Junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall has emerged as the team leader for the Yellow Jackets, who have won three of their first four games of the 2017 season. Here's a breakdown of the first four games and the remainder of the schedule, which resumes Oct. 14 against Miami. Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Jackets explain TaQuon Marshall’s play, defense’s success and more

Georgia Tech players explain their successes of recent weeks, reveal their lack of surprise over quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s play and delve into a preview of the Miami Hurricanes.

1. For Marshall, the work of the bye week was to be spent improving his passing accuracy. Particularly in games against Pittsburgh and North Carolina, Marshall had a handful of off-target throws that could have been long gains had they been more accurate.

The checklist included “mechanics, footwork, consistency, placement of the ball, arm slot,” he said. “All of the above.”

Marshall said that he knows his release well and can tell when his arm slot – the angle of his arm as he releases the ball – is off. Typically, he sails the ball high when his arm slot is lower, a habit developed from playing baseball.

Marshall is 19-for-33 for 333 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Among quarterbacks with enough games and passes to qualify for national ranking (played in three quarters of his team’s games and thrown 15 passes per game), there are only three with a passing efficiency rating better than his 182.34.

2. Tech’s extended scoring drives often are thought to have a debilitating effect on opposing defenses. Center Kenny Cooper explained that they’re not exactly a picnic for the offense. Five yards at a time, the Jackets unleashed scoring drives of 17 and 18 plays against North Carolina. While the circumstances weren’t ideal, Cooper said that the offense was grateful for a break during one of them when play was stopped after a North Carolina player was injured.

“It’s good when you finally get out of it because you’re so tired,” Cooper said.

3. A-back Qua Searcy and wide receiver Brad Stewart have not been surprised by what they’ve seen from Marshall through his first four starts.

Searcy: “I’m not surprised at all. He’s been doing this since he first got here. Even at A-back, TaQuon’s always been a playmaker. He’s just been improving from day one.”

Stewart: “To be honest, from Day 1, he was an athlete. He’s just one of those guys that’s just going to go out there and play. He’s going to give you everything he has. He’s going to be one of the best athletes on the field. He’s going to make plays. That’s all you can ask for. He came out as an A-back, second year (played) as a quarterback and then this past year, true starting quarterback, and he’s just been doing so well as a guy and as a leader on our offense. I’m really proud of what he’s become.”

4. Safety Corey Griffin likes the chemistry that his team has exhibited through four games. He said that the team moved past the Tennessee loss more easily than he thought, and he has seen cohesion between the offense and defense.

“When our offense turns the ball over, the defense yells, ‘We got you. Let’s go get the ball right back – three-and-out,’” Griffin said. “It’s just things like that. We don’t ever hold our heads down when the offense turns the ball over: ‘Oh, man, we’ve got to get back (on the field).’ It’s, ‘Let’s get a stop. Let’s get the ball back in the offense’s hands.’ That’s pretty much what you’ve been seeing.”

5. Tech’s next opponent, Miami, plays Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla. The Jackets began preparing for the Hurricanes with their three practices this week. Defensive end Anree Saint-Amour paid heed to Miami’s big offensive line and running back Mark Walton.

As did safety A.J. Gray: “Just runs hard. Shifty guy.”

Saint-Amour sees a test for his defense’s improvement over the past three games.

“I feel like there’s an eagerness every week, any team we go against, especially Miami,” he said. “They beat us the last two years. You want to get back at them. You want to win that game. We’re trying to keep this win streak going and eager to win that game.”

6. Linebacker Victor Alexander sees deepened trust between the players and defensive coordinator Ted Roof as part of the development. As written previously, Tech’s improvement at the end of last season stemmed from Roof reducing the game plan and giving players fewer play calls, which enabled them to know them better and play faster and with more confidence.

“We kind of made him more confident in us as a defense, all about how we play, execute his calls,” Alexander said. “With that, he made it simpler for us, just by calling two or three plays, because he knows that we’re going to make a play at some point and change the game.”

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