It was everything to put a Georgia Tech fan at ease and perhaps even raise hope. Quarterback Tevin Washington unleashed a pass from about the 40-yard line to the corner of the end zone.
Wide receiver Jeremy Moore outmaneuvered a cornerback and dove headlong. With one outstretched hand, Moore captured the ball and brought it back to his body while touching down inbounds with both feet.
“‘Tev’ put it right there for me to get it,” Moore said. “It was a perfect play — perfect pass, perfect catch.”
The only niggling detail would be that Washington and Moore connected in Monday’s practice at the Brock indoor facility, not at Lane Stadium against Virginia Tech in the season opener Labor Day night. Only the season ahead will reveal how much the Yellow Jackets wide receivers — perhaps the least experienced wide receiver group in FBS — will contribute to the mix.
“This group will develop at its time,” wide receivers coach Buzz Preston said. “I can’t tell you when that’s going to be, but I’m seeing things start to come [together].”
Tech has four returners — Jeff Greene, Chris Jackson, Darren Waller and Moore. As has been noted, none has a single career reception. It’s the result of Tech attempting and completing the third fewest number of passes in FBS last season (82-for-167) and having two departed receivers (Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton) dominate playing time last season. The returnees’ contributions have largely come on special teams.
“You’re always a question mark when you haven’t really proven yourself,” Preston said.
Preston has seen encouraging signs. In the preseason, his group has made plays, both in the passing and running game, which it hadn’t previously. Players have paid more attention to detail. With starting jobs open following Melton’s graduation and Hill’s early departure to the NFL, Preston sees players who are more locked in and hungry because a starting position is within grasp.
“We’re all just competing and pushing each other,” Jackson said.
Coach Paul Johnson said that he doesn’t worry too much about his receivers not having any catches, pointing out that Hill didn’t have many catches in 2010 (15) before breaking through last season. Hill, though, did gain the experience of nine starts in 2010.
“I don’t worry too much about that,” he said.
There is potential. Greene and Waller, both sophomores, have size and can run. At ACC media days in July, Johnson said that Waller had “unlimited ability.” Jackson, a senior, stood out in spring practice and may have the deepest knowledge of the offense in the group. Moore, a junior, has fought injuries but has demonstrated the sort of flash on the practice field that he did Monday. Melton’s scouting report: Smooth stride, natural pass catcher, quickness, speed.
“If he’s healthy, he’ll be the surprise of the year,” Melton said Wednesday from Houston, where he’s training and hoping for a call to join an NFL training camp.
They’re being pushed by freshmen Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Micheal Summers. It appears that Autry has taken the lead in the race to avoid a redshirt.
“Right now, I’d say he’s on the probably-going-to-play bubble,” Johnson said.
The players are well aware of the perception.
“We’re going to keep a smile on our face and go out there and compete, and people are going to be surprised by what we as a receiver group can do,” Jackson said.
Less than three weeks remain before they line up against the Hokies and possibly the best defense in the ACC. Greene and Moore are at the top of the depth chart, though Greene has been out this week with an injury.
Said Waller, “I feel like we’re going to be perfectly fine when the season comes.”
Thanks for reading.
Interview with Paul Johnson from Wednesday practice will go up around 11 a.m.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog