ATLANTA — When the season began, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson wanted to be able to look back at this point in the year and see a 7-0 team.
He also wanted to witness a unit that rejected the notion of fumbling, and kept the punts to a one per game minimum.
With a 5-2 group that has lost 10 fumbles and already punted 23 times, it is clear his hopes have gone unfulfilled. That doesn’t mean, however, that all has been bad for the Yellow Jackets.
“It all comes back to expectations,” Johnson said during his weekly news conference Tuesday. “I’ll give you a great example. On offense, we’re not playing where we’d like to be, but we’re still averaging (32) points a game and we’re third or fourth in the league in total offense and third or fourth in something else. It’s a lot better than where it used to be, but it’s not up to everybody’s expectations or even our expectations.
“Sometimes, I’m not sure if I didn’t create some of that myself because I have such high expectations.”
Those who are around Johnson on a regular basis often are struck by his nonstop, unwavering madness for competition.
“There’s several areas that we’ve gotten better at, but could we improve? Sure,” Johnson said.
While the Yellow Jackets may still be in the running for a conference championship and control their ACC destiny with Saturday’s road contest at Clemson, they also are far from perfect. Regardless, Johnson wants his players to be in the running for nothing but perfection.
“That’s what you have to shoot for if you don’t want to sell yourself short,” Johnson said. “Now, at the end, you have to sit down and rationally look back and go, ‘OK, did they achieve about what they could have achieved, or did they not come up to where you thought they could be?”
Now, in middle of the season, however, is not the time to ask that question, he said. It will be at the end of the season when he will make that determination.
Johnson on Taylor’s departure
It has been nearly a week since Georgia Tech released news that sophomore safety Cooper Taylor had decided to abruptly leave the team in the middle of the season.
According to Johnson, in the days since, the departure has had minimal affect on the team.
“I’m sure Cooper had a lot of friends on the team, but quite honestly, it hasn’t even been talked about. It hasn’t even been mentioned,” Johnson said.
“Nobody’s mentioned it to me; we didn’t mention it to the team. It’s just one of those things. If you’re in the business long enough, it happens.”
When asked, Johnson said he couldn’t remember off the top of his head if it had happened to him before, but that it probably had.
A message to Taylor from The Telegraph last Thursday was not returned.
Playing time appeared to be at issue for the defensive back, who entered last preseason as the fastest player in Georgia Tech’s camp. This preseason, he was battling for starting time with three other safeties for two positions. Returning from missing all but three games last year due to a rare heart condition, Taylor was ultimately beaten out for starting time and watched his opportunities on the field diminish.
“Cooper’s a good kid. I hope that he finds his niche in whatever he wants to do,” Johnson said. “At this time, it just wasn’t working for him like he felt it should have been here.
“He’s had to go through a lot medically and with everything else that he’s fought through to get back,” Johnson said. “Hopefully he can find a place where he can find his desire back and play up to capabilities because he is a good athlete.”
Taylor missed all but three games last season after being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition that affects the heart. After corrective surgery, he tried to return in the spring.
Johnson said he would help Taylor transfer to a new program, and that he was free to go anywhere he wanted.
McDaniel has Tech’s eye
Johnson may have forgotten the player’s name for a brief moment, but that didn’t mean Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel hasn’t had his attention.
“The other guy who’s really good is No. 2,” Johnson said. “He might be one of the best football players we’ve played since I’ve been here. He makes a lot of plays.”
The day before, he had been asked about defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, another Tigers player who caught his eye.
McDaniel, the Tigers defensive back who wears No. 2, ranks second on the team in tackles behind fellow safety Rashard Hall. A fast, physical player, he constantly is around the football, Johnson said.
“He just makes a lot of plays,” Johnson said. “When you turn the film on, he makes just about every other play, and he did against us last year in the championship game.”
The Yellow Jackets and Tigers played in last season’s ACC championship, which Georgia Tech won 39-34.
Returning to the Yellow Jackets, Johnson was asked about his starting quarterback and how well he seemed to fit into Georgia Tech’s offense during Johnson’s three-year career on the Flats.
“Certainly he’s a (player) who’s been very tough and resilient,” Johnson said. “The offense has been a good fit for him, too. He kind of fits what we do. He’s had some success doing it.”
Nesbitt, who leads Georgia Tech’s all-time rushing list, ranks just 44 yards behind former Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler at the top of the ACC career rushing list.
“Certainly we’re glad he’s on our team,” Johnson said. “He’s a really good player.”
During the news conference, Johnson said defensive end Jason Peters likely would be upgraded from Doubtful to Questionable to play in Saturday’s game. He still doesn’t seem to expect to get the junior back, but is hopeful he can return after suffering an undisclosed sprain during a hard hit with Middle Tennessee State quarterback Dwight Dasher last Saturday.
Receiver Quentin Sims, who Johnson said was banged up in last week’s game, missed his second straight day of practice, as well.