While we wait for the white smoke to appear over the Edge Center, signaling a new basketball coach has been hired, one could almost be forgiven for overlooking the start of spring practice on Monday.
I’m working on my preview now, which will appear in the paper either on Sunday or Monday, and wanted to survey you, the fans.
It strikes me that Tech has three big issues on offense: who will run the ball, throw the ball and catch the ball?
The competition will be interesting because it seems to be between two people at quarterback, four people at B-back, and two, maybe three, at wide receiver. Is that enough competition to provide the killer instinct that the team seemed to be missing last season?
We shall see.
At quarterback, Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days will go head to head. Vad Lee won’t arrive until later in the summer. David Sims will be in the mix, but he will also be working out at other positions. Washington started four games last season after Joshua Nesbitt suffered a broken arm against Virginia Tech. Washington won one game and had an on-again, off-again level of confidence. He looked bad against Miami, good against Duke and Georgia, bad against Air Force. Some of that can be chalked up to his inexperience. Some of that can also be chalked up to the mental mistakes by teammates that hampered the entire season.
But look at the progress that Joshua Nesbitt made in year 2 running the offense to gauge how Washington could do this year. Nesbitt increased his per-game total offense by 60 yards to 195.6 in 2009. Washington averaged 108.4 yards per game last season.
Days ran a similar offense in high school before taking over scout-team duties during the fall. He worked with the first team some during Tech’s Independence Bowl preparations.
B-back may be the most interesting battle this spring because, unlike the past three years, there is no clear favorite. Richard Watson, Preston Lyons, Charles Perkins and Sims will fight to see who will replace Anthony Allen. Watson was the No. 2 back toward the end of last season, but had just 10 carries to Lyon’s 14. Combined, they didn’t crack 100 yards. Perkins red-shirted last season after working out A-back during August’s practices. Sims, who has played quarterback the past two seasons, try a few different positions in the spring, including B-back. Johnson has rarely gone with a B-back-by-committee approach in his 14 seasons as a head coach, usually relying on no more than two guys to handle the bulk of the carries.
Who will catch the ball? There are eight wide receivers on the spring roster. Three caught passes last season. Stephen Hill, the leading receiver, had 15 receptions for 291 yards and three touchdowns. Tyler Melton, the third-leading wide receiver, had six receptions for 99 yards. Unfortunately, Hill and Melton also combined for quite a few drops. So, while it’s easy to assume that Hill and Melton will be the starters, it’s also easy to see that the coaches may take a long look at some of the other players, as long as they show they can effectively block.
The A-backs are the wildcards in this run-catch conundrum. Once again, the position is deep. Roddy Jones, Embry Peeples, Orwin Smith, Marcus Wright and B.J. Bostic lead a parade of returnees. But which one will show in the spring that they can provide a big-play, touchdown threat that the team just couldn’t consistently find last year? Smith seems to have the most potential. He averaged 9.7 yards per run last season and was the team’s second-leading receiver (12 catches, 195 yards). Bostic got the crowd on its feet the few times he touched the ball. He’s not as stocky (170 pounds) as the other A-backs; his blocking is a question mark.
What do you think, who are you most looking forward to see in this competition?
We’ll look at the defense later this week.
- Doug Roberson, AJC