September 30, 2009

Wednesday practice notebook 9/30

The Georgia Tech football team had their third day of practice Wednesday afternoon in nearly perfect weather conditions as they prepare for the Mississippi State game on Saturday. Jackets head coach Paul Johnson was pleased with the team's effort on Wednesday, but there are still a few questions facing the team before game time.

"I thought we looked pretty good and we bounced around and had a good day," Johnson said. "It was fairly crisp."

The placekicking situation remains open in the air between the embattled Scott Blair and the redshirt freshman Chris Tanner.

"We will sit down and maybe know tomorrow. We might not know till warm ups on Saturday," Johnson said of the kicking situation. "It is not like one of them is blowing the other one away. It is what it is."

On the injury front, safety Dominique Reese was cleared to hit for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in the Miami game. Reese or Rashaad Reid will start at free safety on Saturday against the Bulldogs.

Coach Johnson down played the defensive advantage his team has facing an option team for the first time this season. The Jackets had four weeks of practice against their own offense during fall camp.

"I think going against our offense helps prepare you for any offense. It makes you play with responsibility and accountability to keep the drives where they belong," he said. "A lot of the blocking schemes are very similar. North Carolina's blocking scheme is very similar to ours. North Carolina was very similar. There are only a few ways you can do things and most of the shotgun teams that run the zone or the spread, are not much different."

For the most part other than the addition of Reese into the lineup, the Jackets defense should have a similar look to last week especially on the defensive line where depth is stretched very thin by injuries and a lack of experience. Defensive line coach Giff Smith said the move to the 4-3 defense helped his linemen get a better push.

"I think it helped moving to the 4-3 and I think our kids played fast," Smith said. "I think they were more confident in what they were doing. As a whole unit, I think we played a lot better, but there are still things we need to correct, but for the most part, I thought the effort was tremendous and assignment wise we were pretty good. Probably the best we have been all year."

Smith says the defensive line's role against an option team does not change much compared to other types of offenses.

"You still play your base defense and your keys. It is no different than what we did all spring and all fall as far as being assignment sound and being focused with your eyes," Smith said. "If we do that, then we have a chance to be successful."

The familiarity upfront should help the Jackets' defensive line maintain their gaps and responsibilities.

"It will not be something totally out of the blue seeing the option," Smith said. "They run it out of different formations, but it is still a triple or a double option. It is nothing new, just new formations and we have to do a good job of recognizing formations and putting people where they need to be. We will go with the same unit this week and roll the tackles and play with what we got."

Offensive line depth

One of the biggest areas of concern for the Jackets is their offensive line. Offensive line coaches Mike Sewak and Todd Spencer have been trying to build depth on the line and improve the starters at the same time. Last week backup guard Omoregie Uzzi, backup tackle Phil Smith and backup center Dan Voss all saw major snaps. For Uzzi a redshirt freshman, the playing time has been inspiring.

"It feels great to get that old feeling of soreness after the game," Uzzi said. "I don't think I did anything specific to get more playing time other than listening to my coaches and doing what I have to do to play. I think I know the offense a whole lot more than I did last year. I think working and meeting with Coach Sewak and Coach Spencer a lot and going over the offense with them has helped a lot."

Uzzi hopes he can continue getting significant snaps behind starting guards Cord Howard and Joseph Gilbert.

"I look forward to having some playing time and helping my team out and helping us win, but I will do whatever role the coaches need me for because I just want to help the team win," Uzzi said.

Coach Spencer says Uzzi is starting to learn how to play in the offense and play football again.

"Uzzi is just a redshirt freshman and he is a year more mature in the system. Coach Sewak and I are excited about his future. We got some good offensive linemen that we hope keep incrementally developing."

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