September 6, 2009

Jackets begin Tiger prep

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football had no time off following the win over Jacksonville State. The team practiced in shorts and helmets on Sunday in their first of four practices for the Thursday night showdown with Clemson. Head coach Paul Johnson voiced his displeasure with his team's intensity in the postgame press conference and he is trying to figure out how to motivate his team so they can exceed their own high expectations for 2009.

"Today all we did was conditioning and there was not a whole lot of talking going on," Johnson said. "We have to find a way to be motivated and for whatever reason we have had a problem with that. There are games where it is like punching the clock, but we are not good enough to do that."

Johnson says the fact they are playing in front of a national audience should motivate the team enough.

"If they can't get excited to play a conference game on Thursday night on national TV then they don't have a pulse," he said. "I want us to play hard and physical and not be lackadaisical."

One of the areas that needs some improvement after the Jacksonville State game was the defensive line. Defensive line coach Giff Smith says the line looked about the way he thought when he reviewed the game film.

"As you go back and watch the tape after the game it was kind of like I thought it would be," Smith said. "There were some positives and some things we definitely have to do a better job at. As a whole, I thought we did pretty well. There is some technique stuff we need to clean up and we have to do a better job of rushing the passer, but overall they did well and for some of the guys it was their first time getting some reps."

Smith and the other assistant coaches are emphasizing that the real season beings with ACC play on Thursday and with that the staff wants to see more intensity from the team.

"I told them today that the real season begins today and the level of competition is going to increase and the level of play has to increase," Smith said. "I think they are ready to accept that challenge."

Looking at the defensive line as a whole Smith spotted specific areas where he wants to see improvement on Thursday.

"I think Robert Hall has to improve on his edge rushing ability, our interior defensive line needs to do a better job with their pad level and placement, we did not give up movement on the inside, but at the same time we did not destroy blocks like we should," Smith said. "They will get better at that. Everybody including Derrick Morgan has things they need to improve from yesterday. I thought the effort was good, but they had trouble maintaining the intensity once it got out of hand. I think that contributed to the youth not knowing how to finish things and it is our job to correct that and it will be corrected. We are looking forward to this week."

One of the bright spots on the line was the play of sophomore defensive tackle Logan Walls. Smith says Walls will see more playing time Thursday because of his play on Saturday.

"I was very pleased with Logan yesterday and Logan is going to get increased snaps," Smith said. "It is very black and white in my room in terms of who did well and who did not so well. The reps go according to how they are playing. Personal feelings are taken out and it is all about production. They understand that as a group and the guys who are playing better are going to get more snaps."

Derrick Morgan got an early taste of the double and triple teaming he will see this year and Smith says he was pleased with how Morgan handled the challenge.

"Derrick has a tremendous motor and he is a very gifted player. It was different for Derrick yesterday because he did not have the other three guys to lean on and he really took a leadership role," Smith said. "We were pretty generic in some of the stuff we did to get him to rush the passer. We should be able to create some stuff to get him in some more one-on-one situations. He has to deal with reality and what that reality is, is until someone steps up they are going to send extra protection to him and that is where the other guys have to carry their load."

Injury update

The Jackets will have their best A-back Roddy Jones back in the lineup on Thursday. Jones could have played Saturday if needed, but he will still have a cast on his wrist and limited movement in his fingers. Johnson said that is probably the only change to the starting lineup heading into the game with Clemson.

"Roddy Jones will be back, but other than that it is what it is," Johnson said of potential lineup changes.

On the injury front the only major injury in the two-deep is B-back Preston Lyons. Lyons will miss the Clemson game with a shoulder separation and Richard Watson and Lucas Cox will fill in during his absence.

"Preston Lyons is out with a dislocated shoulder," Johnson said. "He will probably just be out for this game."

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