On the offensive line, Georgia Tech will enter spring practice in decent shape. Guard Parker Braun, an All-ACC selection, and center Kenny Cooper, are two of the better players anywhere on the Yellow Jackets’ roster.
Guard/tackle Will Bryan has ample starting experience, and tackles Jahaziel Lee and Jake Stickler also are returning starters. After missing the 2017 season with a foot injury, tackle Andrew Marshall is returning for his senior season.
The only scholarship player lost off the group is guard Shamire Devine.
“We’ve got pretty good depth there,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I think we’ve got 15 offensive linemen on scholarship now, so we’ll kind of sort it out and try to get our best seven or eight in position where they can play.”
Tackle play has to improve, both in the run and pass games. While hardly the sole responsibility of the tackles, Tech gave up 20 sacks last season despite attempting only 119 passes.
Offensive line coaches Mike Sewak and Ron West likely are eager for big numbers there to stoke competition at the two tackle spots.
Lee and Stickler are the leading candidates, and they’ll be pushed by walk-on Bailey Ivemeyer, who started one game last season. Another possibility is Jack DeFoor, a transfer from Ole Miss. Marshall probably will miss the spring, Johnson said, as his recovery continues.
DeFoor is awaiting word from the NCAA on whether he will have immediate eligibility as part of an appeal contending that he and other Ole Miss players were misled as recruits about the potential severity of impending NCAA sanctions.
Challenge also could come from redshirt freshmen Charlie Clark, Zach Quinney and Boe Tufele.
On the interior, guard Brad Morgan, who played four games last season before a season-ending back injury, will bid for a spot in the rotation, as will his twin brother, Scott, a backup center.
There are two other linemen who arrived in 2017, interior linemen Connor Hansen and Mikey Minihan, also have a chance. Hansen played a handful of snaps as a freshman last season.
The five-man group of linemen who arrived last year has ample potential in Devine’s eyes.
“Once they learn the whole triple option and get everything down pat, it’ll be a great force to be reckoned with,” said Devine, who is finishing his degree work this semester and hoping for a shot at the NFL.
To the end of grasping the offense, the spring will serve as a key learning time for the five. Devine called spring practice a time of rapid-fire learning of trying to digest as many plays as possible in a short amount of time.
“The challenge of learning the plays is that there’s so many variations to one play,” he said. “We have about 30 plays with 10 variations.”
Staying healthy, always a challenge in the spring, will be a priority to maximize practice time. And with more bodies available than in the usual spring, competition figures to be high.
“We’ve built those numbers up, and hopefully that’s an area we get better at,” Johnson said.
Fourth in a series previewing Tech’s spring practice, which begins March 26.