Got a little head start today, so I have post-practice notes for you a little earlier. Some news – Paul Johnson was less than thrilled with practice, Jeremiah Attaochu and Daniel Drummond both practiced (only non-contact drills) and A-back Marcus Wright has left the team. And… a Vad Lee update.
1. Linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu and Daniel Drummond both practiced Wednesday, Attaochu for the first time since his leg injury in the Oct. 1 N.C. State game. Drummond took part in his second practice in a row since a leg injury in the same game. Both wore gold jerseys, meaning they were limited to non-contact drills.
“For the defense this time of year, there’s not a lot of contact going on anyway,” coach Paul Johnson said.
Drummond has a better chance of playing than Attaochu, Johnson said.
“He’s got a chance,” Johnson said of Attaochu. “He’s getting better every day.”
2. A-back Marcus Wright has left the team, Johnson said. Wright, who started the season with an injury and then did not get into any games after his return, will take the year as a redshirt and may transfer after his expected graduation in May. Johnson said he hasn’t been with the team for two weeks. As he played as a true freshman in 2008, he would have a year of eligibility remaining. If he graduates, he could be eligible immediately for an FBS-level team.
“He was hurt and he had a hard time coming back from injury,” Johnson said.
In response to a question if the decision was a playing-time issue, Johnson replied, “He wasn’t going to play.” In a meeting between the two, the possibility of a redshirt year and transfer came up.
“It was a deal (where) he was going to redshirt and so there’s no use for him to be out there in a redshirt if he’s not going to play,” Johnson said. “He needs to finish school and we’ll try to help him find a place to go.”
Wright, from San Antonio, played 24 games for Tech with 43 carries for 265 yards.
3. A believer that a team plays how it practices, Johnson said he was concerned that practice has been “kind of lethargic.” He noted that the team has played six games in a row and that players have exams just in advance of fall break.
“It’s kind of the point in the season where you’re just a little bit lethargic and you’ve got to be able to push through it,” he said.
He was hopeful that practice pace would improve Thursday, the final session before the team travels to Charlottesville Friday.
“We need to clean up a lot of stuff,” he said.
4. Provided he’s not needed in an emergency, true freshman quarterback Vad Lee will redshirt this season, Johnson said. B-back David Sims, who converted from quarterback in the spring, takes practice snaps weekly at quarterback in case he’ s needed in a pinch.
“But if you needed a quarterback in the first half of the Virginia game, we wouldn’t hesitate to put Vad in,” Johnson said.
5. Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh played football and graduated from Virginia, was head coach there for nine years and still owns a home in Charlottesville. He declined the opportunity this week to froth or get misty-eyed over the thought of bringing his defense up to Virginia Saturday.
“Another challenge, a chance to win the seventh game of the season,” Groh said of the game’s meaning to him.
Groh isn’t devoid of sentiment. He spoke of his dear feelings for his players and teams and for Cavaliers fans. Saturday, he’ll coach against players he recruited and coached. Virginia coach Mike London was a Groh hire and worked for him for six years. Linebackers coach Vincent Brown played for Groh when both were with the New England Patriots.
London said Wednesday he and Groh had a good relationship when they worked together, and that he respects Groh “because he kind of brought me up through this program.”
Groh’s players, who helped Tech beat Virginia last year in his first game facing the Cavaliers as a Tech coach, don’t harbor much desire to exact revenge for his firing after the 2009 season.
“I think the motivation more comes from them being next on our schedule,” inside linebacker Julian Burnett.
6. Backup guard Shaquille Mason has played limited snaps in place of Will Jackson for the past two games. He has earned co-offensive line coach Mike Sewak’s confidence, but will likely need to refine his technique to gain more playing time. Technique is crucial for Mason because, as a true freshman, Sewak said, “physically, he’s not overwhelming.”
“Coming in as a true freshman, I think he’s having a way better year than I was my redshirt freshman year,” guard Omoregie Uzzi said. “Shaq’s doing great.”
7. Virginia has three Georgia players on the roster, all of whom have arrived since London’s hire. London said he and three assistants – including Brown, a former Meadowcreek High assistant coach – have connections in Georgia.
“There are implications (to Saturday’s game) because of the recruiting part of it because you want to play well,” London said.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Miles Gooch (Towers High) has logged significant special teams time this season. True freshman linebacker D.J. Hill (Newton High) and walk-on Justin Olderman (Marist School) are also on the roster.
8. There typically are two approaches to defending Techs’ spread-option offense, which opposing coaches and players routinely say is difficult to prepare for because of its unconventionality – stick to one scheme and know it well or mix things up and try to confuse the Jackets.
In the first approach, “you may know what you’re doing, but they also know what you’re doing and it’ll be difficult to stay with that,” Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid said. “If you line up in two or three schemes, then now you risk on defense making a major error.”
Reid declined to identify his strategy for Saturday. Reid also called quarterback Tevin Washington “a very poised, outstanding athlete” and said that the Tech passing game “scares you to death.”
Note from my colleague Doug Roberson: Georgia Tech won’t host Georgia until Nov. 26. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t already thinking about the game. Tell us your favorite play in the rivalry, and the AJC will try to track down the players involved and tell you what they remember about that game and what they are doing now. Please send your favorite (just one, please) and why to Doug Roberson to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech beat