These are notes from Saturday’s spring practice, which included some scrimmaging.
1. Like last season, Georgia Tech has one senior starter in the secondary. This year, it’s cornerback Rod Sweeting.
Unlike last season, when all four starters were new, the Yellow Jackets have three starters back and a fourth, cornerback Jemea Thomas, who played heavy minutes.
That experience gives secondary coach Charles Kelly and defensive coordinator Al Groh room to advance the backfield this spring. Kelly and cornerback Louis Young both mentioned the same notion of the game slowing down after practice Saturday morning.
“I guess maturing in the defense becomes a little bit easier,” Young said.
Safety Isaiah Johnson “made some checks and did some things [Saturday] that he hadn’t done before,” Kelly said, because he could see the field better and process information more quickly.
Young and Johnson have been working with the first group of five defensive backs – corners Sweeting, Thomas and Young and safeties Johnson and Fred Holton, who is coming back from a torn Achilles suffered last preseason. Chris Milton, Domonique Noble and Jamal Golden played cornerback in the second group with safeties Corey Dennis and Demond Smith.
Saturday, in the first scrimmage action of spring practice, Kelly rotated the corners in each group as they worked against the offense.
“We were better at re-routing receivers, trying to keep taking steps forward at being aggressive,” Kelly said.
2. After going through “thud” drills Friday in the first practice in pads – wrapping up ballcarriers but no tackling to the ground – Tech dedicated some of its practice time Saturday morning to live scrimmaging.
“The ball was on the ground a zillion times,” coach Paul Johnson said. “We played a lot of guys; that’s what’s going to happen. Poor decisions. There was enough to fix on every side to be concerned.”
Johnson said that the offense held the advantage in the first part of the scrimmage and the defense controlled the latter part. Center-quarterback exchanges caused many of the fumbles. In addition to multiple quarterbacks working with different centers, offensive lineman Catlin Alford was also thrown into the mix at center, creating additional unfamiliarity.
Guard Will Jackson was injured in the practice, but Johnson said he didn’t think it was serious.
3. Inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy praised the work of two teammates, fellow inside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days and Holton. Hunt-Days, a redshirt freshman “has been very physical in between the tackles. He had a great day [Saturday], actually. When we called blitz, he hit it hard.”
Holton had the hit of the day, by Nealy’s estimation. B-back Charles Perkins broke outside on a dive play “and Fred came up and just laid the pads on him.”
4. Tech is planning to cancel its final two of four contracted games with BYU, in 2014 and 2017. The teams will still meet for a home-and-home this fall (at Tech) and 2013 (in Provo, Utah). Tech needed to drop a non-conference game in 2014 because it had four scheduled, and by that point the ACC will be playing a nine-game league schedule. In 2017, Tech had BYU, Mississippi and Georgia scheduled but wanted to swap out BYU for a game against an FCS opponent. There will be no penalty for the scheduling change.
5. The team will scrimmage the next two Saturday mornings at the stadium. Both will be open to the public, but start times have not been determined. Tech will complete spring practice with the T-Day game Friday, April 20. A start time has not been announced. … For Tech Beautification Day, the football team and other varsity teams took part in projects on campus. Football players and coaches awoke early to spread pine straw around trees surrounding the Peters Parking Deck. … Former Tech wide receiver and Denver Broncos star Demaryius Thomas visited practice Saturday and chatted with Johnson.
Thanks for reading.
I’ll have more football notes up Tuesday morning.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog