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

Paul Johnson focused on offense’s flaws

Even when Georgia Tech scored against Alcorn State on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets were still not meeting coach Paul Johnson’s standards.

On the Jackets’ first touchdown, a 28-yard run in the first quarter by B-back Jordan Mason, left tackle Will Bryan and left guard Parker Braun double teamed an Alcorn State defensive end to clear a path for Mason. It was a highly effective combination – they drove the lineman about eight yards downfield, by which point Mason was on his way to the end zone, untouched – but Bryan and Braun weren’t supposed to double team, Johnson said.

“Just things like that, we’ve got to correct against better people,” Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

The better people start showing up ­­­Saturday, when the Jackets play South Florida in Tampa. USF finished 16th nationally last season in defensive yards per play and 11th in defensive yards per rush, although the Bulls have had to replace five all-conference players off last year’s defense.

With eight returning starters on offense, Johnson has particularly high standards for the unit. Johnson observed a surplus of mental errors and a lack of attention to detail in Saturday’s game. Tech did plenty right in the 41-0 win over Alcorn State, but not nearly enough for Johnson’s liking. Johnson faulted both coaches and players.

“I still wasn’t happy with ’em after I watched the tape,” Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We’ve got guys that have played over there. It’s ridiculous.”

Quarterback TaQuon Marshall had problems particularly in the first half throwing accurately. He also made mistakes on his reads in the passing game, Johnson said, missing opportunities for big plays. Marshall also acknowledged losing confidence after a slow start. Johnson said he wanted Marshall to relax and trust in his ability.

“Sometimes there’s some fundamentals stuff that, on a sprintout, we can help him with that he didn’t do a good job of and we didn’t do a good enough job of coaching him on,” Johnson said. “And then sometimes, you’ve just got to throw it.”

Marshall said that he didn’t do a good enough job of communicating with the offensive line at the line of scrimmage.

“But I promise it’ll be fixed this week,” Marshall said. “Don’t worry.”

Another Marshall, right tackle Andrew Marshall, recognized his shortcomings in the game, which was his first since the end of the 2016 season. He missed all of 2017 with a foot injury.

“You can always improve and get better each week,” he said. “So I did some good things, did some things that I need to work on. So just keep pushing and keep getting better each week and each day.”

The depth chart released Tuesday revealed a lineup change. Right guard Brad Morgan, who made his first career start Saturday, was bumped to second string, with Will Bryan shifting from left tackle to replace him. Bryan’s vacated spot will be taken over by redshirt freshman Zach Quinney, who made his college debut Saturday.

“I thought he did some good things,” Johnson said of Quinney. “The more he plays, hopefully, the better he gets.”

The wait continues for the return of center Kenny Cooper, who suffered a foot injury during spring practice. There had been a possibility that he would be available for Saturday’s game, but he had not been cleared to take part in contact when Johnson spoke with media Tuesday morning.

“I think they’re just trying to ease him back in,” Johnson said of team trainers. “That was my question to the trainer this morning: When are you going to turn him loose?”

Tech begins ACC play on Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh, a week after the USF game, and follows that with No. 2 Clemson, the team that has defended the Jackets better than anyone in recent seasons.

The Jackets are only days past their season opener, but the imperative to improve quickly is quite real.

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.