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#STINGDAILY: Full-Time Football

Dec. 16, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– There wasn’t much different about football practice Monday other than players were able to sleep in later if they wanted to, and you can bet quite a few did.

Nobody has any homework. There are no projects pending, either, no tests for which to study. And campus is like a ghost town, as the study body is home for the holidays.

Other than these things, it was business as usual as Georgia Tech resumed practice for the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl against Ole Miss. Good times were had by all. Even coach Paul Johnson was bragging. He loved the weather: “It felt like an early fall day.”

Actually, there may have been more contact than the Yellow Jackets typically would have in an early fall practice. They were in full pads. Yet if you believe senior B-back David Sims, he and his teammates are not jealous of fellow students who are back home.

“For me, not really,” he said when asked if he envied “regular” students who are home with family and friends. “This is the thing we love to do. A lot of times, they’re bored. At least we’re here with each other.”

The Jackets have begun installing game plans, working against scout teams that are approximating what Tech will see in the Rebels in Nashville.

It’s too soon for much intensity, though, so it was easy after practice – which was a couple hours earlier than usual – to daydream about extra-curricular activities like, you know, video games.

“I was just talking to Shaq [Mason] about playing Madden today, and 2K,” said sophomore quarterback Vad Lee. “We’re probably going to get on that after this.”

These Jackets will go home this weekend for Christmas. The plan is to practice through Saturday morning, break for the holiday until practice the following Friday morning and then travel later that day to Nashville.

In the meantime, more movies, more video games, more sleep, more eating. Gotta remember to eat. In fact, when sleeping in with a 1:15 practice on tap, there is a risk of over-sleeping and then flying out of bed without proper nourishment.

“We pretty much get up and come straight to practice,” Mason said, perhaps not necessarily speaking for everyone. “The big thing is making sure you eat something before practice.”

So the stress level is low.

That does not mean the Jackets are not dialing into their work.

They spent some time preparing for Ole Miss even before finals week. Then, last week, they had to make sure they got three workouts in and of course hit the books.

Film study is back on tap.

“This is the week where we really try to simulate what we’re going to do against them,” Lee said. “They’re pretty aggressive. They’re fighters. It’s going to be a tough one.”

There is not a game Saturday, but Johnson said the schedule for coaches and program officials is otherwise encumbered.

“We’ve got all week to focus on nothing but football. I’m sure it’s a relief for them to have just football to worry about,” the head coach said. “You try to get a game plan in. We had five recruits in this weekend. A dead [recruiting] period started [Monday] so you’re trying to get all that done.

“You’re trying to do the bowl stuff, the itineraries … keep up with recruiting. There really is no dead time.”

Well, actually, there is more dead time. At least for players.

“It’s a lot different because you’re not waiting around until everybody is out of class [to start [practice],” Mason said. “This is the 17th week so we’ve got pretty much everything installed. We’re just doing repetition, repetition, trying to polish everything.”

As Sims said, “I think for the most part it’s the same. The only thing different about bowl practice is we can spend a little more time working the young guys.”

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