1. Georgia Tech wide receiver Micheal Summers’ work in spring practice has evidently been something less than spectacular.
Consistent play is the commodity coaches crave, and none of the Yellow Jackets have been able to provide it as yet. The responsibility falls perhaps most heavily upon Summers, who is by far the most experienced wide receiver. Summers, a junior, has played in 25 games and started 17.
To wide receivers coach Buzz Preston, the issue is not effort or ability, but perhaps stress Summers is placing upon himself.
“Mike’s a guy that really is highly critical of what he does,” Preston said. “He takes what he does very seriously and sometimes you’ve just got to let go of things and just keep working forward. .. You try to push too hard to be successful instead of just letting it flow.”
Summers will most likely be a starter at wide receiver in the fall. Coach Paul Johnson said last week that Summers and Ricky Jeune are “probably clear-cut starters” at this point.
Preston’s suggestion for Summer’s work this summer: “Mainly just learning to enjoy himself out there. Just play.”
It perhaps goes without saying that the offense functions best with a dependable outlet at wide receiver, both to stretch the field with big pass plays and also to keep the chains moving on third down. Quarterback Justin Thomas was No. 9 in the country in passer rating on third down (158.4, about 4 ½ points higher than his overall rating) and the Jackets were No. 1 in third-down efficiency in no small part because of Thomas’ connection with wide receiver DeAndre Smelter.
To that end, Johnson issued something of a challenge to his receivers to throw often with Thomas this summer.
“That’s stuff they’ve got to work on,” Johnson said. “He’ll do it, he’s willing to work. The other guys have got to work with him.”
2. Johnson shared the likely format for the spring game – essentially the same format it usually is. The first-team offense and second-team defense will be on one team and the first-team defense and second-team offense will be on the other.
Johnson wasn’t sure yet how he would split up Thomas and No. 2 quarterback Tim Byerly. If the plan is to limit Thomas’ work, Thomas and Byerly could both play with the first-team offense and Matthew Jordan could play with the second-team offense.
The game will begin at 7 p.m. and broadcast online on ESPN3. The Weather Channel forecast for Friday night is periods of rain, chance of rain 90 percent.
3. The Tech baseball team will go into Tuesday night’s game against Georgia (7 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium, ESPN3, 91.1) having won seven of its past nine games, a run that began with its 13-6 win over the Bulldogs March 31 in Athens. The Jackets took two of three from Virginia this past weekend. In the previous five series with the Cavaliers, Tech had lost four.
Pitcher Brandon Gold limited Virginia to one run over seven innings in the rubber game of the series Sunday, a 4-3 win for the Jackets. Gold is 4-0 in rubber games and has a 2.89 ERA, remarkable numbers considering he didn’t pitch an inning last year as a freshman.
4. After the series win over Virginia, the Tech’s RPI is now No. 11 in the country. Rather remarkably, it’s only fourth among ACC teams.
The highest the Jackets are ranked in any major baseball poll is No. 24 by Collegiate Baseball. They’re the highest-rated team by RPI not in the USA Today coaches poll.
“I think we’ve played a great schedule, so it doesn’t surprise me,” coach Danny Hall said of the RPI rating. “We’ve been able to hold our own on the road. It’s never easy to win on the road no matter where you’re at.”
Tech has a ways to go – the Jackets have a home series against rival Clemson April 24-26 and later finish the regular season at Miami, which is No. 9 in the coaches poll.
Their prospects should get a boost when freshman right fielder Kel Johnson returns. Johnson sprained his ankle March 21. Hall said that he jogged over the weekend and took batting practice last week, but has yet to sprint.
“Just a matter of getting him a little stronger,” Hall said. “We have high hopes that he can go to Boston College and play there this weekend.”
5. Men’s basketball assistant coach Tom Herrion was honored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches with its Award for Service along with Towson coach Pat Skerry, a close friend. Herrion received the award for his work to raise awareness and funds for autism, notably in helping coordinate a weekend in which about 225 coaches nationwide wore lapel pins in the form of a light blue puzzle piece, the symbol of the autism awareness movement.
Herrion’s 9-year-old son Robert has autism.
