Archive for October, 2011

5 questions about Clemson


Travis Sawchik of the Charleston Post and Courier was good enough to dig into a few questions I asked him about the team he covers. You can read his Clemson coverage here. Please read on.

1. What has happened in the past few weeks that’s kicked the offense into high gear?

First-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd really began to look comfortable against Auburn in Week 3 and since that point, only Bud Foster’s defense (Va. Tech) has kept Clemson below 35 points.

Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins has really kicked the offense into a different gear since the first game. Not only does he have an elite 40 time, but NFL folks are more impressed with his acceleration, which produces easy separation. He can also high point the ball and has flypaper hands. He’s the complete package. Watkins has taken the top off of defenses, along with fellow freshman Martavis Bryant, allowing tight end Dwayne Allen – a projected top-50 NFL pick – and sophomore receiver …

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Finch out, Ellington won’t start for Clemson

Saturday’s Georgia Tech-Clemson game will be shaped by two considerable injuries. After Thursday practice, Georgia Tech declared center Jay Finch out of the game with a lower-leg injury. Clemson has kept running back Andre Ellington (sprained ankle) as questionable and has said he won’t start. D.J. Howard will start in the place of Ellington, the Tigers’ leading rusher.

Coach Dabo Swinney told the Charleston Post and Courier that Ellington will be a game-time decision.

Nick McRae is the likely starter in Finch’s place.

Both Ellington and Finch sustained their injuries in their teams’ games last Saturday.

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What’s Georgia Tech’s special teams fix?


I am going to write a special teams story for Thursday’s paper as it seems to be a bit of a topic this week. I’ll tell you off the top – I don’t think hiring a special teams coordinator is necessarily the solution.

The flaws are easy to point out. Punter Sean Poole has nailed several booming kicks that have been covered perfectly, like his 52-yarder against Miami that netted 54. But he’s also mishit a bunch. Kickoff specialist David Scully, like Justin Moore before him, have had trouble reaching the goal line. Moore has had a pretty rough year kicking field goals.

I see where it makes sense to say, special teams needs its own coach, someone who can spend all his time on the kickers and punters honing their technique, improving the kickoff return game and telling Zach Laskey not to pick up a bouncing punt inside the 10-yard line. On the ACC teleconference Wednesday, I asked Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe about the pros and cons of having a coach dedicated exclusively …

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Finch likely out for Clemson


First, sorry about the filters. It seemed like they were out of control today. I apologize. Here are the notes. As you may have already read, it doesn’t look good for Jay Finch to play Saturday, which is not good for a couple different reasons. Nothing against Nick McRae, but he’s quicker off the ball than McRae and is just more experienced. Onto the notes.

1. Georgia Tech will most likely be without starting center Jay Finch for its Saturday night game against Clemson. Tech coach Paul Johnson said Finch is “probably out” for the game with a lower-leg injury.

Finch has not practiced this week after sustaining the injury on Tech’s first play from scrimmage in the loss to Miami last Saturday. Nick McRae, who replaced Finch last Saturday, would be his likely replacement.

“He’s played well,” Johnson said of Finch. “I think for the most part, anytime you lose a starter, it’s tough, but it’s like I’ve said before, the next guy’s got to step up.”

McRae, along with guards …

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Finch ‘probably out’ for Clemson

Georgia Tech center Jay Finch will likely miss the Yellow Jackets’ Saturday night game against Clemson with a lower leg injury. Coach Paul Johnson said Finch is “probably out” for the game after Wednesday’s practice.

Finch sustained the injury on Tech’s first play from scrimmage in last week’s loss to Miami. He was replaced by Nick McRae, who will likely be Finch’s replacement again Saturday. It will be no small challenge. One of the Tigers’ defensive tackles, Brandon Thompson, could be the first player at his position taken in the NFL draft.

“I think [Finch's injury] affected them a great deal” in the Miami game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday. “This is a guy that took all the reps, first-team guy all week and all of the sudden you get in there early like that and you lose kind of your key guy.”

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Ball security still challenges Synjyn Days

Have a couple notes from a few interviews Tuesday.

1. Both Paul Johnson and assistant coach Brian Bohannon took questions about backup quarterback Synjyn Days and their answers provided enough evidence to conclude that his ball security problems still require considerable improvement.
“Synjyn has to take care of the football,” Bohannon said. “It has to be of the utmost urgency when he is in the game, to take care of the football.”
I think I included some of this answer in the post Tuesday following Johnson’s news conference, but Johnson said he put Days in late in the loss to Miami to see if he could provide a spark. He got a first down on a pass to wide receiver Tyler Melton and had a quarterback draw that could have been a gainer had it been blocked better and then fumbled.
“That’s been his thing,” Johnson said. “If he takes care of the ball, he’s going to play more. Synjyn, he’s a talented kid. He can do some things, but you’ve got to take care of the ball.”

2. …

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Tevin Washington gets a tune-up


Some notes from post-practice Tuesday. I’ll be back with more Wednesday morning.

1. Georgia Tech coaches are trying to mend what ails quarterback Tevin Washington.

Tech quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said he has been working with Washington on his throwing technique, particularly his follow-through. Washington has been struggling with falling away rather than finishing throws.

After completing 64.3 percent of his passes in the Yellow Jackets’ first four games, Washington has completed 35.3 percent in the past four. He threw a critical interception on Tech’s first play of the game Saturday in the loss to Miami. The Jackets undoubtedly will need Washington to play more proficiently against undefeated Clemson (No. 5 in the BCS standings) Saturday. Bohannon said Washington’s mindset is good, but that “I’m sure there’s a little bit of him pressing. He knows what to do. Play within the offense and execute.”

Coach Paul Johnson defended Washington’s play at …

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Paul Johnson sticks up for Washington


Your Paul Johnson news conference highlights:

1. Clemson is “probably the most talented team we’ve played since I’ve been here at Georgia Tech, at least in this stadium,” Johnson said.

2. He doesn’t think the sky is falling. “As I said last week, I don’t want to put the L’s down until we lose the games, if that’s O.K. with everybody,” said Johnson, in perhaps an unfortunate choice of phrasing. “I’d like to at least play them and see what happens.”

3. Johnson defended quarterback Tevin Washington, saying the offense’s lack of production in recent weeks is not his fault alone. “I think those guys get too much credit and too much blame sometimes. He’s like everyone else: He’s working hard and trying to correct what needs to be corrected.” Johnson said that Washington is not a guy he needs to push, that he’s self-motivated, hard on himself and holds himself accountable for his mistakes.

4. Part of Clemson’s ability to put up a lot of points is due to the numbers of …

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More Paul Johnson on special teams


This is the portion of the interview from coach Paul Johnson’s Monday post-practice media session that dealt with special-teams coaching. I’m not sure how it reads, but I’d say his voice reflected agitation but he was pretty calm throughout. I’m about to head to the Tuesday news conference. I’ll have notes posted about 12:30. Thanks.

On the call for a special-teams coach:

The whole thing is ridiculous. Guys calling for special teams coordinators don’t have any idea. You know how many teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have special teams coordinators that don’t coach another position?

Six. You know who it is in our league? Boston College – which is helping them a lot – and N.C. State. And the Big Ten, it’s Purdue. In the Big 12, it’s Kansas State. I think it’s Coach (Bill) Snyder’s son. Most staffs are set up the same as ours.

Coach (Charles) Kelly is quote-unquote the special teams coordinator, which means he collects and puts things together for the …

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Johnson addresses special teams coaching


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 …

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