Georgia Tech center Kenny Cooper stands to replace three-year starter Freddie Burden. (Danny Karnik/GTAA)

Breaking down the Jackets: Offensive line

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is not one to fan preseason flames of optimism, but it’s obvious that he is hopeful about his group of young offensive linemen. Until the 2016 season, Tech had only had three offensive linemen to play as first-year freshmen in Johnson’s tenure, Will Bryan (2015), Andrew Marshall (2014) and Shaquille Mason (2011). In 2016, not only did guard Parker Braun, center Kenny Cooper and offensive tackle Jahaziel Lee play as first-year freshmen, but all three started at least one game, and Braun started eight and was arguably the best lineman on the team.

“I think some of our young offensive linemen have a chance to be really, really good,” Johnson said at the ACC Kickoff last week. “If they’ll continue to work, they could be some of the better players we’ve had since I’ve been there. Probably already are.”

Factoid: Walk-on Bailey Ivemeyer’s father John was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Jackets and was a teammate of defensive coordinator Ted Roof and athletic director Todd Stansbury.

Statistic: Because of departures such as Trey Klock and Eason Fromayan, 10 of Tech’s 14 scholarship linemen are either freshmen or sophomores.

LEFT TACKLE

First team after spring: Jahaziel Lee, sophomore.

Top contenders: Jake Stickler, junior, Bailey Ivemeyer, sophomore.

On the way: Zach Quinney, freshman.

Analysis: Lee didn’t have a great spring, according to Johnson, but figures to hold down the position in camp. He stands to improve, given that he didn’t play offensive line in high school.

Prediction: Barring injury, Lee will be the starter. Quinney could get in the mix to be the No. 3 tackle.

Shortage at offensive tackle a concern for Georgia Tech

LEFT GUARD

First team after spring: Parker Braun, sophomore.

Top contenders: Brad Morgan, sophomore.

On the way: Connor Hansen, freshman, Boe Tufele, freshman, Mikey Minihan, freshman.

Analysis: Athletic and feisty, Braun has a chance to be an All-ACC choice. Johnson said that an opposing coach described Braun to him as “a rolling ball of butcher knives.”

Prediction: Braun will be the starter. Morgan has a shot to get into the rotation.

Parker Braun, Georgia Tech’s cut-blocking champion

CENTER

First team after spring: Kenny Cooper, sophomore.

Top contenders: Scott Morgan, sophomore.

On the way: Charlie Clark, freshman.

Analysis: Tech may have its answer at center for the next three seasons with Cooper, which would be a stroke of fortune to have back-to-back three-year starters following Freddie Burden. At the ACC Kickoff, Johnson said that Cooper can be as good as any center that he has coached at Tech, no small compliment given that the standard was set by two-time first-team All-ACC center Sean Bedford.

Prediction: Barring injury, Cooper will be the starter. The depth-chart No. 2 figures to be either Morgan or Clark. In reality, it will likely actually be offensive tackle Andrew Marshall, who backed up Burden.

RIGHT GUARD

First team after spring: Will Bryan, junior.

Top contenders: Shamire Devine, senior.

On the way: Connor Hansen, freshman, Boe Tufele, freshman, Mikey Minihan, freshman.

Analysis: Bryan is quick off the ball and a capable pass blocker and had 11 starts last season, the first half of the season at left guard and the second half at right. Devine started the first seven games at right guard. He is a powerful run blocker but has battled his weight throughout his career.

Prediction: Bryan will hold onto the job. How much Devine plays may largely be determined by his conditioning level.

RIGHT TACKLE

First team after spring: Andrew Marshall, senior.

Top contenders: Jake Stickler, junior.

On the way: Zach Quinney, freshman.

Analysis: Marshall, a versatile player who fought through injuries last year, is not supremely athletic, but uses leverage well. A senior, he figures to be the leader of a young group. Stickler has mostly played in a special-teams role, but may be counted on this season to at least be ready to play in the case of injury, if not be a part of a rotation. Tech surely misses Klock and Fromayan, who left early as a graduate transfer (Klock) and to pursue a career as a NASCAR pit-crew member (Fromayan).

Prediction: Marshall will be the starter, barring injury. Stickler and Quinney could compete to join the tackle rotation.

Part 1: Wide receivers

Thursday: A-backs

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X