At these ACC media summits meant to launch a thousand college football dialogues, teams bring only two players to represent them. Two players to stand for the combined hopes and dreams of an institution.
Attach whatever symbolism you wish to the fact that Georgia Tech included a receiver Thursday in its allotment. Receivers had been rather token pieces at Tech as deployed in the triple option under Paul Johnson. Not quite the appendix of the body football there, but close.
New days and new times call for new representation.
Senior Jalen Camp, he of 11 catches last season and 12 for the entirety of his Tech career, was here Thursday to testify to the changes on The Flats. His mere presence was representative of the more prominent role he and his kind may yet play in Geoff Collins’ offense.
In years past, even if they brought one, what would you have asked a Yellow Jackets receiver at the ACC Football Kickoff?
“Could you describe in great detail your best downfield block last season?”
“Exactly how is Tech’s hands-free initiative going these days?”
“What’s your name again?”
But now, on Thursday, someone asked Camp if he felt liberated during spring practice by the marked increase in throws coming his way. “I guess so,” he said, hesitantly, struck by the power of the verb, liberated. “I definitely saw a lot more targets, more catches in the spring. That was definitely fun. A lot of the guys – tight ends, slot receivers – saw a lot more balls and it really encouraged us and brought energy to the group.”
He earlier in the day described the Tech receiving corps as “probably one of the most excited groups on the team.” Funny how receivers react when they actually get to receive.
If Camp required one last dollop of feel-good, all he had to do was eavesdrop on his new coach as he talked about the world now opened to Camp in an offense operating on at least some of the same theories as the NFL. Camp is built along sturdier lines than the now-archetype receiver – at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he messed around for a few plays as a pass-rushing end this spring when Collins would shuffle players around just to keep them interested. But, his coach said, “Now (Camp) gets to show what he can do for them at the next level.” As a receiver.
Of course, there’s still the question of finding a quarterback who can consistently deliver a ball to an intended target. But one step at a time.
Tech football now is all about the power of change, and the energy of new ideas. It is built on the premise and the promise of anything except option football. That may help not at all when the Yellow Jackets are asked to open at Clemson. But for the time being, Camp embodies the hopeful nature of the Yellow Jackets in the first year of Collins.
So, might Camp even feel more like a real receiver now? He doesn’t go quite that far. “I was a receiver in the past offense,” he said.
And then he adds, “I think this offense opens up opportunities and allows the ball to get in my hands a little more. I think I’ll be used more in this offense.”
Using spring as an indicator, Camp anticipates being able to work more on his craft of pass catching. He anticipates a more even practice-time split between the duties of running routes and blocking than in the past – with one chore being demonstrably more enjoyable than the other. It’s only natural that artists don’t like to paint fences and receivers don’t like to block.
Georgia Tech, of course, possessed a tradition at wide receiver, given such talents as Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. If it’s not careful, it may just become a conceivable destination for the position again one day.
“I think Georgia Tech will be a destination for any and everybody because of where it’s at in the city and what it has to offer,” Camp said, helping Collins with his recruiting pitch. “It will be a destination for a lot of positions as well as receivers.”
And you’ll know the Collins transformation has truly taken hold at Tech the day it brings a tight end to an ACC Football Kickoff.