The transition from left tackle to center hasn’t posed many challenges for Jahaziel Lee, but the junior starter quickly learned that snapping a football isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when trying to do so on in a dorm room.
After starting center Kenny Cooper suffered a foot injury during a scrimmage in April, Lee took over despite having no experience at the position. With a little help from his roommate, backup quarterback Lucas Johnson, the offensive lineman got some extra snaps in before the spring game.
“It was a little hard because we were trying to snap the ball on carpet, so I was kind of sliding,” Lee said. “But I know it helped a lot.”
The switch from tackle to center is the most recent change of Lee’s football career but not the most drastic. He played defensive end in high school before breaking into the starting lineup at offensive tackle as a freshman.
Lee has shown speed off the line since he first stepped on the field at Tech, and coach Paul Johnson cited that explosiveness as a factor in the decision to try Lee out at center.
“He’s got quickness … and can roll his hips,” Johnson said after practice Wednesday. “He’s a good athlete, so that’s a natural position for him.”
Other than the dorm-room difficulties, Lee is enjoying the new position, possibly because he finds it a little easier than playing tackle.
“Once you learn how to play tackle, you really can play any position. I feel like tackle is the hardest position to learn,” he said, noting the constant changes and adjustments he encountered at the position before switching to center.
But there has still be a bit of a learning curve, and Lee has leaned on fellow offensive linemen when questions arise. He credited Andrew Marshall and Chet Lagod with offering tips during practice and said that starting quarterback TaQuon Marshall has put in extra time to strengthen their bond. The two met for some additional snaps before and after Tuesday’s and Thursday’s 7-on-7s.
Johnson confirmed that Lee will be a staple on Tech’s offensive line this season, but where he will play is still up in the air. Cooper and Lee share the top line on the depth chart, but things could be rearranged if Cooper recovers before the season kicks off. With the season opener against Alcorn State less than a month away, Tech can only hope Lee takes what he learned on the carpet to the turf.