What better way to celebrate your 59th birthday than by holding a scrimmage?
That’s what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson did Saturday morning as his football team wrapped up its preseason with a spirited scrimmage, followed by singing an equally spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday” and a large birthday cake.
Overall, Johnson was pleased — with the preseason and the enthusiastic singing. He smiled and invited the players to grab a hunk of cake.
“I think we had a good camp,” Johnson said. “We got after it pretty good … a lot of contact, a lot of scrimmaging.”
Because of the amount of contact during camp, Johnson either held out or limited the participation of many of the first-string players from the Saturday morning scrimmage. The scrimmage lasted 87 plays and included 14 series.
“It was ragged, but I kind of expected it,” he said. “We held a lot of guys out.”
The first-team offense played one series, long enough to string together a 12-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Ricky Jeune caught a pair of third-down passes to move the chains and Clinton Lynch scored on a 5-yard run.
That was the last the major players saw of the field, which led to some ball security issues, something that hasn’t been a problem this preseason.
“There was some good and bad,” Johnson said. “The ball was on the ground way too much, which is good for the defense … too many fumbles.”
The problems were especially visible on the offensive line, where the unit was mostly working with walk-ons at tackle, and at quarterback, where Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall continue to jockey for position behind starter Justin Thomas.
Johnson said he was a little disappointed by Jordan and Marshall on Saturday when they seemed to get confused by the more complex concepts thrown their way.
“They missed some stuff that should be easy,” he said. “But they haven’t done it a lot, so that’s why you practice.”
On defense, tackle Francis Kallon continued to show improvement. The senior made a stop for no gain on fourth down, caused a fumble and recovered a fumble.
Classes begin Monday, which puts the players back on their regular routine. Johnson said practice will now take a shift toward the season opener, which is Sept. 3 against Boston College in Ireland.
“Our big concern moving forward is to focus on Boston College and get guys fresh for the first game,” Johnson said. “We want them to have their legs and be ready to go. We’ve done most of the heavy beating. Most of it is game planning stuff and refining. And when you have fewer people, you a lot more reps going.”
Johnson reiterated that the staff was in no rush to determine who would redshirt this season. All the players on the team will make the trip to Ireland, and Georgia Tech opens with four consecutive home games.
“If we need them, we’ll play them,” Johnson said.