When Paul Johnson dissected tape of Florida State this week, something immediately stood out to him about the Seminoles’ quarterback that can sometimes go overlooked: He can run.
In Florida State’s upset over then-No. 7 BYU earlier this season, Seminoles signal-caller Christian Ponder hurt the Cougars with big gains early when his receivers weren’t open.
For a quarterback known mostly for his throwing ability, his knack for picking up first downs with his legs could catch a defense off guard.
“The thing in that game, he really hurt them early on just scrambling with the ball and picking up key first downs to stay on the field,” Johnson said. “He’s going to get some (first downs) throwing, we’ve got to be able to limit him from getting some big plays with his feet.”
Georgia Tech linebacker Brad Jefferson doesn’t think that will be a problem. He’ll be prepared if Ponder runs because that’s how he’s wired. A middle linebacker always following the football, he sits in constant anticipation looking for an offensive player to run.
But after facing a team last week in Mississippi State that featured its rushing game, Jefferson knows the transition to Ponder’s arm will be where the real test lies.
“It’s a big transition especially for me,” Jefferson said. “I’m thinking run every time. But we just have to do our assignments and just be locked in.”
Leading the ACC in passing yards (1,423), completions (121), attempts (181), passing yards per game (284.6) and total offense (305.8 yards per game), Ponder has already made a name for himself this year.
Those totals come fresh on the heels of the junior’s tame 149-yard passing performance in split time against the Yellow Jackets last season.
Despite its ability to contain Ponder last year, Georgia Tech is not letting its performance from a year ago distract it from the fact that the quarterback has been a solid player this season.
“He understands coverages and knows how to read coverages extremely well,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
Much like his own junior quarterback, Josh Nesbitt, Johnson believes Ponder has finally settled into offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s scheme at Florida State, and has grown comfortable leading it.
“He’s like a lot of quarterbacks, the more he plays, the more comfortable he is with the system,” Johnson said. “He’s got a pretty good command of what they’re trying to do.”