“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.”