April 29, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
With the benefit of a few days to let dust settle and emotions ebb, Tevin Johnson had a succinct summary of his performance in last Saturday’s spring-ending T-Day.
Still the top candidate to start at quarterback next fall, even after throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles, he said Thursday, “I tried to do too much.”
Head coach Paul Johnson said that Washington’s performance was not reflective of the spring he had prior to that point. The problem was, if ever the spotlight is on during spring practice, that’s the day, and the rising junior did not rise to the moment.
Freshman Synjyn Days, meanwhile, played a turnover-free day, which was likewise a contrast to much of what he’d done in the spring prior to Saturday. He was the offensive star of the day, unlike a week earlier when he had turnover problems in a scrimmage.
Washington had two things working against him: he has become comfortable enough in Johnson’s system to push the envelope at times, and he said that since the defense had flustered the offense frequently up to that point he wanted to close the spring with a bang.
“I think I got frustrated within the T-Day game because we weren’t moving the ball like I wanted to, and I tried to do too much in certain situations,” he said. “Just looking at the whole spring, we kind of struggled against the defense. In the T-Day game, I wanted to end the spring on a positive note for the offense.
“I tried to do too much. I think it was a great learning experience . . . when things aren’t going the way you want, you’ve got to stay with the plan.”
Johnson’s plan does not include turnovers. The Yellow Jackets had big problems hanging onto the ball last season, and avoiding turnover was been a focus.
Washington will get many more chances in August, when he, Days, and incoming freshman Vad Lee will go at it. Anything seems possible. There are no locks other than any quarterback who has consistent ball security problems is going to have consistent problems with The Boss.
Thursday was not a day for Washington to mope, although he was still a bit dopey after having arthroscopic surgery on the left knee he injured in the Independence Bowl. His medial collateral ligament has been problematic since.
He said he and his teammates are building something better than what the Jackets had last season. This is an important head start.
“I think a lot of guys are buying into what coach Johnson and the other coaches are trying to implement. A lot of guys are taking note of what happened last year,” he said. “It has more to do with camaraderie off the field and on. We’re doing a lot more to put together a better season as far as guys coming together.”
Entering the second year of defensive coordinator Al Groh’s system, Washington said, has made defenders more comfortable. Over the spring, he noticed them playing faster and instead of over-thinking their assignments, they seemed abundantly more familiar with what they were trying to accomplish.
Plus, “they pretty much knew what we were doing,” he said.
As a side note, when asked to nominate a few “newcomers” who stood out defensively in the spring, he did not hesitate.
“Three stood out: [linebacker] Quayshawn Nealy, [cornerback] Louis Young and [defensive back] Jemea Thomas,” Washington said. “I think as far as the guys that red-shirted last year those three are going to contribute.”
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