Eight freshmen take the field for Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s freshman class may have been at its best late in the first quarter.

On his first career carry, freshman B-back Marcus Marshall took a handoff from quarterback Justin Thomas and shot through the line, made a high-speed shift to turn around an Alcorn State defensive back and raced into the south end zone for a 49-yard touchdown. He later scored on a 64-yard run in the third quarter.

Sharing the field with him were left tackle Will Bryan, who helped quell the Braves defensive front, and A-back TaQuon Marshall, whose motion away from the ball helped spread the Alcorn State defense. Both are also first-year freshmen.

In the season opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, coach Paul Johnson sent eight first-year freshmen into the game, signifying coaches’ belief that they’re ready to help No. 16 Tech in its pursuit of the ACC championship.

“All in all, I thought they acquitted themselves O.K.,” coach Paul Johnson said. “They’ll be better next time.”

Marshall, who was a relatively late add to Tech’s signing class, finished the night with 184 rushing yards on just eight carries. It appears to have set a school mark for most yards gained by a freshman in the first game of his career.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Marshall said, “but it definitely went well.”

As expected, wide receiver Brad Stewart was in the game early, joining the rotation with Micheal Summers and Ricky Jeune. TaQuon Marshall shared snaps at A-back. Bryan also was in the game early on the line.

Safety A.J. Gray and linebackers Brant Mitchell and Victor Alexander were on special-teams units — Alexander and Mitchell were on the field for Tech’s kickoff return to start the game — and took the field with the defense as the blowout gathered force. Defensive end Anree Saint-Amour also took snaps with the defense beginning late in the first half.

“It was good to get my first game under my belt,” said Gray, who was credited with four tackles and a fumble recovery. “I’ve got a lot to work on.”

Marcus Marshall also made the most glaring mistake, fumbling on his second carry of the game late in the second quarter, thwarting another deft run. With quickness and breakaway speed, he nonetheless showed himself as a home-run threat to complement starting B-back Patrick Skov.

“Certainly, Marcus Marshall can hit some big plays,” Johnson said. “He needs to learn to hang onto that football. We’ll have a little discussion on that. But it’s like I said - he’s got ability.”

In the first half, TaQuon Marshall had two touches, a carry for 18 yards and a reception for 24.