Georgia Tech's Johnson apologizes for comment

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, whose unfettered tongue and unwillingness to back down to rival Georgia have earned him the admiration of Tech fans, apologized for a poor choice of words on his radio show Tuesday night.

Near the end of his show, a caller, presumably a Georgia Bulldogs fan, came on the air and said, "Hello? Hello?" and then began barking before either hanging up or being cut off. Johnson responded, "Hello? Hello? He just got off from Walmart."

The teams play Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Johnson, who earlier in the day had commented how most Georgia fans he encounters are cordial, said, "Anybody who calls into a radio show and barks is either retarded or doesn’t have a life."

After the show, through a school spokesman, Johnson said he meant his response as a joke "but it was a poor choice of words on my part and I sincerely apologize. It was not my intention to offend anyone."

Advocates for people with mental disabilities have campaigned to stop the use of the word "retard" or "retarded" as a slur, calling it hurtful and dehumanizing.

Injury report

A-back Orwin Smith, who sat out last Saturday's game with a toe injury, practiced Tuesday and will attempt to play in Saturday's game against Georgia.

"I will at least try," Smith said Tuesday. "The worst that can happen is me going out there and me not being able to play, but I will give it a shot."

Smith said he ran full speed at practice and "limped around a couple times," but overall said he felt great. Smith is the Yellow Jackets' most dangerous playmaker on offense. He averages 10.8 yards per carry and 23.8 yards per reception and has scored 11 touchdowns in 65 offensive touches. He has been receiving a variety of treatments, including hot and cold tubs and ultrasound, to stimulate healing of his turf toe injury, typically a painful malady.

Wide receiver Stephen Hill and A-back Roddy Jones were held out of practice for the second day in a row, but are expected to return to practice Wednesday and play. Guard Will Jackson practiced but was kept out of contact drills.

Tech legend dies

Hal Miller, an All-American offensive tackle and a co-captain of Tech's 1952 national championship team, died Monday following a short illness. He was 81.

In 1952, Miller helped lead the Jackets to a 12-0 record and a Sugar Bowl win over Mississippi, giving them the title awarded by the International News Service. Born in Kingsport, Tenn., Miller was enshrined in the Georgia Tech, Georgia and Tennessee sports halls of fame.

The school is working on a tribute to honor Miller and legendary Georgia play-by-play voice Larry Munson, who died Sunday, at Saturday's game.

Familiar company

Hill is friends with one Georgia player he'll likely see plenty on Saturday, cornerback Branden Smith. The two hung out last summer, Hill said. They played each other in high school and Hill played basketball and long jumped against another Georgia corner, Brandon Boykin.

"They're real fast," Hill said. "Their technique is great, so it's going to be a challenge."

Scouting report

Defensive coordinator Al Groh on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray:

"He's certainly as good as we've seen. We compare him and his skill level to (Clemson quarterback) Tajh Boyd. He moves very well within the pocket as well as getting out. … He's always got his feet underneath his shoulders. He resets very quickly. He makes a lot of big throws when the rush initially makes him move off his normal throwing spot without leaving the pocket."

Melton streaking

Wide receiver Tyler Melton has been playing his best football the past two or three games, Johnson said. Melton has seven catches in the past three games for 122 yards, including three for 54 yards against Duke. The seven receptions are more than he had in any of his first three seasons and as many receptions as he's had in the first eight games of this season. He has also blocked particularly well over that stretch.

Johnson said he's not making a concerted effort to get Melton the ball, "but when the ball's gone his way, he's made a couple of nice catches and come down with it."

Nothing to it

Tuesday, Johnson dismissed an Internet report that Mississippi had contacted representatives for Johnson regarding its coaching opening with the firing of coach Houston Nutt.

"I don't know anything about it," he said. "That stuff's crazy."