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#TGW: First Down, Goals To Go

Aug. 10, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Georgia Tech Football 2015 made its grand introduction on Saturday afternoon.

It was a full day, beginning with the Yellow Jackets team getting to know each other, going at it in the first scrimmage in full pads of the year. That was followed by several members re-introducing themselves to the media. The day concluded with the entire team participating with the faithful on Grant Field in the annual Fan Day.

The team’s first scrimmage was a 109-play affair, in which every player saw the field at some point. While it was a big issue at Media Day, the consensus from the team was that the results pretty much were what one might expect.

“It was the first scrimmage,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson. “There was some good, some bad. We ran 109 plays. Everybody played. We ran 109 plays and there was just one turnover, so that’s a positive. The defense did some good things. I was maybe a little disappointed in a veteran offensive line. I think they had five penalties in the first six series. But all in all, it’s about what you’d expect for only being in pads two days.”

The players offered similar assessments.

“There were some ups and some downs,” said redshirt junior quarterback Justin Thomas. “But it was our first scrimmage.

“I think everybody’s doing fine as far as getting adjusted to each other,” he added. “We have to go out and play fast and do what we need to do and get their assignments done.”

“The scrimmage was good,” said senior defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. “It’s always fun to get out there and fly around and see some young guys finally get an opportunity to get some pads on in some game situations. “Playing the option, it’s really just assignment football. It kind of shows who can take coaching over those two weeks that we’re learning to play the option, but also preparing for the season and who can take that coaching and adapt to it. So far I think the D-Line is really coming along. We’ve got a group that’s about eight or nine deep so it’s pretty comfortable. We’ve still got a lot of work to do though.”

Redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Marcordes is optimistic that the defense not only will improve on last season but already has made the first steps in that direction.

“We’re able to put in more stuff right away,” said Marcordes. “Right now through camp we’ve been flying through. We’re putting in new stuff. We’re just so much further along now than we were last year.”

The potential to better last season was the theme from fans, who started lining up at Gate 4 on the north side of Bobby Dodd Stadium at around 3:00 p.m. — nearly 90 minutes before the gate opened — and numbered an estimated 5,000. Even after the gate opened the line to get in stretched to the sidewalk of Callaway Plaza, bent to the right and extended all the way up Bobby Dodd Way, then made another right turn and headed up Techwood Drive. The fans had patiently waited to see their 17th-ranked team up close.

“There’s something special [this year]. It feels like things have changed,” said season-ticket-holder Jonathan Price (Class of ‘99) of Marietta, who brought his wife, Laura, son, Bennett, and daughter, Hannah. “[Coach Johnson] proved trust him and it will be okay. You just have to have the right team and it seems like everybody has bought in.”

“I’m here for Georgia Tech Fan Day,” said Haynes Killen (Class of ‘99), who took a red-eye into Atlanta from his home in Las Vegas to be at the event (he was flying back Saturday night), and held a Georgia Tech football while waiting in line for the quarterbacks table. “What brought me out here today was Harrison Butker’s kick and D.J. White’s interception against Georgia.

“I’m extremely excited,” he added. “We have the quarterback back. I just love the offense. It’s an exciting offense. Any year can be a great year for us because of the offense we have. I want [the quarterbacks’] autographs to show my kids 30 years down the road.”

Killen wasn’t alone in seeking autographs from the QBs.

Within minutes of the gates opening the line for the quarterbacks table, the first table located on the far sideline, was swamped, with the line going all the way across the field, wrapping around and heading back through the North end zone.

But not everybody was intent on getting to the quarterbacks. Coach Johnson’s table drew a respectable showing as well and the defensive players also had their supporters.

Leading the charge on the defensive line was a charming lady, who patiently stopped and chatted with each player, exchanging autographs on a Georgia Tech poster and leaving behind a trail of smiles and laughs. It was as if she knew each of them personally.

In truth, Denise Cerge of Tampa, Fla., actually did know one of the D-linemen very well.

“My son got an early enrollment in January. He’s a defensive tackle, No. 54. Kyle Cerge-Henderson,” she said. “I have to support the defensive line. That’s the best team, to me.”

While the experience of Fan Day was as new to Denise as it was to Kyle, she shared the excitement of the entire fan base for the upcoming season.

“I can’t wait. I’m going to be at every home game and I live in Florida,” she said. “I’m coming to every home game AND to the Miami game!”

The willingness to travel and see this team is a theme, as Killen, who makes the trip from Vegas for several home games every season, has already circled Sept. 19 and the Jackets’ visit to South Bend.

The excitement also is catching on to the next generation.

“My nephews dressed as zombie football players for Halloween, my daughter dressed as a Georgia Tech cheerleader. She came home with a lot more candy,” said Price, with a laugh.

Bennett, 4, has plans of his own involving Georgia Tech.

“He said, ‘I’m going to play at Georgia Tech,’” Price said. “He said, ‘I’m going to break the record for more tackles than anyone has ever made at Georgia Tech.’ He walked out five minutes ago and said, ‘That’s the field I’m going to play on.’”

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