With a little more than two weeks to go before Georgia Tech plays its opener, coach Paul Johnson has concerns about the depth and performance of some areas of his team.
Namely, depth at wide receiver and guard and the state of the kicking game.
A trustworthy No. 3 receiver has yet to emerge.
“The pecking order is Brad Stewart and Jalen Camp,” Johnson said, meaning that the gap between the two starters and the rest of the group is wide.
Injuries have slowed development. Stephen Dolphus, whom Johnson had said had practiced his way to the No. 3 spot earlier in camp, has missed time with an undisclosed injury, which he said hurt his progress. Adonicas Sanders has a broken collarbone and is out.
Besides the value of having a backup ready in case of injury, Tech typically rotates a backup in at wide receiver to keep players fresh. Giving snaps to a receiver whose ability is measurably below Camp or Stewart’s is, obviously, an impairment to the offense.
The others competing are Jair Hawkins-Anderson and freshmen Malachi Carter and PeJé Harris.
“Malachi Carter’s going to play out there this year; he’s going to play,” Johnson said. “He might be the third receiver right now. Probably is.”
As a senior last year at Mountain View High, Carter set a Gwinnett County record for receiving yards (1,348) in a season.
“He’s a great receiver,” Stewart said. “He’s athletic, he’s learning fast, which is great in this offense.”
At guard, Johnson is facing the same predicament, as he hasn’t found a suitable No. 3 after left guard Parker Braun and right guard Brad Morgan. Johnson said that, in the event of an injury to either starting guard, No. 1 left tackle Will Bryan would move to guard and he likely would be replaced by Jack DeFoor, Bailey Ivemeyer or Zach Quinney. In that case, the line would be weakened in two places, as it would have backups at both left tackle and one of the guard spots.
“It’s not good,” Johnson said of the guard depth.
Candidates at guard include Charlie Clark and Connor Hansen.
“They need to play better,” Johnson said. “Absolutely. You’ve got an opportunity.”
The competition at kicker between Shawn Davis, Brenton King and Wesley Wells has not been encouraging.
“I have no idea who the kicker’s going to be,” Johnson said. “It’s been a little less than stellar at camp, just to be honest. We’ll work it out. We’ve still got a couple of weeks and we’re charting every kick and we’ll figure out who gives us the best chance.”
Johnson said that splitting kickoff and placekicking duties is a possibility. Davis began last season as the No. 1 kicker before tearing his ACL in the Miami game. King finished the season in his place.
Johnson isn’t one to poor-mouth the roster. When assessing the competition at punt returner, where Stewart has held the job for the past two seasons, Johnson said that “I think we’ve got a chance with some of them.”