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Spring Forward

April 23, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

There was kind of warm and fuzzy atmosphere to the 2011 T-Day Game.

The warm came from sunny skies and 70s temperatures.

The fuzzy came from the fun of the band and the reminiscing of the vast number of alumni showing up and talking to Voice of the Jackets, Wes Durham. The group ranged from retired NFLers Joe Burns and Travares Tillman to current pros Philip Wheeler, Morgan Burnett, Derrick Morgan, and Jon Dwyer.

The game was by Gold, 21-7, but that wasn’t the biggest thing for Head Coach Paul Johnson and his staff.

For Johnson and Co., Saturday was a last chance to take a look at things prior to fall camp. As expected, it was something of a mixed bag, but there was one definite positive.

“The best thing about the game is that we got out of it healthy,” said Johnson. “I don’t think we had anybody that had any kind of serious injury. That’s what you always worry about throughout the spring game.

“I think Spring was productive. We got some things accomplished,” he added. “We’ve got a long way to go. I think you have to take it in perspective.”

Johnson kept perspective in judging quarterbacks Tevin Washington, for White, and Synjyn Days, for Gold.

Washington, who is still recovering from a torn MCL suffered in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (he expects to be 100 percent for fall practices). was 10-for-26 for 134 yards, but had three interceptions and fumbled each of White’s first three possessions, losing the first two. Days was only 2-for-7 for 46 yards, while running for a game-high 112 yards.

“We’re excited about Synjyn, but he has to grow,” said Johnson, pointing to Days’ tendency to use the drop-back as means to find a running lane. “He has some tools and he loves to compete. So we’re excited about him.”

“It probably wasn’t [Tevin’s] best day,” Johnson added. “I think he’s probably banged up a litle bit. He’s got that big, old bulky brace on, so he’s not moving real well, but I think he’s gotten better this spring and he’s certainly played better than he did today. We try to judge it on the whole body of work, not just one day.”

Johnson was more direct in expressing his concern about the offensive line, which had the quarterbacks, “for the most part, running for their lives.” Both Days and Washington were sacked three times.

The team’s B-Back situation appears in good hands heading into fall, as Preston Lyons and Charles Perkins ran effectively for White, while Richard Watson and David Sims did the same for the Gold.

There were far more turnovers than Johnson would have liked, as there was a total of four interceptions and and four fumbles, especially as the Yellow Jackets look to improve on last season’s minus-six turnover margin. But that, too, was put in perspective, as two fumbles came on mistimed snap counts and another came on a lack of concentration on a pitch, the only one Johnson referred to as disappointing.

“If it comes out one time it’s not good. But when you play 99 guys, it’s going to come out some.” he said.

The defense represented itself well, with Quayshawn Nealy and Emmanuel Dieke recording 7.5 tackles (seven solos), for their respective sides.

Defensive Coordinator Al Groh gave his defense an overall thumbs up in assessing the spring.

“We’re on schedule for what we had to get done,” said Groh. “We’ve progressed with the scheme.”

He felt most excited about the defensive line.

“The defensive line has the most potential of players who can play in the game than any other position,” Groh added.

Not surprisingly, the team will have a lot of positions up in the air, including kicker, but that’s for down the road.

T-Day was an opportunity to leave on a good note. That, for the most part was accomplished. The most important issue heading into the fall that was cleared up during the Spring was the attitude problem.

“Overall I think our guys have worked pretty hard,” said Johnson. “We’ve had a physical spring. We got after it pretty good. We’ve had a lot of guys answer the call.”

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