“The intent for our initiative is not to get awards, but to help create awareness and educate folks about the impact that Autism has on so many families,” Herrion wrote in an e-mail. “The fact that our peers recognize our efforts is very rewarding and greatly appreciated, yet we understand so much more work lies ahead.”
I spoke with Herrion about the project back in January for a story and came away with the sense that his motivation was simply as a dad wanting to do something to honor his son and walk alongside other families challenged by autism. He and Skerry began the event last season, calling and texting their coaching colleagues and using their own time and resources to make sure the pins reached them. He was overwhelmed and encouraged by the response, and the expansion of the weekend this season.
Said Herrion, “I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface on the impact this can have.”
6. Cross country and track athlete Alex Grady won the Ultimate Haier Achievement Award, given to a college athlete for accomplishments beyond sports. Haier, a sophomore, has donated more than 210 hours of community service in his time at Tech. He is also majoring in mechanical engineering.
A primary focus is Peachtree Academy, a Christian school in his home community of Newton County, where he has helped students write college and scholarship applications. Grady himself is attending Tech on a Gates Millenium Scholarship, which is awarded to minority students with significant financial need and covers all unmet costs.
Grady won the achievement award by online voting after being named one of eight national finalists. Haier, a television and appliance manufacturer, will donate $5,000 to Tech’s general scholarship fund and a 48-inch television to the Tech athletic department.
“I am blessed and honored to be able to represent one of the best schools in the nation that pushes its students to strive for excellence in and out of the classroom as one who makes time for others,” Grady said in a statement. “Community service is very near and dear to my heart as it has molded me into the person I am today. At the end of it all, no one is going to care about the amount of money you make or material things you acquire, but the amount of people you touch and the lives you change. I just hope that I have the opportunity to help everyone I come in contact with and live up to the expectations I have set for myself.”
“Alex is a wonderful young man and very deserving of this honor. Being a mechanical engineer and a Division I student-athlete are huge commitments. That Alex devotes so much of his valuable free time to give back to others speaks to his great character, and is a tremendous example of servant leadership,” Tech cross country coach and track distance coach Alan Drosky said in a statement.
6.5 This is unrelated, but kind of funny. The Gates Millenium Scholarship is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates, of course, is the co-founder of Microsoft and a leader of the PC revolution. On the scholarship’s website, one of the FAQ’s is if the scholarship forms can be accessed with an Apple computer. (The answer is yes.)
7. The Tech golf team easily won the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate at Ohio State this past weekend, earning its third team title of the year and 46th for coach Bruce Heppler. As a team, the Jackets finished 4-under-par, 16 shots ahead of second-place SMU.
Anders Albertson and Vince Whaley shared medalist honors at 5-under-par (208). Ollie Schniederjans led after 36 holes and shot 2-over-par 73 on Sunday to finish in a tie for third. It was the second career win for Albertson, following his win at the 2013 ACC championship.
Tech had to play the first two rounds with just four players (teams normally play five and toss out the highest score daily) because Chris Petefish sat out after being struck in the neck by a stray golf ball.
Tech’s next event is the ACC championship April 24-26 at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C. The Jackets have won the event seven times in the past nine years.
8. Masters winner Jordan Spieth has a direct connection with Schniederjans. The two became good friends as juniors and remain close. Along with Justin Thomas (not that one) and Daniel Berger – two others on the PGA Tour who grew up competing with Schniederjans – the two played a practice round together at the Valspar Championship in March, a PGA Tour event in Palm Harbor, Fla., that Schniederjans earned an invitation to by winning the collegiate Valspar tournament last year. It was Schniederjans’ first-ever PGA Tour event; he missed the cut by three strokes.
Spieth and Schniederjans entered college the same year, 2011. Spieth left Texas as a sophomore. Thomas and Berger also left early. Schniederjans contemplated leaving after his junior season but decided to stay to enjoy his final year at Tech, earn his management degree and better prepare himself for life on tour.
Schniederjans will most likely join Spieth soon. His standing as the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur at the end of last summer earned him spots in the U.S. and British opens as long as he remains an amateur. He’ll likely turn professional shortly after.