Have a few nuggets to pass along from interviews with coach Paul Johnson, defensive coordinator Al Groh, outside linebacker Steven Sylvester, defensive line coach Andy McCollum and defensive end Jason Peters. Some of it went into the notes posted last night.
1. The kickoff return team is the bur under Johnson’s saddle this week. He said after practice that while returner Orwin Smith may keep his position, “the rest of them cats back there are gone” because they haven’t been executing assignments.
Johnson considers the 30-yard line the breakeven point for a successful kickoff return. Saturday, the first three returns didn’t get past the 19 before Stephen Hill returned the fourth to the 31 and Smith took the last kickoff back to the 39. The previous week, the returns went to the 17, 28, 37 and 33.
The kickoff cover team didn’t perform, either. Five of six returns got past the 30. The average of Chandler Anderson and Justin Moore’s seven kicks reached the 13.6. Johnson said it’s a matter of consistency.
“Those guys kill it in practice,” he said.
2. Coaches gave respect to Mike Glennon, N.C. State’s quarterback, particularly for his arm strength. Glennon is running the same offense as Russell Wilson, N.C. State’s quarterback who transferred to Wisconsin over the summer.
“He’s clearly not as mobile as Russell Wilson, but he’s a very talented guy,” Johnson said. “Big, tall kid that can really sling the ball.”
Groh said something similar, that he can’t move within the pocket like Wilson could, “but there’s probably nobody in this conference who’s got a stronger arm than Mike Glennon.”
One way that Groh is distinctive is his clinical manner of speaking about football, which you’ve probably heard or read before. A couple examples from Monday. He said that Wilson’s ability to move in the pocket “tends to distort coverage.” Former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan (you may have heard of him) “demonstrated a unique ability to throw the ball which he is continuing to confirm.”
3. An interesting point that Groh brought up Monday that I’d never thought about until last week, when Johnson mentioned it about North Carolina. Teams that play Tech, because of its ability to hold onto the ball for so long, will run more than they normally do to avoid clock stoppages and to try to keep it longer for themselves.
“We always kind of think that way going in,” Groh said.
4. Tech’s defensive performance was “not as good as we thought,” Sylvester said. Communication, alignment, missed tackles, poor pursuit angles on tackles were three problems. The first two go hand in hand (if not everyone is running the same play, players are going to likely be in the wrong spots before the snap).
Communication was a particular problem, Peters said, when the team got closer to either end and the noise ramped up.
“That’s when we’ve got to make sure we’re all looking for the signal and all making sure we get the calls and know what’s going on,” Peters said.
Of the pursuit angle problems, “That was some of it. A lot of it was just being out of position completely, not doing what you’re supposed to do in the defense,” Sylvester said.
Not exactly a glowing report, but Tech had a pretty good day against the run (with one very large exception, Giovani Bernard’s 55-yard touchdown run), intercepted two passes and improved in third-down percentage.
“We felt like we did a couple of good things, but there’s also a lot of things that can be corrected,” Sylvester said.
5. McCollum gave something of a lukewarm evaluation of the line’s play.
“They did some good things and get they did some things that we’ve got to continue getting better at,” he said.
The areas of improvement are things I’ve heard before – getting better at read keys, playing fast, getting off blocks, “fast and violent” hands, holding the point to keep offensive linemen off of the linebackers.
McCollum added his concern about Glennon.
“We’ve got to find a way to pressure on him,” he said.
Thanks for reading. I’ll have news conference notes up around 1 p.m.
By Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech beat