1. Coaches did not have an answer regarding whether or not first-year freshman Qua Searcy will have his redshirt removed, but I’d say at the very least it’s a good possibility. Searcy had been training at wide receiver since arriving at Tech in the summer, but was moved to the field cornerback spot just after the Virginia Tech game to see if he could possibly contribute there.
Secondary coach Joe Speed said Tuesday that he had done a good job picking it up and that there was a possibility he could “be in the mix. We’ll just have to see how the game goes and see if he’s needed there. But he’s getting closer each day of practice.”
Chris Milton is the starting field corner – the corner who lines up on the wide side of the field – with Lynn Griffin backing him up. Griffin, you may remember, was slated to be the starter but was suspended for the first two games of the season, setting him back.
2. Free safety Jamal Golden is well aware that neither he nor strong safety Isaiah Johnson have been at their best through four games, particularly in regards to their tackling, but said he felt like they were close to “getting back in the groove.” Both missed considerable time last year – Golden played the first three games before sitting down with shoulder surgery, and Johnson had been out from just before the 2012 Sun Bowl before coming back to practice in the fall, but not playing, as he recovered from a torn ACL.
“They’re going to play better,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “I’m excited about them.”
(I’m writing a more in-depth story about Golden and Johnson for myajc and Saturday’s paper, but that’s the gist of it.)
3. On the topic of stories written for myajc and the paper, I did a Q&A with offensive line coach Mike Sewak that ran earlier this week. I appreciate him for rarely resorting to coach-speak, and as a result, the Q&A is worth a read. This was his answer comparing last year’s line to this year’s:
“These guys are a little bit more athletic, a little bit more attention to detail, a little bit more take personal pride. Even days like today, I just watched some tape with a couple of them. They like to watch tape right after (practice). Some guys have class, some guys have got to go places, so they don’t get to meet (later), so they’ll come in, we’ll watch tape right after practice. So they’re dialed in. They don’t know it all, so they want to learn.”
Something that didn’t make the cut in the Q&A - I asked Sewak who, after guard Shaquille Mason, was grading out the best.
“They’ve been taking turns,” he said. “No one’s really stood up about it.”
He agreed with my assessment that that was both good and bad that different players have graded out second highest, but that none were doing so consistently.
4. Quarterback Justin Thomas is more than 40 percent of the way towards breaking the school record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. Joshua Nesbitt set the record in 2009 in 14 games with 1,037. Thomas has 443 yards. Assuming a 13-game schedule, Thomas would have to average 66.1 yards per game to pass Nesbitt.
5. It would appear that only an injury ahead of him on the depth chart will enable B-back C.J. Leggett to see the field this year. In recent weeks, coaches took a good look at Leggett, the first-year freshman from North Gwinnett High, to see if it would be worthwhile for him to take off his redshirt and play this season, but evidently did not see enough understanding of the offense, or ability to execute it, to warrant it. Leggett started well in preseason camp before injuries set him back. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Leggett will go into the 2015 season, though, as a leading candidate to start at B-back without having played a snap.
On the whole, there will be a good deal of inexperience in the backfield with A-backs B.J. Bostic, Deon Hill, Charles Perkins and Tony Zenon and B-backs Zach Laskey, Synjyn Days and Matt Connors graduating. There will be plenty of opportunity for A-backs Dennis Andrews, Broderick Snoddy, Clinton Lynch and Isaiah Willis along with Leggett and whoever joins them in the signing class.
6. Just in poking around, I found a highlight clip of the 2012 Tech-Miami game. Holy smokes, I’d forgotten how much of a train wreck that game was at the end. Tech was down 19-0 at the end of the first quarter, then scored the next 36 points for a 36-19 lead at the end of the third quarter, then gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter to take the game to overtime, where Miami won it with a 25-yard run by Mike James after Tech came up short on 4th-and-1. Watching it again, that should have at least gotten the first down or a touchdown. The right side of the line missed a block. After the game, Johnson said he was “as disappointed as I think I’ve ever been.”
