A lot of excitement surrounds this year’s spring football game, which kicks off this evening at 7:30 p.m. at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Fans eager to catch a glimpse of their 2013 Jackets can watch the White squad take on the Gold squad in a full contact scrimmage in what will be the second annual rendition of Friday Night Football. The scrimmage is designed to recreate a game-like atmosphere for the Jackets to practice and showcase their new looks on both offense and defense, which have been developed in a series of fourteen practices.
The Jackets, fresh off of a 21-7 Sun Bowl victory over the preseason No. 1 ranked USC Trojans, will have plenty of new wrinkles in the playbook on display.
On offense, quarterbacks Vad Lee and Justin Thomas are expected to compete for the starting job. Lee, a redshirt sophomore who impressed last season as a backup, will likely be the starter for the first-string offense, while Thomas will start for the second-string. The two have each had great offseasons and have both been called “electrifying” on the ground. While the public has only seen glimpses of Thomas in a pair of open Saturday morning scrimmages, expectations are high for the talented redshirt freshman.
To accompany his versatile dual-threat quarterbacks, head coach Paul Johnson has been busy installing several new formations on offense, many of which are designed to capitalize on Lee and Thomas’s passing ability. Modeled after the offense run by Colin Kaepernick for the San Francisco 49ers, the formations are shotgun option-based, yet retain the flexbone’s full backfield.
Tech’s backfield personnel should appear familiar to most, as the Jackets return most of their running backs from last season; Robbie Godhigh, BJ Bostic, Tony Zenon, Synjyn Days, Deon Hill, Zach Laskey, David Sims and Broderick Snoddy all return. Former A-back Orwin Smith is a key loss, but several players have been stepping up this spring to try to fill his shoes. Redshirt-freshman Dennis Andrews, originally recruited as a quarterback, has been a spring standout. Andrews marks the second quarterback recruit to switch to A-back, along with Days. Also returning after an injury is redshirt junior B-back Charles Perkins.
At receiver, redshirt freshmen Michael Summers and Travin Henry are expected to debut, alongside veterans Anthony Autry and Darren Waller. With the departure of Jeff Greene, the Jackets will need increased production from their four scholarship receivers. Summers has seen many snaps this spring, as he has been one of the only receivers to stay healthy in the offseason.
On defense, there will be a noticeable change in alignment as the Jackets transition out of the 3-4 into new defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s 4-3 system. The last time Tech operated under a 4-3 scheme was the 2009 season, when the Jackets won the ACC championship and finished 11-3.
With the switch to the 4-3, several Tech players are changing positions. Australian native Adam Gotsis, who had a significant impact last season as a true freshman, will be moving from defensive end to defensive tackle. Reports from practice indicate that he is handling the transition well and is expected to continue to contribute this fall.
Senior Jeremiah Attaochu will be moving from linebacker to defensive end, a move which suits his style of play well. Last year, as a linebacker, Attaochu lined up alongside the defensive line often, so the move is not that significant of a change for him.
Also making a position change this season will be senior Jemea Thomas, who will likely play cornerback this fall after playing most of last season as a free safety. Originally recruited as an A-back, Thomas has been one of the most versatile and hardest hitting defensive players on the field for the Jackets the past two seasons. His most memorable moments were his two interceptions against then-ranked No. 5 Clemson in 2011 and his diving one-handed interception against Florida State in the 2012 ACC Championship game.
While the Jackets are fairly banged up, with many players unable to play in the scrimmage due to injury, there are no players who are expected to miss the start of the season this fall. Among the injured are Snoddy and junior starting center Jay Finch. Backup redshirt freshman center Freddie Burden was also injured earlier in spring practice.