After four days of practice, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was ready Monday for his team to put the pads on. After starting out in helmets and shorts on Friday and progressing through helmets and shoulder pads Monday, the Yellow Jackets will go with a full-pads practice on Tuesday.
“We’re glad to be in pads (Tuesday),” Johnson said Monday. It was one of five separate comments in his post-practice media session in which he referenced the value of practicing in full pads. Teams are required by NCAA rule to go through a five-day acclimatization period to prepare for the hitting that playing in full gear allows. Tuesday’s practice will be the fifth day.
“Again, with what we do, it’s hard to play in shells,” Johnson said.
Johnson was eager for it also because it will help give him a clearer picture of how ready the incoming freshmen are to contribute this season. One player may thrive in an environment with no hitting, while another may become a playmaker once he is allowed to play full speed with a more physical style. He cited B-back Dedrick Mills, who last year won the starting job in the preseason as a first-year freshman.
“You put the pads on, and you find out he’s pretty hard to tackle,” he said. “Those guys (incoming freshman B-backs Jerry Howard and Jordan-Ponchez Mason) may be the same way.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one. Quarterback Matthew Jordan, A-back Clinton Lynch guard Parker Braun all shared their eagerness to reach the point where they could knock the defense around.
“The defense is always talking their trash,” Lynch said. “I’m excited for it.”
Jordan’s running style thrives on contact. Jordan may be particularly eager, having missed the final two weeks of spring practice with a foot injury that required surgery. He has not had issues with the foot, he said, and Johnson has removed his gold (non-contact) jersey, which means defenders can tackle him in the periods of practice with live hitting.
“You take away a lot of my game not being in pads, so I think being in pads helps me out a lot,” Jordan said.
At a position that requires him to throw himself into the defensive line, Braun said that he and his fellow offensive linemen haven’t been able to do what they’re coached to do through the first four practices.
“It’s all about to go down (Tuesday),” he said. “That’s when we’re going to drop ’em in the grease, and it’s going to be nice.”