ATLANTA — Georgia Tech was back on the field Wednesday, giving coach Paul Johnson one more reason to stop answering questions about NCAA probation.
"Honestly, I haven't thought much about it," Johnson said after the Yellow Jackets' first fall practice of 2011. "You just move on and you worry about things you can control and move forward."
Johnson begins in his fourth season at Georgia Tech with the football program facing five years of probating for allowing two ineligible players, Demaryius Thomas and Morgan Burnett, to compete in the final three games of '09.
The Yellow Jackets were subsequently stripped of their Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but Johnson is adamant now that his focus is on the future.
"I know what happened," Johnson said. "I know what we did and didn't do, so you just put it behind you and move on."
Last year ended with a thud for Georgia Tech, which lost five of six games to finish 6-7, but Johnson hopes the disappointment fuels a turnaround that begins with junior quarterback Tevin Washington.
Wednesday marked the first time under Johnson that Georgia Tech didn't begin fall practice with Joshua Nesbitt as the starting QB.
"Tevin looked good," Johnson said. "I think you always look forward to the first day of practice. Every season starts brand-new, and you've got a new group of guys, so it's fun to get out there and get started."
The Yellow Jackets, however, will be without defensive lineman Denzel McCoy, who has an undisclosed medical issue that could end his career. Alongside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, McCoy was a top-rated defensive signee in 2010, but was red-shirted and did not receive medical clearance to practice last spring.
"He's going to be a medical scholarship," Johnson said. "He's probably finished career wise. It's disappointing for Denzel, but we have to look out for his health and his well-being. It's just not worth the risk."
The receiving corps could get a boost if Chris Jackson continues to work his way back into Johnson's favor. Jackson, who transferred from Alabama in 2009, has yet to play a snap for the Jackets because of academic and behavioral problems, but he practiced Wednesday.
"I'm encouraged with the way he's handled himself off the field," Johnson said. "We'll see if that transitions on the field, but he's worked extremely hard and has done everything we've asked him to do to try to get himself back in a spot where he has a chance to contribute to the team, hopefully."
With Roddy Jones, Preston Lyons and Orwin Smith returning at running back, Georgia Tech doesn't figure to lose much momentum from a ground attack that's ranked among the nation's best since Johnson brought his triple-action offense from Navy.
The passing attack, however, was dreadful in its first season after Thomas left early for the NFL and was drafted No. 22 overall by the Denver Broncos. If Jackson can contribute, Georgia Tech won't have to rely too much on Washington to connect downfield with Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton, a pair of returning wideouts who combined for just 21 catches last year.Comment on this story
Hill and Melton weren't completely to blame. Nesbitt and Washington combined to complete just 38 percent of their passes for less than 84 yards per game.
Turnovers were offensive problem, too. The Yellow Jackets lost 20 of their 37 fumbles.
Defensively, Georgia Tech returns all three starting linemen — Jason Peters, Logan Walls and Izaan Cross — to coordinator Al Groh's 3-4 scheme. Julian Burnett, Steven Sylvester and Attaochu anchor the corps of linebackers, but the secondary must replace four starters.
The Jackets have several concerns on special teams, though the punt and kickoff return teams were among the nation's worst. Both ranked 97th.