NCF Nation: Tony Zenon

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
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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 opens spring practice today with a new defensive coordinator in Ted Roof, and a new starter at quarterback in Vad Lee. I had a chance to catch up with coach Paul Johnson to ask about his expectations of both headed into the spring. Here is a little of what he had to say.

I have to start off by asking -- how are you enjoying Twitter so far?

PJ: My daughter, she said, ‘You’ll be good at that, Dad, you need to do it.’ And, ‘I’m like, I don’t know about that.’ She goes, ‘Oh just try it.’ So it’s been interesting.

What is the No. 1 thing you want to see this spring out of your defense as it starts to get adjusted to playing a different scheme?

PJ: It’s the same regardless of scheme. You want guys that can play fast, play hard and understand what they’re doing. The scheme is there to help them. We try to work the scheme around them rather than trying to fit them into the scheme. And I think our guys are excited about it. Ted’s a fiery guy. He’s going to have a lot of passion, a lot of energy and I think they’re looking forward to that. And it’s not that big of a change from what we did the last half of the season.

You guys showed major improvement the second half. Is the goal to build on some of what you were able to do?

PJ: Yeah I think the second half we simplified things and tried to let guys play fast and understand what they were doing and basically we played a lot of 4-3 tenets the last six games. We got away from the 3-4 a little bit.

Jeremiah Attaochu is going to be playing more at defensive end. What are your hopes for him in that role?

PJ: That’s what he played last year. Very seldom did he drop. He was more our rush guy. We played a field boundary guy and it’s going to be very similar in what we’re doing now, so we’ll try to play to his attributes and his strong suits. He’s a really good pass-rusher and we’ll try to utilize him in that area and line him up on some tight ends and some of that.

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia Tech's Vad Lee is in a QB competition this spring, but coach Paul Johnson said there's no doubting Lee's leadership skills.
How do you see some of the competition playing out along the line with T.J. Barnes and Izaan Cross gone?

PJ: We’ve got some good depth. Euclid Cummings is a guy I’m excited about. I think he’s got a ton of ability. Emmanuel Dieke has played a lot. Adam Gotsis, Shawn Green played. We’ve got a couple guys, Pat Gamble, Rod Chungong, Francis Kallon that we redshirted so we feel like we’ve got depth there and some guys so we’ll probably play six, seven guys up front.

Now that Vad looks to be your starter, have you seen him taking on more of a leadership role?

PJ: Vad’s always been a leader. It’s in his DNA. Usually the good ones in that position are that way. He’s a hard worker and I think that he’s trying to develop a chemistry with everybody and we’ve got another guy named Justin Thomas that we redshirted at quarterback, and that ought to be a heck of a battle this spring. Clearly, Vad’s in front but Justin’s a good player in his own right, so that ought to be some pretty good competition between those two guys.

How will you work the reps?

PJ: Well, Vad will start out at 1 but in the spring, you’re going to run two teams anyway so they’ll probably get an equal number of reps.

Any kind of scenario where you play both like you did with Vad and Tevin Washington last year?

PJ: It’s possible. It will be determined on how it turns out, once we get into the spring and we start playing how it looks and how it unfolds, but I think going into the spring you’d have to say Vad’s the No. 1.

What about at A-back. Orwin Smith was able to do so much, what’s the competition going to look like there?

PJ: We’ve got a lot of guys back there who have played a lot. Synjyn Days played the last half of the season there, we moved from quarterback so we’re excited about him. Robbie Godhigh is the starter that returns. Deon Hill, B.J. Bostic, Dennis Andrews is a guy we redshirted. We have a lot of guys there we feel can be pretty good players.

What are you looking for out of those guys to take the next step?

PJ: Well Robbie’s been a reliable guy, he played well all year and I think the other guys are very capable. I think the more Synjyn plays, hopefully the better he’s going to be. He’s 225 pounds so he’s ideal. He can block, has good speed, hard to tackle. B.J. and Tony (Zenon) both are shifty littler guys, Deon’s in the middle so out of that group of guys we just hope to find a rotation that fits what we need really.

What about Broderick Snoddy? Will he continue to run track this spring?

PJ: Football will override the track part and so he’ll be at practice. Whenever they have meets and those kind of things we’ll try to work it out and let him do both.

Do you envision a bigger role for him?

PJ: Yeah, I would hope so. Every time we got to the point last year where we were trying to get him in, he would get hurt or something would happen and it just didn’t materialize but certainly we’d love for him to have a bigger role. But that’s going to be up to him this spring to earn it.

Who are you looking at to replace Omoregie Uzzie on the offensive line?

PJ: There will be some competition. We were able to redshirt a couple of classes of guys and we feel like we have some depth, so we’ll just work it out. We’ll end up with the best five playing if we have to move some guys around. With Jay (Finch) missing the spring, Catlin Alford, Freddie Burden will get a lot of reps. We’ll slide some guys. We’ve got some guys, Will Jackson has played both guard and tackle. He can slide in there. He and Shaq (Mason) will probably be the starters and then Morgan Bailey and Ray Beno, who both started at tackle all year -- we could still have five guys who started a lot of games.

Orwin Smith doubtful for ACC title game

November, 30, 2012
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Georgia Tech leading rusher Orwin Smith did not practice on Thursday because of a right ankle injury and is listed as doubtful for Saturday's Dr Pepper ACC championship game against Florida State, according to a school spokesman.

Smith is the team's leading rusher with 673 yards this year and five touchdowns. He is averaging 9 yards per carry. He also has 14 kickoff returns for 267 yards. He injured his right ankle in a Nov. 17 win over Duke and missed last week's game against Georgia. On Monday, Smith said he expected to play, but he probably hasn't practiced enough this week.

Georgia Tech will turn to an A-back by committee approach should it need to replace him. The most likely candidates are B.J. Bostic, who started in Smith's place last week against Georgia, and Synjyn Days, who started the second half last week. Tony Zenon (25 carries, 191 yards and a touchdown) and Deon Hill (five carries, 42 yards) will also play.

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