ATLANTA — Synjyn Days had barely stepped foot on campus and already he was thrown to the wolves.
Tossed into the mix with Georgia Tech’s second-team offensive unit on just his first day of practice, the true freshman got an immediate experience of what being a college quarterback was all about.
“Whew, that first day was kind of rough,” Days said.
It probably should have been.
For a young quarterback with the promise of a program one day riding on his shoulders, Days will have to undergo the transformative experience of letting go of everything he learned high school and adapting to the faster, quicker game he now plays.
“He’s learning. He’s got a lot going on right now,” quarterbacks coach Brian Bohannon said. “ He’s still trying to grasp what we do — even though he ran something similar to us in high school — he’s still trying to grasp everything that we’re asking him to do.”
A lot of what Bohannon and other coaches are asking Days to do is run with purpose as if he expects to be rattled with a bone-jarring blow each time he touches the ball. In that respect, so far so good, Bohannon said.
“I tell you what, he runs the ball hard, he looks for contact,” Bohannon said of Days. “He’s almost like a linebacker playing quarterback. So there’s definitely some good tools there to work with, but as far as learning what to do, he’s still got some work to do on that end.”
With senior starter Joshua Nesbitt anchoring down the Yellow Jackets’ first-string and junior Tevin Washington running the second-team, Days has plenty of time to continue growing before he may be needed in a game. Chances are that he could redshirt by the end of the year, although those chances grew slightly thinner late last week.
Following the announcement Thursday that now former backup Jordan Luallen was leaving Georgia Tech to transfer, Days’ opportunities and practice repetitions grew that much more.
“We’re excited about Synjyn, he’s got a chance,” head coach Paul Johnson said following Saturday’s closed scrimmage.
During the spring, just before graduating from nearby Hillgrove High School, Days came to Georgia Tech to get an early taste of life as a Yellow Jackets player. He took in film sessions and began a rapport with Nesbitt that has helped him get his feet wet learning Johnson’s spread option system.
But perhaps the one thing that could help him become efficient with the offense is this: video games.
“I actually have played NCAA (Football 11) with Georgia Tech to see the different types of movements (in the offense),” Days said. “I’m not sure if it really helps, but I feel like it helps me. I did that in high school, too.”
AP Poll: GT 16th
The Yellow Jackets came in at 16th in the Associated Press’ preseason Top 25 Poll. It is the highest Georgia Tech has ranked in the two major preseason polls.
In the USA Today Coaches’ Poll two weeks ago, the Yellow Jackets came in 17th.
Last year, the AP voters picked the Yellow Jackets 15th to start the season. By the time the Yellow Jackets cruised to an ACC championship and an Orange Bowl appearance, the voters picked them 13th to conclude 2009.
Johnson, never a big advocate of polls pre Weeks 6 or 7 of the season, was typically dismissive about the potential meaning of Saturday’s poll results.
“I’m more concerned about the polls at the end of the season,” he said.
But he knows the preseason poll does have its impact on where a team can finish.
“If you start out well, the rankings at the end of the season are based on the whole season — the whole body of work — so it can affect the end of the year,” Johnson said.
With that logic, he said it was possible for a team in the middle of the pack — Nos. 13 thru 18 — to become a top 5 team by December and January.
Speaking of QBs
Johnson on Saturday was equally impressed with the work of his other young backup quarterbacks following the scrimmage.
With Nesbitt being given a relative break — he was expected to play just one series — Washington and third-string signal-caller David Sims got several opportunities to lead the offense.
According to Johnson, Washington led a pair of “nice drives” that resulted in touchdowns. One came after he fumbled the ball at the 1 yard line and his center fell on it, Johnson said.
Although he didn’t provide specific names, Johnson said several of his young A-backs should be receiving redshirt options this season.
With key depth at that position, it will be tough for him to get each of the players vying for those spots onto the field.
Potential A-back redshirt candidates could include Phenix City, Ala. native freshman Deon Hill, former Deerfield-Windsor standout Tony Zenon and freshman Charles Perkins.
True freshman defensive lineman Denzel McCoy missed all of preseason camp, which concluded with Saturday’s scrimmage, with an unspecified “medical condition.”
Johnson previously said at the start of camp that McCoy was expected back by the time the season began. But on Saturday, he was less firm in that promise.
Although he had no real update, he just said that McCoy’s status is “week-to-week.”
The Lawrenceville native was expected to be a rising standout on the defensive line this season.