ATLANTA — Paul Johnson tried to show his players what could happen in a real game in Georgia Tech’s final preseason scrimmage on Thursday.
A disappointed Johnson said his players then showed him what he hopes will not happen when Georgia Tech plays Jacksonville State next Thursday night.
“There were a lot of malfunctions,” Johnson said. “That’s why we did (the scrimmage). Hopefully we’ll learn.”
Johnson, beginning his first season at Tech, had assistant coaches in the booth at Bobby Dodd Stadium and headphones on his sideline staff as he tried to duplicate a game-day routine.
The Yellow Jackets did everything — from pregame stretching to walking off the field at halftime — except properly execute the plays, according to Johnson’s post-scrimmage evaluation.
The scrimmage was closed to fans and reporters.
What were the malfunctions?
“A lot of stuff,” Johnson said. “We had guys running wide open in the secondary. We had missed assignments, missed tackles. There’s a lot of stuff we need to work on.”
When asked if the anticipation began to pick up during the practice game which marked the start of the one-week countdown to the opener, Johnson said, “I think the concern picks up a little bit.
“You hoped we were further along than we are. It was a good message to me and the coaches. We’ve got a lot of young guys who haven’t done it before.”
Johnson said he hopes to have sophomore Josh Nesbitt and Flowery Branch grad Jaybo Shaw ready at quarterback. Nesbitt, the projected starter, returned on Monday after missing most of last week with a shoulder injury.
Nesbitt said Thursday’s practice game didn’t feel like a normal practice.
“It felt very different,” Nesbitt said. “It felt more like a game. The stuff coach threw at us could very well happen in a game. We adjusted to it very well. We’ve just got to get better.”
Nesbitt said he’s trying to avoid getting too excited too early.
“I’m just trying to stay calm,” he said. “Just think about the game, and my job, and try to get everybody ready.”
Nesbitt, from Greensboro, played in 11 games as a freshman last year. He had 53 carries for 339 yards and attempted only 13 passes while playing behind Taylor Bennett, who transferred to Louisiana Tech.
Nesbitt acknowledged he’s not completely calm.
“It’s getting me jacked up, but I try to keep it off my mind and approach it like I’ve played every game since I started playing it when I was 8 years old,” he said.
Junior Greg Smith, who moved from receiver to running back in Johnson’s triple-option offense, wouldn’t compare the team’s efficiency in the new attack to one year ago under coach Chan Gailey.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Smith said. “We can only get better. It’s a new system and a new program but we’re just going to keep coming out and get better every day.”