Hope you’re well. Some notes, and I’m going home. I’ll have something new up in the morning.
1. After Georgia Tech’s costly special-teams mistakes in Saturday’s loss to Miami, a common gripe resurfaced among fans and media that coach Paul Johnson needs to hire a special-teams coach. The coach was evidently paying attention and called the suggestion “ridiculous.”
Johnson said that most staffs operate the same way as Tech’s, with one assistant in charge of special teams and other coaches assigned to specific units, like the field-goal team. For Tech, secondary coach Charles Kelly oversees special teams and other assistants coach different units. Johnson even did (or had a staffer do) research that found that only six teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have coaches whose sole responsibility is coaching special teams. In the ACC, five teams have special-teams coaches who coach another position group. Four teams, including Tech, do not have a titled special teams coach. Boston College and Wake Forest have dedicated special teams coaches and N.C. State’s special teams coach is also the recruiting coordinator.
“If I was sitting there and evaluating the tape and I’m looking at the schemes and I’m looking at what we’re doing and it’s totally screwed up, then you’ve got problems,” Johnson said. “But you can look at it: We’re doing the same stuff that everybody is.”
Johnson has not been shy about voicing his displeasure with the Yellow Jackets’ special teams, last week calling the kickoff return team “abysmal.”
“Do we have to get better at it? Yeah, you bet,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’m frustrated we’re not better at it because we practice it every day and what we’re doing is sound.”
(It’s interesting to me that Johnson is pretty transparent that he is aware of what is said about his team and him and that it apparently bothers him enough to comment on it. Just about every coach says “I don’t pay attention to what’s said/written,” but I doubt most of them are being honest about it. As far as what he said, it’s a valid point, but there’s more to it. I’ll touch on this later.)
2. With two dispiriting losses after six consecutive wins to start the season, Johnson said the important thing is to keep moving forward.
“I’ve done this for a long time and we’ve played a lot of games, and once in awhile you’re going to have games like this,” he said. “The big thing is, don’t panic, try to find some things to help with the problems you’re having, and keep going. I know what we’re doing will work.”
(Johnson was pretty even keeled last week and is staying on that course this week, evidently. I think it probably stems partly because the team has been giving him effort and is pretty young.)
3. After a critical misplay by punt returner Zach Laskey against Miami, Johnson said coaches will “evaluate [the position] at the end of the week and see how it goes.” Johnson credited Laskey for taking responsibility for the mistake, which led to a Miami touchdown in the second quarter. Johnson said Laskey told him after coming to the sideline that he didn’t know why he tried to field the bouncing punt.
“Zach’s going to be a good player for us,” Johnson said. “Stuff happens.”
(Case in point. He likes Laskey and he’s a true freshman. Re-visiting the error or getting worked up over it isn’t going to help him. I will be very curious to see who returns punts on Saturday, though. I think the fumble shook up Laskey a bit.)
4. The performance of Georgia Tech’s defense on first down was key to the Jackets’ improved performance against the Hurricanes, defensive coordinator Al Groh said. On 18 first-down runs by Miami, the Hurricanes averaged .9 yards per carry, Groh said.
Miami was 5 of 14 on third-down conversions, one of the Jackets’ better rates this season.
“First down is really the controlling down,” Groh said.
(I commend Groh for being willing to comment on Saturday’s game. He chose not to do so last week.)
5. Johnson said he wouldn’t know the severity of center Jay Finch’s lower leg injury “for awhile.” Finch hurt himself on Tech’s first offensive play from scrimmage. He was replaced by Nick McRae.
(My suspicion is that Finch won’t play Saturday. I think his injury was probably overlooked as a factor in the loss. He probably would have been a little more effective neutralizing Miami linebacker Sean Spence, who finished with 10 tackles. I also wrote after the game that quarterback Synjyn Days was tended to on the field. I don’t know for certain, but I think he’ll be available.)
6. Johnson said that the team’s effort against Miami “was probably as good as we’ve had all year.” … Groh indicated that inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy’s start ahead of Daniel Drummond is not necessarily a permanent switch, that he earned it through his performance in practice last week.
(Given Nealy’s speed advantage over Drummond, it wouldn’t surprise me if he started a third consecutive game in order to try to match Clemson’s speed.)
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog