For a story I am working on for myajc and Saturday’s paper, I asked Justin Thomas Monday about the possible implications that the Notre Dame game has on the team’s highest aspirations, namely making the College Football Playoff. I suspect this is more about how the game is viewed externally than internally, as players and coaches typically tend to have blinders towards the bigger picture. But it’s interesting to me, insofar as the Jackets have expressed their objective to get there and this game does matter in that perspective.
At any rate, Thomas answered in a way that I imagine his coaches and fans probably would hope to hear.
“You don’t want to think about the playoffs,” he said. “But you want to make sure that we can finish this game how we’re supposed to finish this one and then just worry about the next week later. The playoffs are going to come no matter what. So you don’t have to really think about it. It’ll show up.”
At the movies
I also asked Thomas if he had seen “Rudy.” He said he had. I asked him how many stars he’d give it.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s been awhile. It’s a classic, though.”
I suspect Thomas may have no idea of the complex that many (all?) Tech fans have about the movie.
Coaches chart “defenders to the ground” – the number of players blocked to the ground. The team goal is to have at least one per play. I learned Monday from A-back Isiah Willis that the A-backs coach Lamar Owens sets a goal for his players to have a 2-to-1 ratio of defenders to the group to “M.O.T.” It stands for man on tackle, and is a tackle made by a defender that a player is assigned to block.
Willis said that the A-backs’ ratio against Tulane was something like 10 or 11 to 2. Despite the runaway score, I would have thought the rate would be lower, mostly because I didn’t notice the A-backs taking out a lot of (or 10) Tulane defenders to the ground. (Then again, the spectrum of things I don't notice is vast.) Willis did have a couple effective double-team blocks with offensive tackles on defensive ends.
The key to getting defenders to the ground, Willis said, is “just keeping your leverage and trusting your path and getting closer to defenders. Sometimes, you throw too soon or something of that nature and you might hit him and he might fall but it’s not the same impact of you going through the guy.”
Maybe no A-back was more effective at going through defenders than Robbie Godhigh, who used his smaller stature, strength, quickness and fearlessness to send defensive backs airborne.
“We all keep working on it, and hopefully we’ll have the same type of results,” Willis said. “But as long as they’re not making a tackle, our job’s getting done.”
The newbie wide receiver
First-year wide receiver Brad Stewart shared the details of a couple of meaningful, if brief, conversations he had in recent weeks. One was in the first quarter of the Tulane game, just prior to his first career catch, a 13-yarder. Stewart said that after Thomas heard the play call from the A-back shuttling in the play, “he looked at me and was like, ‘You ready?’ I was like, ‘Uh, yeah.’”
(For the sake of clarity, the tone of "Uh, yeah" was something like nervous anticipation and not, say, one being woken up from a daydream.)
The play was a single route, Stewart said, designed specifically for the ball to go to one wide receiver. Stewart ran a route slanting in to the middle of the field before bending it to the sideline at about 15 yards. After a pump fake, Thomas delivered the ball for a 13-yard reception.
“I just ran the route to the best of my ability and got open,” he said.
Stewart also recalled how he found out, near the end of the camp portion of preseason, that he would be playing this season and not redshirting. As a meeting broke up, wide receivers coach Buzz Preston broke the news.
“When coach Buzz pulled me aside and told me I was going to be playing this year, it was awesome,” Stewart said. “It just made me want to work even harder. An opportunity like that, it’s one in a dozen. I took it full speed ahead.”
Either Stewart meant “one in a million,” or maybe fortune has a particular way of finding Stewart, or perhaps him finding it. That said, about 1 in 3 members of Stewart’s class have played this year, so maybe he was being generous.