Sports

Tech’s Johnson challenges team to be better

In this photo provided by Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech running back Dedrick Mills (26) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Boston College during the second half Sept. 3 in Dublin. Georgia Tech won 17-14.
In this photo provided by Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech running back Dedrick Mills (26) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against Boston College during the second half Sept. 3 in Dublin. Georgia Tech won 17-14. Georgia Tech via AP

It’s not about you. It’s about me.

No, that’s not the beginning of an emotional breakup conversation. It’s the attitude that the Georgia Tech football team is taking for this week’s home opener against Mercer at Bobby Dodd.

All week the Yellow Jackets have focused on themselves and getting their own problems solved after what coach Paul Johnson viewed as a less-than-ideal performance in the season-opening win last week against Boston College.

“My challenge for our guys is it’s about us,” Johnson said. “It’s about who you want to be and what you want to be. You want to be dead average — because that’s the way you played on Saturday at best — or do you want to be good? If you want to be good you’d better work and come out and play better and play harder.”

It’s probably unfortunate that Mercer has picked this week to resume a series that ended in 1938. They’re very likely to come face-to-face with a team that has been challenged all week by the coaching staff to get smarter and become a more physical team.

“More physical, more accountability,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t take ability to look at who you’re supposed to look at. That’s not hard. Everybody should be abel to do that, as opposed to standing there and trying to guess what plays are coming.

“Just do your job and do it to the best of your ability and as hard as you can do it. Are you going to be perfect? No, nobody’s every perfect, but you’ve got a chance to be much better if you’ll do what you’re supposed to do rather than trying to freelance and do those kind of things.”

There is a three-way battle to see who will join Qua Searcy as the starter at A-back. J.J. Green, Clinton Lynch and Isiah Willis are the three contenders.

There could be several possible changes to the starting lineup, starting at B-back, where Marcus Marshall will replace Dedrick Mills, who is suspended for the game because of violation of an unspecified team rule.

There is a three-way battle to see who will join Qua Searcy as the starter at A-back. J.J. Green, Clinton Lynch and Isiah Willis are the three contenders, although all are expected to play.

Three of the four spots on the offensive line are up for grabs and Grant Aasen has been given an opportunity to overtake starter Ryan Rodwell.

Johnson understands that Mercer will field an enthusiastic team on Saturday. Although the Bears lost their season opener to The Citadel, they have been preparing to defend the option for a month.

But Georgia Tech has won 16 of its last 17 home openers, including the last nine. The Yellow Jackets are 8-0 in home openers under Johnson, with the closest game being decided by 19 points. Georgia Tech whipped Alcorn State 69-6 in the 2015 home opener.

“I’m looking forward to having a chance to play again,” Johnson said. “It will be a big challenge to try and up our game. Mercer is excited about having a chance to come at Bobby Dodd. They’ve got a number of kids from metro Atlanta and in-state players. I know what it’s like for them, having coached at Georgia Southern, so I’m sure they’re going to be fired up and excited. We need to be as well.”

Georgia Tech vs. Mercer

Who: Mercer at Georgia Tech

When, where: 3 p.m., Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

Coaches: Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson, 62-44 in ninth season, 169-83 overall; Mercer, Bobby Lamb, 21-15 in fourth season, 88-55 overall.

Series: Georgia Tech leads 13-1-1. Georgia Tech won the last meeting 19-0 in 1938.

TV: ACC Network Extra, ESPN.com

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