August 21, 2009

Changes in the Jackets' defense

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets scrimmaged on Friday afternoon ending a week of practice a day early, so the team can have a chance to heal and get their legs back under them. Several offensive players caught head coach Paul Johnson's attention while defensive coordinator Dave Wommack confirmed a few changes on the defensive side of the ball.

"It went alright and there was some good and some bad," Johnson said of the scrimmage. "Orwin Smith stood out to me. He looks good and makes a lot of plays. I thought Tevin Washington did some good things and he score with every possession. Preston Lyons played really well and had some really good runs. Preston and Orwin are going to play and play well."

Johnson said the offensive line play was lackluster, but the first team defense looked sharp.

"The first team defense played light years better than they did last week," Johnson said. "The second team offensive line must have been pretty good because they scored every time, but there were some guys who took the weekend off before we ever got out there. They know who they are."

Safety Cooper Taylor went into camp as the number one player in Coach Wommack's new wolf position, but he moved back to free safety when Dominique Reese was injured and Taylor will remain as the starting free safety this season. Several players including Reese, linebacker Anthony Barnes, corner Rashaad Reid and safety Mario Edwards will battle for the wolf position over the next two weeks.

"We moved Cooper back to free safety and we are working different combinations there with A.T., Rashaad, Dominique and Mario," Wommack said. "I am going to play the best 12 players and right now I feel like we have 13. I think we have six guys in the secondary that are really ready to go and out of those six, five will start for us with one being a husky-safety type. I feel good about that, but we cannot afford to get anyone hurt."

Several true freshmen are close to securing spots on the roster this year and according to Wommack, they need several to step up and provide better depth.

"We are still in a situation where we will have to count on some young people to play, so we can be two-deep," Wommack said. "Julian Burnett, Rod Sweeting, Jemea Thomas and probably Izaan Cross have stood out to me."

T.J. Barnes has impressed Wommack at defensive tackle and the defensive coordinator says he feels pretty good about the defensive line heading into preparations for the first game.

"I think the defensive line has progressed and T.J. has come a long ways in the last two weeks," he said. "He is not as consistent as I would like him to be, but he is making progress and we see that on the film every day."

Another pair of returning players with limited game experience has impressed Wommack as well.

"Steven Sylvester is another guy that has stood out to me who did not play last year as does Logan Walls," he said.

Peeples working to get on the bus

A-backs coach Jeff Monken is looking for five to six guys to rotate and sophomore Embry Peeples is hoping to one of the backs in the rotation this season.

"I feel like I am doing pretty well and the competition makes us better. We feed off each and help each other with our mistakes," Peeples said. "I hope I am in the mix because we are working really hard and it is a good competition, so we will know when where we stand on game week."

Peeples feels like he is getting better everyday and he should be able to compete mentally with any of the other players.

"I have room for improvement in everything I do," Peeples said. "I think I am doing better with my assignments and I rarely miss an assignment. That came from other guys at A-back helping me."

After struggling grasping the offense last year, Peeples is feeling pretty confident and sometimes helps starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt with his reads.

"It is a lot easier now in the offense and sometimes I can help Nesbitt make a check or I can look at him and tell him where the opening is going to be," Peeples said. "The A-backs can look at each other and look out to the wide receivers and communicate where the crack block is."


Several key players were held out of the scrimmage on Friday including starters Derrick Morgan and Demaryius Thomas. Johnson hopes the two days off will help energize the team and heal the injured.

"We had a lot of guys out and hopefully we get everybody back healthy on Monday," Johnson said. "We need to get off our feet because we are leg weary."

One of the injured players playing through pain is offensive tackle Nick Claytor who has been battling a groin injury for a few weeks.

"Nick is trying to push through it and he is practicing, but he is struggling," Johnson said. "He is pushing through and trying to play himself into shape."

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