Despite some of the results this season, Georgia Tech’s wide receivers and A-backs can catch the ball.
The coaches see it in practice, the cornerbacks see it in practice, the players do it in practice.
Now, they say they just have to do it more frequently when it counts: in games.
“There’s no way around it,” wide receiver Tyler Melton said.
The drops started in the season opener, when Melton had a pass bounce off his chest and into the arms of a South Carolina State defender. Like the flu, it spread through Tech’s A-back and wide receivers, most recently affecting Stephen Hill in the loss at Clemson. He tried to make a tough catch on a pass thrown over the wrong shoulder while staring back into the sun. The ball bounced off his hands.
“You still have to make the catch, make that adjustment,” wide receivers coach Al Preston said. “Sometimes that’s just plain experience. This is gut-check time.”
Indeed. The Yellow Jackets (5-3, 3-2) must win their next three conference games, starting with Thursday night’s game at Virginia Tech, if they hope to get a chance to defend their ACC championship.
“They catch everything [in practice],” cornerback Dominique Reese said. “They don’t drop anything. It’s just got to carry over in the game. It just seems like the ones they are dropping are the key ones. I know they will go out there and make plays. I’ve see them do it in practice and games.”
This season, Tech’s wide receivers have caught 22 passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns. The A-backs have 14 receptions for 293 yards and two touchdowns.Roddy Jones said the team needs to help quarterback Joshua Nesbitt by making the tough catches. Jones pointed out that Nesbitt has been throwing the ball accurately and the offensive line’s pass blocking has improved the past few games. Nesbitt is completing 38.2 percent of his passes this season. He completed 46.3 percent last season.
But because Tech doesn’t throw often, and when it does it’s usually a long pass, the errors become magnified.
Coach Paul Johnson said the team does miss the big-play and blocking of Demaryius Thomas, who was Tech’s leading wide receiver with 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He was the first wide receiver selected in April’s NFL draft. But no Thomas and more drops doesn’t mean that Johnson is going to change his philosophy.
“We’ve been doing this for a long, long, time,” Johnson said. “We’ll continue to do it, we’ve just got to get better at it.”