Vad Lee only attempted 11 passes against Elon, but he was hurried three times and that did not please the Yellow Jackets’ coaching staff who felt Georgia Tech’s line should’ve dominated the FCS school. (File photo)
ATLANTA — Georgia Tech offensive tackle Ray Beno hasn’t seen a replay of the catch yet this week.
“Actually, I think they’ve been hiding it away from me,” Beno said, laughing.
Last November, Beno made one of the most memorable plays of the season, catching a deflected pass and then running for a nine-yard gain against Duke, the Yellow Jackets’ opponent on Saturday. The play converted a third down to extend a drive that resulted in a touchdown, a huge momentum play in Tech’s 42-24 win.
“Still to this day, I still wonder what I was doing when I caught the ball,” he said.
Along with his linemates, Beno has been drilling diligently on the element of the passing game more central to his position. Tech coaches were not happy with the pass blocking against Elon. Of quarterback Vad Lee’s 11 pass attempts, three were hurries.
Beno said he thought there has been greater emphasis on pass protection since the Elon game, including practicing a lot of pass plays and working with the defensive linemen in one-on-one pass rush drills.
He attributed the poor protection against Elon to “just kind of letting our guard down” against the FCS opponent. Footwork and technique were the issues, he said.
“But I think we’re getting that handled this week and we’ll be ready for Duke,” he said.
Tech will need to be. Duke’s defensive line is the best that coach David Cutcliffe said he’s had in his six seasons with the Blue Devils. While Duke’s first two opponents (N.C. Central and Memphis) may not be the most accurate barometer, the Blue Devils’ pass-rush pressure helped limit them to a combined 28-for-56 passing with three sacks.
Coach Paul Johnson wasn’t ready to pronounce the problem solved, saying merely that the line looked good against the scout team.
“We’ll see when we go against live bodies,” he said, referring to the game in Durham, N.C., on Saturday.
Ironically, Beno’s catch was the result of his failing to reach a cornerback in time to block him. The cornerback, Russ Cockrell, hit wide receiver Chris Jackson as the pass from Tevin Washington arrived, sending the ball into the air. Beno did the rest, grabbing the ball, gaining his balance after nearly falling and hustling for the first down. It was the first time he had ever carried the ball in a game in his life.
“If it happens again this year, I’ll do it again,” he said.
TECH-UNC TV SCHEDULE SET: Georgia Tech has been given a noon kickoff for its Sept. 21 game against North Carolina. Game times for all ACC games on that day were released Monday. The game will be broadcast on either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
It will be the second consecutive week that Tech plays on one of the ESPN networks. The Tech-Duke game this Saturday will be broadcast on ESPNU at 3:30 p.m.
The network for the North Carolina game will be announced by Sept. 15. The game is just one of two league games to be played on the 21st, with Pittsburgh-Duke the other.
BAILEY FRUSTRATED: On the 40th day since Georgia Tech began practice, offensive tackle Morgan Bailey was finally able to join his teammates Monday. Bailey had been out from the start of the preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia.
“Frustrating,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can say. Now that I’m back, I’ve just got to work that much harder since I’m so far behind.”
Bailey will probably play Saturday against Duke, coach Paul Johnson said after Monday’s practice. Bailey said the condition developed over the summer through weightlifting and running workouts. It put him on the shelf after he had started seven games last season and finished the year as one of Tech’s most effective linemen. The surgery continued an unfortunate pattern for Bailey, who has battled injuries since his arrival at Tech.
“I do feel for Morgan, because I do know he wants to be out there and he wants to play and he wants to be out with his guys,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said last week.
In Bailey’s place against Elon in the season opener, former Monroe star and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Bryan Chamberlain started at right tackle and handled himself well.
“I definitely need to knock some rust off,” Bailey said. “The speed of the game’s a little bit different than what I remember.”
SAME RECEIVERS START: Receivers Corey Dennis and Micheal Summers will start against Duke, wide receivers coach Buzz Preston said. Returning starter Darren Waller will come off the bench after serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Receiver Travin Henry, who was also suspended, is expected to play in his first college game.
After Dennis and Summers, “Other guys will get their opportunities to get in there and we’ll see where it goes after that,” Preston said.
The suspension aside, Preston joined others in praising Waller for his work in the preseason.
“He’s doing some good things out there,” he said. “That’s why, obviously, I’m excited, too, about him coming out for the first game and see what he does.”
WORKING TECHNIQUE: Kicker Harrison Butker said he is continuing to try to get more height on his placekicks. Getting more loft on the ball is part of the transition from high school — Butker is a true freshman — “because there’s bigger dudes coming down the middle,” he said.
Butker had a strong start to his career, recording touchbacks on seven of his nine kickoffs against Elon. He did not attempt a field goal. Butker said his range is 55 yards.
NEW QB, SAME OFFENSE: Johnson was not overly concerned about Duke having a new quarterback. Brandon Connette will replace starter Anthony Boone, who is out indefinitely after fracturing his collarbone in the Blue Devils’ win over Memphis Saturday.
“He’s played every year, so I’m sure they’re not going to change much of what they do,” Johnson said of Connette.
Johnson said lineup changes have been made on special-teams units. He did not like what he saw from the punt-return and kickoff units, in particular, against Elon. He did not specify the changes.
NOTES: A-back Deon Hill is questionable for Saturday with an illness, Johnson said. Hill made his first career start against Elon. Linebacker Tremayne McNair (knee) is expected to return to practice Tuesday and should be able to play against Duke. McNair is from Jacksonville, N.C., near the coast, about 150 miles from Durham, N.C. … Tech’s kickoff time for its Sept. 21 home game against North Carolina has been set for noon. The game will be carried either on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. The network will be announced by Sunday.