Johnson doles out praise for defense after scrimmage

As I alluded in the story for myajc and Sunday’s paper, when one side of the ball dominates a scrimmage, it means the other side didn’t do so hot.

That was the case Saturday, when coach Paul Johnson described the quarterback play as “horrendous,” said he thought “not much” of the offensive tackles and noted “a lot of places” that didn’t play well. The flipside was that Johnson also said that, with a flurry of turnovers and big plays (“flurry” is my word, not his) the defense “probably played as well as they’ve played since I’ve been here.”

1. For Johnson, for whom “OK” can be a compliment, that was a pretty noteworthy acknowledgement and it clearly means that the return of the Black Watch defense is four months from its return or Tech will struggle to score against Wofford. Take your pick. To that end, some notes from an interview with defensive coordinator Ted Roof (For the record, I was not present for the interview.).

Roof’s initial comments: “I know that we’ve got a lot to work on. I thought we flew around today, and it was more physical than it has been, which is always a plus. We did a good job of getting after the ball. But we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to work on and just got to keep working to get better.”

Certainly, it was just one scrimmage, and it’s entirely possible that next Saturday Roof will be foaming at the mouth over his displeasure with his unit. Regardless, Roof isn’t easily pleased, either.

2. Roof on playing against Tech’s option offense every day in spring practice:

“What this offense does, when you’re defending it, it teaches discipline,” he said. “Because you’ve got to be disciplined in how you approach it and how you defend it. Because if you make a mistake, it’s not like they’re guessing. They’re reading it. If you make a mistake, you pay immediately.”

3. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy was among the leading playmakers Saturday, with a sack of Justin Thomas and later an interception of Thomas that was returned for a touchdown. Nealy is a three-year starter and, at last check, was starting alongside Tyler Marcordes.

“He’s working hard at it,” Roof said of Nealy. “He’s in a different spot now, because he’s a leader now. His role has changed and it’s time for him to step up, and he’s been working to do that. I’m proud of the strides he’s made so far. At the same time, (I) know that there’s a lot more growth there.”

4. Roof also gave praise to safety Isaiah Johnson, who sat out last season rehabilitating his torn ACL.

“He’s a guy that, in the meeting room, he’s sitting there like a freshman wanting to learn, studying everything about his game,” he said. “You want some dividends for that guy because of the way he’s worked.”

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