Backups giving boost to Georgia Tech defense

Part of the reason for Georgia Tech’s second-half defensive improvement against BYU was because defensive coordinator Ted Roof began to play more backups. As carrots go, there are few better than playing time.

“That’s going to be an ongoing process as we move throughout the year,” Roof said. “That’s healthy for everybody.”

Linebackers Anthony Harrell and Paul Davis performed well in reserve roles, as did defensive end Patrick Gamble. Davis, linebackers coach Andy McCollum said, “brings a little spark” to the defense with his intensity. Harrell and Davis play behind starters Jabari Hunt-Days and Quayshawn Nealy, respectively.

“Anthony’s a physical guy, so if he can continue improving and understanding and getting us lined up and getting us set, he’ll continue to get some plays,” McCollum said.

Defensive tackle Francis Kallon and nose tackle Jimmie Kitchen are two other backups who could see more time.

Injury report: Tech more than likely will play without offensive tackles Ray Beno and Morgan Bailey on Saturday, coach Paul Johnson said. Neither practiced again Wednesday. Beno has a foot injury. Bailey's injury has not been released. Further, redshirt freshman Chase Roberts may make his first career start in place of Bryan Chamberlain, who has had trouble with false starts in recent games. Roberts played in some of the BYU game.

The starting line could be, from left tackle to right tackle, Will Jackson, Trey Braun, Jay Finch, Shaquille Mason and Roberts. That would mean that only two of the projected starters before the season started would be playing in their regular position, Finch and Mason, while Braun and Roberts would play with one career start to their credit.

Defensive tackle Shawn Green, who was injured in the BYU game, also is out.

Recruiting aid: Saturday's game will be Syracuse's first trip to Bobby Dodd Stadium. The teams have played twice, both in neutral-site games. The Orange roster has six players from Georgia — Keenan Hale (Conyers), George Morris II (Lawrenceville), Cameron Lynch (Lawrenceville), Alex Hayes (Ellenwood), Josh Parris (Stone Mountain) and Josh Manley (College Park).

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said that “for us to go down there and compete in that environment, it will definitely help recruiting.”

On the flipside, McCollum, Tech’s recruiting coordinator, said that Syracuse’s addition to the ACC can help open doors for Tech in New York. Tech has one New York player, freshman wide receiver Ricky Jeune.

“Recruiting-wise, with those guys up there, there’s no doubt that Georgia Tech’s name is going to be in that area,” he said.

Lineup movement: The A-back starting job opposite Robert Godhigh was opened to competition this week. Deon Hill started the past two games after returning from being diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Johnson said that Synjyn Days has probably been the best blocker of the A-backs aside from Godhigh.

While Johnson said Tuesday that there was value in giving backup quarterback Justin Thomas playing time to give starter Vad Lee a break and to use Thomas’ fresh legs, he merely said “there may be a chance” that Thomas will play against Syracuse. Johnson had also said Tuesday that if Thomas had a good week of practice he likely would play, but said Wednesday that he has “been OK.”

Practice report: A day after producing what Johnson said was probably the best practice of the season, the team was unable to repeat its effort Wednesday. Johnson called Wednesday's full-pads workout "nothing out of the ordinary."

Johnson has often given reviews of practice this season that have been less than glowing. Asked if the team practiced consistently well, Johnson replied, “I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say they’re consistently bad, either.”

Etc.: The newest inductees to the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame will be honored at halftime Saturday. They are Shilo Ayalon (swimming), Kelly Campbell (football), Kele Eveland (volleyball), Andria King (track and field), Richard Lewis (baseball), Troy Matteson (golf) and Billy Williamson (football). They will be inducted Friday night in a ceremony at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center. … The TV broadcast team for Saturday's game will include Tim Brant (play-by-play), Dave Archer (color) and Rachel Baribeau (sideline). … Saturday is Heroes' Day. Current members of the armed forces and first-responder units, along with veterans and their families, can purchase tickets for as low as $15.