By Ken Sugiura
After going in full pads for the first time Monday, Georgia Tech will undergo another new rigor Tuesday – the first double session.
The Yellow Jackets’ first practice will be at 9 a.m., followed by another practice in the afternoon. Once a rite of the preseason, this will actually be one of just two two-a-days this August, according to coach Paul Johnson's statements on the first day of fall camp. Part of the reason is NCAA rules regarding two-a-days – the two (or three) sessions can’t last more than five hours total, teams can’t practice twice in a day on consecutive days and there must be at least three hours of continuous rest time build into those days.
Johnson touched on the topic last Thursday, noting how two-a-days used to be a staple. Back when freshmen reported first before the entire team, they went through two-a-days by themselves for a few days.
“It used to be you’d have weeks of two-a-days,” he said.
I asked Johnson if something had been lost with the near-disappearance of two-a-days (easy question for someone not taking part in them to ask). He first said that it did require toughness, the all-important attribute.
“But this is probably better for everybody, gives them a little more downtime and more time to replenish,” Johnson said. “You get more done, really. You could get to the end of two-a-days and somebody that missed practice for a week looked like a world-class sprinter because everybody’s legs were gone. You still have to guard against it, but not as much you used to.”
There you have it – Paul Johnson, progressive.
On the o-line
Monday was the first chance I had to speak with offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who provided a typically expansive breakdown about his players.
The first five days were “not as good as I want them to go,” Sewak said. “To be honest, I’m disappointed. I’ve got all the familiar faces, I’ve just got them in different places, so I’ve got to work on that right there. I do see Shaq Mason really improving his game. I’m really proud of Bryan Chamberlain. I’m really excited about what Will Jackson did. Ray (Beno) seems to be working at that (center) position and I think that’s good for us. It’s nice to see Trey Braun. I want to see how he goes as we continue to scrimmage and do what he can do.”
Mason is a returning starter at guard and probably the best lineman on the team, Chamberlain is a redshirt freshman tackle who is filling in for Morgan Bailey as he is out with an unspecified injury, Beno is filling in for Jay Finch at center as he comes back from shoulder surgery, Jackson has moved back out to tackle with Beno at center, and Braun is working with the first group at left guard with Jackson flopped to tackle. Follow that?
Sewak continued, saying that he is “still looking to see what Chase Roberts can do for me, and Nick Brigham.” Both are redshirt freshman tackles. Brigham, as was posted last night, transferred from Maryland for family reasons last year and just learned Monday that he'll be able to play this year without having to sit out.
Sewak was probably the least effusive about those two (he said later that Brigham showed in the spring that he can play and contribute, but just needs to do so consistently, which is entirely reasonable for a redshirt freshman new to the team) and Thomas O’Reilly, who at least for the time being is the backup center. O’Reilly, also a guard, transferred to Tech from Auburn and is eligible to play this year.
“It’s him finding it within himself, to go ahead and turn it up,” Sewak said of O’Reilly.
He was fairly positive about his two incoming freshmen, Chris Griffin and Shamire Devine.
“I thought Chris Griffin did some good stuff early, and then Shamire Devine is a big kid, does a good job at times. He bends real well, he moves real well. He’s willing to work – that’s more than half the battle.”
Devine, from Tri-Cities High, was probably the highest-rated signee from the 2013 class. Sewak said that Devine, who at 6-foot-7, 355 pounds is the biggest player on the roster by far, is having some stamina challenges going snap to snap.
“But when it’s from snap to whistle, he tries to play hard,” he said, noting that Devine is only five practices into his college career. “You can coach him hard and he takes coaching. He wants to get good. That’s more than half the battle.”
Griffin caught Sewak’s attention Monday in the first padded practice when he stood up a defender on a pass rush. Griffin was a standout wrestler in high school, giving him perhaps a better grounding in using leverage.
“He has good core strength. His core’s good,” Sewak said. “He comes in (to the office). He’s asked for extra help. He knows that there’s a chance he might be redshirted, but I think he also wants to play.”
Chamberlain is benefiting from considerable weight loss from last season and giving good effort in practice, Sewak said. He is down to about 285 pounds, a loss of about 12 pounds, and made improvements in the weight room.
“He moves so much better,” he said. “He gets up on (linebackers). He can bend and change direction in spots.”
Braun had a pretty severe ankle injury two years ago that has continued to nag him, but is moving well and may be finally past the injury.
“It used to kill him in the past,” Sewak said.
Defensive players and coaches will be made available to media after the first practiec. I'm keen to speak with line coach Mike Pelton and some of his players. I’ll have a couple posts up around lunchtime.