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GEORGIA TECH NOTEBOOK: PJ on qualities he likes in a QB: Heisman winner

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

Yellow Jackets hoops picks up key recruit, commits to tourney in Brooklyn, N.Y.

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech’s competition to run the Yellow Jackets offense officially became a three-way battle Wednesday with the signing of point guard Travis Jorgenson from Columbia, Mo.

Jorgenson, who played his senior season at the New Hampton (N.H.) School, is ranked the No. 31 point guard in the country by ESPN. He will vie for the starting point guard spot with rising sophomore Solomon Poole and redshirt freshman Corey Heyward. Poole played 21 games this season after graduating from high school in the fall and is recovering from shoulder surgery. Heyward, a Peachtree Ridge High grad, is rehabilitating a torn ACL. At New Hampton, Jorgenson averaged a team-high 13.2 points and 5.0 assists per game.

Jorgenson, 6-foot and 170 pounds, also received scholarship offers from Boston College, Creighton and Kansas State. Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida and Miami were also showing interest when he committed to Tech in February.

With the transfer of forward Julian Royal, Tech has one scholarship available. Gregory’s coaching staff is considering transfer candidates to complete the roster.

BIG APPLE TRIP: Tech committed recently to play in the four-team Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 29-30, the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.

The other tournament participants are Penn State, Mississippi and St. John’s. The new arena has made a strong push to bring in college basketball events. Both Maryland and Kentucky have signed multi-year agreements to play games in the home arena of the Brooklyn Nets. The arena also hosted the Atlantic 10 tournament this year and will do so again in 2014.

Tech last played in New York in Dec. 2010, when the Yellow Jackets lost to Fordham, 72-66.

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson was answering questions after a recent practice and the topic — surprise, surprise — was quarterbacks. Specifically, the competition between Vad Lee and Justin Thomas.

“I think they're both working, they have good days and bad days,” he said. “There's never been a great deal of separation, so I think that there's a chance that both of them will play. We'll see how it goes.”

Johnson was asked if it would be his preference to have two quarterbacks playing, perhaps similar to the arrangement at the end of last season with Lee and Tevin Washington.

“My preference would be for us to have an All-American that never had to come out of the game,” he said. “That'd be my preference. A Heisman Trophy winner.”

The offense has incorporated some of the San Francisco 49ers' shotgun option plays into the scheme. In addition to the 49ers, Johnson said he looked at other NFL teams and several college teams.

“I could name 40 schools if you want,” he said. “Anybody who ran gun-option stuff, we probably looked at.”

He said thus far, “It's been OK. It's not a magic elixir like everybody thinks it is. There's problems there, too. It might help.”

JOHNSON IN NO HURRY TO FIND NEW ASSISTANT: Johnson has a fuller plate than usual. On top of filling in for Brian Bohannon, the former quarterbacks and B-backs coach who was named Kennesaw State’s first coach, Johnson also has to find Bohannon’s replacement.

Asked recently after Tech’s second practice if he’ll wait until after spring practice ends to hire a new assistant, Johnson replied, “I don’t know. I guess it depends on how tired I get in practice.”

Johnson said he hadn’t talked with anyone about the opening and acknowledged that with many teams in the midst of spring practice, it’s not an ideal time to hire and educate a new coach.

“So if we get it done in the next week or two, that’ll be cool,” he said. “If we don’t do it till after spring, I’m all right with that.”

Johnson wouldn’t specify that the new assistant would coach quarterbacks and B-backs, as Bohannon did.

“It could be anything,” he said. “When you have an opening, you can move and mix and match.”

He was equally reticent on addressing the possible candidacy of A-backs coach Lamar Owens, who played quarterback for Johnson at Navy.

“There’s a lot of guys that you’d consider,” he said.

SLOW PROGRESS: New defensive line coach Mike Pelton’s assessment of the first two days of spring practice recently was about what you would expect for a new coach teaching a different style of play inside of a new scheme.

“It’s been interesting,” he said. “We’ve got some work to do.”

Pelton did credit the group for hard work and willingness to learn. After three seasons in the 3-4, Tech has reverted to the 4-3 with new coordinator Ted Roof. Among the candidates are Shawn Green and Adam Gotsis at nose tackle, Euclid Cummings, Pat Gamble and Francis Kallon at defensive tackle and Jeremiah Attaochu, Emmanuel Dieke, Anthony Williams, Chaz Cheeks, Nick Menocal and Chris Crenshaw at end.

“We’re basically just trying to figure out where guys are going,” Pelton said. “We’ve moved some pieces around and see how it works out.”

One of the main lessons Pelton is trying to impart is a more aggressive approach off the snap, rather than the read-and-react tactics used in the 3-4 of former coordinator Al Groh.

Said Pelton, “It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but I think they’ll all enjoy it a little bit more once they get in pads and they understand and they start seeing the benefits of it.”

VAD’S SPRING BREAK: QB Lee raved about the time he spent over spring break training with quarterback tutor George Whitfield along with Clemson quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Chad Kelly, among others. He took home a few mechanical takeaways.

“Some things I’m working on is just stepping into my throws, getting my front elbow out of the way so the ball can come stronger and harder, and not always just using my arm,” he said. He has gotten away with it in the past, but “now I’m trying to settle down and use my fundamentals and mechanics so it can become easier and can become much better.”

Receiver Darren Waller opted to stay home over spring break and shuttled between his home in Cobb County and campus to continue his workouts. Last year, he said, he went to the beach and saw his conditioning lapse.

POSITION CHANGES: Offensive lineman Will Jackson, who played guard for his first two seasons and began last season there before moving to tackle, is back to guard, although “he can clearly do both,” Johnson said. ... Walk-on quarterback Holland Frost has moved to safety, leaving Lee, Justin Thomas and walk-on Tim Byerly, who transferred to Tech last year from Middle Tennessee State. Frost requested the move, Johnson said.

“Holland’s a pretty good athlete,” Johnson said. “He’s got a chance to play down the road.”