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Fumbles during Tech spring game cause concern for new coach

POSTED: May 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Georgia Tech quarterback Bryce Dykes, right, fumbles as he is hit by James Lipfert during the annual T-Day intrasquad football game on Saturday in Atlanta.

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ATLANTA — Georgia Tech only has four months to find an answer for all the fumbles.

The Yellow Jackets fumbled the ball 11 times on Saturday in the Blue team’s 15-7 win over the White during the T-Day spring football game, leaving first-year Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson with questions left to be answered in his newly implemented option-based offense.

For the time being, depth chart issues are temporarily overshadowed by an inability to hold onto the football.

Georgia Tech’s poor execution came in a variety pack of miscues in front of the 7,521 fans that showed up to Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets fumbled on handoffs, pitches, punt coverage and even had their fair share of troubles on one of the most elementary offensive procedures: the quarterback-center exchange.

Despite the mistakes that loomed large on the afternoon, Johnson was quick to point out not much should be deciphered strictly from the outcome of a spring football game.

“We’re certainly rough in some spots right now, and just not as consistent as we need to be,” Johnson said. “But I also saw some good flashes today.”

But when you cough up the football 11 times and turn it over five times, the weaknesses are certainly going to overshadow the positive.

Georgia Tech had four plays in the first half lose at least 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, including red-shirt freshman quarterback Josh Nesbitt tangling feet with an offensive line that lost 11 yards in the second quarter. Nesbitt went down twice in the first half, including a sack by T.J. Barnes that cost the White offense 12 yards.

“It was a little frustrating we didn’t execute better today,” Nesbitt said. “But we just have to get the team ready for the fall now that this game is over.”

Another glaring deficiency in Georgia Tech’s offense was the inability to convert in short yardage situations.

On third-and-1 in the first quarter, A-back Greg Smith was thrown for a loss on a screen pass. Only a couple of plays later, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was hit for a 9-yard loss on a reverse play.

“We just have to get better timing on offense to cut down on the fumbles,” offensive tackle and Gainesville High grad Nick Claytor said.

The good news from the T-Day game included a nice performance from red-shirt senior quarterback Calvin Booker. Booker showed a more accurate arm than Nesbitt, completing five of his eight throws for 109 yards and two touchdown passes.

In the second quarter, the Auburn transfer hit receiver Andrew Smith for a wide-open 18-yard touchdown pass. His other touchdown strike went to Kevin Cone for 48 yards with 5:20 left to play in the fourth quarter.

Nesbitt finished completing 4-of-12 passes for 62 yards. He also ran 23 times for 67 yards.

“Josh has been a little banged up,” Johnson added. “But he has all the tools. … The more experience he gets the better he’ll be.”

The longest touchdown run of the afternoon was 43 yards by sophomore Tyler Evans.

The leading candidate for the starting tailback position is secure with sophomore Jonathan Dwyer, who finished the game with 12 carries for 71 yards.

On defense, Brad Jefferson (five tackles, one tackle for a loss, and 11/2 sacks), Anthony Barnes (four tackles, 11/2 sacks) and Travis Chambers (five tackles and a tackle for a loss) led the way for the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech also saw consistent punting by Chandler Anderson –with the longest punt of the day at 53 yards – and averaged 42 yards per kick during the game.

“I think we have work to do in every position,” Johnson said. “But I’m certainly looking forward to meeting with each player individually and getting into summer camp.”


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