By eligibility, Georgia Tech center Jay Finch is a junior, and the opponent he’ll line up against Saturday, BYU nose tackle Romney Fuga, is a senior. So they’re a year apart in age, right?
Not quite. Finch turned 21 in January. The BYU media guide doesn’t list players’ birthdates, but Fuga’s first season at BYU was in 2006. He is an example of the age advantage that the Cougars typically have because several players leave school for two seasons to serve missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without losing years of eligibility.
“It makes a big difference,” said Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who coached against BYU when he was an assistant at Hawaii. “If you imagine (redshirt senior guard) Omoregie Uzzi still having two more years, that’s what it is. It’s guys that are bigger, more mature, their bodies have already gone through the adolescent stage and they’ve gotten themselves up in there.”
Said coach Paul Johnson, who coached with Sewak at Hawaii, “They’ll pass the look test, I promise you.”
Fuga, who was named after his father, who was named after a Mormon church leader related to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has had an extra year because he received a medical redshirt after tearing his ACL in 2010. He played for BYU in 2006 then went on a mission to Madagascar. He is the anchor of the Cougars’ 3-4 defense, ranked No. 4 in the country in total defense.
Finch, who was a high school sophomore in 2006, is OK with it. He saw matching up with Fuga (who is 6-foot-2 and 318 pounds) as an opportunity to prove himself against bigger players.
“It’s just preparing for competition to the best of your ability, and that’s all you can hope to do, regardless of if he’s 26 or 21,” said Finch, who is 6-3 and 285 pounds.
2. Johnson gave the team a break Tuesday with a practice in shells — shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. Typically, Tuesday practices are conducted in full pads and are full contact. Johnson also has shortened the length of the practices as the season has gone on.
“I think (players needed the break),” A-back Orwin Smith said. “I felt like I did.”
Smith said players responded with a more energetic practice than usual. Finch called it “an astronomical difference” between practice in shells and full pads. The linemen, for instance, don’t go to the ground to practice blocks.
“It was a nice surprise,” Finch said.
3. At his Tuesday news conference, Johnson said that there was no specific plan to play backup quarterback Vad Lee on Saturday, but that he wants to see the week’s practice before deciding on a plan.
Johnson said that his potential is obvious, but that he needs to work on his reads. Still, “he’s an exciting player and he kind of gives you a boost when he gets out there,” he said.
4. Johnson said that A-back Synjyn Days’ playing time was limited Saturday against Boston College because “he and I weren’t on the same page.” Johnson didn’t go into detail, but suggested it was an off-the-field matter relating to Days’ accountability. Days has played a backup role this season at A-back since moving from quarterback.
“He’s practicing better, and if he has a good week of practice this week, he’ll play some,” Johnson said.
5. Offensive tackle Will Jackson and quarterback Tevin Washington were among those not practicing Tuesday. Jackson, who suffered a shoulder injury Saturday, was in a sling. Washington was resting bumps and bruises and is expected to return to practice Wednesday. … A-back B.J. Bostic, safety Isaiah Johnson and long snapper Tyler Morgan were named the players of the week for their roles in the win over Boston College. Bostic ran five times for 28 yards and made clutch catches of 39 and 27 yards that both converted third downs. Johnson tied for the team lead in tackles with four and forced a fumble that the Jackets recovered. Morgan made 11 mistake-free long snaps.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog