Considering Tech’s options with injury to Kenny Cooper

Georgia Tech center Kenny Cooper.

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Georgia Tech center Kenny Cooper.

First in a series of stories taking a look at Georgia Tech coming out of spring practice

One of the main pieces of Georgia Tech’s offense watched last Friday’s spring game with his right lower leg heavily bandaged. Center Kenny Cooper moved about the west sideline of Bobby Dodd Stadium with the aid of a scooter.

The Yellow Jackets had escaped serious injury in spring practice until Cooper suffered the injury in a scrimmage April 14. Coach Paul Johnson said that his recovery time has been pegged at three months, which would have him ready just before preseason training begins.

“It’ll be close,” Johnson said. “You never know.”

Cooper was an integral part of the Tech offense last season as a sophomore, starting all 11 games and playing at a high level in the interior of the Jackets line. Cooper was named an ACC offensive lineman of the week once and his performance was worthy of All-ACC consideration. His ability to drive forward off the snap and gain leverage on defensive tackles or to turn them aside and wall them off was no small factor in B-back KirVonte Benson rushing for more than 1,000 yards in his first season as a starter.

The best-case scenario is that Cooper misses part of summer workouts, returns healthy and has no issues throughout the season. The worst-case scenario is that the recovery takes longer than expected and he is out into training camp or longer and the injury impairs his play.

What makes the injury particularly vexing is that there isn’t a clear No. 2 center behind Cooper. After the injury, Johnson turned to offensive tackle Jahaziel Lee, who had never played center. (Such was Lee’s inexperience that quarterback Lucas Johnson, who rooms with Lee, said the two of them practiced snaps in their room before the spring game.) Perhaps the best candidate is offensive tackle Andrew Marshall, who subbed for Freddie Burden. However, Marshall missed all of last season with a leg injury and did not practice in the spring, either. Walk-on Chet Lagod, who played center for the White team (second-string offense) Friday, is another possibility.

Further, moving either Marshall or Lee to center obviously weakens the tackle position.

“So we’ll continue to work Jahaziel there, and if we get Kenny back and Andrew back, we’ll sort it out and try to get the best five out there at some position,” Johnson said.

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