Notes from Tuesday.
1. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose oft-unfettered tongue and unwillingness to back down to rival Georgia have earned him the admiration of Tech fans, apologized for a poor choice of words on his radio show Tuesday night.
Near the end of his show, a caller, presumably a Georgia Bulldogs fan, came on the air and said, “Hello? Hello?” and then began barking before either hanging up or being cut off. Johnson responded, “Hello? Hello? He just got off from Walmart.”
Johnson, who earlier in the day had commented how most Georgia fans he encounters are cordial, said, “Anybody who calls into a radio show and barks is either retarded or doesn’t have a life.”
After the show, Johnson said he meant his response as a joke, “but it was a poor choice of words on my part and I sincerely apologize. It was not my intention to offend anyone.”
Advocates for people with mental disabilities have campaigned to stop the use of the word “retard” or “retarded” as a slur, calling it hurtful and dehumanizing.
(Not sure what to say. It was a poor choice of words.)
2. A-back Orwin Smith, who sat out last Saturday’s game with a toe injury, practiced Tuesday and will try to play in Saturday’s game against Georgia.
“I will at least try,” Smith said Tuesday. “The worst that can happen is me going out there and me not being able to play, but I will give it a shot.”
Smith said he ran full speed at practice and “limped around a couple times,” but overall said he felt great. Smith is the Yellow Jackets’ most dangerous playmaker on offense. He averages 10.8 yards per carry and 23.8 yards per reception and has scored 11 touchdowns in 65 offensive touches. He has been receiving a variety of treatments, including hot and cold tubs and ultrasound, to stimulate healing of his turf toe injury, typically a painful malady.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill and A-back Roddy Jones were held out of practice for the second day in a row, but both expected to return to practice Wednesday and play. Guard Will Jackson practiced but was kept out of contact drills.
(The fact that Smith may be hampered is, obviously, noteworthy. Bears watching.)
3. Hal Miller, an All-American offensive tackle and a co-captain of Tech’s 1952 national championship team, died Monday following a short illness. He was 81.
In 1952, Miller helped lead the Jackets to a 12-0 record and a Sugar Bowl win over Mississippi, giving them the titled awarded by the International News Service. Born in Kingsport, Tenn., Miller was enshrined in the Georgia Tech, Georgia and Tennessee sports halls of fame.
The school is working on a tribute to honor both Miller and legendary Georgia play-by-play voice Larry Munson, who died Sunday, at Saturday’s game.
(While it’s sad news, I do hope that both are honored before the game.)
4. Hill is friends with one Georgia player he’ll likely see plenty on Saturday, cornerback Branden Smith. The two hung out last summer, Hill said. They played each other in high school and Hill played basketball and long jumped against another Georgia corner, Brandon Boykin.
“They’re real fast,” Hill said. “Their technique is great, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
5. Defensive coordinator Al Groh on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray:
“He’s certainly as good as we’ve seen. We compare him and his skill level to (Clemson quarterback) Tajh Boyd. He moves very well within the pocket as well as getting out. … He’s always got his feet underneath his shoulders. He re-sets very quickly. He makes a lot of big throws when the rush initially makes him move off his normal throwing spot without leaving the pocket.”
(One thing I appreciate about Groh: No player assessment will ever be, “Kid’s got a rocket for an arm.”)
6. Wide receiver Tyler Melton has been playing his best football the past two or three games, Johnson said. Melton has seven catches in the past three games for 122 yards, including three for 54 yards against Duke. The seven receptions are more than he had in any of his first three seasons and as many receptions as he had in the first eight games of this season. He has also blocked particularly well over that stretch.
Johnson said he’s not making a concerted effort to get Melton the ball, “but when the ball’s gone his way, he’s made a couple of nice catches and come down with it.”
(Melton has shown some nice ability to adjust for passes. I have no idea what his draft stock is, but he’s shown plenty of other skills – namely blocking ability and special teams play. If he can keep up his pass catching, he’ll hopefully get a shot in somebody’s camp. Remember that Kevin Cone – who caught six passes last year – fought his way onto the Falcons practice squad.)
7. Tuesday, Johnson dismissed an Internet report that Mississippi had contacted representatives for Johnson regarding its coaching opening.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “That stuff’s crazy.”
I want to thank the posters who have kept things clean and respectful, for the most part. I was very tempted to not post the notes on the blog, because this seems like a fire waiting to happen, but decided that you deserved a chance to comment on it. If the posts aren’t respectful, however, I’ve got no problem closing commenting, and probably for the rest of the week. Please don’t be the bad apple that spoils it for everyone.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog