The final play of Georgia Tech’s final drive against Florida State in the ACC Championship game likely caused most people to forget the seven plays that preceded it.
However, in those seven plays was a drive-extending catch by Tech wide receiver Darren Waller that may prove to be of value in years to come.
“Knowing (Tevin Washington) can trust me, that’s a great feeling,” Waller said. “Coming a long way, not even starting at the beginning of the year, just trying to fight for opportunities.”
To refresh your memory, Tech took over on its own 15-yard line with 2:17 after Jemea Thomas’ phenomenal interception, down 21-15. On a 3rd-and-14 from the 11, Washington was flushed out of the pocket and rolled right and found Waller by the sideline for a 17-yard gain.
Waller had had only seven career catches prior to that. The biggest were a 63-yard reception from Vad Lee against North Carolina and a 42-yarder earlier in the title game, also from Lee. Both, interestingly, were on the first play of their respective drives.
You could make a pretty simple case that the 17-yarder was the biggest of his career. Waller said it was an option route, with a choice between running a vertical route or sitting down against a cornerback playing deep.
“I was just thinking, I probably want to come back and give ‘Tev’ an option instead of, like, running deep and having to make a catch in traffic,” Waller said. “Me and Tev were on the same page, kept the drive going.”
Going into the Sun Bowl against USC, Waller has eight catches for 162 yards and could have had more had he held onto a few dropped passes. Take out his 63-yard catch against UNC, and Waller’s two-catch, 59-yard effort against FSU produced more yardage than the rest of his season. For Waller, a good day for two big plays.
Waller said the game – and the third-down catch in particular – has given him confidence “knowing I can make plays, knowing I can help, not just being a decoy, knowing I can be an impact-type player in the offense. That’s really going to motivate me going into the offseason.”
The Tech receiver group will lose only Chris Jackson. Waller will be in the mix with Jeff Greene, Anthony Autry and Travin Henry (both coming off rehab), Jeremy Moore and Micheal Summers, who has redshirted this season.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog
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