The good news from Saturday’s scrimmage is that Georgia Tech’s run game looked solid and the under-construction defense limited big plays. The bad news, according to coach Paul Johnson, is that if this were a game and he had to call a pass he wouldn’t have.
Though using only one coverage scheme because new coordinator Al Groh said he prefers repetition as a teaching tool as they install the 3-4 defense, the Yellow Jackets picked off three passes.
Safety Jemea Thomas read David Sims as he was rolling out and stepped in front of a pass along the right sideline. Safety Mario Edwards did the same to Tevin Washington on a similar play in a similar spot. Linebacker B.J. Machen intercepted Sims again, though he was hit as he threw, which caused the ball to float.
“We really struggled with it,” Johnson said.
But Tech did use the running game to score four touchdowns with Washington leading three drives andJordan Luallen the other.
The running game was sparked by B-back Lucas Cox up the middle and A-back Marcus Wright on the outside. On two plays Washington read the defense correctly and pitched to Wright coming around the end for big gains. Cornerback Rod Sweeting chased Wright down at the goal line on the first play, and Wright slipped in the open field on the other.
“I would like to see him finish those,” Johnson said.
Washington added a 40-yard run on a scrambling play up the middle. Washington, battling to be the No. 2 quarterback behind injured starter Josh Nesbitt, said the passing game will improve as the players practice more. He said he’s worked hard on improving that aspect of operating the spread-option.
“I’ve got big expectations,” Washington said. “I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to get some playing time.”
Final, but unofficial stats for the offense: Four touchdowns, three interceptions, six false starts and one holding penalty. There were also several fumbles on the center-snap exchange.
After one week of installing the defense, Groh said he’s pleased with his charges’ progress.
“We’re trying to put an emphasis on takeaways,” Groh said. ” We got our hands on some balls today so that was a positive.”
One of the defensive players who stood out on Saturday was defensive end Jason Peters.
He almost decapitated one of his teammates during Friday’s practice with what looked like a inadvertent clothesline wrestling move. He nearly did it again on Saturday.
“It’s hard-nosed football,” Peters said. “That’s what the defensive coaches are stressing right now is being a hard-nosed defense that can beat anybody, dominating the whole way through.”
Peters was recruited as an end but was moved to defensive tackle last season. His size (6-4, 273) is such than he can play inside or outside, but he said he’s enjoying the challenges of being out on the edge again.
“I’ve got to do a better job of beating blocks, make sure I recognize things,” Peters, a redshirt junior from Baton Rouge, La., said. “What we do, we’re a react kind of defense. You’ve got to be able to control people.”
Middle linebacker Brad Jefferson had a good day, snuffing out several run plays to the defense’s right, including standing up B-back Anthony Allen on one play. Johnson said that redshirt freshman middle linebacker Brandon Watts caught his eye today, as well.
“He can really run,” Johnson said.
Unofficial stats for the defense on Saturday: Four touchdowns allowed, four turnovers, one encroachment penalty and one pass-interference penalty.
“We judge it on four days and not one,” Groh said. “It’s a process to put this in. All things considered we’ve made good progress.”
The offensive line saw two players added on the injury list after Friday’s practice: Offensive tackles Austin Barrick and Zach Fraysier. Barrick said he hurt his toe but should be able to return in a week. Fraysier was wearing a brace on his left ankle. Offensive tackle Phil Smith, who injured his ankle last year, has been doing some conditioning but hasn’t been able to participate in drills. Other players who missed the first week of practice include defensive tackle Ben Anderson, defensive end Robert Hall, B-back Preston Lyons, linebacker Kyle Jackson and Nesbitt.
No players were injured during Saturday’s practice.