In the wake of two suspensions last year, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson stuck by B-back Dedrick Mills, offering his belief in his character. He did so again Friday, this time at a news conference to address Mills’ dismissal from the team for a violation of athletic department rules.
“He’s a good kid,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s a bad bone in his body. He’s a hard worker. He loves to play football. He just made some poor choices.”
Johnson said that Mills violated an athletic-department policy that mandated dismissal, but did not divulge the specific reason. He clarified that it was not a criminal matter nor related to an NCAA violation. He said that last year’s two suspensions were for violations of rules specific to the football team.
“It’s pretty much cut and dried,” he said. “The rules, they kind of are what they are.”
The expectation for Mills is that he will transfer. Having played in his first season on the team, Mills could transfer to another FBS school, sit out a season and have three seasons of eligibility remaining. He could play immediately at an FCS school or go to a junior college and have immediate eligibility after a year.
“Hopefully, it’ll work out for him and he’ll learn from it and be very successful wherever he ends up,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that he couldn’t think of a school to which he would block a transfer other than perhaps an opponent on this season’s schedule. Tech’s non-conference opponents this season – a transfer within the ACC is highly unlikely, as Mills would also lose a season of eligibility after sitting out – are Tennessee, Jacksonville State, Central Florida and Georgia.
Johnson said he learned the news Friday morning and met with Mills.
“He was disappointed, I think,” Johnson said. “Everybody has their way. I think the reality will probably set in a little later, but it’s one of those things. If you have rules, you have to enforce them. Otherwise, you don’t have them.”
The impact of losing Mills is considerable for Tech. Mills led the team in rushing last season with 771 yards. His 12 rushing touchdowns tied for third most nationally among freshmen and demonstrated his ability to gain tough yards. Johnson figured to rely on Mills heavily, as the B-back position is the workhorse spot in his spread-option offense. Last year, for instance, 32 percent of the team’s offensive players were B-back rushing attempts.
His value and ability was recognized when he was included on watch lists for the Doak Walker Award (best running back in the country) and the Maxwell Award (player of the year).
“With a year under his belt in the system, I expected him to have a great year,” Johnson said. “Now, I expect the other guy to have a great year, whether it’s KirVonte (Benson) or Quaide (Weimerskirch) or Jerry (Howard) or (Jordan Ponchez-Mason) or whoever it is.”
Johnson said that Benson, a sophomore, would be first in line to replace Mills, but he has been injured. Howard, a freshman, has impressed Johnson in his first season. After the first scrimmage Saturday, Johnson called him a “load,” “hard to tackle” and “tailor made for what we do.”
Tech opens its season Sept. 4 against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Hopefully, we can get guys coached up, and they can go out there and be successful,” Johnson said. “I see no reason why they can’t.”
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