September 14, 2009

Jackets finish major Cane prep

On Monday afternoon, the Georgia Tech football team had their final full pads practice in preparation for the Miami Hurricanes. The Jackets and Canes will square off on Thursday night in Miami, but the Jackets have a few areas of concern heading into the game including the offensive line.

Looking back at last week's performance starting guard Cord Howard feels like the Jackets' offensive line has a lot of room for improvement.

"We need to improve on our assignments because we made a lot of mistakes," Howard said. "We also need more effort out of everybody. I don't think we played to our best ability."

In the first game, the Jackets made a large number of substitutions, but against Clemson, Phil Smith was the only non-injury sub. Howard says the long grind of playing the whole game was not an excuse for the mistakes the offensive line made Thursday.

"We knew we were going to be in for the whole 60 minutes and offseason and preseason preparation prepared us for that," he said. "I think we were ready, but sometimes we got a little mentally tired. It may have looked like we were physically tired, but it was more mentally tiring than anything. We need to turn it up a notch this week."

Coach Johnson said during is weekly press conference he does not expect to rotate the offensive lines again, but they could sub a few more players in.

"We will not play two lines but we need to play more players," Head Coach Paul Johnson said. "We talked to some of those guys this week and they need to practice better. If they practice better, they will play in games. I was encouraged by two guys yesterday so we will have more guys play if they do that."

Some of the players who could work their way into the rotation including offensive tackle Nick Claytor and guard Omoregie Uzzi who both have great potential, but have not impressed the offensive line coaches Todd Spencer and Mike Sewak enough to get into the rotation thus far.

Howard expects the trip down to Miami to fire up the team and help some players mature into veterans.

"I think being on the road will fire us up," Howard said. "We have matured a lot as a team and we have a few bumps, but I think going on the road will really show how much maturity we have."

Coach Johnson sees a lot of similarities between the Clemson defensive line and the Miami defensive line. The Jackets struggled at times dealing with the Tigers and were unable to open many holes in the middle of the defense until the fourth quarter.

"I think they are similar in a lot of ways," Johnson said of the Clemson and Miami lines. "They have some big physical guys; they'll have a couple of 300 pounders in there. Allen Bailey is huge. I mean he is a great athlete. They are going to have good athletes. It is Miami, they always do.

Overall, looking back Howard sees a couple of areas where he needs to improve.

"I need to keep my pads lower and have better hand position and pretty much play with more intensity overall," Howard said.

The two scoring drives in the fourth quarter gave the line more confidence and Howard expects that to carryover into the game this week.

"It gave us some confidence and we never lost faith in our players," Howard said. "It takes a few things to get more confidence in certain players."

Nesbitt's rhythm

Coach Johnson dispelled the idea of quarterback Josh Nesbitt needing to find his rhythm. Johnson was asked if Nesbitt needed a series of consecutive passes to improve his competition percentage and Johnson shot down the idea.

"You can look at things either way. We have had quarterbacks that completed 60 percent in this offense," Johnson said. "I caught a little bit of the Navy game on Saturday and I think their guy is completing 70 percent; he doesn't throw it anymore than we do. What we have to do is find some ways to help Josh get some completions early where he does not have to make the great throws. Then we have to catch it. We had a couple times where we have the chance to catch the ball and when he puts it up for the receiver, sometimes deep, there is no rule that you cannot go get it just like the defensive back can. Certainly he can throw it better, we could probably help him some ourselves and we could do better in all facets. I'm not going to lay it all on him."

Johnson expects Nesbitt to have a big game.

"I think Josh has the ability to do that," Johnson said of Nesbitt bouncing back. "It's a couple of things and I think sometimes it just snowballs. We made some bad decisions and we probably put him in a couple bad spots. The first play of the game was open if we throw the ball. He said he did not see the safety. I do not think you will ever see him do that again. He will learn to keep the ball back down where he needs to throw it. We are talking about a guy that has not played a lot. It is not like he has been a three-year starter and played a lot. The thing that I was proud of Josh for was when we had to have it in the fourth quarter, he completed the big third down throw to get us in position to tie the game and eventually win the game. Historically for Josh, when he has played a game that maybe was not quite up to his standards or where he wants to be, he usually bounces back with a pretty good one. I'm expecting that from him on Thursday night."

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