14 notes to get caught up on Georgia Tech’s preseason

Notes from Georgia Tech practice. They include quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s progress, coach Paul Johnson’s thoughts on a variety of topics and a freshman to watch, among other things.

1. Center Kenny Cooper is running and bearing weight on the foot that he injured, but has yet to start practicing. Coach Paul Johnson said that “I think he’ll be back practicing by the first game.”

Johnson said that, as Jahaziel Lee continues to work at center, it’s conceivable that he could stay at center and Cooper move to right guard opposite Parker Braun at left guard. In that combination, Will Bryan would play at one tackle and perhaps Andrew Marshall might play the other.

Jahaziel Lee taking on new role in Georgia Tech’s offense 

2. Johnson on backup B-back Jerry Howard’s opportunity for playing time behind starter KirVonte Benson: “It just depends on how the game goes. We probably need to play more than one guy. When he goes in, he needs to play well, and then that way he’ll get to play more. I don’t ever worry about that. It just kind of depends on how the game’s going.”

3. Johnson had a reason for not being too disturbed about losing all five starters in the secondary. The Jackets were 62nd last season in defensive pass efficiency and had six interceptions, tied for 110th.

“You’d feel a lot worse if you were top 10 in pass defense and you lost ’em all,” Johnson said. “We had some good players back there with a lot of experience, but we have other guys we feel like are capable and they’ll get their chance.”

4. Johnson commented on Benson’s weight loss, which Benson said could help him with speed and agility. Given that Benson already was lean, Johnson wasn’t sure how much it would matter, but did like that he cut his body fat.

“There’s a lot of guys that need to lose weight,” he said. “Including me.”

KirVonte Benson ‘is trying to get more of a speed game’

5. A day after quarterback TaQuon Marshall bemoaned having to wear a non-contact jersey, Johnson said Tuesday that “we’ll see” if that will continue.

“We’ll probably bang ’em before the first game somewhat,” Johnson said. “But it might be above the waist (against the scout team). I don’t know. At least with TaQuon. We might get after the other ones.”

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6. Safety Christian Campbell has “put in his time” learning safety and improving at the position, Johnson said. He is the leading candidate to start at free safety as camp begins. He’s listed ahead of grad transfer Malik Rivera on the depth chart.

“It’ll be up to somebody to beat him out during camp or when the season starts,” Johnson said.

Campbell said he’s comfortable in the spot he’s in now, and likes the aggressiveness of new defensive coordinator Nate Woody’s scheme.

“I’m being asked to step down in the box,” he said. “I like that, getting inside a little bit.”

7. With Cooper limited physically over the summer and his return date unclear, Marshall worked with a variety of centers on center-quarterback exchanges, including Lee, Marshall and Scott Morgan. Marshall said he’s comfortable with each of the centers.

“So I’m kind of familiar on where to put my hands with everyone,” he said. “Things are getting better with me and Jahaziel. I just try to tell him to stay consistent with it. He hasn’t been doing too bad.”

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8. Marshall has been dedicated to improving his passing from last season after completing 37.1 percent of his 116 passes last season.

“The chemistry with me and the receivers, it’s crazy because we worked on it a lot during the summer,” he said. “Don’t have to really fix too much. Of course, we have a couple tweaks in practice, like, Hey, let’s see if we can do this during (passing drills). Let’s see if we can do that. Other than that, it’s been pretty on point. I can see the improvement when I watch it on film.”

Among other things, Marshall has been working on his footwork in the pocket, staying the pocket, his throwing technique and getting a better feel for where receivers want the ball thrown on various routes.

How TaQuon Marshall plans to improve passing from 2017

9. Marshall on freshman quarterback James Graham: “He’s progressing pretty well. Honestly, (compared with) when I was in his shoes, when I first moved to quarterback, he’s coming along a little bit quicker than I was, for sure. Because it’s tough. I think he was in the (shotgun) all of high school. So he’s getting snaps (for the first time). His footwork is better than mine when I first started, so he’s progressing pretty well. He’s got a good arm, throws a good ball.”

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10. Offensive tackle Bailey Ivemeyer on the hardest player for him to block on the Tech defense: “Probably Anree Saint-Amour or Desmond Branch. They’re both very good with their hands. They’re physical guys. They’re quick. That’s a mean combo, especially being at tackle, a lot of times those guys are moving right to left, and you’ve got to push ’em off the ball. It’s really hard to do.”

Anree Saint-Amour explains his excitement for new defense

11. Offensive lineman Andrew Marshall on expectations for the offensive line: “I think every year, your expectations should be high, and definitely this year, it should be high. We’ve got a lot of people, a lot of bodies and a lot of people returning on offense in general. A lot of starters who have a lot of good experience and won some ballgames. So I think expectations should definitely be high.”

12. A-back Clinton Lynch said that he is “really working” on improving his perimeter blocking this season.

“That’s one of my goals, actually,” he said. “Just continue to do the little minor things with that.”

From the spring: Clinton Lynch was feeling healthy, a great thing for Tech (myajc)

13. Defensive end Desmond Branch said sophomore Antwan Owens is an “athlete, athlete, athlete. He can move.” Freshman lineman Quon Griffin has also impressed Branch, who said he is “super powerful” and “has a lot of tools to work with.” 

14. Linebacker Brant Mitchell said that incoming freshman Justice Dingle is playing the “jack” linebacker position. It’s the outside linebacker spot that rushes the passer frequently. Jaquan Henderson and Victor Alexander are competing for the starting spot.

Mitchell compared the “stinger” safety spot and the nickel back position in the former defense. Where the nickel played off the line at the linebacker level, the stinger can play up on the line and be in position to rush the quarterback.

“I guess it brings a little versatility to our defense coming from both sides, because it could be either or one could be rushing, one could not,” he said. “I guess that’s probably the biggest difference the nickel and the stinger, is the versatility it offers.”

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Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Nate Woody was born Dec. 30, 1960 in Burlington, N.C., and graduated from T.L. Hanna High in Anderson, S.C. T.L. Hanna was the setting for the motion picture "Radio" that starred Cuba Gooding Jr. Nate Woody played at Wofford and later was defensive coordinator there (2000-12) and at Appalachian State (2013-17). App State defenses ranked in the top 30 in the FBS in each of Woody's final four seasons as coordinator. Woody played two seasons at defensive back and two at lin

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