At Georgia Tech practice, Paul Johnson ‘right there beside us’

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson instructs Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) in the first half of the Tech home opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. Tech won 41-0 over the Alcorn State. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia Tech B-back Jordan Mason saw a lot more of coach Paul Johnson at Tuesday’s practice.

“Oh, yeah,” Mason said. “I don’t know what was going (Tuesday) with coach Johnson. Every time we were going out there on option, coach Johnson was right there beside us. I was like, dang. I guess he was for real about what he said.”

What Johnson said, following the team’s 49-21 loss to No. 3 Clemson on Saturday, was that he would be more active in coaching quarterbacks, a role that also encompasses their work with B-backs like Mason. Johnson was frustrated with the quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s play against Clemson and in previous games, and promised that fundamental play at the position would improve. Tech is 1-3 going into its game Saturday against Bowling Green.

“We’re definitely working on the quarterback and A-back and B-back pitch relationship because that’s one of the things we’ve been having trouble with,” Marshall said. “So we’ve definitely been working on that.”

Marshall was often off-target on pitches against Clemson, when the Jackets tallied up eight fumbles. It led to Tech 74 yards in negative-yardage run plays, including four sacks. Tech averaged 22 lost yards per game last season.

Part of the problem with the pitches was the A-backs and B-backs, when running alongside Marshall in place to take an option pitch, not keeping the right angle and distance. A-back Clinton Lynch said that he and Marshall haven’t been in sync, but planned to fix the problem this week.

“I don’t think it’s mental,” Marshall said. “I don’t know – you’re just trying to play fast and things happen, and it’s just not what you want to happen.”

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Marshall said that Johnson was more involved than usual particularly during the option periods, when quarterbacks practice reads and exchanges with the B-backs and A-backs. Mason said that the “energy was flowing” in Tuesday’s practice and that players were more focused because of his attention.

“Every play, if you did something wrong, you were going to get it,” Mason said. “He was on your bubble. He was just trying to make sure everybody was doing what they’re (supposed to be) doing.”

After Saturday's game, Johnson called the offense's play "embarrassing" as penalties, missed assignments and a lack of execution thwarted the unit. He acknowledged that coaches were not doing a good job of coaching fundamentals.

“Not pitching the ball on the ground, not going sideways, pass protection, getting the snap from the center,” Johnson said. “On defense, lining up in the correct coverage, playing with leverage, being in the right gap. I mean, there’s a zillion fundamental things that you can get better at every week.”

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