For its annual fan day, Georgia Tech held an open practice before signing autographs and posing for photos. Yellow Jackets fans were rewarded with a slew of plays in the practice before being obliged with signatures Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Coach Geoff Collins gave fans a peek at a two-hour practice, the fourth workout of the preseason. With players suited up in shoulder pads and helmets, the session that included plenty of 11-on-11 work.
The defense often controlled action. In one period, safeties Tariq Carpenter and Christian Campbell and linebacker Charlie Thomas came down with interceptions. Thomas’ was a leaping effort in the middle of the field off quarterback James Graham. The offense had some trouble with pass rush, as defenders such as linemen Antwan Owens, Jordan Domineck and Antonneous Clayton, linebacker David Curry and cornerback Tre Swilling had clean runs at the quarterback in various 11-on-11 periods.
The quarterbacks simultaneously had difficulty finding downfield targets, having more success on routes to the flat, although Graham found wide receiver Malachi Carter behind the defense for a deep ball in 7-on-7 and freshman quarterback Jordan Yates connected with freshman running back Jamious Griffin on consecutive plays for big gains in 11-on-11 work. Walk-on Ryan Lantz took advantage of his opportunity with long balls to transfer wide receiver Marquez Ezzard.
The last play of the practice was among the most eye-catching. Freshman linebacker Demetrius Knight made a leaping interception on the sideline over the intended receiver, prompting cheers from his defensive teammates. Knight signed as a quarterback, but was moved to linebacker and is steadily learning the position.
Following practice and after the stadium was cleared to set up for the autograph signings, fans walked, ran and run/walked to get to Collins’ signing station in the south end zone as soon as they were permitted. First in line was Jeffrey Haverly, who won a season-ticket holder raffle for a VIP experience at fan day. Haverly, who brought a helmet to be signed, said he told Collins that he was excited for him to be coaching the Jackets and that he was looking forward to the season.
“He said, ‘I am, too,’” Haverly said.
Fans brought posters, schedule cards and footballs with autograph panels for Collins, who inscribes items with his Twitter handle (@CoachCollins). There were also, among other things, a Tech-themed garden gnome (asked Collins, thoughtfully: “Where do you want me to sign the gnome?”) and Waffle House cups. Collins also was presented with a wedding invitation.
“I didn’t do as good a job on this one, I apologize,” Collins told a fan bearing an autograph football.
Seated under tents organized by position group, players patiently churned out autographs and posed for photos.
“Everybody was very nice,” said Terri Dawson, who came with her 10-year-old son Wesley. “Very respectful young men.”
Wesley left Bobby Dodd Stadium with an autographed football crammed with Jackets’ signatures. Wesley is a fourth-generation Tech fan whose grandfather was taught Sunday school by Bobby Dodd’s wife. His two favorite players are kicker Wesley Wells and quarterback Tobias Oliver, and he got to meet Wells, who told him to earn good grades in school.
Wesley (Dawson, not Wells) said he was excited for the Jackets’ season because “they’ve got a new coach who has a shotgun formation. My dad’s been saying, ‘We need a shotgun formation, we need a shotgun formation!’”
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