July 3, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Zach Laskey is home today in Peachtree City for July 4th, and while he’s looking forward to the last real break he and his Georgia Tech teammates will have before getting busy in about four weeks, he’s champing to put on football pads again.
With his senior season looming, the B-back from Starr’s Mill High has a very good feeling about the 2014 season. Today’s burgers figure to be tasty, yet Laskey is no more excited about chowing down than setting off fireworks of a football sort.
“I’ve been thinking about it; it’s going to be weird that it’s my last season, but I’m excited because it’s my time to show everybody what I have and prove everybody wrong,” he said. “I can’t wait to start hitting again.”
It’s not like Laskey hasn’t been a significant contributor already, but for the first time as the undisputed fullback within Tech’s fullback-oriented offense he’s raring to get back to the game he loves as much as anybody on The Flats.
The former defensive back and punt returner led the Jackets in rushing as a sophomore with 697 yards as starting B-back David Sims was limited by injury much of that season. Last fall, Zach rushed for 485 yards and eight touchdowns.
He’s a bruiser — a low-pad/high-knee kind of guy — and his role in head coach Paul Johnson’s offense suits his personality.
Sims has moved on, and with highly-touted freshman fullback candidate Travis Custis transferring to junior college after the spring semester, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Laskey is positioned to be the Jackets’ workhorse.
To hear him tell it, he’ll be far better prepared than ever. He said that director of player development John Sisk has worked the Jackets up to stud levels, and Laskey is ready to reap benefits.
“Coach Sisk has us on a really good program; a lot of guys have made big strides. This is probably one of the best off seasons that we have had,” he said. “My power clean [max] has jumped 45 pounds [from 285 in December to 33], and my three-rep squat max is up 30 pounds [from 405 to 435].
“I feel this is the best shape I’ve been in my life. We run 300-yard shuttles and I’ve done 52 [seconds]. I’ve always been pretty good, usually around 56 or 57. I’ve gotten stronger, and I feel more explosive. I’m getting out of cuts faster.”
Laskey said he’s prepared to take on a new role beyond that of bruiser.
He was a captain at Starr’s Mill, and fancies himself in a similar spot with the ’14 Jackets.
Just don’t look for him to be overly verbal. He’s likely to pick and choose his moments for discourse.
“It’s really kind of lead by example more than anything. In my opinion, actions speak louder than words,” Laskey explained. “[Quarterback] Justin Thomas is also a good, solid leader. [Guard] Shaq Mason is always doing the right thing on and off the field, stepping up.”
Summer is about bonding with the boys and building bodies, and the Jackets may be having a better go at that than in some years past.
Beyond the five-day-a-week workouts (chiefly weight lifting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and conditioning on Tuesday and Thursday mornings), many players meet on the practice field amongst themselves on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
Many fans know about seven-on-seven drills that pit offense vs. defense minus linemen. Those are typically oriented around the passing game.
Yet there is more to what the Jackets having been doing even as NCAA rules prohibit coaches from supervising these workouts.
Linemen work on technique, footwork, leverage and more. Running backs find ways to stay busy as well.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday we get together and have seven-on-seven, and when the QBs and WRs are doing that, they’re going against our defense or sometimes we’ll schedule workouts with Georgia State.
“The backs do footwork drills, working on our hips and making people miss. After our runs, we get with the quarterbacks and work on the [handoff] mesh so we won’t have any fumbles. We want to make sure that we’re as prepared as possible so we don’t waste time in the initial part of [fall] camp.”
There are changes coming.
After the holiday weekend, workouts will transition from mornings to afternoons so that the Jackets can adapt to the greater heat they will face when real practices begin, and, Laskey said, “in some of the early-season games.”
The Jackets have already begun changing, actually, streamlining the offense during spring practice by eliminating some of the newer formations and quirks that Tech deployed over the past season-plus with the goal of utilizing now-transferred quarterback Vad Lee.
The Tech offense is going back in time, at least to some degree, and Laskey is more than fine with that.
“I definitely feel like we focused on the core [of the offense] and got rid of some of the fancier stuff that we were alright at,” he said. “When we were doing that, it took away from our option game, and that’s the first time since I’ve been here that happened.”
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