Paul Johnson wary of Duke's backup QB

Johnson wary of opposing QB's experience

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerSeptember 10, 2013 

ATLANTA -- When the opposition's starting quarterback gets hurt, it's only natural for the fan base to anticipate an advantage.

That's the situation Georgia Tech faces this week when it travels to Duke for the second game of the season. The Blue Devils lost starting quarterback Anthony Boone to a broken collarbone in the first half of their game with Memphis.

But when fans (or players) starting thinking about putting this one in the automatic win column, coach Paul Johnson warns them to slow down. In this case the replacement, Brandon Connette, brings plenty of experience to the table.

"The guy's been playing quarterback for three years," Johnson said. "It's not like they took a defensive tackle and put him back there."

Connette (6-2, 225) is more of a short-yardage specialist and part-time tight end. But he was good enough to be named second-team All-ACC as an all-purpose choice by Lindy's Sports in its preseason publication. Connette isn't totally healthy; he's coming back from left shoulder surgery in January.

Connette played well in last week's 28-14 win over Memphis. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 198 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, but was sacked three times. Connette ran 14 times for 31 yards.

In the season opener Connette completed 5 of 8 for 55 yards and two touchdowns and rushed five times for 22 yards and one touchdown in the opener against N.C. Central.

Last season Connette completed 5 of 13 passes for 38 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 41 times for 91 yards and eight touchdowns. He rushed one time against Georgia Tech, gaining 2 yards.

It's hardly the same as the situation faced by Maryland a year ago, when the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback, a player who had been a linebacker the previous week.

"I'm sure they're not going to change much," Johnson said.

And even though there's a change at quarterback, the Blue Devils have a familiar group of running backs. Jela Duncan, Juwan Thompson and Josh Snead were Duke's top rushers against Tech last year and the team's top three rushers. Duncan has rushed for 107 yards, Thompson for 97 and Snead for 78.

"They're experienced," Johnson said. "With what they do with the zone scheme, it puts them in space. Snead's a little bit different than Thompson, who's more of a power runner. That's something that we need to limit. We've got to limit them running the football and see if we can make them try to beat us throwing. But we do that every week, that's what we try to do."

Georgia Tech will get some players back for the second game. Suspended receivers Darren Waller and Travin Henry are both back and DeAndre Smelter, who was injured a week ago, is back in the rotation.

Offensive tackle Morgan Bailey returned to practice for the first time in six weeks and should play. Linebacker Tremayne McNair is also back at practice. Tech will be without A-back Deon Hill, who will miss the game with an undiagnosed illness.

"Our big challenge this week is to go up there and play like Georgia Tech can play and we've got to take care of the ball," Johnson said. "We'll find a little bit more about where we are this week. I think the competition level matches up."

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