Have some notes from interviews from Wednesday’s practice with coach Paul Johnson, defensive line coach Andy McCollum, punter Sean Poole and defensive end Izaan Cross.
1. Johnson spoke about his decision to break with his philosophy to not have a special-teams coach. He said he began to consider it “maybe midway or three quarters” through the season. (His memory might be a little fuzzy. His enthusiastic defense of his philosophy was after the Miami game, the eighth game of the season. Regardless…)
Johnson: “It wasn’t a situation where I was going to let somebody go to do that, but as the situation (with former co-offensive line coach Todd Spencer resigning) unfolded, we had a chance to do it, and we had a chance at a position to do it,” he said. “I talked to some people who had done it. They said, ‘Hey, I think you’ll like it. Try it.’ There’s very few people that do it. There’s only five or six in the country. It’s new for me, so we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, it’ll be productive.”
I’m not convinced that the way it had been done was the wrong way, per se, as there’s more than one way to do most things. Plenty of schools with good special teams go about it the way Tech had been doing it. Regardless, give Johnson credit for being willing to try a new approach. Ultimately, it’ll come down to how good a special-teams coach David Walkosky is. Simply having a dedicated special-teams coach isn’t going to fix the problem.
I spoke with Walkosky for a good bit on Wednesday for a story for Sunday’s paper. I think you’ll be interested by what he had to say.
2. I’ll hopefully develop some of the information that McCollum shared with me later on for a story, but I’ll give some of it here. Obviously, the line has to replace end Jason Peters and tackle Logan Walls and find a way to become more productive. I’ve heard Johnson say more than once (probably because he’s been asked about the line more than once) that the line has to generate more of a pass rush on its own without blitz pressure. Not always easy to do with three linemen instead of four, but that’s the expectation.
So it’s a big spring for some younger players like ends Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings and tackles T.J. Barnes and Shawn Green. McCollum said that Dieke has “worked his butt off in the offseason and Euclid Cummings has really grown up. … Those two are athletic and have got a chance to really help this team.”
McCollum applauded Barnes’ offseason work and said that Green is working himself into shape. Of Barnes, McCollum said that “T.J. did a lot of good things for us a year ago, had some games he really stood out in, especially the Clemson game. But he’s got to do it every game now. It’s time to become more consistent. It’s time to be able to play longer and he’s got to take it by the throat.”
3. Cross said that he and the other linemen feel that burden to produce. He sounded a little embarrassed and motivated by the small number of sacks that the line produced. (Six)
“You’ve got to do better,” he said. “That’s the constant reminder of us. … Collectively, we feel like we’ve got to come together, and we do feel like we’re going to be a lot better.”
This might be the unit that makes or breaks the Jackets this season.
4. Poole on having a special-teams coach: “Love it. He’s got a great attitude, bringing a new attitude to all aspects of special teams.”
Poole said Walkosky is with the specialists the entire practice, including a roughly 20-minute stretch with strength and conditioning coach Neal Peduzzi. Monday, they were doing bear crawls up the hill at the practice field, which, if you haven’t seen it, is just about at a 45-degree angle. Poole said he likes that practices have more structure.
“He definitely knows his stuff, coaches us up on from the little things to the main big things,” he said. “It’s hard to get into specific detail with it, but the nitty-gritty stuff, he knows what he’s talking about.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog