September 1, 2018 Atlanta - Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson instructs Georgia Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) in the first half of the Georgia Tech home opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. Georgia Tech won 41-0 over the Alcorn State. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

TaQuon Marshall’s confidence, injury report, ‘grab-tailing’ and more

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson spoke with media Sunday night via teleconference regarding the team’s 41-0 win over Alcorn State on Saturday and the team’s upcoming matchup with USF the coming Saturday. The most noteworthy piece of information was that center Kenny Cooper will not play against USF. Other notes from the interview:

Marshall’s confidence

Following quarterback TaQuon Marshall’s comments that he lost confidence in his passing after a slow start against Alcorn State, Johnson repeated what he said he told Marshall at halftime in the locker room.

“He’s got to play the next play,” Johnson said. “You can’t get your dobber down after you mess up or you make a bad play. You’ve just got to keep playing.”

Johnson called plays for Marshall on his final series of the game to try to boost his confidence. After a 4-for-12 showing in the first half, Marshall completed five of six passes to finish the game 9-for-18 for 104 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“Maybe, hopefully he regained a little confidence,” Johnson said. “He can play so much better than he played (Saturday).”

Plan for freshmen

Johnson reasserted that he doesn’t want freshmen to be put in games if they are only going to play a handful of snaps, as was apparently the case for some of Tech’s defensive freshmen. Johnson is trying to manage the use of the four games that players are permitted to play in a season and still claim a redshirt season, as allowed by a new NCAA rule.

“Those guys on defense, they’re not going to play if they’re playing three plays a game,” Johnson said. “So once they run their four games out, they’ll be finished. If that’s the way they choose to use them, that’s the way they choose to use them. But I promise you, they’re not going to lose a redshirt to play three snaps a game.”

On offense, one freshman – wide receiver Malachi Carter – played in the game. Nine defensive players got into the game, though many are clearly in the team’s plans to contribute throughout the season either on defense or on special teams or both.

Freshman A-back Tijai Whatley was dressed to play, but did not get into the game.

“I saw no reason to put him in a 41-0 game and let him run tail motion (at A-back) six or seven times and that’d be one of his four games,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that Whatley is probably the fourth or fifth A-back. He anticipates Whatley having to play at some point because of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. He acknowledged that Whatley may end up contributing more than four games. But at this point, with the matter being uncertain, Johnson wanted to hold onto Whatley’s four games and guard his four seasons of eligibility.

“I promise they’re all going to be much better players four years from now than they are right now,” he said.

Injury report

Tech apparently got out of the game fairly unscathed from an injury perspective. Johnson said that “I don’t think we had anybody seriously hurt.”

Defensive review

After reviewing game video, Johnson was generally pleased with the play of new defensive coordinator Nate Woody’s unit. He liked the penetration of the defense into Alcorn State’s backfield and the negative plays, including four tackles for loss and two turnovers.

“We still made several mistakes, which you’re going to do when you first start,” Johnson said. “But I thought it was a good start and it’s something that we can build on and certainly we’ll have to build on. I’m not a guy that jumps to conclusions after one game or one quarter or a guy doing something. I want to see a little bit of a body of work and then I’ll figure it out. Like I said, the competition level is going to increase. It’s going to get better in a hurry.”

The next opponent

Johnson’s assessment of USF, which defeated Elon 34-14 on Saturday: “I think they’ve got a good football team. They’ve got some really good athletes. They have a plan on offense. They know what they want to do and defensively, the same way. They have a system and they try to adjust their system to whoever they’re playing. Good athletes and they’re well-coached. They’re a very formidable team.”

More coverage

Defense shines for Georgia Tech in win over Alcorn State

In opener, young Georgia Tech defenders take lead role

Photo gallery from Georgia Tech’s win over Alcorn State

Watch Jalen Camp’s ‘great, great play’ for Georgia Tech

What Georgia Tech players said after the game

What Paul Johnson said after the Alcorn State game

Evaluating TaQuon Marshall’s passing game against Alcorn State

2 injured Jackets have strong return against Alcorn State

Kenny Cooper’s return for Georgia Tech will not happen this week

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