Sorry for a low-presence day on the blog Wednesday. Kind of a lot of things going on right now. Anyway, the following is a Q&A (mostly A) with co-offensive line coach Mike Sewak from Tuesday about the lineup change that would move guard Will Jackson to left tackle in place of Phil Smith (suspended for two games) and insert true freshman Trey Braun (I feel like “true freshman” is becoming part of Braun’s name) at left guard.
Sewak is invariably a helpful interview. I learn something new every time I talk with him.
Q: (I don’t know what the question was, as I jumped in mid-answer to an interview that Kelly Quinlan of Rivals had started. I imagine the question was something like, “Whither Trey Braun?”)
A: Trey, he got a lot of snaps obviously in the spring and now coming back in the fall. Will got himself injured and so Trey got a chance to get in there and we got to see some good things out of him. I thought if we got a chance to get him on the field and Will Jackson on the field, that might be our best combination, so we wanted to see what Will was capable of at tackle. The next couple days will be a real telltale sign for us and also give us extra depth when we get the other guys back because Will, he’s very capable. He’s mentally capable of handling both positions.
Physically, there’s a couple of different techniques involved, so he’s got to try to get some of those reps in, so it’s vital that he gets practice and as many reps as he can in live situations and that’s what we tried to do out here today with him, trying to keep the arrows up, trying to keep him going in the right direction.
I think that Will does give us the experience out there. When we do that, we’re going to start only one guy on the entire offensive line that played for us last year in the same position in Uzzi, because everybody else will be a new position.
We’ve got plenty of playing from Jay Finch, also. Ray Beno got some snaps, Tyler Kidney got a bunch of snaps last year. (We’re doing this) just to give us our best chance to get our five best football players out there on the field.
Two cents: Coach Paul Johnson also mentioned the desire to get the five best linemen on the field. (I’ve sometimes wanted to ask, “But what if your five best linemen are all centers?”) That Braun is included in this mix says something about his development (you may have heard he’s a true freshman) and perhaps also where Beno and Catlin Alford stand. Both have been considered possibilities to replace Smith.
Also, Tech will scrimmage Thursday afternoon (closed to media). How Braun and Jackson do together will get plenty of attention.
Q: Would this help Jackson (who was injured often last season) to not have to line up against a 320-pound tackle?
A: He never really got hurt ever going against a 325-pound guy. It probably softened it up. But it was always on linebackers where he was having trouble. In our offense, you can’t avoid linebackers and Will doesn’t avoid anybody, so that’s a pretty good thing for him.
I think we’ve got to get a guy who can get us some push on a 3-technique. Surely, Will can do that. This is going to be something new for Trey because he’s going to be playing guys that are bigger and stronger and been in the weight room a lot longer than he has. So I don’t know if he’s physically mature (enough) to do it, but I think that he’s got the right mental attitude and he is very flexible and he has a little bit of power.
It’s not like he came in and he’s a brand-new freshman. He’s always been in the weight room. His dad’s a good football coach. He comes from a good program where they lifted a lot.
I think, coming here early in January, we have gotten (him) eight months of lifting in our program, which I think has definitely benefited him. So it’s not like he’s only one month into our program. He’s actually eight months into the program where he’s gotten to develop some lower-body power and some lower-body balance.
Two cents: A 3-technique is a defensive tackle who lines up between a guard and tackle. A pretty authoritative explanation of the position here.
Sewak paid Jackson a pretty high compliment. It’s a little cliché, but toughness and an aggressive mindset are paramount to play offensive line, and that Jackson “doesn’t avoid anybody” speaks to both.
Braun, as has been noted, was the only early enrollee in the 2011 class. That has proven rather serendipitous.
Q: Does it help that Braun was a high school wrestler and is pretty bright?
A: You need as many of those engineers as you can get into the offensive line. It really helps. Here’s a guy, I think he has a 3.7 right now. And he’s taking Calculus 3, I believe, and Physics. He never backs way from a challenge. He’s young and naïve enough to think he can win everything, and we’re positive enough with him to believe he can, too.
Two cents: The Tech media guide lists Braun as a mechanical engineering major and says both parents graduated from Army. He was also the No. 1-ranked heavyweight wrestler in Florida at Leon High. He also speaks Latin.
It’s almost invariable that offensive linemen are pretty bright.
Q: Have you decided on taking the redshirt off Shaq Mason (another true freshman)?
A: We’ll see. Both those young guys (Mason and fellow true freshman Errin Joe) have gotten a lot of reps this fall. They have been rather physically pleasing on who they have attacked. They don’t know their techniques as well as they should. They don’t play with a pad level and a speed of the game a well as they should, but maybe in a month they’ll be somewhere where [we] can say, ‘Hey, this guy can help us win,’ and also give them an opportunity to just keep getting hungrier and hungrier and hungrier.
Two cents: It seems almost an inevitability one of the two will play in the first two games. With the Braun-Jackson lineup, Mason or Joe would be the No. 3 guard. You wouldn’t think that guards Braun or Omoregie Uzzi would play the entire game against either Western Carolina or Kansas. Guard J.C. Lanier was expected to miss four weeks when he went out early in preseason camp, which would be right around Sept. 1, but he’d have to re-gain his conditioning and also have to get back up to speed in the offense. You’ll remember that he switched to guard from defensive line in the spring.