Joe Hamilton left the Georgia Tech football staff about a year and a half ago. Still, the Yellow Jackets great and college football hall of famer may have a small influence on the Jackets’ upcoming season, and perhaps the one to follow.
After almost three years on Tech’s recruiting staff, Hamilton began a career as a private quarterback coach. One of his clients this summer was Tech’s Matthew Jordan.
“I like where his confidence is at,” Hamilton said of Jordan. “I like where his head is at.”
Both estimated that they met about five times in Tech’s indoor practice facility as Jordan was rehabilitating his right foot, which was surgically repaired after an injury suffered halfway through spring practice. Jordan had gotten to know Hamilton while he was in Tech’s employ and sought him out to get ready for the preseason. By NCAA rule, coaches are not able to conduct on-field coaching from the end of spring practice until the start of preseason practice.
Jordan had said in the spring that he needed to not have “happy feet” in the pocket. Jordan, who said he was cleared to practice in early July, said he worked on that a lot with Hamilton.
“It’s just pocket movement drills, things like that,” Jordan said. “Like you’ve got a defender in the pocket and you’ve got to move and set.”
Hamilton was often the one providing a simulated pass rush to Jordan, who threw in one session to A-back Qua Searcy and in another to wide receiver Brad Stewart. Hamilton caught for Jordan in the others.
“I made sure I put a little pressure on him to move him around and not throw off balance, make sure he takes that time, that extra second, even though he’s under pressure, to get his body under him and set his feet,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said that the work was pointed toward “making sure body mechanics are fluid, everything is toward the target, steady head, steady eyes.”
Jordan’s passing accuracy might be the biggest question mark about him as he seeks to be Thomas’ successor, particularly now that he has returned from the foot injury. He is a physical runner, as evidenced by coach Paul Johnson often subbing him in for Justin Thomas last season when the Jackets were on the goal line. Johnson has spoken to Jordan’s knowledge of the offense and the respect that teammates have for him. But, while only a small sample, he has completed eight of 18 career passes, including 3-for-9 last season.
He is entirely capable. Against Vanderbilt last September, he zipped a tight spiral to A-back Clinton Lynch that traveled 26 yards downfield and resulted in a 77-yard catch-and-run touchdown. In his only start, the 30-20 upset at Virginia Tech last November, the right-handed Jordan rolled left and fired on target to Stewart on the sideline for a 10-yard gain. Other throws against Virginia Tech – in which he was 2-for-7 – were thrown off his back foot or without his feet and body set. (The other completion was under heavy pressure, a wobbler to wide receiver Ricky Jeune for a 24-yard gain on a 3rd-and-14.)
“I’ve got full confidence in my arm,” Jordan said. “No problems with me.”
Hamilton, who conferred with quarterbacks coach Craig Candeto to make sure he would echo Candeto’s coaching, said he also challenged Jordan to take full advantage of passing drills in practice, do extra work with his receivers and backs and seize the opportunities that the offense provides.
“We talked about it a lot, that in this offense, when opportunities present themselves, they present themselves big, and you don’t want to miss them,” Hamilton said. “You definitely don’t want to miss them because of your balance and body control.”
Hamilton left Tech in February 2016 after working for three years in the recruiting department out of a desire to return to the practice field. NCAA rules permit only the head coach, nine assistants and graduate assistants to take part in on-field coaching. Working for the company QB Country, Hamilton has tutored quarterbacks from middle school to college. He worked with Thomas prior to his pro day at Tech.
Hamilton said that he is having a blast, that he has found that it his purpose “to do this, to give back all these things I got while I was playing ball.”
Despite the enjoyment he’s receiving from his work, Hamilton said he misses being at Tech, and his fondness for the school and team remains. This fall, he could see his work paying off for his alma mater.
Said Hamilton of Jordan, “I’m excited about his future this season.”