The winter storm that paralyzed Atlanta and the Southeast this week impacted lives in a multitude of ways. It had a most particular effect on three former Georgia Tech football players – Jay Finch, Robert Godhigh and Will Jackson.
The three are participating in a pre-draft all-star game in Greenville, S.C. that is being played Friday. The snow, however, cancelled practices Wednesday that would have given them precious opportunities to demonstrate their ability to play in a conventional offense before NFL scouts. For pre-draft events like the Senior Bowl and the College All-Star Bowl that Finch, Godhigh and Jackson are playing in, the practice time is more valuable than the game itself as players are given repeated game-speed reps before scouts, often being isolated in one-on-one situations.
But the snow limited the teams to walk-throughs in a hotel conference room on Wednesday. They had one shortened full-pads practice Thursday at Clemson’s indoor facility.
For the three, as Jackson put it, “that are kind of labeled as option players, it’s big for us to show we can get out there and play in other schemes. We were hoping to get more than one practice to get reps and get accustomed to the schemes we’re using this week.”
Finch has been going at center and Jackson, who played both tackle and guard at Tech, at guard. It was suggested to him that he try to work on his snapping to be able to show some versatility, which he said he’ll plan to do in his pre-draft training workouts in Duluth. Jackson said he saw scouts from about half the teams in the league and has gotten good feedback from coaches and scouts.
“The coaches, they told me ‘You’re definitely a good athlete. You’ve got to refine your technique a little more,’” Jackson said.
In the Thursday contact session, Jackson said that Finch looked good and that Godhigh was “making people look silly” in seven-on-seven drills.
Jackson said he felt he had that playing in Tech’s option offense was useful to help him learn different techniques, in that it stresses footwork and flexibility, building blocks to learn a different way of playing. For instance, the Tech offense requires linemen to play downhill and come off the ball going vertically, where the scheme Jackson, Finch and Godhigh are in is more lateral, re-directing defensive linemen along the line of scrimmage and allowing backs to pick holes. He described it as more patient in style.
“Obviously, it’s still physical football, but you’ve got to change your attitude,” he said.
Godhigh has been playing tailback this week. The offensive coordinator for their Nationals team is Richard Moncrief, a former Clemson quarterback who coached at UAB, Alabama State and elsewhere. Moncrief told Jackson that he has actually been to Tech practices and knows Godhigh’s ability well.
“You could tell he was thinking of ways to get (Godhigh) the ball,” Jackson said.
The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 6 p.m. ET. Other participants played in the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Pac-12 and assorted smaller conferences. According to the game’s website, the three will be wearing the jersey numbers they wore at Tech.
Jackson was not feeling nerves Thursday night but rather saw the game as an enjoyable experience, job interview though it might be.
“It’s going to be fun to get out there and compete with guys I’ve never played with or played against,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”