At Georgia Tech, the value of All-ACC center Sean Bedford’s return to practice Wednesday can hardly be overstated before the Yellow Jackets play Saturday night at Wake Forest.
He left Saturday’s loss to N.C. State when his right shin was leg-whipped by the shin of a Wolfpack player on Tech's second possession.
With backup center Jay Finch out with a hamstring injury, Tech went with redshirt freshman Ray Beno in his college debut and senior Zach Krish -- a former walk-on. Tech rushed for a season-low 247 yards, 96 yards below average.
Finch also returned to practice, making coach Paul Johnson happy: “They both looked good.”
It is the center’s job to call blocking schemes for his linemates at the line of scrimmage and often to block the middle linebacker.
N.C. State middle linebacker Nate Irving was ACC defensive player of the week after registering 16 combined tackles and assists, 4.5 tackles for lost yardage and two sacks. In his first three games, he had 11 combined tackles, half a tackle for lost yardage and no sacks.
Bedford is wearing a soccer-style shin guard on his heavily wrapped leg.
“On any given play, the tackles will have to relay information to me and the quarterback so we can make our calls and figure out what we’re doing," he said. "I think Beno did a very valiant job for his collegiate debut, but ultimately to expect somebody to know the intricacies of playing center after a handful of days on the job, it’s just unreasonable.
"I’ve been playing this long enough that on any given play, I don’t have to think about my assignment. It’s second nature, and I can make sure we’re aligned correctly, and in the best position to succeed.”
Defensive players have cited problems communicating during the N.C. State game, suggesting that contributed to a long list of blown assignments. The Wolfpack’s no-huddle offense hurt, too.
The defense is going over hand signals, which already are used by members of the secondary as they’re so far apart. Middle linebacker Brad Jefferson calls the defense for linebackers and linemen as signaled in from the sidelines.
He’s making sure everybody hears or sees him, and after N.C. State’s no-huddle offense caused issues by rushing defenders into bad situations, that's being accounted for as well. “That definitely put a dent in us. We’re working on it now so we’ll be prepared for it,” he said. “We got to fix our communication before we do anything because everything goes from that.”
Sense of urgency
Johnson has alluded to players needing to play with greater urgency, and he has that they have to “care enough” to know their assignments.
On his radio show Wednesday night, he said he could tell in the pregame warm-ups that the Jackets were ready to play before winning 30-24 at North Carolina on Sept. 18.
But before the N.C. State game, “it was so quiet you could hear two rabbits peeing on a bale of cotton.”
Defensive coordinator Al Groh said that Tech needs to approach practices like games.
“Sometimes, it can be traced back to preparation,” Groh said. “Usually, the more challenged a team or player feels, the more intense the focus of preparation is. What all coaches are usually trying to do is develop a culture in their team that you’re challenged to prove yourself every day, not just on Saturday."
Bostic on rise
Johnson has said that freshman A-back B.J. Bostic, who had a 43-yard run against N.C. State and is averaging 11.6 yards on a modest seven carries with two kickoff returns for a team-high average of 26.5 yards, needs to play more and will, “As fast as he can learn to get where to go. We’ve got to find a way to get him the ball some.”
Marcus Wright, who started at A-back against Kansas, did not play against the Wolfpack.
“I think he was just down the depth chart,” Johnson said. “I guess he just wasn’t in the rotation. [A-backs] coach [Lamar] Owens would have to tell you that.”
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