Paul Johnson has his Georgia Tech football team right where he wants it.
Working its way through a schedule that has become progressively more difficult, Georgia Tech is 4-0 for just the fourth time in 44 years. After close wins over Georgia Southern and Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets are off this week and will begin preparations Wednesday for their Oct. 4 meeting with 2-2 Miami, which will be a prime-time battle televised nationally on ESPN2.
“The schedule is laid out the way as a head coach you want it to be laid out,” Johnson told the Macon Touchdown Club on Monday. “The competition has gotten better each week.”
Saturday’s win at Virginia Tech, which was decided by a 24-yard field goal by Harrison Butker as time expired, was a big one to get, according to Johnson. He said Virginia Tech enjoys one of the top home-field advantages in the country, and to pick up the victory there in the conference opener sets the table for what’s to come.
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Georgia Tech won despite giving up 297 passing yards, something Johnson attributed to keeping defenders in back of receivers and not allowing big plays to break open.
“I’ve had the opportunity to (coach) in a lot of places, and it doesn’t get any tougher than Lane Stadium,” Johnson said. “It was so loud that guys couldn’t hear each other in the huddle.”
One of the key players for Georgia Tech in that victory was Tattnall Square product DeAndre Smelter, whose five-catch, 101-yard day included a 31-yard touchdown reception from Justin Thomas with 2:03 to play that tied the game.
Smelter, who has 339 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season, has become the Yellow Jackets’ go-to receiver after giving up baseball to concentrate full-time on football.
“He’s just a tremendous football player and a great person,” Johnson said. “If he continues to progress, you will see him playing on Sundays. He’s an NFL guy.”
Meanwhile, a pair of freshmen from Lamar County are seeing time on defense, while a third is about to receive a tryout on the defensive side.
Both Lance Austin and Lawrence Austin have appeared in all four Georgia Tech games so far. Lawrence Austin has six tackles and an interception, while Lance Austin has four tackles and a break-up.
Qua Searcy, meanwhile, might be in for a position change.
“Searcy started at wide receiver in camp, and it looked like we would redshirt him,” Johnson said. “We want to move him to the secondary on the by week and see what he can do over there.”
Former Georgia head coach Jim Donnan will speak Oct. 27, a date that was previously scheduled as an off week for the Touchdown Club. Donnan, who coached the Bulldogs from 1996-2000, was acquitted in May on charges stemming from an alleged Ponzi scheme.
The Touchdown Club honored Southwest quarterback Tyree White (17-23, 209 passing yards, 102 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Jones County quarterback Bradley Hunnicutt (17-27, 359 passing yards, two touchdowns) as its backs of the week, Southwest linebacker Dalvin Andrews (19 tackles, five sacks) as its lineman of the week and FPD place-kicker Brad Powell (8-for-8 extra points, four touchbacks on kickoffs) as its special teams player of the week.
Troy head coach Larry Blakeney will be the featured speaker at next Monday’s Touchdown Club meeting. Mount de Sales will be the featured team.