NCF Nation: Anthony Autry

College football fans who have been following Paul Johnson through the years and watching his spread-option offense haven’t seen it change much.

“I mean, the core principles of it are pretty much intact,” Johnson said. “You have some wrinkles here and there. We've added some things. If you watched us play in 1985, it's probably not a lot different now, truthfully.”

Still looks the same -- the Jackets threw the ball 194 times last year and ran it 808. That doesn’t mean, though, that Johnson is opposed to change. In fact, if Georgia Tech has a receiver emerge this summer, Johnson said he would be willing to call more pass plays this fall with first-year quarterbacks Vad Lee and Justin Thomas.

“I could see possibly throwing the ball a little more with these guys,” Johnson said. “I think they're a little better at it than what we've been playing at, if we can get the protection and the guys that can catch it. It's not just one guy, it all intertwines together.”

With Lee penciled in as the starter at quarterback and an underrated passer in Thomas, the Jackets could have the pieces in place to get more out of their passing game. The spring wasn’t a good gauge of the position, as injuries depleted the group, but only two receivers who caught a pass in 2012 will return this fall. Darren Waller had eight catches last season for 162 yards and is the leading returning receiver. Anthony Autry (three catches for 117 yards and a touchdown) missed the spring with an injury, along with Travin Henry, a talented redshirt freshman.

“Darren Waller is a guy who has all the tools to be a really good player,” Johnson said. “He's 6-6, 230 pounds. There's been days in practice that he looks unstoppable, then there's days that he's not. He's got to become consistent.

“Anthony Autry is a freshman, started some last year, hurt his knee about seven or eight games in. Micheal Summers is a redshirt freshman. Travin Henry got hurt last year. He'll be a redshirt freshman. I think any of those four guys probably could step up.”

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
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Georgia Tech had its first day in full pads on Saturday, and it was a chance for new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to get a better look at the defense.

"We've got a long way to go," he said.

The standards have been raised, and that's a good thing -- Georgia Tech struggled defensively in the first half of 2012, and former coordinator Al Groh was fired midseason. The Jackets showed significant improvement, though, in their Sun Bowl win over USC, and there have been positive reviews following the hire of Roof.

The challenge now is to get some positive reviews out of Roof.

"There were some good things, some mistakes, obviously," he said. "Things we've got to clean up. We’ve just got to be a lot more consistent, a lot more consistent from angles of pursuit, to finishing tackles, to finishing plays. We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area, but that's something we can correct."

A few other notes from Georgia Tech, according to the team's practice reports:
  • Injuries have created some opportunities for backups, especially at wide receiver, where Anthony Autry and Travin Henry are sitting out all spring, and returning starter Darren Waller was in red on Saturday. That leaves redshirt freshman Micheal Summers, who has impressed the staff, and junior Correy Dennis.
  • The A-back competition is heating up, as a number of players are working to take Orwin Smith’s starting job. Among those competing this spring: Deon Hill, Synjyn Days, B.J. Bostic, redshirt freshman Dennis Andrews and others. Tony Zenon will also be in the mix when he returns in August.
  • Sophomore Ryan Rodwell is the only experienced, healthy punter in camp, as senior Sean Poole is recovering from shoulder surgery. Poole initially injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle against Miami last September, but held off on surgery until the offseason. Poole and Rodwell, who had identical 39.7-yard averages in 2012, should compete deep into August for the starting job.

Georgia Tech moving on without top WR

December, 14, 2012
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With leading receiver Jeff Greene no longer on the team, Georgia Tech will be down to three wideouts for the Dec. 31 Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC -- Darren Waller, Jeremy Moore and Chris Jackson. The trio has combined for 18 catches this season in the Jackets’ run-based offense. Greene was leading the team with 18 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns -- an average of 21.8 yards per catch -- when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported he was no longer with the team.

Coach Paul Johnson confirmed Greene’s mutual departure following Thursday’s practice session.

“Guys have to do what they've gotta do," Johnson said.

The good news for Georgia Tech is that Greene hadn’t started the past four games, so there is other experience available. The Jackets have also used their A-backs, or slot backs, more than the receivers this year. There are still plenty of targets available for quarterback Tevin Washington. As far as receivers go, though, Moore started at Georgia and against Florida State in the ACC championship game, and Jackson started against North Carolina and Duke. Not having Greene for the bowl game will be a loss, but the position will improve next year, as the bulk of experience returns, along with Anthony Autry, who showed some promise in the first eight games before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

True freshmen to watch in ACC

August, 23, 2012
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Now that we are closing in on the start of the season, we have a much better idea of how many true freshmen could make an impact in the ACC this season based on preseason practice time and early depth charts.

