Justin Thomas #5 QB reads the defense then signals a play change

ATLANTA, GA - Sparked by a strong second half from Justin Thomas and DeAndre Smelter the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) pulled away late for a 38-19 victory over the Wofford Terriers Saturday afternoon. "It was a game of two halves," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. "I was happy to see Justin, after the first half, settle down and hit some big plays in the passing game".

Thomas, who was a perfect 8 for 8 passing in the 2nd half, threw two touchdown passes to Smelter on back-to-back possessions to give the Yellow Jackets a 24-12 lead late in the 3rd quarter. Following a touchdown drive by Wofford to cut the lead to 24-19 early in the fourth quarter, Thomas led Georgia Tech back downfield for a touchdown less than two minutes later, a drive highlighted by a 65-yard pitch to Broderick Snoddy that was deemed a forward pass. One play later Zach Laskey punched it in for an 11-yard dive to the endzone.

Smelter posted a career-best 132 yards receiving, including a career-long 71-yard...

Q: So how are things going year 1 to year 2 with Coach Roof and Coach Pelton?

A: It's going good. We're getting better. We've learned the system now like the back of our hand. That's always good to go out there and play fast.

Q: There's a lot of conversation about the defensive line this year, especially with all of the offseason departures due to graduation, Jerry going to the NFL, and all those guys in camp. What do you expect out of your own personal performance and that of the defensive line this year?

A: I expect to go out there and give 110% and play every down like it's my last. With losing all those players it's time for somebody else to step up. It could be anybody on the D-Line. When a star leaves another star is born. We're doing good, we're progressing, and we're getting better every day. We're going out there working hard with Coach Pelton. All we've got to do is stay focused and get ready for the season.

Q: Is there much difference for you on the line in the 4-2-5 vs. the 4-3 or is it pretty much the same scheme?

A: It's pretty much the same. There isn't really too much difference for a defensive lineman in that scheme. There isn't much more to it than taking a line[man] out.

Q: Francis just mentioned you're getting a little more aggressive and a little more up-tempo this year. Is there anything schematically that you all are doing differently or is it just more familiarity with the scheme in general?

A: We're just got familiar with the scheme. When you're familiar with the scheme you can just go out there and play fast. If you're not familiar with the scheme you're not going to play fast. Now that we're in the second year with Coach Roof and Coach Pelton, this is familiar. So now we just got to go out there and play aggressive. It's a game of football and it's about physicality.

Q: Last year coming into camp the offensive line was banged up a little bit. This year they have 3 or 4 lines coming at you all. Do you see a big difference in their performance so far?

A: Oh yea. They have a lot of depth now. When a player goes down another one can step up and play. And that's good for us that they have 3 lines that can come at us every time. They're fresh and we're down. They can get us mentally stronger. For them I can just see them getting better every day just watching them play. The young guys are getting better and the old guys just keep progressing.

Q: What have you seen so far out of Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly so far in camp?

A: Oh, I love my quarterbacks man. I love my quarterbacks. They're going to do some big things this year and surprise some people. I can feel that. I like them a lot, they're getting better, and all we've got to do is keep working.

Q: Last question for you - Last night/late-breaking news there was a ruling in the Ed O'Bannon and NCAA case. Have you heard anything about that or has there been any chatter on the team in terms of what that means for student athletes, and especially for football players at big-time schools?

A: What is it called?

Q: The Ed O'Bannon case.

A: I don't even know what that is.

Q: How are things going so far in camp?

A: They're going good. I'm just working my butt off. Just trying to make everything positive and give it 100%.

Q: There's a lot of interest in the D-Line especially with all of the departures in the offseason. Everyone is expected you to have a big role this year. What are your expectations going into the year?

A: My expectations are to give 100% on the field, do my job, and win games.

Q: What kind of differences have there been from year 1 to year 2 with Ted Roof and Coach Pelton?

A: There's been big differences in the defense's mentality. It's more fierce now, it's more aggressive, and we're just rising up to the occasion.

Q: It looked like today you spent a lot more time in the 4-3 as opposed to the 4-2-5. Is that true just because you're playing our offense?

A: Yes, basically we're just playing against what we have in front of us. If it's the triple option we'll switch up our defensive play.

Q: How much have you leaned on Adam Gotsis? Has he been a good leader for you all?

A: Yea, he has. He has helped me tremendously to get better. Obviously being from another country it's been a good connection.

Q: How much prep have you done for other teams so far? Have you just been focused on fundamentals at this point?

A: Yea, we've been going through a lot of stuff and making sure we know what we have [going into] the season. We've practiced against the triple option and [prepared] for what we'll see this season.

Q: What are you weighing now?

A: 292

Q: How is camp going so far?

A: It's going good. Everyone has camp legs and is a little tired. Overall as a team everyone is flying around out there and really enjoying themselves. I feel like as a team we're closer this year on and off the field than we were last year or past years.

Q: What did you think of today's scrimmage? It seemed like you were a jack-of-all-trades lining up at A, B, and QB.

