Posted: 2:23 pm Monday, March 24th, 2014
By Ken Sugiura
1. The best athlete on Georgia Tech’s football team might be freshman B-back Travis Custis.
Posed the question recently, defensive linemen Adam Gotsis and Shawn Green both voted for Custis, who enrolled in January after NCAA clearinghouse issues prevented him from enrolling last fall.
“That kid is an animal,” Gotsis said.
The team, which begins spring practice Monday, went through testing such as broad jump, vertical jump and 225-pound bench press. Players also participated in winter conditioning workouts that ended two weeks ago, prior to spring break. Green and Gotsis saw Custis only briefly in pads last August, but he has obviously made an impression since January.
“He’s pretty beastly,” said Green, also noting that Custis has “pretty fast feet.”
The translation of speed, explosiveness and power to the football field is not always a simple transfer. Custis will have plenty to learn in spring practice about the B-back position. But, obviously, having the tools helps. With three-year starter David Sims having graduated, Zach Laskey will start out with the first string and face competition from Broderick Snoddy, who will split between A-back and B-back, Matt Connors and Custis.
2. Green is the only rising senior on the line. Injuries have, to this point, largely defined his career. He redshirted in 2010 and then missed time as a freshman in 2011 because of a broken fibula. He played all 14 games as a sophomore in 2011 as the back-up nose tackle in Tech’s 3-4 defense. However, he played the whole season with a shoulder harness to protect a shoulder injury. The plan was for it to heal without surgery after the season, but soon into 2013 spring practice, he had to have surgery to repair his labrum. He missed time last year because of it, and then missed more time with a sprained medial collateral ligament. As a result, he has not had extensive training time with defensive line coach Mike Pelton.
An injury-free spring, not to mention fall, will be of utmost importance.
“I definitely want to make sure I get my fundamentals back because I missed out on all that fundamental time last year,” Green said. “I didn’t do any spring, I didn’t do any fall, so I just jumped in and went off instinct.”
Green said he’ll need to listen to his body a little more closely.
“I think that’s been my biggest problem, just trying to play through everything, and it just leads up to it getting worse every time,” he said. “I feel like maybe I should say something when it first happens, most definitely.”
Green is the second most experienced interior lineman after returning starter Adam Gotsis. Given that, while both are nose tackles, it’s conceivable both could end up on the field at the same time. Gotsis played some at the “3 technique” defensive tackle spot that Euclid Cummings played last season. A line repeated often by coach Paul Johnson, defensive coordinator Ted Roof and line coach Mike Pelton is the goal to get the four best players on the field.
“The thing about Shawn is, Shawn can be a productive player for us,” Pelton said. “It’s just a matter of him staying healthy. He’s battled injuries here and got back last year and then (suffered) another injury, so I think his deal is just getting his body where he can just get physical, get out and compete on a daily basis. … So hopefully this’ll be the year that he can keep that under wraps.”
3. The defensive line has met on a regular basis leading up to spring practice. One thrust of the time together, Green said, is that “Hey, it’s time. It’s time to play ball. It’s time to get right, do what you’ve got to do in order to be able to play ball.”
One of the biggest questions of spring practice will be the degree to which defensive linemen such as Patrick Gamble, Tyler Stargel, Jimmie Kitchen and Francis Kallon can develop. None played extensively last year, as the gap between them and the starting four was so considerable. Consistency of effort and production will be monitored.
Being in starting roles instead of backing up, “we can’t have guys that are just going to go out there and give us one rep, but be out there for the six reps out of the six plays (of a drive),” Gotsis said. “It’s all about finishing off drives.”
Said Pelton, “The theme of these guys this spring, it’s just going to be consistency. Don’t show me flashes and then two days later, I see it (again). Let’s just build consistency. … You don’t replace Jerry (Attaochu) and Euclid with all that experience, and ‘Too Tall’ (Emmanuel Dieke). You don’t replace that with a couple guys. You’re going to have to do this collectively as a group. It shouldn’t be four guys that’s playing. It should be eight guys trying to get what we need accomplished in this day and time.”