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#TGW: Ripping and Gripping

Aug. 6, 2015

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Not so fresh after one of the finest football seasons in school history, Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets put on pads Wednesday and hit one another for the first time this summer to produce this summary statement: advantage, old heads.

Temperatures were near 100 at the Rose Bowl Field, and while humidity was not up to its par the Jackets over-cooked and raw enough that head coach Paul Johnson was quicker to note glitches than glamor shots. Tech’s newer players struggled to keep up, hold onto the ball, and generally do right.

“I thought the defensive kids pushed through pretty good,” Johnson said after a practice that ran about two hours. “We’re ready to play . . . find out who wants to collide, and who wants to avoid collision. We’ve got a mile to go. For the most part, the guys who have played held onto it.

“[Freshmen] got a mile to go; just the speed of the game, ball security, the whole nine yards. It’s a different game; it’s going a little bit faster than the high school game. There’s a little more experience [on defense] so they’re a little better pushing through, I think. A lot of it is mental toughness.”

Johnson was not ready to single out any freshmen who stood out, nor cite any exceptional examples with just one exception.

“Yeah, [quarterback] Justin Thomas,” he said when pressed for something for fans to hang their hopes upon. “He’s a good player. He’s going to be OK. “

Senior Jabari Hunt-Days drew praise for his work transitioning from linebacker to defensive line on the scout team last fall, when he was academically ineligible to play in games. The same was true in the spring.

Did he pick up Wednesday where he left off?

“He did OK,” the coach said. “We played 10 minutes [of 11-on-11] twice. He might have got 12 reps. I saw him make a play or two. He’ll be alright if he keeps working.”

Graduate student Patrick Skov, who played fullback for Stanford previously, is in the mix at B-back. In a way, he’s lumped with young guys who have plenty to learn. Tech’s offense is not much like that of the Cardinal.

“He carried the ball a few times today, fell forward. It wasn’t like he was Adrian Peterson reincarnated,” Johnson recounted. “I think he’s learning and he’s got a chance to be OK. He’s got a ways to go, too.”

This lukewarm practice report comes early enough so as not to trigger alarm.

It can be considered standard, in fact, and as long as the Jackets thicken their skins with repetition, the boss is confident Tech will offer a refined product on time for the Sept. 3 kickoff against Alcorn State.

“That’s just part of camp. You’ve got to learn to push through. I’m not saying they’re soft. I’m just saying they’ve got to get tough,” Johnson said. “My expectations are we’re going to get a hell of a lot better and get ready to play that first game. We’ve got enough practice time to get better.”

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