He has an optimistic bent and is perhaps a little biased, but former Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford gives a recommendation to the Yellow Jackets offensive line and his replacement in particular.
“With Jay Finch rolling in at center, he’s infinitely more talented than I ever was,” Bedford said by phone last Friday. “He’s bigger, faster, stronger and he’s just going to need the experience.”
Of his other former cohorts, Bedford said, “I think (guards) Will Jackson and Omoregie Uzzi are phenomenally talented. (Tackle) Phil Smith has the potential to be great, and there’s a lot of guys who have the potential to make things happen. A lot of it is avoiding injuries and getting on the field. The raw materials are there to make it happen. It’s up to them to go out and do it.”
Finch is slated to step in for Bedford, a two-time All-ACC center and the winner of the inaugural Burlsworth Trophy, given to the country’s most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on. A junior from Kennesaw Mountain High in Acworth, Finch backed up Bedford last season and also started three games at left guard.
“In terms of raw ability, I think he is one of the better offensive linemen I’ve seen in the last couple years,” Bedford said. “He’s a great athlete; he’s very quick, very fast, good footwork.”
However talented Finch is, though, the position takes time to learn, and much of it has little to do with brawn or agility. Bedford called his switch from the defensive line to center “overwhelming” and said the demands of the position at first prevented him from being consistently productive. Knowing each lineman’s assignment and understanding each play’s goals required more mental processing, he said, than playing defense did. He said he got the hang of it as a junior, when he won the starting job, and much more so his senior season in 2010.
“It becomes a lot more natural and it allows you to become a much better player,” he said.
Those are the challenges that face Finch, who has had a little more grounding time than Bedford had before starting. Finch played scout team as a redshirt freshman and then backed up Bedford in 2010, giving him two springs and one season of practice time. Bedford was a walk-on defensive lineman going into the 2008 season, Paul Johnson’s first at Tech, when he was asked to switch over to offense a couple weeks before the first game. He became starter in 2009.
Leadership at center “is something you have to develop over time and you have to develop a rapport with your fellow linemen,” Finch said. “I think once he gets that, I think he’s going to be a player that Tech fans have a lot to be excited about.”
I’ll have a little more from Bedford later this week, including his wrap-up of his experience as a football player in Spain and his assessment of why the 2010 season went south.