***Note: No notebook on Thursday as there is no player-coach availability at Georgia Tech that day. I'll have a player Q-and-A and all kinds of other preview stuff coming in the next few days, though.
ATLANTA — The plane ride to Lawrence, Ks. this weekend could be lighter than once expected, as multiple Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets may be forced to keep their feet planted firmly on Georgian, red clay soil.
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During his post-practice interview session Wednesday — the last before the Yellow Jackets leave for Saturday’s noon kickoff at Kansas — Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said that several of his players will likely miss the team’s second game.
Safety Cooper Taylor and offensive guard Will Jackson, two starters who were sidelined during last week’s South Carolina State game, were declared “highly doubtful” by Johnson. Taylor left last weekend’s contest with a “heat-related” injury. Jackson has missed practices this week due to knee and ankle sprains.
A third player, redshirt freshman Ray Beno, will miss action for sure for a second consecutive week, Johnson said.
“I don’t think Beno’s going to make the trip this week,” Johnson said.
On a teleconference last Sunday, Johnson declined to go into detail about why Beno did not dress out for the Yellow Jackets’ opener. The offensive lineman was not listed as injured, but was seen on the sidelines wearing a jersey top and shorts like other injured players and potential redshirt-worthy true freshmen.
While the Yellow Jackets will be without those three, as well as defensive end Emmanuel Dieke who continues to nurse an arm injury, they will be welcoming another injured player into the fold. Johnson said long-snapper Tyler Morgan, who went down during the South Carolina State game, returned to practice Wednesday.
Big 12 roots
While the trip to Kansas will be a first, the opportunity to see a Big 12 team play will be nothing new for Yellow Jackets receiver Quentin Sims.
The sophomore from Cincinnati, Ohio grew up watching teams from the Big 12 on the small screen and has heard stories stretching from Columbia, Mo. to Austin, Texas about how competitive the conference is.
That’s because his storyteller, dad Fred Sims, knows that part of the country all too well.
“He would tell me just about certain stadiums that he would play in a lot, like Missouri and Texas and just how loud it used to be,” Quentin Sims said. “I know they get big attendance down there. There’s a lot of football out there.”
Fred Sims was a running back at Oklahoma from 1981-82.
While the elder raised his sons to cheer for the Sooners, his loyalties now extend beyond Norman, Ok.
“When I was younger, before I started playing, he was all about the Big 12, but now he’s Big Ten/ACC all the way,” Quentin Sims said. The family roots for the Big Ten now because younger brother, Damon, plays at Indiana.
Georgia Tech’s game with Kansas will mark the first time the Yellow Jackets have faced a Big 12 team since 1993, when they hosted Baylor.
During Wednesday morning’s weekly ACC coaches’ teleconference, Johnson said he would like to see such cross-conference games occur on a more regular basis.
“I’d love to do that,” he said, “if you have a home-and-home with the Big 12 or the Big Ten or another conference like that, I think it makes for interesting games.”
Expecting the best shot
Johnson has tried hard to keep his players focused on the task of winning this week.
Following the Jayhawks’ 6-3 upset loss to FCS opponent North Dakota State last week, there could be reason enough for the Yellow Jackets to think they can overlook their impending foe. Combine the loss with Georgia Tech’s 31-point blowout win over South Carolina State and the Yellow Jackets could be setting themselves up for a potential trap game, particularly with the ACC opener against North Carolina looming next week.
“We haven’t even talked about the conference game,” Johnson said. “I am. I hope they (the Yellow Jackets) are. If they’re not, they’ll be sorry.”
During the teleconference, Johnson also said he expected Kansas’ best effort of the early year, given the way it lost at home last week.
“I’m sure they’re going to be light-years better in Game 2 than what they were in Game 1,” he said. “Most teams are.”
UNC worried about UNC
Also on the teleconference, North Carolina head coach Butch Davis alluded to the fact that even for his team, very little time this week has been spent on preparing for the Yellow Jackets.
In fairness, however, the Tar Heels will get a reprieve from their coach if they are thinking that far ahead. With an off week this week, North Carolina’s next game is at home against Georgia Tech.
North Carolina hasn’t spent the week focusing too intently on the Yellow Jackets yet, Davis said, because it has too many problems to care of on its end first.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to improve on in our own football program. It has absolutely zero to do with Georgia Tech,” Davis said, referring to North Carolina’s 30-24 loss to LSU at the Georgia Dome last Saturday. “We’ve got issues that we’ve got to fundamentally fix and gain some experience and get better prepared with some of these young (players) that are going to be put into these roles.”
With academic violations and charges of misconduct concerning agents attacking his program this offseason, Davis was forced to use several of his redshirts, potential redshirts and generally least experienced players against LSU. Fifteen of his key players were sidelined due to investigations into the off-field allegations.
“It’s definitely a situation that requires some real thought, especially not only that our defense played 82 plays—they were 82 grueling plays. It was a hard-fought game. Really, a war.” –Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen on the Terrapins’ narrow 17-14 win over Navy on Monday.