Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Spring Game

Increasing Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

Georgia Tech head football coach Geoff Collins is going into his third season in Atlanta.

He currently has a record of 6 – 16. So far, he has recruited better than his predecessor Paul Johnson but it has not translated on the field.

Tech’s spring season included 15 practices over a 24-day span that began March 30th. The Spring game was at Bobby Dodd Stadium on a Friday night, April 23rd. Fans were able to attend.

Left tackle Devin Cochran is a grad transfer from Vanderbilt, and he looks like he will make a big contribution next season. He’s 6’7, 320-pounds and he can stop a pass rusher in his tracks.

Quarterback Jeff Sims has shown what he can do with some time to pass the ball so the offense can be explosive.

Another grad transfer tackle, Kenneth Kirby will come to campus in May when he graduates from Norfolk State. He was a three-year starter and two-time All-MEAC selection.

Sims accounted for 173 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. He ran for a 48-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game and completed 9-of-10 passes for 125 yards and two scores in front of a large crowd of season-ticket holders and students.

Coach Collins reset the score occasionally to make it more entertaining. He did this in the waning minutes to set up an exciting finish.

First, an 11-yard touchdown run by true freshman quarterback Chayden Peery and subsequent two-point conversion by Ryan Lantz gave the “White” team a 25-24 lead with exactly two minutes to go in the third and final period of the game.

On the following series Sims led the “Gold” team on a four-play, 65-yard drive. He threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to grad transfer Kyric McGowan to win the game.

The Yellow Jackets signal callers played well in the game. Playing in his first game in nearly 18 months due to the cancellation of his senior season of high school football in his native California, Peery completed 7-of-10 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown and ran four times for 26 yards and another score.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Yates connected on 6-of-10 passes for 99 yards and a score.

The defense forced two turnovers. There was a fumble recovery by senior defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton and an interception by senior Tariq Carpenter.

Carpenter’s INT came on a defense called by Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach and honorary spring game defensive coach Josh Pastner.

The offensive line played well. They were not called for any false starts, which was a big problem in 2020.

Center Mikey Minihan accurately delivered snaps to the Sims, blocked effectively and had a handle on the defense’s pre-snap movements. Last season was his first-time playing center and he struggled at times.

Before the game team captains for offense and defense met at midfield. Three of the four were unsurprising selections – Sims and right guard Ryan Johnson (who was voted a permanent captain for the 2020 team at the end of the season) and safety Juanyeh Thomas. The fourth was grad-transfer linebacker Ayinde Eley, who joined the team in January from Maryland. They were voted by their teammates earlier in the week.

In his brief time at Tech, Eley “has made a tremendous impact to our program,” Collins said. “He is a great leader; he is a great teammate. He is a great worker within our program.”

Tech’s first game is September 4th at home against Northern Illinois. Hopefully this is the season where they can get back to a bowl game.

A Lot Of Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

The Georgia Tech Spring Game was April 26th. Paul Johnson has been the head coach for the previous 11 seasons.

This is the first season under new head coach Geoff Collins. There is a drastic change on offense and we got a glimpse of it in this game.

A record crowd of 21,194 fans came out to Bobby Dodd stadium to watch. The Jackets used the first play of the spring game to give one final tribute to Paul Johnson and his flexbone system before introducing fans to the new Georgia Tech offense.

One routine 12-yard completion to Tyler Cooksey fired up the crowd. The play marked the first reception by a Georgia Tech tight end since November 24, 2007. There were a wide range of plays and formations that have been absent from The Flats for the past decade.

The new strategy is a 180-degree turn from what we have seen under CPJ. The Yellow Jackets are now an Air Raid team and that has different concepts.

One key thing we will now see is the mesh concept. The defining feature of a mesh concept is two receivers running crossing routes over the middle of the field. The crossing receivers quickly read whether the defense is playing man or zone coverage and modify their routes accordingly.

Against zone coverage, the receivers cut their routes short and sit underneath in soft areas, while against man coverage the receivers continue their routes across the field.

The Gold team showed this early on. They came out in a shotgun bunch formation and wide receivers Malachi Carter and Jalen Camp run crosses over the middle.

