With its first open date since the second week of the season, Georgia Tech is enjoying a slight reprieve. The Yellow Jackets took Monday and Tuesday off to recuperate while coaches hit the road for recruiting visits.
“We were kind of beat up like everybody is, so it was good to get some downtime,” coach Paul Johnson said.
Tech will have five practices to prepare for a Thursday night matchup next week against Clemson. With the extra day — teams usually have four practice days in a normal game week — offensive line coach Mike Sewak said he’ll concentrate Thursday and Friday on pass protection.
For a variety of reasons, that has been a weak spot and could well stand to improve quickly. Clemson ranks sixth in the country in sacks per game at 3.33. Further, given that the Tigers rank 16th in scoring offense (39.8 points per game), Tech needs to be as efficient as possible at turning possessions into points.
While Tech has acquitted itself in sticking to the running game — the Jackets have averaged 449.7 yards of offense in the past three games — Johnson has said he would like to throw more if the protection were better. After playing with a 76/24 run/pass ratio in the first six games, with inconsistent results with the pass, Tech has tilted to 88/12 in the past three. Tech’s 45.4 pass completion percentage, second to last in FBS, reflects the pressure that quarterback Vad Lee has been under.
“Clearly, we have a hard time protecting,” Johnson said Monday.
Sewak said this week’s work will include time spent on pass-blocking technique and practicing protection in confined spaces.
The addition of left guard Trey Braun and right tackle Chase Roberts to the lineup because of injuries has provided a challenge, as both are not as experienced at pass blocking as at run blocking. It doesn’t help, either, that Tech’s lack of depth on the line and a desire to keep players fresh as the season nears the end prevent the line from doing more full-speed work in practice.
Team honors: A-back Robert Godhigh and wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu and B-back Matt Connors were named the co-offensive, defensive and special-teams players of the week, respectively, for their roles in Tech’s 21-10 win over Pittsburgh.
Godhigh gained 89 yards on six carries and scored two touchdowns while Smelter caught three passes for 64 yards, including a crucial 42-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Attaochu continued his torrid play of late with two sacks and an additional tackle for loss.
On Monday, cornerback Jemea Thomas was named the ACC defensive back of the week for the second week in a row for his six solo tackles, pass breakup and interception.
Injury report: Offensive tackle Ray Beno, who has missed the past four games with a foot injury, returned to practice Wednesday, but Johnson was guarded in his optimism that he’ll be able to stay healthy to play against Clemson. Johnson said he thought nose tackle Shawn Green, who has also been out with a leg injury, will play.
Defensive back Lynn Griffin (head), who did not play against Pittsburgh, returned Wednesday. Safety Domonique Noble, who left the Pitt game with an undisclosed injury, was held out of Wednesday’s practice and may remain so the rest of the week. Johnson was not optimistic that offensive tackle Morgan Bailey (undisclosed) will return for Clemson.
Good words: Tech athletes are taking time this week to thank donors to the athletic department with phone calls and letters. More than 200 varsity athletes are expected to take part in the activity, led by women’s basketball player Shayla Bivins, who is president of the Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
Several football players, including Isaiah Johnson, Deon Hill, Adam Gotsis, Attaochu, Godhigh and Lee have taken part.
Etc.: Johnson on whether the team will practice with loudspeakers to prepare for the noise level at Clemson’s Death Valley: “I’ve never been one to go turn on live music and do that. Then you can’t hear yourself coach. We’ve played there before. We know what it is.” … The team is scheduled to practice Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday before playing Clemson. Johnson may schedule additional practice time over the weekend if he is not satisfied by Thursday and Friday’s sessions.