September 2, 2009

Jackets looking to build depth on Saturday

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets practices in shells on Wednesday afternoon under cool conditions in the Atlanta as they prepared for Jacksonville State on Saturday. Head coach Paul Johnson says the team looks good to him, but that is not necessarily always an indicator of success on the field.

"They looked pretty good today, but there are some things we need to cleanup," Johnson said. "All and all it was not that bad and we were not out there that long in shells. Tomorrow we will cut it down a little bit shorter tomorrow and hopefully we will be fresh for Saturday."

Johnson says he has given up trying to read his team before games because it never works out the way he thought it would.

"The longer I am in this the less I know," Johnson said. "I have been there in the locker room thinking we are going to get whomped because nobody is ready to play and they come out like their hair is on fire. I have been in games where I thought everyone was jacked up and after the first series they are looking for a place to lay down, so you never know till you play the game."

Heading into the game Saturday Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack has safety and wolf situation set. Morgan Burnett will start at rover, Cooper Taylor will be the free safety and Dominique Reese will handle the wolf position. Wommack says he hopes to rotate the guys behind Reese so they get quality snaps on Saturday as well.

"Dominique will probably start at the wolf and a lot of that has to do with personnel and he deserves to start the game," Wommack said. "We will rotate some guys hopefully and we would like to play some guys and a lot of different people especially upfront in we can. We will rotate according to how the game goes."

Reese will rotate with Rashaad Reid and Mario Edwards at the wolf position on Saturday. Anthony Barnes could also see some time on Saturday and he could start in certain games depending on matchups.

"A.T. can fit in especially when we play bigger personnel and see some 21 and 22," Wommack said. "We will use him more in those situations and when teams go with three wide-outs we will go with the other guys. It will be just like last year's defense."

Players like backup rover Jemea Thomas and backup corner Rod Sweeting who are true freshmen should see significant playing time on Saturday if everything goes according to the coaches' plans.

"There are all in the two-deep and in the kicking game, so yeah we want to get them playing time because they are one snap away from being a starter if someone gets hurt," Wommack said. "If we get a chance or opportunity we will play them some. We will alternate them throughout the game hopefully."

After the unexpectedly close Gardner-Webb game last year, Wommack is not making any specific substitution patterns to rotate freshmen in until the game is under control. He says he plans to rotate as needed any of the freshmen into the fire.

"We would like to train them and a lot of them have not these types of experiences," Wommack said. "Guys like Julian Burnett, Izaan Cross, Sweeting and Jemea do not have game experience and they are going to have to be thrown in. They are in the two-deep and they will have to play this year. I don't have a specific score number when they will come into the game."

The starters should play until the game is in hand, but Wommack is not entertaining thoughts of running players outside of the normal rotation until he sees big numbers on the scoreboard.

"Every time I think we are going to jump out it never happens," Wommack said. "I don't think like that anymore. Every one thought like that going into the Gardner-Webb game that we would put this guy in and all that. I have done this for 31 years so I don't buy into that."

Wommack says he cannot wait to see how the defense looks on the field when they are not facing their own offense or the scout team.

"I know we are anxious to get started and to get playing and I am looking forward to watching them," Wommack said. "This is our first real test to see where we are going and I am anxious to see how they do. They have worked hard for almost five weeks now and we will see if they carry it over to a game situation because we need them to."

Backups making strong push

There could be a lot of substitutions on the offensive line in Saturday's game according to several of the backup linemen. The two biggest battles in camp for starting spots have been between Brad Sellers and Nick Claytor at offensive tackle and Sean Bedford and Dan Voss at center. Claytor says the competition with Sellers has really helped him improve his game.

"Brad is good and he is consistently grading out the highest of the linemen. It is cool that I get to see what he is doing and how he is moving because he is a lot smaller and faster," Claytor said. "It is cool to see that on film and I will try to get back out there and do what I did last year only coming back stronger."

Claytor does not expect to start in the first few games this season, but he thinks there will be plenty of snaps for him and his fellow second-string offensive linemen that include guards Omoregie Uzzi, Zach Krish, Voss and Phil Smith.

"I feel like the coach have made up their mind kind of so we are all just out there working hard and we are ready to go and rotate," Claytor said. "We are going to play multiple offensive fronts against Jacksonville State, so we will get to see a lot of different stuff. It can get a little confusing so we are going to try and get that out of our system quick."

Krish has carved out a backup role behind right guard Joseph Gilbert.

"I am fitting in at least for the first game in a rotation with Gilbert and other guards when people need to rest or sit down," Krish. "I don't know how they plan on doing it and the coaches aren't saying much other than we are rotating in."

On Saturday, Krish will be as excited as anyone on the team to strap on the gear and hit somebody in a different jersey.

"It is always exciting to get in there and play," Krish. "If it wasn't exciting I would not be out here for nine months out of the year getting ready for it."

Krish who weights 292 pounds currently credits better footwork for his move into the second unit.

"I have been working on footwork and not cross over feet. I have to make sure I am in the right position and that I know where I am supposed to be," Krish said. "If you are there in the right position then you pretty much have a good shot at making the play."


Coach Johnson will make three of the senior captains for the first game of the season with a player representing offense, defense and special teams. That announcement will be made tomorrow.

"I will announce it tomorrow and what I try to do early in the year is allow all the seniors to be captains and then we let the team vote on it," Johnson said. "It will be three seniors."

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