The defense is playing a zone, and you can see both receivers slow down to break off their routes when they recognize the zone coverage. Quarterback Lucas Johnson scans the field from right to left, sees the linebackers sitting in their zones, and checks down to running back Jordan Mason for a 7-yard gain

Tech lined up in a few different Shotgun formations for the game. One of the featured formations was the Shotgun Split Slot that uses three receivers and two halfbacks.

Most of Tech’s halfbacks are converted A-backs who spent equal time over the last several years practicing rushing, receiving, and blocking. That skill set can be utilized in this two-back set where both running backs are a threat to take a handoff, lead block, or go out for a pass.

It looks like the quarterback battle is between James Graham and Lucas Johnson. Tobias Oliver missed the game due to injury and he has a chance to compete. He played a lot last season but he struggles to pass the ball.

Johnson made many check downs during the game so his numbers were efficient. He finished the day 12-of-16 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown. His best throw of the night came on a 19-yard back-shoulder pass to Malachi Carter.

Graham takes more risks and threw the ball downfield. His first pass was complete to receiver Adonicas Sanders for a 15-yard gain. The next pass was a 39-yard touchdown to Sanders again.

After those two passes, Graham went just 1-of-7 passing for 3 yards.

We have quite some time before Week 1 kicks off against Clemson but I’m excited. I think this will be a good first season for coach Collins.

Spring Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

Georgia Tech finished 2017 with a 5-6 record. It makes the second time in three years that the Yellow Jackets missed a bowl game and had a losing record. So, the logical thing for athletic director Todd Stansbury to do was give head coach Paul Johnson a two-year contract extension through the 2022 season.

This was the eleventh spring game in the CPJ era. One major change was made in an effort to get Tech back on track. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof was fired after the season and replaced by Nate Woody. The defense now runs a 3-4 scheme.

Only 8,500 fans showed up to watch. This could be because there are many things to do in Atlanta on a Friday night or the fan base is tired of coach Johnson. The Blue team beat the White team 21-14.

Several players sat out with injuries. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall did not play after showing up to the training room Friday morning with strep throat. Center Kenny Cooper suffered a lower-leg injury in last Saturday’s scrimmage that required surgery. Guard Parker Braun and offensive tackles Andrew Marshall and Jake Stickler also were out, Marshall for the entirety of the spring.

Defensive end Desmond Branch missed the scrimmage to attend his brother’s wedding in New Mexico. Likely starting safeties A.J. Gray and Jalen Johnson were out all of the spring with injuries.

Freshman quarterback Tobias Oliver led the white team and redshirt sophomore Lucas Johnson led the blue team.

After a slow start, Johnson drove the Blue-team offense on touchdown drives of 70, 74 and 55 yards, along with a field-goal drive of 54 yards. He was 5-for-17 with one touchdown and one interception. He had completions of 53, 33 and 35 yards­ and finished with 143 yards.

I think the low completion percentage (29%) is a problem. I know Johnson is competing for the backup position but this has been an issue under Johnson. For instance, last season’s starter TaQuon Marshall completed 37.1% of his passes. Johnson has failed to develop and intermediate passing game since coming to Atlanta. It seems like every pass play is a long down field pass.

Senior A-back Clinton Lynch looked like he returned to his old form. He had 28 yards on three carries and 33-yard touchdown reception. Lynch failed to reach the end zone as a junior after scoring 16 touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore.

The defense played fairly well, led by linebacker Brant Mitchell with five tackles for loss, contributing to eight total for the Blue-team (first-string) defense.

“We blitzed like crazy (Friday),” Mitchell said with a smile.

It was only a scrimmage so we have to take the defensive performance with a grain of salt. The first-string defense had nine tackles for loss in last year’s spring game and went on to record 4.3 per game last season, lowest in the ACC. The first-string offensive line was also missing two starters.

“You’ve got a good nucleus back,” Johnson said. “I mean, we’ve got nine starters coming back on offense. Defensively, if we can create some negative plays and get some sacks, get off the field, who knows?”

There is not a lot to be optimistic about as a Georgia Tech fan but hopefully they are on the right path to get back to a bowl game in 2018.