Never has 103 degrees felt so good.
With Georgia Tech opening fall practice on Thursday in temperatures more akin to a sweat lodge than a practice, several players who are considered key to defending the ACC title were able to practice for the first time in months.
After wearing the red or gold “injury” jersey during the spring practices, quarterback Joshua Nesbitt (ankle), offensive lineman Phil Smith (ankle), B-back Preston Lyons (shoulder), and defensive tackle Ben Anderson (knee) were able to put on the white (offense) or blue (defense) tops and work out with their teammates at Rose Bowl field in preparation for the Sept. 4 season-opener against South Carolina State.
“It felt good being out there, being with my teammates,” Nesbitt said.
After sitting out the spring because of ankle surgery, Nesbitt said two weeks ago that he’s in the best shape he’s been in since he was at Greene County High School. He’s looking to improve on an All-ACC season in which he passed and rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each category. Having rushed for 2,079 yards in three seasons, he needs 692 more to become the most prolific rushing quarterback in ACC history.
With depth a concern on the offensive line, Smith’s return at tackle is a bright spot for Tech. He said he is 100 percent recovered from the spiral fracture of the ankle sustained during the ACC championship game, and glad to be done with the rehab that dominated his summer.
“This is the longest time I’ve ever gone without playing football,” said Smith, who was cleared by team doctors to play in mid-May. He started four games and played in 13 others.
The battle to win the crucial nose tackle position in the 3-4 defense will intensity with the return of Anderson, who sustained a torn ACL in the loss to Georgia. At 6-2, 275-pounds, Anderson used his size to make 18 tackles and three sacks last season.
He was cleared two weeks ago to rejoin the team. He said he’s 100-percent confident in the knee.
“We’ll see what happens when we put the pads on,” he said.
Perhaps no one was happier than coach Paul Johnson to see the long line of players walking past as they headed to the locker rooms, none of them wearing a red or gold jersey.
“It’s always great to start the fall camp in shorts and helmets and you don’t have anyone on the injured list,” Johnson said.