After writing a few stories from this afternoon's game, I'm finally able to take a little breath and pump out a blog update for you guys. I'm sure there were a ton of Yellow Jackets fans who couldn't make it out to Bobby Dodd Stadium for today's T-Day Spring Game, but there were a number of you who did. If you were there and feel like there's anything you feel I left out, let me know, and we'll add it up here on the blog!
By the way, there were at least 8,500 of you at Bobby Dodd Stadium, unofficially marking one of the biggest Spring Game attendances in recent history. Why is that? Is it Paul Johnson? Is it his offense? Is it extra optimism after a strong 2008 campaign? Or is it all of the above? (This writer thinks the answer is D).
There's good reason for Yellow Jackets fans to be optimistic as the team winds down the spring in a much better position than it finished last April. Although, there was clearly one aspect of Saturday's game that mirrored another from an ill-fated, soggy spring day in '08: Fumbilitis.
Much like 2008, Georgia Tech couldn't find a handle on the football, as it booted and botched, jumbled and mangled at least eight offensive plays to nearly match its 11 fumbles from a year ago. It happens. As head coach Paul Johnson intimated, they were, in part, the result of having two young quarterbacks taking the lion share of snaps and, at times, playing with young centers. Of course, at this stage of spring practice, one would assume that those tandems would have much better success hanging on to the football.
In fact, for much of the spring, fumbles were not a concern, so it makes Saturday's showing a little surprising to Johnson and the rest of the Yellow Jackets.
Of course, at the end of the day, the GOLD team (backup offense, first-team defense) beat the WHITE team (starting offense, backup defense) 31-28.
Now, on to your weekly GOOD and BAD from Saturday's T-Day scrimmage:
~Tevin Washington. I don't know where this guy comes from during scrimmages, but he really turns it on when he's in a game situation. Saturday's scrimmage was the second one this spring in which he stole the show, creating plays, sparking drives, and pushing his team toward a standout showing. Leading the GOLD team, Washington scored two touchdowns, and threw for another. On the afternoon, the redshirt freshman was 7-for-10 passing for 167 yards, and rushed for 43 yards on 15 carries. Johnson was also impressed with the way he commanded his huddles.
~Mario Edwards/Jon Lockhart. The pair had big afternoon's in Georgia Tech's secondary, lighting up the opposing offense for 10 tackles each. While playing in backup duty for the GOLD team, the pair quietly maintained the team's lead by containing the option. Expect Edwards -- a former transfer from Virginia Tech -- to have a big impact backing up linebacker Cooper Taylor at the "Wolf" position this fall. Playing in place of the injured Taylor, Edwards' size and speed paid off greatly for his unit Saturday. He also had one tackle for a 5-yard loss, and caused a fumble.
~T.J. Barnes/Steven Sylvester. Another backup tandem playing on the WHITE side. Both had eight tackles, while fellow backup B.J. Machen had seven. A redshirt freshman, Barnes is expected to garner significant playing time in relief of the current front-four starters. And at 345 pounds, his big body will really help stop opposing teams' running games. On Saturday, Barnes had two tackles for loss, and caused a fumble.
~Sedric Griffin. Continuing with the defensive theme, Griffin was the head-and-shoulders defensive leader on the field Saturday. He may not have had the same stats as some of the other players (he finished with six tackles), but through him, GOLD's defense manhandled the WHITE offense. He was popping quarterback Jaybo Shaw hard all game, and left the crowd buzzing each time he leveled a big blow. Ironically -- the statesman he is -- Griffin apologized to Shaw after the game through reporters. With a sheepish grin, he said, "I was just doing my job." The only senior on the starting unit, he is expected to be a major leader for Georgia Tech next season.
~Rushing offense. Both teams gained more than 230 yards of rushing offense, and amassed 834 total yards between them.That averaged a net gain of 7.3 yards per play (for the GOLD team) and 6.0 yards per play (for the WHITE team).
~Receiving. The Yellow Jackets' pass-catchers were all over the field Saturday, coming away with a host of long bombs and short screens. While both units were primarily incorporating playaction and option plays, very little run-n-shoot was employed. According to A-back Roddy Jones, the run-n-shoot components are coming along well, and should be well in place by the fall. But during the scrimmage, both teams passed for nearly 200 yards, with the A-backs doing a lot of the receiving. Jones caught three passes for a team-leading 72 yards, and fellow A-back Embry Peeples hauled in a 63-yard pass from Washington that led to a touchdown.
~Peeples. In addition to the 63-yard snag, he also scurried through the WHITE secondary for a 60-yard touchdown run that had Jonathan Dwyer saying he had "never seen anything like that before." I dunno, I think he's pulling our legs on that one. Dwyer took a number of runs like that to the house just last season.
~Anthony Allen. On several occassions when Allen ran the ball, fans shouted and clapped loudly as he weaved his way to a number of long runs. Gaining 69 yards on seven carries, he had one 31-yard run that really brought the house down. A likely third component to the Yellow Jackets' triple option scheme, he'll be another weapon behind Dwyer and Jones in Georgia Tech's backfield. A junior, Allen didn't play last year, forced to sit out after transferring from Louisville.
~Kicking, kicking, kicking game. Sure, the Yellow Jackets didn't touch it in the spring (aside from working on punt and kick return coverages) but the kicking game was foul Saturday. Kickers were 1-for-5 for field goals, booted a few line drives on extra points, and combined for an average 35 yards on their punts. Not to mention, Scott Blair, the usual punter/kicker dropped one punt before trying to put it back in the air. Of course, as he tried to reload to get it off, Johnson smacked it hard out of his hand and told him to run off the field. According to Johnson, it was a teaching lesson that his kickers had to play with urgency. Without defenders rushing them, they were playing with absolutely no urgency, he said. He also said he didn't think Blair would've had enough time to get the kick off had he tried to reload like that in an actual game. "When it hit the ground, the ball was dead as far as I'm concerned," Johnson said.
~Pass coverage. The pass coverage was pretty rough for the Yellow Jackets, notably the coverage by former Hawkinsville standout Kamaron Riley. A redshirt freshman, Riley had been gaining the confidence of coaches throughout the spring for his ability to get to the football and disrupt the pass. A former receiver in high school, he has a true sense of what it takes to snag a pass. On Saturday, however, he got burned not just once, but three times. Once, Peeples got behind him on the 63-yard pass, when he tried to deflect it with one hand, and on another instance, Paul Reese snared a pass just before he could cut it off.
~Fumbilitis. Can't say a whole lot more about that. Fumbles really marred the afternoon, and the Yellow Jackets will make sure to clamp down on them going into the fall.
OK, that's all I've got for this edition of TechTalk. During the spring, I'll try to keep this thing posted as regularly as possible. Check back a few times throughout the weeks as we'll have updates on some of the spring sports, and any football info that comes our way. Thanks for stopping by!