For a change, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson didn’t have any injury updates to share (or decline to share). As the Yellow Jackets prepare for their game at North Carolina Saturday, they’re in good shape from a health standpoint.
“We’re probably the healthiest we’ve been since we started (the season),” Johnson said Wednesday following the team’s practice.
Tech has particularly been rejuvenated along the offensive line. This season, center Kenny Cooper, offensive tackle Andrew Marshall, guard/tackle Will Bryan and guard Brad Morgan have all missed time with injuries. All are now available, and Cooper, who started the season recovering from a foot injury suffered in the spring and gradually increased his playing time, played full-time for the first time this season against Virginia Tech last Thursday.
Having Cooper fully back also meant that Jahaziel Lee, who had subbed for Cooper at center, could move back to offensive tackle, where he had played his first two seasons.
The starting five on the line for the Virginia Tech game (from left tackle to right tackle, Zach Quinney, Parker Braun, Cooper, Connor Hansen and Marshall) was the sixth different combination of the season.
“Really, starting last week’s about the first time we’ve been healthy all year with everybody (on the line) available,” Johnson said. “It’s good to have all those guys available.”
The line responded with probably its best performance of the season, as the Jackets mashed Virginia Tech for 465 rushing yards, which tied for the fifth most rushing yards gained against a conference opponent in Johnson’s tenure. It was also 88 percent higher than the Jackets’ rushing average in Johnson’s first 10 games against the Hokies and defensive coordinator Bud Foster (247.8 yards per game).
Quarterbacks TaQuon Marshall and Tobias Oliver split practice repetitions this week with the first- and second-string offenses, which Johnson said is how they have operated this season. Johnson also gave freshman James Graham some reps with the second-team offense. In the wake of Oliver’s standout effort against Virginia Tech, Johnson has said that Marshall will remain the starter but added that Oliver will also play.
“I think they both handled it really well,” Johnson said. “They’re at practice every day. They know how it works.”
While Tech lost B-back KirVonte Benson and quarterback Lucas Johnson to season-ending injuries in the preseason, the Jackets are in better position than most teams at this point of the season from a health perspective. Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Wednesday on the ACC teleconference that his team has been without as many as 12 starters.
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