Quotes and updates from Monday's media availability.
1. Offensive line playing better
Coach Paul Johnson has a good feeling about the offensive line. He said the group is much more athletic than it was a year ago, although there’s not nearly the experience that last year’s line had.
Right tackle Trey Klock and left guard Will Bryan, who both started at the end of the season as freshmen “are better players,” Johnson said. “Freddie (Burden)’s playing better than he did a year ago. Shamire (Devine) has done much better than he did a year ago. I think we’ll be better up there, but you don’t know until you start playing. Maybe we’re not any good on the other side. But I think they’ll be better.”
Johnson’s evaluation of the defensive line was not quite as hopeful.
“Patrick Gamble’s played. (Rod) Chungong’s played. KeShun Freeman’s played,” he said. “I don’t know that they’ll be a whole lot different. You just hope they’re a year older and bigger.”
2. Thomas on the offense
Quarterback Justin Thomas said the offense is running “a lot smoother” than last year.
“Guys are flying around, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
It would stand to reason, given how green A-backs like Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy, Lynn Griffin and J.J. Green and B-backs Marcus Marshall, Marcus Allen and others were last year. It has been an oft-repeated theme of the preseason, that a lot of skill players, as well as offensive linemen, are young, but have playing experience.
“We’re on the same page,” Thomas said of he and wide receiver Ricky Jeune. “We’re working hard and I’ve got a few other guys on the same page with me, too.”
Thomas' thoughts on first-year freshman Jalen Camp: "He's got strong hands and he's a big, physical specimen, so I think he'll be a big contributor as far as this year."
Pass protection, he said, is “down to how it’s supposed to be.”
Not related, but interesting to note. Thomas graduated in the spring and is taking two classes, doing an internship and has an independent study. It would seem a lighter load than he has had previously.
“It’s time to relax and play some football,” he said.
3. Marshall vs. Mills
Quarterbacks and B-backs coach Bryan Cook’s comparison of Marshall and Dedrick Mills.
“I think Dedrick is more the type that’ll look to run through something as hard as he can and just go and go fast,” Cook said. “He might be wrong sometimes when he does that stuff, but he plays very aggressive. Marcus, he sees things, he looks to see things, and he’s got a good burst when he gets in open field.”
Another observation from Cook of Mills, the early-enrollee freshman who appears to have earned a role behind Marshall – “Dedrick is the type of kid, he could goof something up on one play, it’ll take 30 seconds and he’ll be beyond it. He’s a really competitive kid and I think his teammates have grown to appreciate that about him. I’m not worried about him being on a big stage for the first time. I think he’ll do fine.”
4. Movement on offensive line
Freshman offensive lineman Kenny Cooper has been moved to center, backing up Burden. Johnson has said that all three first-year freshman linemen – Parker Braun, Jahaziel Lee and Cooper – could play this season. Going forward, getting time at center would put Cooper in position to replace Burden in 2017. Andrew Marshall, who has been Burden’s backup and is a junior, may stay at tackle, where he has been throughout the preseason.
It appears that Braun – the younger brother of former Tech guard Trey Braun – has moved into the No. 4 guard spot, with Brad Morgan ahead of him and Scott Morgan behind him (and Shamire Devine and Will Bryan at the starting spots). It remains to be seen how much offensive-line coach Mike Sewak will want to use one or more in a rotation. Sewak spoke well of both Brad Morgan and Braun, saying that Morgan has become more adept at recognizing twists (in which one defensive lineman loops around another in hopes of creating confusion) and adjusting accordingly. Braun, Sewak said, “has continued to improve.”
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