October 21, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) fakes hand-off to Georgia Tech running back KirVonte Benson (30) in the second half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Georgia Tech beat Wake Forest 38-24. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Hyosub Shin/AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Hyosub Shin/AJC

Georgia Tech offensive line depth dicey

As Georgia Tech begins preparations for its Saturday evening matchup with No. 7 Clemson, the Yellow Jackets do so with their offensive line in a precarious situation.

Right tackle Jake Stickler left the Wake Forest game with an upper-body injury and did not return. That left coach Paul Johnson with only five offensive linemen with significant playing experience – tackles Jahaziel Lee and Will Bryan, guards Parker Braun and Shamire Devine and center Kenny Cooper. And, as it is, Johnson has not been particularly enthusiastic about the play from his tackles.

If Stickler can’t return for the Clemson game – his status may not be known until the release of the injury report Thursday or possibly kickoff Saturday – the jeopardy is considerable.

Clemson’s defensive line is among the best and most physical in the country. The Tigers are tied for 11th in the country with 56 tackles for loss and are tied for eighth in rushing defense at 2.9 yards per carry. Tech has rushed for 166 yards combined in the past two games against the Tigers.

Having an extra body to rotate in and give the linemen a break would be beneficial. And, obviously, an injury to any of the starting five would most likely drop the quality of play.

“If one of them gets hurt, you put somebody else in, is what you do,” Johnson said.

Without Stickler, the No. 3 tackle is Bailey Ivemeyer, a sophomore walk-on who played meaningful snaps against North Carolina but otherwise has played little. In the case of an injury to a guard, Bryan would likely move from tackle to guard and Ivemeyer would go in at tackle. The next guard on the depth chart, Brad Morgan, has been out for the past three games with an upper-body injury.

The backup center on the depth chart, Morgan’s twin brother Scott, has been out for the past two games with an upper-body injury. In pregame warmups in the past two games, walk-ons Chet Lagod and Ivemeyer have taken snaps at center.

Another option is freshman guard Connor Hansen, who had his redshirt burned in the North Carolina game but has not played since. While coaches would prefer to avoid it in order to preserve their redshirt status, playing freshman linemen such as Charlie Clark, Mikey Minihan or Zach Quinney might also be a possibility.

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