Kenny Cooper returning to practice for Georgia Tech

After missing preseason practice with a foot injury suffered in spring practice, Georgia Tech center Kenny Cooper is expected to return to practice Monday in advance of their season opener against Alcorn State Saturday.

“That’s the plan,” coach Paul Johnson said Sunday on a teleconference with media.

Johnson said coaches hope to ease Cooper back into practice this week and have him ready to play against USF on Sept. 8 in Tampa, Fla. Cooper has been doing conditioning work up until this point.

“He’ll be non-contact (when he first returns),” Johnson said. “We wouldn’t do that to him, throwing him out there in contact the first day he comes back. We’ll ease him in.”

Cooper is an important piece of the Tech offense after starting all 11 games as a sophomore last season. His strength, quickness and agility enable him to block linebackers on run plays and turn defensive tackles away the flow of plays.

The USF game could be a particularly challenging return, as temperatures for the noon kickoff could be in the 90’s.

“I doubt he could go out in the heat in Tampa and play 80 snaps, so we’ll just have to see where he is,” Johnson said. “If he’s ready to play, we’ll see if we can use him. If he’s not ready, we’ll give him some time. We don’t want to rush him.”

Tech’s third game is its ACC opener, at Pittsburgh on Sept. 15.

In his absence, Jahaziel Lee, Andrew Marshall, Scott Morgan and Chet Lagod have taken snaps at center.