Johnson not worried about playmakers

B-back Anthony Allen, he said, needs to finish runs. And wide receiver Stephen Hill needs to focus on himself, and not who he's being compared to.

Before the season, many believed that Allen and Hill would be the next big duo in Tech's offense, the guys who would replace Jonathan Dwyer and Demaryius Thomas, both of whom are in the NFL.

Instead, Allen has rushed for 330 yards and has yet to score a touchdown, and Hill has dropped almost as many passes as the eight he has caught. He dropped two more in Tech's 24-20 win at Wake Forest and couldn't catch a third when he slipped while running his route.

Part of the problem, according to Johnson, was unrealistic expectations before the season.

"A lot of those guys got pre-hyped before the thing ever started," Johnson said.

He said the comparisons were especially unfair to Hill, a sophomore. Thomas, 6-3, 230 pounds, was the first wide receiver selected in the NFL draft after catching 46 passes for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

"I may coach another 31 years and never have another receiver like that," Johnson said.

Hill, a 6-4 speedster, made tough catches in tough spots last season. Though he's still Tech's most productive receiver this season, with eight catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, he hasn't been the consistent down-field threat that Thomas was last season.

Johnson said he knows Hill can catch the ball. The coach said he will sit down with his receiver on Monday and tell him to relax.

"He needs to worry about being Stephen Hill and not worry about being anything else and he'll be fine," Johnson said. "He's got enough ability to be a really good player."

Allen was tasked with replacing Dwyer, who rushed for 1,395 yards in each of the past two seasons. Allen is on pace to run for 792 yards in a 12-game season. Allen has provided a tough presence on short- and mid-range runs, but he hasn't been the reliable big-play running back that Dwyer was last season. He broke 11 runs of at least 30 yards last season. Allen has two this season, including a 30-yarder against Wake.

"He's broken through the line three or four times. He's got to finish them," Johnson said.

Among other things, Allen is working with an inconsistent offensive line.

Because of injuries the line has started three different combinations in five games. Johnson said coaches were shuttling different players in against the Demon Deacons to find somebody "who would go in there and get something done."

Not much worked. The Jackets rushed for a season-low 209 yards against a team that had allowed more than 500 in its previous two games.

The positive news is that the team did cut down on the 85 blown assignments that occurred in the 45-28 loss to N.C. State. Johnson said the team's effort was much better, even if the results weren't as flashy as expected.

Now, the Yellow Jackets turn their attention to Virginia. It will be an emotional game for defensive coordinator Al Groh, who was hired by Johnson after Virginia fired him as head coach after nine up-and-down seasons in Charlottesville in which he went 59-53. Virginia, led by Groh, defeated Tech the last time they played at Bobby Dodd Stadium, 24-17, in 2008.

"Since I've been here it's always a tough game," Johnson said. "The last time they were down here they whipped us and we were playing pretty good."

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.