Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller met with reporters and provided some excellent insights to the team’s summer workouts. Forthwith…
1. Waller has been working on a list of skills that receivers coach Buzz Preston and coach Paul Johnson gave him. Among them are getting off of press coverage and route running, which encompasses knowing his route depths and running them more smoothly. A lot of it is individual work, working with a dummy or running routes using cones. He’s also worked with the cornerbacks and quarterback Tevin Washington.
Of Washington, Waller said that “he knows more about receiver drills just because he’s been here five years and knows what I can work on.”
Thus far, he said he feels “a whole lot smoother” because of his work and his experience in the offense.
2. A lesson learned from his freshman season: “You’ve got to be physical with whatever you do. That’ something I really learned last year.”
3. Waller added his praise for special teams coach Dave Walkosky, noting his intensity, knowledge and ability to connect with the players.
“He came in and said he wants us to be the top in every special teams category,” Waller said. “He thinks we have the talent and the people here to get what needs to be done done. That’s why we love him.”
Waller likes special-teams play, he said, “because it’s like the hungriest players are on special teams, you could say. People that may not get as many reps on offense or defense, but it’s their time on that kickoff. They’re going down to knock somebody’s helmet off.”
4. Naturally, Waller feels better about going into fall camp this year because of his level of knowledge of the offense. Last August, he said, the adjustment to playing wide receiver (he mostly played defense at North Cobb High) and learning the college game slowed him down.
“I just feel more comfortable,” he said. “I know what I’m doing. I’m not going to have anything thrown at me, like any change-ups. … I feel like I’ve worked real hard for this season. I feel like I can help the team in a really big way.”
Last season, he said, he tried to count the steps in his routes so he’d know when to come out of them. “Now, it’s just like I can sit out there and I’ll know where 16 (yards) is just by looking down the field and I can just feel it out there.”
5. Waller likes that not many people know much about him, having played behind Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton and not having made any catches last season.
“I just feel like me being under the radar has kept me more hungry,” he said.
That said, Waller is confident in his potential. He has watched video of former Tech receivers like Hill, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, seeing how they used their physical advantages against defensive backs, and “just knowing that I have so many similar gifts that they have, I feel like I can have a similar impact on defenses that they have,” he said.
6. He gave his approval to new strength and conditioning coach John Sisk, particularly for how he has kept the workouts varied.
“I feel like every week we’ve grown because the running hasn’t always been the same and the lifting is just new things that we just didn’t do with Coach (Neal) Peduzzi,” he said.
7. Waller said he misses playing defense, particularly the hitting, but that he loves playing receiver. He went along with the move to wide receiver going into last season because it would get him on the field more quickly.
8. In his first seven-on-seven appearance last week, freshman quarterback Justin Thomas was as impressive as any player on the field, Waller said. He threw on-the-money back-shoulder fades and threw slants so hard that his hands hurt, Waller said.
“He’s got good zip, accuracy, the footwork’s there, too,” he said. “But Tevin’s just been comfortable in the offense. He’s got more pop on his throws.”
Waller said that he has been in Washington’s workout group this summer and has made considerable strength gains. “I feel like that’s made him more confident,” he said. “He carries himself different out there. It’s really cool.”
A-back Tony Zenon has shown well, also, working out of the slot often.
“He’s been, like, literally shaking people’s shoes off in seven-on-seven,” Waller said.
Incoming wide receivers Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Micheal Summers are looking good.
“It’s just cool to see young guys coming in and getting their opportunities in the same spot you were last year,” he said.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog