Tech notes: Waller’s confidence growing

(Notes for Tuesday’s paper. I realize some of the Darren Waller material has already been posted.)

1. Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller has caught only eight passes this season. The past two may be indicative of where he’s headed.

Waller caught two passes in the ACC Championship game loss to Florida State, the second one a crucial 17-yard reception on a 3rd-and-14 from the Tech 11-yard line on the Yellow Jackets’ final possession. Tech was driving for a go-ahead touchdown, but the drive ended with an interception.

Waller said he gained confidence from the two receptions as well as the trust that quarterback Tevin Washington showed by throwing to him with the game on the line.

“Knowing ‘Tev’ 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.”

Waller, a 6-foot-5, 228-pound sophomore, played on special teams last year as a true freshman. He has started nine games this season.

“What people fail to realize is he had never played wide receiver (at North Cobb High),” wide receivers coach Buzz Preston said. “There’s a lot of nuances, learning curve, that happen out there. Now it’s all starting to make sense. It’s like, ‘Aha! I’ve kind of figured this puzzle out.’”

With the departure of leading receiver Jeff Greene, Waller’s role will likely increase in the Sun Bowl against USC on Dec. 31. He’ll probably be in a rotation with Jeremy Moore and Chris Jackson.

“As long as he keeps the work ethic that he has and the desire to want to improve, I really think he can maybe start to reach (his) potential,” Preston said.

2. Safety Isaiah Johnson did not practice Monday with an undisclosed injury. Coach Paul Johnson was uncertain about a return date, saying the injury was “not good.” Johnson has been among the more improved players since interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly replaced Al Groh after the sixth game of the season. If he can’t play in the Sun Bowl, potential replacements include Jamal Golden, Chris Milton and Demond Smith.

Offensive tackle Ray Beno is expected to return Tuesday from surgery to repair a broken finger.

3. Quarterback Justin Thomas received considerable practice time with the second-string offense through the first six practices, when the workouts were focused more on fundamentals and less on game planning for USC. In the five practices this week, coaches are turning attention to preparing for the Trojans.

Johnson said Thomas, Washington and Vad Lee split snaps equally. Thomas also fared well in the scout-team scrimmage Saturday.

“We only had about 25 or 30 plays,” Johnson said of the scrimmage. “There was some good hitting going on. The defense has a big advantage from a scout standpoint because they see (Tech’s offense) a lot faster at them every day. But it was good.”

4. Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke, B-back David Sims and cornerback Rod Sweeting were among Tech students graduating Saturday. Dieke earned a business administration degree, while Sims and Sweeting majored in management. Both Sims and Sweeting completed their degree work in 3 1/2 years, while Dieke, an early enrollee in 2009, took four.

Sims and Dieke have another year of eligibility remaining. Sims said he plans to cross-register at Georgia State and take education classes to pursue his goal of becoming a college coach.

Former players Brad Jefferson and Jahi Word-Daniels also graduated Saturday.

5. Johnson said that to the best of his knowledge, the team is in good shape academically after final exams. “I guess they’ll let me know if it isn’t,” he said. … Defensive end Izaan Cross said he received an invitation to play in the NFL Players Association all-star game, a pre-draft exposure event. He is waiting on other offers.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

22 comments Add your comment

Masterofpuppets

December 18th, 2012
12:24 am

Unbiased Sometimes

December 18th, 2012
12:44 am

can we please end the “first” bs already?

Masterofpuppets

December 18th, 2012
1:50 am

StPeteWreck

December 18th, 2012
2:24 am

Third….person to reply.

StPeteWreck

December 18th, 2012
2:25 am

A QB competition b/w Justin and Vad gets me excited. So does another spring of convincing myself, ‘certainly we can’t get any worse on d’

Stinger 1

December 18th, 2012
3:44 am

Ken: If Sims “cross registers” at GA State, can he continue to play at GT too?
I hope this is the case because he appears to be the best B back at this point and would be No. 1 next year?

razorjacket

December 18th, 2012
8:35 am

“Sims said he plans to cross-register at Georgia State and take education classes to pursue his goal of becoming a college coach.” Is this approach something that could be promoted more during the recruiting process? A lot of athletes want to go into coaching, so GT can offer this, it may open the door to recruits who might otherwise look elsewhere.

Ken Sugiura

December 18th, 2012
8:56 am

Stinger 1 – yes, he can.

www

December 18th, 2012
9:11 am

any truth to the rumor from the alabama st. article that this guy may be tech’s next defensive coordinator?

http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2012/01/lance_thompson_nick_sabans_pro.html

i especially like the part about him being a good recruiter.

however, leaving a dc position at alabama to be dc at georgia tech seems like wishful thinking on the part of tech fans.

www

December 18th, 2012
9:14 am

scratch that last part. lance thompson is an assistant at alabama, not the dc. that’s kirby smart, of course.

so taking the tech dc job would be a step up for thompson, imo.

www

December 18th, 2012
9:16 am

lance thompson was a volunteer assistant at tech during the national championship season.

“Prior to his first two-year stint at Alabama, Thompson was a part of the Georgia Tech staff for 11 years. During his stay with the Yellow Jackets, Thompson was defensive line coach in 1998; defensive ends coach in 1996 and 1997 and tight ends coach in 1995. Thompson served as Georgia Tech’s recruiting coordinator from 1995-98 and then again in 2001. Prior to serving as an on-field coach for the Yellow Jackets, Thompson held the position of Director of Football Operations at Georgia Tech from 1992-94.

Thompson got his start in coaching in 1988, serving as a graduate assistant for two years at Georgia Tech, followed by two more years as a volunteer assistant in 1990 and 1991″

http://www.utsports.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/thompson_lance00.html

GT Fan

December 18th, 2012
9:17 am

Congrats to the graduates. Now may they all meet their “Mrs Robinson” this Summer!

Isiah Johnson, undisclosed injury, of which PJ says not good news. This = will not play in the Sun Bowl. Love Milton’s speed as IJ’s replacement, IMO. Will be needed vs USC’s 2 speedy WRs.

Sounds like Justin Thomas is picking-up the O fairly well?

Good luck to Waller, et al vs. the Trojans.

bat082994

December 18th, 2012
10:01 am

www, where did you here that rumor at?

www

December 18th, 2012
10:08 am

all i know is what “tech forever” posted on the alabama st article at 12:01:

HEY KEN

Is there any truth the rumbling rumors that CPJ is on the verge of hiring Lance Thompson as our new DC?

http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia-tech-sports/2012/12/17/jackets-dump-alabama-state/

so i don’t have any inside information.

if true, this seems like a great get for tech: a defensive coach with experience working with nick saban AND experience as a defensive coordinator who also has strong ties to georgia tech and can recruit talented players.

if lance thompson isn’t at the top of our list, he should be.

Ice eater 1969

December 18th, 2012
12:05 pm

if he will have an agressive defense, i am for him.

love the idea of working w geogia state for first two -three years on a trak for a coaching degree. last one or two years at the gt coaching specialty program HDBR- (nice build in to stadium ) HDBR = is for hiesman top football player, dodd to football coach, broyles to assistant football coach, and rice top athetic director. HDBR- COUNT ME IN FOR $

Jmonty

December 18th, 2012
12:35 pm

As long as they hire a DC that knows how to stunt, blitz and confuse the other team’s QB, I’ll be happy. I hope that they get rid of the 3-4. I never have been a fan of it. The 4-3 or even base 50 defense would serve the team much better. You can stunt and blitz much easier without demanding so much out of your linemen. Simply put.. You have to have gifted athletes in all 3 DL positions in order for the 3-4 to function that way it needs to. And face it.. GT does not get those 4 and 5 star players begging to play defense for them. My fear is CPJ will keep finding low level DC’s because of his controlling nature. But, I guess we’ll find out.

TechApp fan

December 18th, 2012
1:29 pm

Has Johnson gained any confidence in the pass?

ibidGT

December 18th, 2012
2:39 pm

Nothing to do with CPJ’s confidence to throw the pass. He just simply won’t throw it. Does not matter who the QB is and how ‘confident’ he is in their passing ability.

Ken Sugiura

December 18th, 2012
3:08 pm

i don’t know anything further about the Lance Thompson rumor. I think at this point it’s a one-man search committee, and that one man isn’t saying much. for what it’s worth, he’s making more as a position coach ($375K) than Groh did as a DC ($344K).

TechApp fan

December 18th, 2012
4:15 pm

For Christmas, Johnson needs to get the football-for-dummies book; American Football Passing Patterns by Howie Long and John Czarnecki. Or the one about Long Live the Air Raid!

The option mixed with passing…what a concept!

Pro fan

December 18th, 2012
6:31 pm

@Jmonty…I agree 100%,I dislike the 3-4 also…If GT had the personnel with Groh to run the 3-4 GT would have done well with it.I believe the 4-3 better suits the GT pesonnel .When and if..BIG IF,GT ever gets a top 25 defense,I have no doubt they would be very hard to handle……Add some passing to the nearly unstopable running game and anything that resembles a Defense,Ga.Tech is a top 20 team evey year….PLEASE send the Dallas Cowboys some of those wideouts that the Lions and Broncos have…Have knowledge that the Cowboys are checking out Waller kid.I think he’s a soph but he has a lot of attention from the Pros already.Don’t be surprised if he checks out of GT after next year.Good luck in your bowl GT…

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