Some highlights from Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson's Tuesday news conference.
1. Johnson and Wofford coach Mike Ayers have known each other several years, going back to when Ayers was a defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State and Johnson was just getting started in the mid-80’s at Georgia Southern. Wofford also runs an offense that uses a lot of triple option.
They faced each other annually when Johnson was at Georgia Southern and both were in the Southern Conference. (This is Southern’s first year out of the SoCon).
2. What Johnson is looking for on Saturday:
“I think anytime you have guys who haven’t played a lot, that’s always an unknown individually, how they’re going to react, what they’re going to do, and we certainly have a bunch of that,” Johnson said.
In the two-deep released Tuesday, there are nine players who have never played a single college snap.
Also, “How well are you going to hold up defensively? Offensively, are you going to take care of the ball? Are we going to be able to get the ball to our wide receivers? I feel like we’ve got a couple pretty good players at that position. The special teams. All of it.”
I should say I’ve heard good things about the receivers through camp, but have not devoted a great deal of space to it. It sounds like DeAndre Smelter has taken another step forward, and both Darren Waller and Micheal Summers have had good camps, also.
3. Johnson compared quarterback Justin Thomas to Lamar Owens, the A-backs coach and one of his quarterbacks at Navy, and Greg Hill, who played at Southern. Hill led the Eagles to back-to-back title-game appearances, winning in 1999. Owens broke four school records for total offense, passing yards per attempt and completions.
“Greg was really quick. Lamar was more quick than fast,” he said. “Greg was really fast, too. I think Justin’s a little bit of both.”
He also made the comparison again between No. 2 quarterback Tim Byerly and Joshua Nesbitt.
“Very tough, hard-nosed, not afraid to put his head down and get a yard when you need it,” Johnson said.
4. Johnson said that safety Isaiah Johnson’s return from an ACL tear suffered in Dec. 2012 “just gives a lot of stability; he’s played a lot of football. He’s probably going to be rusty a little bit early in the year, because he missed a year playing, but you can’t substitute all the things he’s seen and all the experience he has back there.”
5. Nose tackle Shawn Green and A-back Charles Perkins “both could have great seasons if they stay healthy,” Johnson said. He added of Perkins, “I think he’s back to his old self a little bit.” I think a critical element of Perkins’ play this camp has been his dropping down to 205 pounds from about 220 last season as he made the switch from B-back and came back from shoulder surgery.
6. Johnson on the option work the team has done this preseason: “I feel good about where we are. We’ll see when we start to play other teams. But I think we’re way better at it than we were a year ago.”
(I’m working on a story on this topic for later in the week. It could be a critical element of the team’s success.)
7. Johnson on freshman defensive end KeShun Freeman: “Is he going to come out and be Derrick Morgan year one as a freshman? I don’t think you can expect him to do that. He’s going to make some mistakes, but I think he’ll also make some plays. And the thing I’m saying, when he makes a mistake, he takes it to heart. It bothers him. He wants to be right. And usually those guys that are accountable like that end up being pretty good.”
Johnson also said that Freeman is ahead of where Jeremiah Attaochu was at the same stage, although Freeman is older (he’ll turn 19 in November; Attaochu turned 18 in January after his freshman season. That is pretty remarkable when you think about it. He had teammates and opponents who were four and five years older than him when he was a freshman in 2010.) and also was an early enrollee.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him,” Johnson said.