November 11, 2009

Wednesday practice notebook

The Georgia Tech football team braved cold heavy rain showers Wednesday afternoon in the Rose Bowl as they practiced in shells getting ready for their last ACC regular season game with Duke. A rain soaked head coach Paul Johnson was not thrilled with the local weather media after practice because the conditions we supposed to be better.

"It wasn't bad actually and we got a lot done," Johnson said. "We got to finish the season and you have to look at it as a whole body of work. You cannot look at it part way through. It is like I told the team, you have to finish. Once we finish it, we can look back and see if it was successful or not."

Defensively the Jackets have their hands full facing another talented experienced quarterback in Duke's Thaddeus Lewis. Jackets' Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack was worried about the barrage of talented quarterbacks when he first looked over the schedule heading into the season.

"The quarterbacks were really impressive heading out of last year because there were so many young and talented quarterbacks and pretty soon they mature and get better. I do not know how many starts Thaddeus Lewis has, but last week's guy had 45 starts over his career, but Lewis has improved and he is reading coverages so much better than last year and he is feeling much more comfortable. I think they have had their system in for 20 games since we played them, so they are much improved."

Wommack and the Jackets will follow the blueprint North Carolina used last week of focusing on shutting down the running game allowing them to focus on their pass defense.

"When you go out there and play a team that throws it quite a bit, if you can let them run and throw it is going to be a long miserable day and there is no question we need to stop the run," he said.

One of the keys to stopping the Blue Devil passing game will be the play of free safety Mario Edwards who has been a key figure in the improved pass defense the last two weeks.

"Dominique Reese hurt his shoulder way back against Miami and that affects any player when you get hurt and Dominique is a good player too, but Mario has been able to come in and execute and do some things we need him to do and tackle well," Wommack said. "He is the fourth free safety who has started for us this year and I am happy for him. We need to finish strong."

Edwards and Reese will each see time at free safety Saturday.

"I really want him and Dominique to hold down the spot," Wommack said. "Dominique dinged his shoulder again in the game the other day, so we will play both, but I am proud of what Mario has done and I think he will keep getting better."

The biggest key Wommack is looking for Saturday is a couple of early of stops defensively, so the defense can get the type of momentum that has allowed them to play well in the second half of games this season.

"I think when we switched to the 4-3 defense midseason we were behind in reps and the kids have worked at it and gotten better," Wommack said. "When you go back and look at us, we have not been giving up as many big plays and we have played pretty solid. In the game the other day, we gave up a couple, but it is not the six or seven we had before. If we limit that, execute and tackle, we are a pretty good defense. We are not a great defense by any stretch of the imagination, but we have worked hard and got better."

Jackets look forward to the bye week

Johnson and the team are looking forward to the break.

"I think everybody is looking forward to it," Johnson said of the bye week. "I was telling someone today, I think we have been out there 15 or 16 straight weeks without a break which is the longest I can ever remember."

Despite having such a long and tough schedule, Johnson says none of the players ever complained to him about the rigors of 11-straight games after four weeks of fall camp.

"The kids have handled it really well and no one has mentioned it and nobody has brought it up or said anything about it," Johnson said.

The Jackets have come out of the grind without many injuries either, which has been surprising.

"We have had some guys banged up, but that is football," Johnson said. "We have had guys miss a game or two here and there and played beat up, but it could have been worse I guess."

Heading into the Duke game, the Jackets should have the same players available as last week.

"I don't think we have anybody that is questionable for the game," Johnson said.

Morgan leading the way on D

Derrick Morgan is fifth in the country in sacks heading into this week's game against Duke and he has been getting sacks in every possible way including crawling on the ground last week to sack Riley Skinner.

"He is a coach's dream. Giff Smith does a great job with him and he does a better job with him than the other ends," Wommack joked. "His motors runs and runs and he is not going to be denied like in the game the other night. That is the type of person he is and he is that type of guy and he is a great guy to be around and we are fortunate that he is here."

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