An injury on the offensive line has created shifts on the depth chart that will influence how Georgia Tech lines up for the Sept. 4 season opener against Tennessee.
Coach Paul Johnson told reporters Tuesday that offensive tackle Andrew Marshall will not play against Tennessee, nor will backup linebacker David Curry. Both suffered lower-body injuries. Johnson did not provide a timetable for return for either, but indicated neither had suffered a season-ending injury.
Marshall has been a first-string tackle through the spring and going into the preseason after starting nine games at tackle (seven at right, two at left) last season. With Marshall out for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game against the Volunteers, Tech has three tackles it could use in a rotation, Johnson said – Jahaziel Lee, Will Bryan and Jake Stickler.
The group is not quite as robust without Marshall. Lee started three games at left tackle as a freshman last season, and Stickler has had little playing time on the offensive line in his first two seasons, although Johnson praised him for his play in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Bryan started six games at tackle as a freshman in 2015 but moved to guard in 2016 and has remained there. If Bryan stays at tackle, the options at guard are Parker Braun, Shamire Devine and Brad Morgan. Braun is probably the team’s top lineman, but Johnson called Devine “a spot guy.” Devine has had challenges with his weight, which has reduced his conditioning level. Morgan primarily played on special teams last season as a redshirt freshman.
Further, Marshall has been the No. 2 center behind Kenny Cooper. The backup for Tennessee likely will be Morgan’s twin brother Scott, who did not play in any games last season as a redshirt freshman.
A look at the eight linemen (three tackles, three guards and two centers) most likely to play against Tennessee can be interpreted in a couple of ways, at least: It’s a group that has five players with starting experience, four of whom (Braun, Bryan, Cooper, Lee) were talented enough to start as freshmen.
It’s also a group that with only three players who have started more than three games, one of whom may not be able to play a full game (Devine) and another who might start in a position where he is less suited (Bryan), and three others who have little or no game experience on the line.
Johnson betrayed no concern about the injury. Tech only need to look back at last year’s Virginia Tech game for confidence. With five starters on the offense out, including quarterback Justin Thomas, B-back Dedrick Mills and center Freddie Burden, the Jackets upset the then-No. 18 Hokies 30-20 in Blacksburg, Va.
The injury to Curry reduced depth at linebacker, where Johnson said all the three of the freshmen – Jaquan Henderson, Bruce Jordan-Swilling and T.D. Roof – will probably play this season on special teams.
“Have to – just from a depth standpoint,” Johnson said.
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