November 10, 2009

Tuesday football notebook

Do to severe storms in the Atlanta area and the unavailability of the Georgia Dome, the Georgia Tech football team traveled up to Flowery Branch to the Atlanta Falcons practice facility for Tuesday's practice. Head Coach Paul Johnson has been abbreviating the full pads practices because the Jackets have not had an off week this season and have played 10-straight games heading into their eleventh this weekend with Duke. The Jackets are playing for the Coastal Division title and for a trip to the ACC Championship game in Tampa.

"Well, we are getting closer to the finish line as far as the conference race goes," Johnson said. "We have it in our sight now. We have talked about it for about six weeks and we have to go up to Durham and play an improved Duke team. It is one game to clinch our division and get a spot in the [ACC] Championship Game, so it is a huge game for the guys and our program."

The Blue Devils are playing for a trip to a bowl game and they are still technically in the race for the Coastal Division title, so they also have a lot riding on this week's game especially coming off a loss to North Carolina last week. Coach Johnson says the biggest difference he sees compared to the 2008 Duke team is the quality of their defense.

"I think the difference has been, honestly, defense," Johnson said of the Blue Devils improvement. "They have given up 30 points twice this year, once to Florida State and once to Kansas on the road. If you look at their last three conference games, they have given up 13, 19, and 19. Their throwing the ball for a lot of yards, but the bottom line is against North Carolina they only had 125 total yards of offense and that game was tied at six late in the third quarter. They've been better on offense, but I think on defense is where they're much improved."

Edwards filling the hole at free safety

Junior safety Mario Edwards was one of two players, the other being Cooper Taylor tapped during the spring for defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's new wolf position a hybrid linebacker/safety. After Taylor struggled adapting to the position, Dominique Reese moved over from free safety to wolf for the first three games. In the Miami game, Reese and Taylor each went down with injuries leaving the Jackets short-handed in the secondary. Wommack went back to a conventional 4-3 defensive look and Edwards found himself without a position.

After trying Reese, Rashaad Reid and Correy Earls at free safety Wommack turned to Edwards during the Vanderbilt game and he has found a new home.

"In the summer time I was really excited about the whole wolf thing, but with the injury situation it did not pan out and I was just flying from one position to another and it was getting kind of frustrating, but I stayed focused and waited for my opportunity."

Edwards like the rest of the Tech defense is trying to keep things as simple as possible and make solid tackles and keep the play in front of him at all times.

"I kept telling myself to tackle, wrap up and I have been just working on my fundamentals," Edwards said. "Doing all the small things eventually adds up to big plays."

During the Wake Forest game, Edwards had several big plays including almost intercepting a Riley Skinner pass.

"I thought I had the interception, but my elbow hit the ground, and the ball popped up, so I thought man I need to get it, and I crawled on the ground trying to get the ball, but sometimes you loose some."

Edwards gives coach Wommack and Coach Johnson credit for the changes the team made at halftime to shutdown Wake in the second half.

"We had to put some pressure on Skinner and coach dialed up some blitzes for us and Coach Johnson added some plays here and there and we got it right," Edwards said.

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