March 26, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
Labor Day is more than five months away, but it stands already as a whale of an incentive for Will Jackson and his teammates.
Georgia Tech opened spring practice Monday, and although the first few sessions will include modest contact as the Yellow Jackets won’t move into full pads right away, Jackson said the reality of opening the season at Virginia Tech at the end of summer has lent more juice to the beginning of spring.
“With all due respect to the Western Carolinas, the South Carolina States, the Jacksonville States, when Virginia Tech is the first game on your schedule, that kind of wakes you up a little bit,” said Jackson, one of four returning starters on an offensive line that has the potential to be the best that head coach Paul Johnson’s had at Tech.
“We don’t have that ease-in game to get our feet wet. We’ve got to go because playing in Lane Stadium on national television on a Monday night is going to be a huge environment. That does kind of give you a little fire going into spring ball.”
Virtually everything since the Jackets fell bitterly to Utah in the Sun Bowl has been an eye test. Players can see who’s grown bigger and stronger, and even get a sense for some teammates having added a smidge of speed.
But until now, or to be more precise once full-contact begins, there’s otherwise been a lot of guessing as to who has improved, who will emerge from the shadows. Tech returns seven starters on each side of the ball, but has to replace two of three starters on the defensive line, wide receiver Stephen Hill and A-back Roddy Jones among others.
There may be more obvious candidates at wide receiver and A-back, but we’ll get to that kind of thing later.
Jackson likes the attitude that he’s seen in workouts, and he said it’s been impossible to miss linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days, who redshirted last fall as a freshman.
You’ll like what Jackson has to say.
“I worked out with him a few times and he really looks the part. He’s bowed up, as they say,” Jackson reported. “I think he weighs 230, 240 (he’s listed at 244) and he’s strong, too. He’s up there with most of the older guys putting up big weight.”
Last season weighed down the Jackets as it wore on. After a 6-0 start, a back-loaded schedule contributed to an overall record of 8-5, but the caliber of opponent was not, in Jackson’s opinion, the chief culprit in the Jackets’ limp finishing kick.
“I think last year if you look at how we tailed off, it was all psychological. I felt like when we played Miami the score wasn’t indicative of how we played,” he said. “I felt like we were just as good a team as they were, but some breaks went their way based on the blunders we had.
“The same thing against Virginia Tech. We had some plays where we just lost focus, and it ended up costing us. It was communication issues, and losing focus. We’re focused on Labor Day and going out and playing the best game we possibly can.
“The way the bowl game ended is kind of fresh in our mind . . . that’s kind of fuel. We know that we’re a better team than we showed at the end of the year.”
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