November 2, 2009

Jackets shuffle defense for Wake

The 10th ranked Georgia Tech football began preparations for Wake Forest last Monday afternoon in beautiful conditions in Atlanta. The top ranked Jackets face a tough challenge this week from the Demon Deacons and their very experienced quarterback Riley Skinner. Head coach Paul Johnson had the team working on fixing to two biggest areas of concern right now, kick coverage and the pass defense.

"It is football weather and it is nice out," Johnson said. "We went through all the special teams today and tweaked a few personnel. The L one through five and R one through five changed. It looked good against air."

On the defensive side of the ball, Johnson is hoping competition breeds better competition at several positions including defensive end where Anthony Egbuniwe has been the default starter since Robert Hall went down for the year with a knee injury. True freshman Izaan Cross has been pushing Egbuniwe for playing time and he could get the starting nod this week.

"Injuries alone where we have some competition we will look at Izaan Cross and Anthony Egbuniwe at end to see who starts we are opening that back up," Johnson said. "We see what will happen at safety with injuries and corners. There are some areas with competition. Cooper (Taylor) played pretty good last year and he would give us some depth. Dominique (Reese) has been playing hurt a little and we have not played well back there."

Taylor's injury compounded some of pass defense issues, but Johnson says it is a combination of defensive miscues that has led to the flurry of first half big plays.

"I don't know if it is all the secondary, it is all intertwined and everything is involved. The things that hurt us Saturday night was that we gave up big runs and big plays. That is usually the result of missed tackles, but there needs to be more than one guy there too. A couple of them were in man coverage and there was only one guy there, but still we have to do better than that."

With Taylor out for the year and Reese struggling, the Jackets turned to Correy Earls briefly before settling with Mario Edwards in the second half at safety. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack expects Edwards to earn the starting job this week.

"Mario if he has a good week this week will start at safety," Wommack said. "I thought he did a really good job in the second half of the game. He is a little bigger body and he runs well. I thought he did a good job with his assignments and I think he did a good job with that."

"I think that is tough when you come into a game after playing eight games and you have not played very much, but I was proud of him," Wommack said. "I think anytime you play a team especially like Wake Forest with the sweep and motions you have to do a great job with your eyes and all the other fundamentals. He missed a tackle in the game the other night and it did not hurt us as much as the others, but those types of things need to be cleaned up."

Reese and Earls could see some action off the bench as well at free safety depending on how Edwards plays and if he needs a breather.

"Both Earls and Reese will back him up," Wommack said. "We may play them all."

Back in the ACC

After taking a midseason trip out of conference to play Vanderbilt, Coach Johnson is happy to be back playing an ACC foe this week. With all the newfound attention being lavished on the Jackets with a top ten ranking, Johnson says he has not seen much difference in the way the team acts.

"It does not feel any different than when we started," Johnson said of the higher ranking. "Most of them are still alive, but we need to finish the drill. It is good to be back in conference and it was strange to play an out of conference game this late in the year, but we have two conference games left and then back in the SEC against Georgia."

Johnson expects a tough game this week from head coach Jim Grobe's 4-5 team that lost at the last minute to Miami last week 28-27.

"It is going to be a tough game and coach Grobe and his staff do a great job," Johnson said. "They have a senior quarterback who has set all types of records. I am sure they will come in here with a good plan and will be ready to play."

Injury Update

Wide receiver Stephen Hill returned to the practice field for the first time since leaving last week with an undisclosed illness.

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