ATLANTA— There are limits the NCAA sets determining the amount of time coaches can spend working with players during the offseasons.
There are no strict limits, however, to how much the players can work individually off the field to better themselves.
Already this offseason, several Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have spoken with reporters about the extra time they took in recent months to further their understanding and proficiency of the coaches’ schemes.
Center Sean Bedford told a story about watching a teammate explain portions of the Yellow Jackets’ blocking patterns in a manner so complex that it likely would have completely boggled his mind two years ago when head coach Paul Johnson’s unique offense first arrived. Now, thanks to such off-field, out-of-classroom discussions, the diagrams look markedly simple to the lineman.
Then, there is the extra film study offensive and defensive linemen have reported doing, all in hopes better understanding how opponents respond to their techniques.
To see such work can only pay off.
“That’s real important. Especially in the summers, because we only have so much time we’re allowed with them,” Johnson said of such additional offseason work. “They’ve got to do some work on their own.”
With such a high level of competition throughout the team this preseason, a coaches’ observation of players taking their learning off the field can only help those who take advantage of the supplementary, voluntary work.
This year, in large part to a deeper, older team beginning to take shape, the Yellow Jackets have competitions at virtually every position. Johnson on Saturday told media that his only confirmed starters are quarterback Joshua Nesbitt and inside linebacker Brad Jefferson.
The rest of the spots are still up for grabs.
Scuffle and struggle
Tuesday afternoon’s workout may have been the toughest for Johnson to endure thus far this preseason.
In a post-practice interview session, the head coach said the Yellow Jackets seemed to be struggling to find consistency in effort and energy. While one side of the ball performed well Monday, the other side enjoyed a better practice Tuesday.
The near 100-degree Atlanta weather had a role to play in the players looking “sluggish” at times, he said, to be sure. But with the start of the regular season now some three weeks away, Johnson wants them to start finding a way to get completely through the mental block that such temperatures can create.
“It’ll be what it’ll be. We’ll see if we can coax them into a little higher energy level if they aren’t where we want them,” Johnson said. “We haven’t been out there a week yet, we should have pretty good energy for now. I know it’s warm.”
The heat likely led to a brief scuffle, Johnson added. He did not specify which players were involved.
Jason Peters, Georgia Tech’s junior defensive end who missed the last two practices, was back on the field Tuesday, Johnson said.
Although he practiced in a non-contact capacity, Peters is expected to compete regularly again in the coming days.
The lineman — who is slated to take over the spot former Yellow Jackets end Derrick Morgan held the past two seasons — was kept out of the last two workouts as he recovered from what Johnson on Monday called “a headache.”
Following Monday’s exercises, Peters was seen in a red no-contact jersey and wearing sunglasses and a Georgia Tech baseball hat.
True freshman defensive lineman Denzel McCoy has already missed part of the preseason with a mystery ailment of his own.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pound tackle from Lawrenceville “has a medical condition,” Johnson said and is expected to return once school starts.
Johnson was non-committal when pressed about what the condition might be.
A highly-touted lineman in high school, McCoy is one of several freshmen who was thought to be talented enough to push the defensive tackle race this preseason. Although a redshirt was likely, he still was slated to make a run for playing time there.
Random Tech fact
Only four times in school history have the Yellow Jackets posted an 11-win or better season.
In 1951, they went 11-0-1 and finished fifth in the AP and coaches’ polls. The next season, they went undefeated, going 12-0 to claim a share of the national championship. They were also ranked second nationally by both major polls. The International News Service gave them No. 1 billing that year.
Nearly a half-century later, in 1990, the Yellow Jackets stalked to another 11-0-1 finish to claim another share of a national title, their fourth championship in school history.
And last season, Georgia Tech finished 11-3, en route to an ACC championship and first-ever BCS bowl berth.
The Yellow Jackets will be taking part in their lone two-a-day practice of the preseason Wednesday, when they begin a morning session at 9:30 a.m. and then return at 3:30 p.m. for Round 2.
Johnson said they will practice in pads during the first exercises and “see how it goes.”
He declined to comment on whether the team would be in full pads both practices.