ATLANTA -- The ability to work together as a unit is one factor that’s stressed by every football coach in the country. But perhaps the area where it is truly the most important is on the offensive line, where several 300-pound men are expected to move in tandem without getting in their own way.
That may be even more important at Georgia Tech, which runs an option offense that’s predicated on precise movement. A blocker who is in the wrong place or who turns the wrong way can cause a play to blow up and lose yardage -- or cost his team a turnover.
Such precision is a goal this spring for the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line, which lost two starters from the 2010 season -- All-ACC center Sean Bedford and fellow three-year letterman Nick Claytor. If Georgia Tech is to make the offense resemble the one that won the ACC championship two seasons ago, it will need the line to return to form.
“The offensive line is unique compared to other positions,” redshirt sophomore guard Will Jackson said. “You’ve got to have five guys working in unison, and there’s definitely been pressure to get that done. We’re working at it.”
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Jackson, who played 11 games and started nine as a freshman, is joined by returning starters Phil Smith, a junior tackle, and Omoregie Uzzi, a junior guard. Lettermen Jay Finch, Nick McRae and Tyler Kidney, who all got their feet wet last season, are in the mix this spring.
“I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. You’ve got to be able to know where your teammate is going to be,” Jackson said. “It’s all about chemistry and I think our chemistry has been getting better since day one. We’re starting to know each other.”
Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound native of Knoxville, Tenn., has had high expectations thrust upon him. He was a first-team freshman All-American, a member of the ACC All-Academic team and helped the Yellow Jackets lead the NCAA in rushing offense.
But it wasn’t an easy year for Jackson, who injured his ankle against South Carolina State and admitted he tried to come back too soon. It bothered him the rest of the campaign. Jackson then hurt his shoulder against Virginia Tech and had to deal with that the rest of the year.
He worked hard to rehab his ankle; Jackson said he had treatment four times a day the next week. His parents encouraged him to be patient and give the injury more time to heal. He sat out the Kansas game and was back the next week against North Carolina.
“My parents told me I was a little stubborn, that I should have sat out another game, but I didn’t come here to sit out,” Jackson said.
He dinged the ankle again against Wake Forest and missed the Virginia game.
With Jackson healthy and able to play every game, the Yellow Jackets will be a step closer to rebuilding their line. It won’t be easy to duplicate last year’s 323.3 rushing yards per game, but solid play from the line could make it closer to becoming reality.
“We’ve been getting better,” he said. “Our goal is to be ready when the season opens.”