Georgia Tech practiced Tuesday with a revived vigor, according to two of the team’s captains. Getting trounced by Middle Tennessee State will apparently do that to a team.
“I think they’re kind of excited to get back out on Saturday and prove to the world that we’re not the team that we showed last Saturday,” said guard Omoregie Uzzi, named a captain last week.
After back-to-back losses, each discouraging in its own way, the Yellow Jackets face a trip to No. 15 Clemson Saturday. Tech faces a turning point. If the Jackets lose, they will have their second three-game losing streak in three seasons and will go into the bye week with unresolved frustration and disappointment. With a win, the Jackets can restore their pride and look upon the second half of the season with hope to build on the momentum. How the team’s leadership responds this week and Saturday will go far in determining the game’s outcome.
“I think we got all (the motivation) we needed last week,” said quarterback Tevin Washington, another captain. “I think the best thing for us is just to go out and play hard and keep that taste in our mouth and I think we’ll get better results.”
When asked to name their favorite captains from their Tech careers, they both chose former defensive tackle Darryl Richard (2008), quarterback Joshua Nesbitt (2009-10) and A-back Roddy Jones (2011). Uzzi also picked safety Morgan Burnett, a 2009 captain. Further, they both saw the three players as quiet leaders.
“They weren’t really outspoken guys, but most of the time they’d lead by example and try to do the right thing, on and off the field,” Washington said.
Uzzi and Washington both fit the same mold, as does the third captain, defensive end Izaan Cross. While Uzzi might be the most given of the three to speaking up, all three are often cited by teammates for their dedication and not for grand oratories. Their response to the team’s slide perhaps reflects their style. With the team sliding, they and the team’s other seniors met to make sure that a message of accountability was being heard. Rather than a team-wide meeting, different seniors spoke with teammates in their position groups.
“Make sure that they’re playing at the level that you want them to play at, and also that you want to play at,” Uzzi said. “Don’t slack this week. We can’t cut anybody any slack. It’s that simple.”
It is a message that started at the top.
“You need some leadership, but the first thing you’ve got to do, everybody’s got to be accountable,” coach Paul Johnson said. “From coaches to players to whatever, you’ve got to do your job and people have got to be able to depend on (you) doing what you’re supposed to do.”
That ownership extends down to redshirting freshmen and scout-team players, Johnson said, making a pointed comment about a team whose enthusiasm was lacking against the Blue Raiders.
“They’ve got to take ownership in the team,” he said. “There’s got to be some energy on that sideline. Just because you’re not playing doesn’t mean you stand over there like a corpse.”
The captains and the other seniors, though, have as few as seven games remaining. The will to play with start-to-finish urgency will have to start from them. Uzzi, who has lived through five seasons’ worth of highs and lows at Tech, knows their fate if they don’t.
“From time to time, if we come out and lay an egg, that’s what we’re going to be defined as,” Uzzi said.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog