Aug. 30, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
We’re just around the corner from another football season, and there’s a different feel in the air, right down to it even being a tad cool and less humid this morning when I walked my daughters to school.
Good times are here again.
There is quite a ways to go before it feels like full metal autumn, but methinks the football Jackets are ready to bust out for what you must agree is the finest time of the year (whether you’re a football fan or not).
I saw a thread on a message board today written by a fan who suggested that there is a lack of energy among fans. I’m not feeling that. Nor, apparently, are players.
“Everybody’s excited. Everybody’s pumped about it and guys are flying around,” running back Roddy Jones said recently. “The leaders of our team are stepping up and really letting the young guys know what it means to be so close and what we need to do to get where we need to be. I think we’re going to have a pretty good team this year.”
There may be some folks who would prefer an opening day opponent with more pedigree than South Carolina State, but I doubt those same people realize that the Bulldogs have sent dozens of players to the NFL, and more of them have made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Harry Carson, Deacon Jones and Marion Motley) than Georgia Tech (Joe Guyon and Billy Shaw).
Remember Lions defensive end Robert Porcher? He played at S.C. State, and so did multi-Super Bowl champion defensive back Donnie Shell of the Steelers. There’s plenty more, too.
S.C. State has won 19 straight games in the MEAC, winning that conference title two years running. The Bulldogs, who were named national Black College champions last season, were ranked in the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) poll all season, too. They lost only at South Carolina after trailing just 10-7 at halftime, and on a fluke play late at Appalachian State in the FCS playoffs.
The big deal about the Bulldogs will be their big quarterback, senior Malcolm Long.
He’s listed as 6-3 in S.C. State media materials, but I spoke with him Saturday and he said he’s 6-1, and “I tipped the scales at 262,” he said when I asked how much he weighed. When I asked if that’s an ideal playing weight, he said, “I’d like to be at 235”
I’ll give him points for honesty there, although a 6-1, 235-pound QB would still be a hoss.
Tech has a hoss of a different kind at QB, and the Yellow Jackets’ Joshua Nesbitt was – like Long – recruited by some schools to play a position other than quarterback.
I can’t tell you what’s going to happen Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium, but if I had to make one prediction it would be this: you will be at some point or points surprised at how much stronger and quicker Nesbitt looks with legs, ankles, etc. that are well. The offseason surgery on his ankle, and the rest he got during spring practice, were fantastic for him, and downright fabulous for sophomore backup QB Tevin Washington.
The next two areas of notable improvement will be in the offensive line, even with three new starters (guards Omoregie Uzzi and Will Jackson and a tackle or perhaps two to be determined), and in the secondary.
The return of All-ACC center Sean Bedford, the uber-wise senior, and some added heft throughout the line will make a difference. “I think we’ve come a long way,” Bedford said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some injury problems. It would be nice to get everybody out there and have the whole first line out there. That said, I think we’ve come a long way. A lot of guys have really progressed. Omoregie Uzzi is going to be a very good right guard for us. Will Jackson has come a long way.”
So have we all. Good grief, it’s been eight months or so without football. It’s about time summer ended, and we got on with essential matters again, eh?
“I’m in football mode now,” Jones said. “It’s time to get ready for the season and it’s going to be a great one. We’re really excited about it.”
Whether you agree or not, send thoughts to email@example.com. Be warned, too, that this Saturday I’m going to troll for tailgaters, take a few pictures, interview folks and write something up about all of it for Sunday’s Sting Daily. Where will you set up shop?