 people out there [on the field], not one.”

That seems a fine line of thinking.

What do you think of this? I think I’m going to launch a full-fledged investigation into C.L.I.M.B., and get back to you. Thoughts to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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