Georgia Tech is down to its final two spring-practice workouts of the year. The Yellow Jackets practice Wednesday and then will play under the lights at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Friday night in the annual spring game.
Some notes and updates on the Jackets.
1. Offensive line dinged up
Injuries have thinned out depth on the offensive line this spring. Center Kenny Cooper is out with an unspecified injury and will not take part in the spring game Friday, coach Paul Johnson said Monday. Among backup possibilities are Scott Morgan and walk-on Chet Lagod, although Johnson said that Morgan has been playing more guard. Guard/tackle Will Bryan and guard Parker Braun also were out, as was tackle Jake Stickler. Johnson also said that he thought that Cooper would be the only player who would miss the spring game aside from those who had missed the entire spring with injury.
On Monday, redshirt freshmen Charlie Clark (guard) and Zach Quinney (tackle) were with the first-string offense, as was walk-on Bailey Ivemeyer. None of the three were listed with the first string at the start of spring practice.
For the sake of experience, Johnson painted it as not the worst thing.
“I kind of know what Parker Braun can do,” he said. “Not that he doesn’t need to practice; he does. But it’s been good to give Charlie Clark a bunch of reps in there and give some of those other guys some reps and get a better idea about them.”
He gave an encouraging report about Morgan, who suffered a season-ending back injury last season after playing four games. If the season were to begin now, with Tech’s injury situation, Morgan would be the starting right guard, Johnson said.
The key for him, Johnson said, has been “just staying healthy and just repping. Some guys are rep guys, need a lot of reps.”
2. Taking a look at the safety group
Johnson’s evaluation of the safeties group, where expected starters A.J. Gray and Jalen Johnson have been out with injury:
“I think that week by week, Kaleb Oliver’s gotten better. I think that Avery Showell had a good scrimmage on Saturday. Jarett Cole has played. They’ve done OK. I think as they got into it, they got better. Christian Campbell’s done some decent things. It’ll be good to get A.J. and Jalen back and just see where everybody fits. The other one is Tariq (Carpenter). He’s done some good things, but he’s been hurt a little bit, too. But we need to get him out there somewhere. He’s a good player.”
Regarding Carpenter, who played a little bit of special teams last season as a freshman, A-back Qua Searcy said he was the toughest defensive player for him to block.
“Tariq, he’s real long, so it’s kind of hard to get to him,” Searcy said.
Johnson, on how much Gray and Jalen Johnson missing the spring will delay their progress in learning the new defense: “You’ve still got to do it, but they’ve been in every meeting and every practice. You would hope that they’re not too far behind. Especially A.J. He’s started for three years, and coverage is coverage. There’s a couple of nuances, but it’s not going to be a whole lot different than what he’s done.”
3. Nate Cottrell assesses kickoff rule change
A-back Nathan Cottrell, who was the team’s principal kickoff returner last season, said that the new rule regarding kickoff returns will give a different aspect to the play. The NCAA passed a rule last week that fair catches made on kickoffs caught inside the 25-yard line will be treated as touchbacks, with the ball starting on the 25. The rule was designed to lower the incidence of injury on kickoffs, a particularly dangerous part of the game.
Cottrell said that the team has not run live kickoff returns this spring.
“So I think once we get closer into fall camp, we’ll really be looking into that and we’ll be able to see kind of what our best options are whenever that comes, and we’ll see what happens with it.”
Cottrell doesn’t foresee that calling for a fair catch would be an automatic.
“I think it’ll depend on what the scheme is for the game. I think for every game, we’ll probably have different setups for it, and whatever (coaches) feel is best is going to happen,” he said.
4. Marshall’s approach to captaincy
Quarterback TaQuon Marshall was voted a captain in January, along with linebacker Brant Mitchell. It was a change from Paul Johnson’s standard policy, which was to vote for captains a few weeks into the season. Johnson said at the time that he did it because, with a large group of seniors, it was important to name captains to lead the team through the offseason.
Marshall, who was a captain of last season’s team, was asked if he was approaching leadership any differently because he had already been voted captain.
“I don’t think (so), not any differently. I try to keep it pretty consistent. I know we had a couple of things that we wanted to cover in the offseason, and I think those things got covered, and we’re just trying to progress, because, honestly, it’s hard being a leader. It really is. I think that anybody that’s a leader will tell you that. It’s tough, but I think we’ve made some strides and I’ve made some strides, because, of course, there’s always something I can work on. So I’m not looking at it any differently, just trying to stay consistent with it.”