A: It was interesting. Coach Johnson met with me this summer and said he wanted to get me the ball a lot more because I'm physical in short-yardage situations. He's trying to put me in wherever I can fit in and get me the ball. I think that pretty much speaks to my game; I'm versatile. So hopefully that turns out pretty good for us this season too.

Q: Obviously the A-Back [position] is more in your wheelhouse probably since you played it the last couple years. Do you have a preference?

A: Not really. I just want the ball in my hands and I want the team to win. I feel like with the ball in my hands we have a great chance of winning because I'm tough to tackle.

Q: How far along are you guys this year compared to last year at this time?

A: I think we're probably further along even though we have a new quarterback in Justin Thomas. Justin was new to the offense when he came in but he impressed me. When he came in I was still at quarterback. He impressed me with his knowledge of the game and how calm he was as a quarterback. You never really see him rattled. At the A-Back position we have a lot of seniors. A lot of people don't think we have depth at the D-Line, but I feel like the core guys that we have are going to hold it down.

Q: There's a lot of talk about the hurry-up. We saw it in the spring a little bit, we've heard about it in the offseason, and we saw it for maybe one or two series today. How much have you all worked on that so far?

A: We've worked on that every day, every practice. Every practice we work on the hurry-up, oh my goodness, especially at the end of practice. I feel like it helps [practicing] when we're tired because it makes us be more mentally focused. I think it's going to be a big factor when we run it this season because a lot of defenses are probably not going to be able to get lined up and get their calls. We're going to know what we're supposed to be doing, so I'm looking forward to running it during the season.

Q: Last year coming in to camp the offensive line was banged up. This year you have 3 or 4 different lines coming in. They're all fresh and you're running them through. Have you noticed a difference in how well they're doing?

A: Yea, I think the O-Line as a whole has progressed in knowing the calls and who they're getting. That's one of the big things with our offense. Playing A-Back and B-Back and knowing the different calls that the linemen have to make, and I see they're making the right calls because that's what I see too. It's reassuring knowing that the line is making the right calls and blocking the right people. I'm really looking forward to this year. I'm really excited.

Q: Last question for you - Last night there was some late-breaking news in the Ed O'Bannon and the NCAA trial. Have you all heard anything about that, the outcome, or do you have any sort of opinion on what that means?

A: No, we haven't heard anything about it. I haven't heard anything about it.

ATLANTA, GA - Despite ominous forecasts this morning's weather turned into the complete opposite of the spring game. The temperature was in the 70's and the skies were dry, a welcome change for coaches, players, and fans. Unsurprisingly all parties enjoyed a more crisp result in all three phases of the game along with a few big plays sprinkled in.

Highlighting today's action was a big effort from Tim Byerly. He and Justin Thomas split snaps with the first unit during the day's first drive that ended with a ~45 yard Harrison Butker field goal. The drive opened with two consecutive passes, the second of which was a back shoulder throw from Thomas to DeAndre Smelter that resulted in a 10+ yard gain for a first down.

Throughout the day Byerly looked sharp, highlighted by him ripping off a 50+ yard scamper for a touchdown midway through the scrimmage. Under Byerly's direction the option looked as fluid as it ever has this early in fall camp. Also seeing action at QB were Matthew Jordan, Brady Swilling, Chase Martenson, and current A-Back Synjyn Days.

Jordan pushed through normal freshman QB mistakes and showed flashes. He followed several overthrows to receivers with a deep completion down the right sideline to Darren Waller that simply confirmed his long talked about potential. When option plays broke down he showed off his athleticism. It's clear Matthew is coming along but will need more time and repetitions to see significant playing time.

It appeared the defense spent much of the day in the 4-3 as opposed to the expected 4-2-5, a sign that the defense will be dynamic depending on who they line up against. The main benefactor of this was linebacker P.J. Davis who saw time with the first team defense as the third LB. Showing up big throughout the day was safety Dominique Noble who had at least three big hits that got the team and crowd excited.

A few other random notes:

  • Synjyn Days lined up at A-Back, B-Back, and QB. The snap at QB was one play inside the 5-yard line as we've seen from him in the past. It'll be interesting to see whether he continues to get snaps at B-Back with the first team given the depth situation at running back (A and B). He looked good during his limited time at B-Back, which included a swing pass and run for 15 yards out of the backfield.
  • A-Back Tony Zenon continued a strong fall camp with a couple nice runs and a diving 20-yard catch
  • Tackle Bryan Chamberlain appeared to mostly line up at LT as opposed to RT where he played last year
  • DE Jabari Hunt-Days was not a passive observer. He was loud and encouraging from the sidelines and was completely into the game. While playing mostly with the scout team, near the end of the scrimmage he played 1 series at DT with the first team defense.
  • DE Kenderius Whitehead showed why coaches expect big things out of him next year with a touchdown saving tackle in the red zone
  • On the scout team you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who had a better day than RS SO A-Back Isiah Willis (#29). He made an athletic catch on a pass that took him out of stride, had several nice runs, and showed good burst. Physically he looks the part and could easily be a contributor in the near future.

Overall there was no dominant unit, a good sign when you're playing against yourselves. With three weeks left until the season opener let's hope the team continues to make strides and arrives at Bobby Dodd on August 30 completely healthy.