CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The two Georgia Tech players who appeared Wednesday at the ACC Kickoff were smart enough not to speak at length about their Sept. 8 game at USF, considering they have a Sept. 1 game against Alcorn State.
But be assured, the Bulls already lurk in their psyche, if not their sound bites.
"When we're in workouts at 4:45 (p.m.) in the blazing sun trying to push each other, everyone's panting … I tell the guys, 'Hey, it's gonna be like this the second game of the season in Tampa,'" senior QB TaQuon Marshall said.
"'You're playing at 12 o'clock, probably gonna be 90 degrees-plus, humid. This is what you're gonna get. Are you gonna give in now or are you gonna push through it?' So that's kind of the mind-set we have."
Marshall is among nine returning starters on a Jackets triple-option offense that finished 5-6 last fall, but lost three games by four or fewer points. On Wednesday, Marshall and Coach Paul Johnson were peppered with questions about Marshall's feeble pass efficiency (43-for-116, 927 yards) last season, and whether it will improve.
And while Johnson insisted his team practices the forward pass as much as anyone, he strongly suggested the Yellow Jackets will attempt to ball-control the Bulls right out of Raymond James Stadium.
Both of his 1,000-yard rushers, Marshall and KirVonte Benson, are among the returners. Johnson said his team also is far more experienced up front.
"I'm not looking to be balanced. I don't want to be balanced," Johnson said.
"I can find you a bunch of teams with losing records that are balanced. I think you have to be good at what you do, and certainly we need to be more efficient throwing the ball. I don't know that we throw it more, but if we had a little higher completion percentage and a little more efficiency, then certainly that would help the offense."
Injury reports inevitable?
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision clearing the way for every state to allow sports gambling, ACC commissioner John Swofford indicated he believes a "national" college football injury-report of some sort ultimately will surface.
Swofford said until this year, the coaches in his league had a "gentlemen's agreement" to publicly disclose injury information. Ironically, they won't in 2018.
"I won't even call it an injury report because I think that we need to include other situations that would be in sync, be consistent across the country," he said.
"I think that's critically important, and would include not only injuries but if there's a disciplinary action where a player is suspended…that would need to be a part of it as well. And I think that reduces to some degree people you don't really want coming around players and…anybody associated with the program."
Fresh motivation for K.J. Sails
In the wake of a breakout sophomore season (team-best 13 pass breakups), North Carolina CB K.J. Sails — an East Bay High alumnus — appears motivated to deliver a solid encore.
Fatherhood can have that effect.
"He mentioned quite frequently he just recently had a son," Tar Heels DT Aaron Crawford said.
"He was always full-go beforehand, but now he's really flipped the switch. You see a different approach in him in the way that he truly attacks the work. He's locked in, he's focused, he's doing everything he needs to do, and I'm really excited to see what he does this year."
A three-way threat at East Bay, Sails is among four bay area players on the UNC roster, which includes CB C.J. Cotman (CCC), CB DeAndre Hollins (Jefferson) and PK Noah Ruggles (Steinbrenner).
"Unfortunately in our business, the guys who get all the press and all the notoriety are the ones who commit four and five times. If a guy goes through recruiting and he commits in July and doesn't take any other trips and signs in December, nobody ever talks about him again." — Johnson, offering a candid take on recruiting