ATLANTA — Paul Johnson played his starting card close to his chest Wednesday afternoon, and declined to reveal what changes might be coming to his offensive and defensive units in time for Saturday’s ACC opener at North Carolina.
In his post-practice interview session, the Georgia Tech head coach said there “probably” would be changes made along both sides of the ball after his Yellow Jackets listlessly dropped last Saturday’s game at Kansas 28-25.
Was he ready to reveal those probable changes?
“Probably not,” Johnson said.
During his weekly news conference Tuesday, Johnson said he expected to switch around his two-deep depth chart based upon what the Yellow Jackets showed him in workouts this week.
“It’ll come off practice and those kinds of things,” Johnson said.
In the loss to the Jayhawks, defense was a key point of concern as the missed tackles and missed assignments littered the field and helped stymie a second-half comeback. But don’t expect to see the defense as the only group potentially switched around, Johnson added Tuesday.
“There could be different starters on a lot of teams,” he said, directing his comments to a reporter. “But I don’t think you’re going to see wholesale changes if that’s what you’re looking for.”
Tech gets $3.5 million gift
If Atlanta gets hit by a deluge of rainfall and floodwaters, the Yellow Jackets could care less now; practice can now continue uninterrupted.
The Institute recently received a sizeable gift — a $3.5 million charitable donation to be exact — to help fund the building of an indoor practice facility on a portion of Georgia Tech’s current football practice space.
John F. Brock III, a Georgia Tech alumnus and chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, gave the school the gift to help cover the nearly $7 million cost that will go along with the facility’s construction.
Johnson welcomed the gift and looks forward to its completion in the coming months. A report indicates that it should be completed before the 2011 season.
“In a lot of ways, it gives us a place to practice on campus. We can get in from storms,” Johnson said. “It will help in recruiting. Most every BCS school has one, and we needed one. So it was awful kind of John and (his wife) Mary to do that.”
Stephen Zelnack, another alumnus and CEO of Martin Marietta Corporation, helped fund Georgia Tech’s Zelnack practice center for men’s and women’s basketball. The multi-million dollar venture opened in time for last season.
During Georgia Tech’s “Can’t Wait Til Kickoff” luncheon three weeks ago, Zelnack implored attendees to reach in their pockets and help fund the football facility because “Coach Johnson and the players are doing great things, but in order for us to take them to the next level, we need great support for that facility.”
Earlier this week, the Tar Heels learned running back Shaun Draughn — one of 13 players who was suspended for Sept. 4’s season opener due to NCAA investigations — would be allowed to play this Saturday.
The timing couldn’t have been better for North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, who was left scratching his head after the opener when both his usual No. 2 and 3 tailbacks went down with injuries.
“It certainly improves our depth,” Davis said about Draughn’s addition.
During North Carolina’s game against LSU two weeks ago in Atlanta, running backs Johnny White and Anthony Elzy checked in an out with respective injuries. Both were backups to Draughn, and helped account for a 24-yard team rushing performance against the Tigers. With Draughn playing catch-up this week, White and Elzy are listed ahead of him on the depth chart.
Before his one-game suspension, Draughn led the Tar Heels in rushing in 2008.
Playing the 3-4
When North Carolina coaches studied game tape of Georgia Tech’s defense this week, Davis saw a few tendencies and wrinkles that likely made him smile.
He remembered seeing some of the same setups last year when he faced Virginia.
Last season — and the eight before it — Al Groh, Georgia Tech’s new defensive coordinator, was the head coach of the Cavaliers. His defense drew rave reviews around the ACC and helped him be lauded as one of the conferences’ best defensive minds.
Even though Groh is now on the Flats, the system he perfected in the mid-Atlantic has been seen before by teams in the conference, and that could play to the Tar Heels’ advantage this week.
Davis, of course, hopes that has an impact, but seriously doubts it will.
“Very much the same challenge that faces the defense in having to prepare for their offense, our offense will face a challenge in having to face a scheme that we don’t see often,” Davis said. “Any time you see the 3-4 defense, it’s a challenge. It’s unique. We’re used to seeing more people run 4-3 defenses against us every week.”
“It can be a good thing. There’s a lot of evil out there on Twitter and Facebook. A lot of things that can get you caught up. So if that’s what (Miami) Coach (Randy Shannon) feels necessary to do to keep his players out of it, then that’s what they’ve got to do.” –Georgia Tech linebacker Steven Sylvester on Shannon’s recent ban on Twitter for his players.