Maryland could end up playing the most, and having players who make the biggest impact. You have quarterback Perry Hills starting in place of the injured C.J. Brown. Highly touted athlete Stefon Diggs has had an outstanding preseason camp. Don't forget about running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown, who also have looked really good.

Here are a few young players to keep an eye on at each school.

Boston College: Justin Simmons, DB. Defensive back is an area where Boston College needs help, especially after the loss of Al Louis-Jean, who's out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Simmons already has made his presence felt. In a scrimmage last weekend, he had two interceptions. Also watch for defensive back Bryce Jones and linebacker Steven Daniels.

[+] EnlargeTravis Blanks
John Albright / Icon SMI The versatile Travis Blanks may line up at a number of positions on defense for the Tigers.
Clemson: Travis Blanks, DB. One of the top defensive backs in the country out of high school, Blanks enrolled early and had an impressive spring showing. He has followed that up with a great preseason, and will line up in a variety of positions -- nickelback, cornerback and some linebacker as well. On offense, watch for Germone Hopper, who has had some pretty explosive plays this fall.

Duke: Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell, RBs; Ross Martin, PK. Duncan and Powell have turned heads during the preseason, and coach David Cutcliffe said he would feel comfortable using both players in the opener against FIU. Martin is sure to get plenty of game experience as the starting kicker this year. Others to watch: receiver Max McCaffrey, tight end Erich Schneider and safety Dwayne Norman, who had an interception return for a touchdown in one scrimmage.

Florida State: Ronald Darby, CB. Do not be surprised if Darby ends up starting in the spot vacated by Greg Reid. Darby and Nick Waisome are competing for the starting job. Coaches like both players, but there is something special about Darby. Said coach Jimbo Fisher: Darby is "going to be a very, very good one." Also watch for defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and tight end Christo Kourtzidis.

Georgia Tech: Anthony Autry and Micheal Summers, WR. Georgia Tech only has four other scholarship wide receivers, so that increases the chances for Autry and Summers to play this season. Autry seems to have a slight edge over Summers. Others to watch: defensive back D.J. White.

Maryland: In addition to Hills, Diggs, Brown and Reid, several others could make an impact this year. Punter Brad Craddock is competing for the starting position with redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro; and cornerback Sean Davis could be starting on opening day because he has done well, and there are some injuries on defense.

Miami: Ereck Flowers, OL. Flowers is listed as a starter right now at right tackle, helped in part because of Seantrel Henderson's absence. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has been extremely impressed. Others to watch: defensive back Tracy Howard and running back Duke Johnson. Howard is listed on the two-deep behind Ladarius Gunter but has drawn raves so far and so has Johnson, who should also return kickoffs this year. Deon Bush is in the mix for a starting safety spot.

North Carolina: Quinshad Davis, WR. Davis missed some early practice time because of a medical issue but has returned in the last week and has a big chance to make some noise. The Tar Heels are lacking depth at this position, and the way Larry Fedora likes to spread the ball around, he will take as many good receivers as he can.

NC State: Charlie Hegedus, WR. Receiver is a position of need for the Wolfpack, and Hegedus has seen more reps during fall camp with the injury to Bryan Underwood. One player NC State hopes you do not see this year is backup quarterback Manny Stocker, a true freshman behind veteran Mike Glennon.

Virginia: Maurice Canady, CB. Coaches are extremely high on Canady, who is in the mix to earn a starting spot in a secondary that has to be rebuilt this year. He has been working with the first team recently. Others to watch: Michael Moore at outside linebacker, and Eli Harold at defensive end.

Virginia Tech: J.C. Coleman, RB; Donaldven Manning, DB. Both players enrolled in January and are virtual locks to play this season. Coleman has separated himself from another true freshman, Trey Edmunds, despite a hand injury. He has had an outstanding fall camp. Manning has had to deal with a hamstring injury, but his early enrollment works in his favor.

Wake Forest: The Deacs rarely play true freshmen. But if there is one player who has a shot this year, it is defensive end Tylor Harris, who has stood out this fall for his pass-rushing ability -- something Wake Forest needs help improving this year.

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