Monday, March 24, 2008

Football- Spring Practice Questions

Georgia Tech spring practice officially starts today. It's an exciting time, and the new coaching staff brings a fresh hope in the air. With it come a long list of questions begging debate. Here are the top 10 things I'm going to be looking closely at during the next few weeks.

  • How will the depth chart shake out? Paul Johnson and staff have made it clear that the decks are cleared and that everyone starts with a clean slate. Everyone has a chance to earn their spot. DC Dave Wommack has said that he doesn't have a depth chart going into the spring - he has an "organizational chart", which basically means groups of players for each position fighting with no pecking order..... yet. There are position battles ready to begin all over the place. QB, OL, DE, LB, DB, WR, ABack, kicker, punter. Honestly the most solid 1st string jobs are probably are DT's - Vance Walker and Daryl Richard. But start going to the 2-deep in all these positions and things continue to get murky. Last year's redshirts are primed to make their mark all over the 2-deep. The secondary only returns two guys with game-experience. That's wide open. There are spots to be had on the O-Line, losing three starters. LB is open, and considering Shane Bowen won't be practicing this spring - things are really open. I'll be watching closesly for signs of the depth chart forming. This is where it starts.
  • What position changes will we see? Spring is always a time to be on the lookout for guys switching positions. This year, my guess is that we'll see a good bit of it. Not only do we have a new coaching staff, but we also new offensive and defensive schemes. Throw in the fact that we lose a lot of starters on both sides of the ball, and you have many, many possibilities. Personally, I would be on the lookout for WR / DB switches as the most obvious. Also, look closely for WR's who will get time at the "A-Back" or "Slot" position, like Greg Smith and C.Earls. Look for a guy like Tony Clark, a "tweener", to find his spot on the defense.

  • Will someone emerge in the spring to take the QB job? We all know Josh Nesbitt has the physical tools. So the story-line appears to be the young hot-shot physical standout versus Calvin Booker, the slower but crafty, wily veteran. Can Nesbitt make good decisions? Can Booker run good enough? The fall will see the arrival of both Jaybo Shaw and Tevin Washington, who will get their looks. Can either pull a "Reggie Ball" and take the starting job in mere weeks of work? Hard to imagine, but we've seen it before. In the meantime, it seems to be a 2-person battle in the spring. If Booker actually has a better spring, then what are the implications on PJ's Triple-Option offense? Could be interesting.

  • How much of the new offense will Paul Johnson end up putting in place in the spring? He has said he's going to put in as much as he can, but has no strict regimine. I'll be looking for comments about player understanding of the new offense, comments from PJ about the offensive progress.

  • What is the defense going to look like? We will miss J.Tenuta, but sometimes new blood is a good thing. We think we're going to see more 4-2-5 defenses. We think we're going to see tighter coverage by the corners. We think we'll see aggressive blitzing, just not 85% of the time. We think a lot of things, but spring should provide some clues as to where the defense is headed. This bears watching, as DC Dave Wommack is an experienced guy with maybe a little something to prove

  • Who will emerge as the true team leaders? There are vocal leaders like Tashard Choice. There are quiet guys who lead by their play - like Calvin Johnson. Which guys are going to step up and be the ones the other players look to for leadership, inspiration and motivation when times are hard? Who will be team captains? Should be interesting to see.

  • Who will stay and who will go? DJ Donley is staying. DJ is going. DJ is staying. DJ is going. DJ and mom met with PJ and now they might stay. Obviously DJ is the headliner on the watch list of possible transfers. However, he's not likely to be the only one. So this bares watching through the spring and of course through the summer as well.

  • What is the difference in tone, demeanor and attitude? Clearly PJ wants to instill physical and mental toughness. He has started with challenging early morning workouts the last few weeks. Now, I was at GT during the start of the Bill Lewis era. Bill Lewis wanted to instill toughness and tried to do it through puke-inducing 2-a-days. I remember players coming back to the dorm worn out, aching and tense. It all backfired of course. There's a fine-line between running player's backside's off and having it translate into success. With Lewis it didn't translate. He tried to establish a toughness but did not establish a vision that players bought into. So instead of a 5-star General that players would go to war with, he just became just a jerk trying to show who was the boss. Paul Johnson so far appears to have laid the groundwork for a compelling vision of this program. So far the players seem to be drinking the Kool-Aid. That's important, and I am very interested to see how this attitude and demeanor translate onto the field in spring practice.

  • What is the difference in physicality of spring ball? No green jerseys for QB's. No "light tackling" drills. That's what we hear. PJ seems all about the hitting; all about the full-speed; all about the close-as-reality-as-possible game simulation. He wants to teach Josh Nesbitt and Calvin Booker how to be option QB's by letting them get their bell rung. I am going to be closely watching and listening for how this impacts the players. I am also going to be watching how this impacts our injury situation. Intuition would tell you the possibilities for injuries will go up.

  • How will future recruits perceive spring practice? There will be a LOT of future recruits attending spring practices, so it is worth looking out for comments by possible future Jackets on their perceptions.

Here's the schedule for the next few weeks, per Practices are open to the public:

Georgia Tech Spring Practice Schedule
(All practices at Rose Bowl Fields @ 4 p.m.)
Monday, March 24
Wednesday, March 26
Friday, March 28
Saturday, March 29
Monday, March 31
Wednesday, April 2
Friday, April 4
Saturday, April 5
Monday, April 7
Wednesday, April 9
Friday, April 11
Saturday, April 12
Monday, April 14
Wednesday, April 16 (possible move to Bobby Dodd Stadium)
Saturday, April 19 (SPRING GAME @ 1 p.m.)

Anyone attending practice who wants to send me practice reports will get their notes posted online (send to: gtsports -at- blogspot -dot- com). I'd love to share with everyone.