As Georgia Tech progresses to the season opener, I thought it might be interesting to chart the Yellow Jackets’ preparations through two (perhaps dubious) points of evaluation – Paul Johnson’s post-practice impressions and a play of the day (as well as additional commentary from Johnson or another coach or player). As Tech provides media availability Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, reports will be available only following those days’ practices.
Day 12, Aug. 11
Johnson: “I thought it went O.K. The two-a-days, we got out there early and I thought the enthusiasm was pretty good, actually.”
Play of the day (courtesy of A-back Tony Zenon): Wide receiver Darren Waller elevated to catch a pass in the back of the end zone in a seven-on-seven drill from quarterback Tim Byerly. Zenon estimated the pass to be from about the 20-yard line. Said Zenon, “I just like seeing him going up and catching the ball because I feel like he should be unguardable.”
Day 10, Aug. 9 (first scrimmage)
Johnson: “Well, there was some good and bad, like all of them. I’d think the best part is I don’t think we got anybody hurt seriously.”
Play of the day: After faking an option pitch, quarterback Tim Byerly raced 50 yards for a touchdown, using a downfield block from wide receiver DeAndre Smelter. Said Byerly, “We were trying to get the ball outside on the perimeter some, the line did a great job of opening up a hole on the outside, (there was) good perimeter blocking, and that equals a good play.”
Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy on the first 10 days of practice: “I feel like guys are straining more, trying to work on the little things to make the big things happen. I think overall, we’re working in the right direction. We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re working.
Day 7, Aug. 6
Johnson: “Hot as (heck).” “I thought the energy was good.”
Play of the day (courtesy of the Tech sports information office): Cornerback Chris Milton intercepted a pass by jumping a route and took it back for a touchdown.
Wednesday was Tech’s first of three double sessions, with two more next week. Johnson on guard Shamire Devine’s weight: “I don’t know. He’s big.” Johnson said that freshman offensive tackles Trey Klock and Jake Stickler have worked with the second team. He said both are in the mix to possibly start at right tackle.
Day 6, Aug. 5
Johnson: “It dragged a little bit today, honestly.”
Play(s) of the day (courtesy of the Tech sports information office): In 7-on-7 drills, “sophomore QB Justin Thomas found senior A-back Tony Zenon and senior WR DeAndre Smelter with a pair of deep balls, while junior QB Tim Byerly and senior A-back Deon Hill connected deep down the left sideline.”
Linebackers coach Andy McCollum on Paul (P.J.) Davis: “Just really good right now, way ahead of where he was a year ago as far as knowledge of the game, as far as understanding defenses, as far as being able to communicate a little better. P.J.’s got a tremendous motor, tremendous knack, knows the game.”
Day 5, Aug. 4 (first day in full pads)
Johnson: “It was hit and miss. I thought there were some good things. A lot of mistakes, a lot of wide eyes. And you start playing a little faster. So a lot to work on.”
Play of the day (from the perspective of guard Shaquille Mason): “He made a backside play when he was supposed to be getting cut off, and he just spiked. He made the play on the quarterback before the triple option could even get started.”
Johnson on incoming freshmen cornerbacks Step Durham and Lance and Lawrence Austin: “They’re working hard. I know they’re physical. They’ll hit you. They’re just young. It really shows when you line up on DeAndre (Smelter) or one of those guys. There’s a maturity difference.”
Day 3, Aug. 2
Johnson: “It went well, a spirited practice. Guys were running around. We’ve had some unbelievable temperatures for August in Atlanta and it’s been cool. But I think the practices have been good, effort’s been good.”
Play of the day (from the perspective of B-back Zach Laskey): In third-down drills, quarterback Justin Thomas connected with wide receiver DeAndre Smelter for a first-down reception on a slant route.
Said Laskey, “DeAndre had a nice catch over the middle that Justin threaded the needle on. (Smelter) got hit both ways, but he held onto the football.”
More from Johnson (on the quarterback competition): “Justin Thomas is the starting quarterback and Tim Byerly would be the clear-cut second quarterback. You’ve had three days of fall camp, so how that unfolds over a four-week period, who knows? That’s kind of where it stands now.”
Day 1, July. 31
Johnson: “Same as I said over there (to TV reporters). It was like the first day.”
Play of the day: Kicker Harrison Butker’s 52-yard field goal (video here)– the fifth field goal he’d made in a row – to reduce the team’s conditioning runs.
Johnson on evaluating freshmen on first day: “You can do some things in shells, but with the young guys, especially, you’re not going to tell too much running around in shorts and helmets other than some of them are good athletes.”