Notes from Paul Johnson’s Tuesday news conference:
1. One of Johnson’s messages to players this week is that they haven’t played well at home since the Miami game. Georgia Tech is 3-3 at home this season. The last time that the Jackets had a home losing record was 1994, a season I’ve seemed to reference a lot this year with “first time since” statistics. (Tech was 1-5 that season, Bill Lewis’ last.)
2. Offensive tackle Will Jackson (shoulder) is likely to be doubtful for Saturday. This would be the fourth game in a row that he would miss.
3. Johnson said that quarterback Vad Lee didn’t grade out well but still made a lot of plays.
“He’s got some ability in that sometimes when he misses a read, he can follow it and still turn it into a positive play,” Johnson said. “Overall, you had to be happy with the way he played. He had a ton of big plays and brought a lot of energy and did those things and I think he’s coming (along) great. He’s still a redshirt freshman.”
4. Asked to compare Lee and Joshua Nesbitt, Johnson noted that Nesbitt was “more of a grinder, I think. He’s the guy that, if it’s 3rd-and-1, you wanted the ball in his hands. He’s going to get it.” He then kind of backtracked, saying that it’s a hard comparison to make, given that Lee has basically only played two games.
5. Johnson said the offensive line is showing better effort and coming off the ball lower and harder than it had previously.
“When you do that, good things happen,” he said.
Tech put 100 defenders to the ground Saturday on 79 plays, a week after getting 80 to the ground against Maryland on 60 plays. Those are the highest numbers of Johnson’s tenure.
Offensive line coach Mike Sewak said that the numbers had been around 40-50 earlier this season. Averaging one knockdown block per play is typically indicative of a good blocking game. A-back Robbie Godhigh had 13 alone.
6. Johnson said he didn’t know why the team had played with the energy and focus it had the past two games. He has been trying all season to find the right button to push.
“Clearly, something’s happened the last two,” he said. “We’ll see if it can continue. We’ve done better that way. You never know what it is. It might not be anything I said or did. It might be something somebody else said or did. You just don’t know. If you knew, you’d never have a problem.”
7. Johnson said in the North Carolina game, the offense made a lot of mistakes and missed opportunities, despite accounting for 62 of the 68 points. He isn’t worried about the team getting satisfied with itself.
“You want to have a standard such that, you point out all the things that you missed even though we scored on a possession, we should have scored maybe two or three plays before,” he said.
8. On A-back Orwin Smith: “I think he’s had a great career. Unless something crazy happens, he’s probably going to leave as the all-time leader in the ACC as yards per carry. He’s going to be in the record books at Georgia Tech, played on a championship team. He’s had a great career.”
9. On the 12 seniors playing their final home game Saturday: “Anytime you spend four or five years coaching guys, you become close to them and you want to see them be successful. And this group, a lot of them have graduated already. I think all of them will graduate. You hope that they’ll be successful outside of football.”
They are: nose tackle T.J. Barnes, defensive end Izaan Cross, wide receiver Chris Jackson, offensive lineman Nick McRae, long snapper Tyler Morgan, outside linebacker Malcolm Munroe, kicker Chris Tanner, A-back Jamal Paige, cornerback Rod Sweeting, guard Omoregie Uzzi, quarterback Tevin Washington and Smith
Johnson noted that, as typically happens, a junior or two who don’t receive much playing time but will graduate before next fall probably won’t return, either to take jobs or to transfer and gain immediate playing time elsewhere. B-back Richard Watson (Albany State) and A-back Marcus Wright (University of the Incarnate Word) did that last year. There’s a third I’m forgetting, I think.
10. Johnson on the redshirting freshmen:
“Pat Gamble has had a really good year. He’s been on the scout team. I think he’s going to be really good. He’s probably about 265, 270 now, 6-5. Francis Kallon has played on the scout team all year, plays with great effort. He’s probably the rawest of the bunch. Spring’s going to be big for him. Rod Chungong’s going to be a good player. He’s put on about 25 pounds. Those are the three defensive linemen up front.
“Beau Hankins and Tyler Stargel play linebacker. I’m really excited about them. I think both of them have got a bright future. And Lynn Griffin in the secondary is another guy. Had Lynn not gotten hurt earlier in the year, he’d be playing this year. He’ll have a chance to really compete. If you get he and Fred Holton back out there in the spring, those two guys will give the safeties all they want for staying on the field.”
On the offensive redshirts:
“We had three freshman wide receivers. Two of them have had knee surgery. (Anthony) Autry was playing. Travin (Henry) got hurt, just fluke, just running. I mean, there was nobody running (near him). So they’re both rehabbing. Michael Summers, we decided to redshirt. We really wrestled with (that decision). He’s going to be a good player, I think. We’re excited about him.
“(Quarterback) Justin (Thomas) is playing on scout team some and he comes and plays with the varsity some. We try to keep him up there at least one day a week and let him run with the varsity so that come spring he’s going to be ready to compete. (Lineman) Chase Roberts is over there on the scout team, (lineman) Freddie Burden, (A-back) Dennis Andrews. There’s a pretty good nucleus of guys that we’re redshirting that we feel good about.”
B-back Marcus Allen may switch to linebacker, Johnson said. The decision will come after the season or before the spring.
11. Johnson said that Washington handled Lee playing the rest of the North Carolina game in a positive way. Johnson called him “the consummate team guy.” Johnson noted Tech’s first play from scrimmage, when Washington hit Smith for a 39-yard pass under heavy pass pressure, and then Washington’s 25-yard option run for a touchdown to finish the opening drive.
12. Johnson spent some time talking about Lee, in particular his response to the interception returned for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Johnson said that pulling Lee at that point was not an option and would be “the worst thing you could have done. I mean, he’s got to go back out there and right the ship. And that’s what he did. He got back out there and drove the team down. That’ll probably help his development more than anything you could ever say or do.”
In case you missed it…
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog