When Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson hired a special-teams coordinator, he broke from his standard practice not only by dedicating one coach to special teams. He also departed from his system of having two offensive line coaches.
After working with Todd Spencer for the past four seasons, offensive line coach Mike Sewak is now without a partner. Graduate assistant Preston Pehrson has been helping Sewak this spring. Spencer resigned in January over NCAA rules violations regarding text messaging recruits. Johnson replaced him with special-teams coordinator David Walkosky.
"It's definitely an adjustment," Sewak said.
In Johnson's first four years, Sewak worked with the guards and centers and Spencer trained the tackles. Johnson also had two offensive line coaches at Navy – Spencer and Ken Niumatalolo, who succeeded Johnson.
"Todd was with me for a long time, did a really good job," Johnson said. "We wish him the best. You move on. There's nothing you can do."
To Sewak, one significant difference is that he can't work with one player individually while the rest of the group keeps going. Also, having two coaches permitted the tackles to work on one drill while the interior linemen worked on another, both with experienced eyes watching. With five positions, an offensive line coach typically supervises the most players of any position coach.
While he said that neither he nor Spencer "had an ego on it," Sewak acknowledged the benefit of having one voice instead of two. Center Jay Finch will miss a coach who invariably lifted his spirits.
"No one's going to be able to replace him," Finch said. "He's a unique personality, great coach. He cared about us so much."
Injuries and a desire to increase versatility have led Johnson to move pieces around on the offensive line. Guard Shaquille Mason and Trey Braun are running with the first string due to Omoregie Uzzi missing spring practice to recover from surgery and Will Jackson suffering a high-ankle sprain in practice Saturday that may cause him to miss the rest of spring practice.
Center Nick McRae has been practicing at tackle, but may return to guard/center. Catlin Alford, a tackle, has been training at center.
"(We) definitely have got to find three guards and three tackles that can hold us over all the way through the season in case we do have injury like we're going to have," Sewak said.
Sewak was encouraged that on Sunday, the day after the team did some scrimmaging, players went in on their own to review video and called him with questions and observations.
Tech has canceled its final two of four contracted games with BYU, in 2014 and 2017. The teams will still meet for a home-and-home this fall (at Tech) and 2013 (at BYU). Tech needed to drop a non-conference game in 2014 because it had four scheduled, and by that point the ACC will be playing a nine-game league schedule. In 2017, Tech had BYU, Mississippi and Georgia scheduled but wanted to swap out BYU for a game against an FCS opponent. There will be no penalty for the scheduling change.
The team will scrimmage the next two Saturday mornings at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Both will be open to the public, but start times have not been determined. Tech will complete spring practice with its spring game Friday, April 20 at 7:45 p.m.