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COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Outgoing Tech QB Washington gives advice to newcomer Lee; ex-Auburn star RB Dyer signs with Louisville

Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee is getting hints on how to run the team from last year's starter, Tevin Washington.

Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee is getting hints on how to run the team from last year's starter, Tevin Washington.

ATLANTA — Perhaps no one knows better the path that Vad Lee will soon walk than the one who just walked it. Tevin Washington’s advice to Lee as he begins his tenure as the starting quarterback at Georgia Tech?

Don’t let up.

“Don’t settle for being the starter at Georgia Tech,” he said. “Working on the grand scheme of things, push yourself for the Heisman or whatever that goal may be, pushing yourself to be a first-round, second-round draft pick, whatever you seek for yourself.”

Lee and Washington were teammates for two years, Lee’s redshirt season in 2011 and last season, when Lee backed up Washington. When the Yellow Jackets opened preseason camp Thursday, Lee was now being backup Justin Thomas.

But the expectation is that Lee will be the starting quarterback when the season begins Aug. 31 against Elon.

Not counting Calvin Booker’s single start in 2008, Lee will be the third starting quarterback for coach Paul Johnson, who is entering his sixth season at Tech. The starter of the Jackets’ most recent 31 games offered his thoughts about what awaits Lee as a first-year starter. Washington remembered a “whole 180 spin” when he became starter in November 2010 after Joshua Nesbitt’s season-ending arm injury.

“Once you’re the starter, you’re the leader, and all 120 of your teammates are looking at you, and the coaches are looking at you,” Washington said. “They want to see you lead, and they want to see you, basically, as being the guy that whatever the situation may be, you’re the guy that they can count on.”

One lesson Washington said he wished he could have learned before becoming the starter was to stay grounded no matter the circumstances. In his first full season as starter, Tech won its first six games before finishing 8-5. Last season, Tech started 2-4, but rebounded to finish 7-7, winning the Sun Bowl in Washington’s final game.

“No matter what (success) or whatever adversity may come, you should always have the same mindset,” Washington said.

For learning Johnson’s spread-option offense, the crucible of Washington’s four starts at the end of his sophomore season and the following spring practice were an invaluable aid toward his first full season as a starter in 2011.

“When you’ve got live bullets coming at you, it’s a lot different than with scout team,” he said. “In a game situation, you’re going to get a lot more as far as down and distance and situational, one-minute (offense). You get the whole shebang coming at you.”

Despite the importance Washington placed on being the starter in order to learn the option, he was confident Lee will be ready to handle the offense on a full-game basis. Johnson made the decision in Lee’s redshirt season to let him practice with the first- and second-string offenses to gain more option experience rather than run the scout team. Last year, Lee played in parts of 12 games.

“He’s going to get every situation that he can possibly get thrown at in practice, going through option drills and going against (the first-team defense),” Washington said.

Washington said that in practice, when the first-string offense and defense went at each other, because the defense wasn’t preparing to play against option offenses, “they would throw crazy stuff at us.”

Washington remains in metro Atlanta, still training and hoping for a shot at the NFL. He also has used his time to train young quarterbacks, passing along his knowledge to the next generation. He has positive thoughts about the quarterback he has trained alongside for the past two years.

“I feel like he’s been preparing since he came in to be the starter,” Washington said. “I feel like he’s going to have a pretty good year.”


Ex-Auburn star, BCS MVP RB Dyer gets another chance at Louisville

Former Auburn running back Michael Dyer appears to be ready to make another comeback attempt at Louisville.

According to USA Today, Dyer will report to the Cardinals for practice next week after accepting a scholarship offer. He has not played football since he left Auburn after the 2011 season.

The newspaper spoke with Fitz Hill, the president at Arkansas Baptist College and former San Jose State coach who served as a mentor to Dyer during the past year.

Dyer was suspended at Auburn in December 2011 for failing drug tests after rushing for more in 1,000 yards in each of his freshman and sophomore seasons. He enrolled at Arkansas State in January 2012 but was dismissed before fall practice after a handgun was found in his car when he was stopped for speeding by a state trooper.

“He’s excited to have an opportunity to resume his career,” Hill told USA Today. “Many people doubted that Michael would ever make this comeback, and it’s here.”

Dyer, the offensive MVP of the 2011 BCS Championship game, would join a Louisville backfield that features quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

“Based on what he has done at Arkansas Baptist College, I don’t have one negative,” Hill said. “I can’t talk about Auburn or Arkansas State, but I can talk about Arkansas Baptist College. It’s been all positive.”

According to NCAA rules, Louisville officials cannot comment until Dyer officially signs with the school.

Hill said TCU and Louisville were interested in signing Dyer but apparently hesitated after the Aaron Hernandez murder charges. Dyer also considered walking on at Arkansas in his home state and said Troy, Western Kentucky and Marshall had contacted him.

“I’m not bringing anything but my clothes and myself,” Dyer told USA Today. “My next opportunity, I’m just gonna go play football, go to class, be respectful and do all the things I’m supposed to do. That’s it for me.”


Mercer holds first official practice with new program

MACON — The last time Mercer players left Anderson Field, after spring workouts, they saw plenty of construction still going on.

“Before, we were just practicing in front of dirt,” defensive back Sebastian Hicks said. “They just had the little stands.”

A few months later, like Thursday morning when the Bears returned for a conditioning test and then Thursday afternoon for their first practice of the year, things had changed.

The press box and coaches box on the East side were complete, the scoreboard was up and a large upper deck on the west side was in place, making for a new visual.

“Now, they've got the big stands here,” Hicks said. “It's a different atmosphere even though there aren't (fans) here yet.”

Hicks and more than 90 teammates finished their opening day of preseason practice around dinner-time Thursday, with temperatures around 90 and the sun keeping tabs on Anderson Field.

Mercer will have 28 more sessions before the approximately 7,500 seats in those stands are filled, along with almost every other spot available inside the facility, for the Bears' first season-opening football game since 1941. First-year program Reinhardt, an NAIA team from Waleska, visits Anderson Field on Aug. 31.

“I was anxious and ready to go, get out here and get the lay of the land,” head coach Bobby Lamb said. “It's exciting to see them coming down that ramp, and they're a all wide-eyed and ready to go to work, especially those freshmen. This is the day you really work for.”

The nearly three dozen freshmen apparently came ready to work. Lamb said 15 made the standard for the morning's conditioning test, clearly a number he didn't quite expect.

“I was very impressed with those guys,” he said. “The guys that stood up were the true freshmen that made every single rep of the test, and it's a pretty extensive test. That's impressive. I was very impressed with that.”

The newcomers' debut at conditioning got the attention of starting quarterback John Russ.

"The freshmen did great, really good," he said. "They didn't expect anything; they didn't know what was going to happen with their own tests. They did a great job."

The afternoon session went about two hours with the Bears in shorts and helmets.

"The first day is the first day," Lamb said. "They're running around like a chicken with his head cut off sometimes. We're trying to put the basics in. Defense is putting in their scheme. Offense is putting in their scheme. And every now and then, you collide and get a bad play.

"I thought overall, their pad level was great, their speed was great. It's just paying attention to detail, which we've got to continue to do, each and every day. When the heat jumps on you, that's when you find out who your players are."