Those were the last days of the Al Groh regime. Tech was drilled by Middle Tennessee State (which had a freshman quarterback named Tim Byerly on the roster) the next week and then Clemson the week after, leading to Groh’s dismissal. I remember a fan fell off a stadium staircase at the Miami game and out of the stands at the MTSU game. (not the same one, mind you) That was a pretty turbulent run there.
This was from one of the police reports: "(The young man who fell victim to gravity) said that he did not remember what happened and what he did to be sent to the hospital. He said that he remembered walking to the stadium with friends to the game, then after that, he was lying on the ground. (Young man's name again) said that he had a lot to drink and very little to eat."
But, anyway, Miami took it out on Tech again last year, winning 45-30 with three touchdowns in a span of 6:07 in the fourth quarter. Miami set a record for an ACC conference game by averaging 10.4 yards per play. It’s a bit arbitrary, but over the last five quarters plus overtime, Miami is averaging 10.2 yards per play against Tech.
Back to Johnson, though. I was looking at a story I wrote the week following the Miami loss. He said that the team was “this close to being 4-0 (and he held his fingers inches apart) and everybody ranting and raving” but also much farther (he held his arms far apart) “because we haven’t done the little things to make it happen.”
Remind you of anything?
7. The forecast for Saturday, per the Weather Channel. High of 65 in the day with a low of 44 at night. Clear, no percent chance of rain. Sounds pretty ideal.
Tech will wear its standard white uniforms (white jerseys, white pants) along with the white “honeycomb” helmets. For a while, I referred to them as “adjoining hexagonal cells" after, if memory serves, a reader took me to task, pointing out that yellow jackets don’t actually make honey. Hence, the quotation marks around honeycomb.
8. I spoke Tuesday with safety Corey Griffin, who ended up playing significant snaps at safety against Virginia Tech after Demond Smith went out of the game. Roof moved Golden down to nickel back and played Griffin at safety. Anyway, I asked Griffin about how practice went and he said that “everybody was focused, straining.”
“Straining” is a word I’ve heard Roof use repeatedly in the past couple weeks, and I guess he has with the team has as well.
“Oh, yeah, definitely,” Griffin said, “especially after the Georgia Southern game, after the second-half performance. We weren’t really focused as much as we were in the first half.”
I don't typically associate the word with effort; I mostly think about "straining your neck," (which I guess is what Roof is going for, just not with your neck) or what you do with a colander. Dictionary.com has one definition, though, that reads "exert to the utmost." I asked Griffin for his definition.
“Basically, to get after it,” he said, “whether the ball’s on the other side of the field, or 10 yards downfield, you’ve got to get there, someway, somehow.”
9. A rather gracious quote from Miami coach Al Golden about Johnson from this week's ACC teleconference:
"Paul is one of the brightest coaches I've ever been around. To me, he looks at it like a chess game. That guy is checkmate. If you're in there and you're playing eight-, nine-man fronts to stop the option, and he needs that pawn, if you will, on the outside, to make you either pay enough attention to him, or if it you don't pay attention to him, to make him pay.
"He's done a really good job obviously throughout the years in his position and has made it really difficult. Great deal of respect, A, for Paul Johnson, B, for (DeAndre) Smelter and (Micheal) Summers and (Darren) Waller and I think the other young men’s name is (Corey) Dennis and (Ricky) Jeune. All of those guys have length. It makes it difficult down the field."
10. Saturday’s game will be called by Joe Tessitore (play by play), Brock Huard (analyst) and Shannon Spake (sideline). The team handles the ESPN2 prime-time game; the three called the Miami-Duke game last week. I caught the end of it and thought they did a pretty good job.
Huard called Tech’s loss in the Music City Bowl. He also looks vaguely like my college buddy Tim Spolar.
11. You hopefully read last week that ESPN was on campus for its “All-Access” show on ESPNU, a half-hour feature that presents a day in the life. The show was broadcast earlier this week. ESPN picked a pretty good time to be there, days after the Virginia Tech win. (Tech agreed to do it a few weeks ago.) For Tech fans, definitely worth a watch. Link here.