Good morning, folks-
Hope you’re well. I have a few extra things from reporting the Georgia Tech spring practice story I did on Anthony Allen, mostly from A-backs coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Monken.
Hopefully you read it. Allen will be an intriguing piece of the puzzle in the fall, in that he’s a proven college player who will likely be ready to contribute from the first snap.
For what it’s worth, he has looked good in two practices thus far. He catches the ball well, has good speed and has size.
B-backs coach Brian Bohannon: “He can help us. He hasn’t done anything yet to take ownership of tha (because he hasn’t had the chance). We all are looking forward to the spring to see what he does, because he definitely has the tools and the mentality to be that.”
One interesting thing was that both Bohannon and Monken made note of Allen’s toughness. It’s a trait you’d need at either spot — at B-back because you’re taking a bunch of hits taking the dive into the line, at A-back because you’re having to do a lot of blocking — and is one of those intangibles that they apparently already see in him, despite the fact that he was mostly working on scout team.
Bohannon on Allen’s learning the offense: “I don’t think he’s that far behind. So we’ll see. Until they get a little tired and things get a little tough, you never know. But I don’t think he’s that far behind.”
Monken said that the first priority for the A-backs in the spring will be blocking.
“Throughout the year, we knew we were struggling with that, but as you go back and evaluate and watch the season, you say, ‘Boy, we’ve really got a long way to go in terms of getting people to the ground like we expect.”
Monken said that he was impressed with the blocking of two freshmen, Embry Peeples and Marcus Wright.
“I think they’re going to get better and improve at that,” Monken said. “Particularly towards the end of the year, Marcus got a lot better at blocking, got more aggressive at doing it.”
He said the way they’ll work at it is in drills and focusing on it when the team goes in full pads, as they are scheduled to on Saturday. (FYI, if you were thinking of coming out to watch the full-pads practice Saturday, you may want to put those plans on hold. With the forecast calling for heavy rains, it might get moved to the Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch. If that’s the case, I’m going to doubt it’ll be open to the public. Stay tuned.)
There’s more on the matter of blocking, but I think I’ll save it for a story later on in the spring.
On special teams:
Lastly, as we wrote Johnson saying in Tuesday’s paper, special teams will be a heavy focus. Monken said they’ve changed up schemes a little bit on the return teams, and coaches will also be looking for the right players for the different units.
He said that finding a returner for the punt and kickoff teams will be a priority. Obviously, it was a problem last year, as the team tried Roddy Jones, Andrew Smith, Tyler Melton, Jonathan Dwyer, Tony Clark and Wright on the two return teams.
The right returner “has as much to do with being productive on returns as anything,” Monken said.
Monken said that he and fellow assistants Charles Kelly and Buzz Preston have coaching colleagues in the NFL that they’ve been talking to and bouncing ideas off of for special teams help. He wouldn’t identify them, though.
I guess that’s about it. Some links:
Johnny Crawford’s photo gallery from practice. While I don’t want to point you away from it, the picture of Johnson on the Tech home page with walk-on receiver Paul Reese is kind of interesting, as I was watching this happen. The offense was doing a passing drill – the two receivers and three backs – against offensive players lined up on defense and sort of passively defending. After awhile Johnson moved into the linebacker area and started shifting players a step or two forward or back or right or left. I wish I’d remembered to ask him exactly what he was doing – if the players were lined up wrong or if he just wanted to give the offense a little different look to see how they’d adjust – but it sort of looked like he was playing chess.
An si.com ranking of coaches in the ACC. Paul Johnson comes in at No. 4.
Coley Harvey from the Macon Telegraph should have a story posted by Thursday morning. I hadn’t seen it Wednesday night when I wrote this.