9 notes from Georgia Tech media availability

Georgia Tech defensive back Kaleb Oliver at preseason practice in August 2020.

Credit: Georgia Tech football/Santino Stancato

Credit: Georgia Tech football/Santino Stancato

Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins, coordinators Dave Patenaude and Andrew Thacker and three players spoke with media via videoconference Tuesday and Wednesday, offering updates on the preseason and the progress of the team.

1. Patenaude said that he is “closing in” on a decision about the starting quarterback. He said that all four quarterbacks – returning starter James Graham, Jordan Yates and incoming freshmen Tucker Gleason and Jeff Sims – will continue to get practice snaps and that he is narrowing packages to aid their understanding.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do,” he said.

Patenaude said that all four continue to learn and not repeat mistakes. Still, they also demonstrate their youth and inexperience.

“You see some really, really good throws, and then you just see some head-scratchers,” Patenaude said. “We did some red-zone stuff (Tuesday), and there were some head-scratchers in there, and I was like, What are you looking at? It was like, Well, this guy did that, and it really didn’t make a lot of sense. It’s just a work in progress.”

Last week, Patenaude said that while Sims is prone to mistakes and needs to be more consistent, “when it all goes the right way, he looks as good as anybody in the country.” He described Sims as athletic with an electric arm, saying that “when he throws on platform and he throws with good balance and really understands where the ball should go, the ball comes out of his hands and it looks really, really good.”

2. Unprompted, Collins praised the work that guards Ryan Johnson and Jack DeFoor and defensive tackles Djimon Brooks and T.K. Chimedza have done daily against each other in practice.

“They come out there – people don’t see it – but the value they bring to this football team, the physicality, the toughness, the way they respect each other is really impressive,” he said. “And I’m very proud of them.”

3. On election day, when all Tech athletes will have the day off to have the time to vote (a proposal led by Tech men’s assistant basketball coach Eric Reveno that has spread throughout college athletics), the football team will volunteer at McCamish Pavilion, which will be used as a polling precinct in the same manner as State Farm Arena. Collins did not yet know the team’s role, but “whatever we can do to be facilitators, we’re all in to do,” he said.

4. Wide receiver Malachi Carter on team goals: “I feel like it’s not really too many specific goals other than, let’s win. Let’s win some games. No one liked the season we had last year. We want to start winning some games. We want to put Georgia Tech on the map. We do a lot of hard work over here, so the expectations that we have because of that are huge. As they should be.”

5. Carter raved about fellow receiver Marquez Ezzard, who transferred from Miami last year and sat out, calling him a “freak athlete” who has improved dramatically from last year. Ezzard figures to be in the rotation at receiver.

“He’s grasped this offense so much better than he did when he came in, and he’s come a long way,” Carter said. “He asks a lot of questions, and you can tell he’s really coming along. So I’m excited to see what he has to offer this season.”

6. An interesting contender for playing time has surfaced at tight end – Jack Coco, who has been one of the team’s long snappers for the past two seasons, but is trying to earn snaps at tight end in addition to long-snapping. Where returning tight ends Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard and freshman Billy Ward are taller and faster, Coco has a thicker build.

“And now he’s out there chipping and catching balls in the flat and running ‘iso’ and power,” Patenaude said. “He brings a different, fullbacky-type mentality.”

Coco, who was listed at 276 pounds last year as an offensive lineman, trimmed to 240 to be able to make the move. Coco also played on the offensive line at Johns Creek High.

“He ate grilled chicken and salad for four months straight to get his weight down and really worked diligently in the weight room and running and things like that,” Patenaude said.

7. Offensive lineman Kenny Cooper’s surgically repaired hip is feeling considerably better. Cooper missed the final eight games of last season after tearing the labrum in his hip.

“I’d say, really, I felt it last week starting to crank up,” he said. “I was able to loosen up and be able to run freely, not much pain.”

Having Cooper healthy is a big lift for the line, as he can play guard and center.

“Coming off of his injury from last year, the big thing with Kenny is he’s very powerful,” Patenaude said. “And when he gets his hands on you, he really can clamp you.”

8. Cooper said that the full face shields that players are wearing to protect themselves from the chance of a COVID-19 infection can make the helmet hotter than normal and also fog up.

“It makes it a lot harder to breathe, but the times we’re in, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” he said.

9. The nickel position is among the deepest with likely starter Kaleb Oliver, Charlie Thomas (moved from linebacker), Jaytlin Askew and redshirt freshman Wesley Walker.

“Honestly, in the safety room, it’s just competition,” Oliver said. “We have ballers all throughout the room that can literally play all across the field. Whether that’s linebacker, safety, nickel, corner, I believe that we can play it all.”

Thacker said that he will try to get them on the field in different ways, such as Askew at cornerback and Oliver and Walker at safety. Oliver echoed thoughts of multiple players in saying that he has better understanding of the scheme and his responsibility within it.

“Especially after playing high safety, now I’m actually seeing how the defense is actually is supposed to be fit in, with all the right gaps and all the coverage responsibilities,” he said.

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