Players out with injuries, players shifting positions, new players on the rise. Notes from Georgia Tech’s first two days of spring practice.
1. Players out for spring: kicker Shawn Davis, safety A.J. Gray, safety Jalen Johnson and offensive lineman Andrew Marshall. All are recuperating from surgery. Johnson had said previously that early enrollee T.K. Chimedza, a defensive lineman, would miss the spring, but he has been participating, at least on a limited basis. All four are expected back by the start of preseason practice.
For Gray and Johnson, the practice time lost is particularly important as the defense is learning a new scheme from new defensive coordinator Nate Woody. Once the Yellow Jackets begin preseason practice, Gray and Johnson will have to play catch-up at a time when the team will be geared more toward getting ready for the season.
Davis’ absence means a lot of work this spring for Brenton King, a sophomore who competed with Davis for the starting job last season. Marshall has ample experience on the line, but hasn’t played since last preseason. He missed the entire season with a foot injury.
2. With three scholarship quarterbacks – TaQuon Marshall, Lucas Johnson and Tobias Oliver – and no walk-ons, Johnson said that he might have them wear non-contact jerseys for the first couple of weeks of the spring. With such low depth, the impact of losing one – or two – quarterbacks to injury, even for a few days of spring practice, would be significant. Johnson’s standard policy is to permit contact on quarterbacks in practice, which is unusual at the college level.
Tech is low on quarterbacks because Matthew Jordan gave up his final season of eligibility after re-aggravating a foot injury last season and Jay Jones transferred to Independence (Kan.) Community College.
3. Johnson’s perspective on the spring: “Like I told the players, everybody gets to play and everybody gets reps. You’re not worried about scout team so much because everybody gets an opportunity and then the other thing is, you just try to build your depth and your depth chart so you know where to start when fall camp (starts). You have a better idea so you’re not starting over.”
4. B-back Jerry Howard is “leaner, faster, stronger,” according to Johnson. Howard backed up KirVonte Benson last season and ran 23 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns. He is competing with Jordan Ponchez-Mason for the No. 2 B-back spot behind KirVonte Benson.
5. Early-enrollee freshman Charlie Thomas is playing at outside linebacker and safety. He is one of a number of players who are being moved around this spring as coaches on the defense try to fit players in the right spots. Fellow early-enrollee Quez Jackson is playing inside linebacker.
Three players who signed in 2017 who were viewed as “hybrid” defenders – Tariq Carpenter, Kaleb Oliver and Avery Showell – as well as other defensive backs such as Gentry Bonds could move down to the outside linebacker spot, which is something of a playmaking position in Woody’s defense.
“A lot of those guys there can play a couple positions,” Johnson said.
6. Brad Stewart’s evaluation of redshirt freshman wide receiver Adonicas Sanders: “Adonicas is a great athlete; that’s the thing. He’s a hard worker. He’s a younger guy in the system, so we’re getting him caught up on learning the plays, learning the concepts and everything. If he can get that down, he can contribute this year a lot. He just makes plays, and you’ll see this offseason, he just gets out there and makes plays and does things most guys can’t.”
7. After playing guard and tackle last season – and tackle as a freshman and guard as a sophomore – Will Bryan thinks he’s settled in at guard, likely opposite Parker Braun at left guard. Last season, Bryan started two games at left tackle, three games at right guard and one game at right tackle.
“I’m pretty sure (about guard), but you never know,” he said. “Wherever they need me, I’m always ready to play.”
Bryan on his eating habits to stay at 295 pounds: “See, if you tell people you can eat as much as you want, they usually think, ‘Oh, that sounds great,’ until you don’t want to eat anymore and you have to keep doing it.”
Bryan is keen on steak.
“My dad makes the best steak,” he said. “You’ve got to come to the lake house if you want to. I guarantee you anybody that wants to show up, he’ll make you one.”
8. Transfer offensive lineman Jack DeFoor is working out at guard but may move to tackle, Johnson said. DeFoor transferred from Ole Miss and hopes to gain immediate eligibility from the NCAA rather than having to sit out a season. He is part of an appeal with the NCAA contending that he and other Ole Miss players were misled during their recruiting process about the potential severity of impending NCAA sanctions.
9. The team worked on kick and punt returns in Wednesday’s practice, the second of the spring.
“There’ll be a host of tryouts, I’m sure,” Johnson said.
The return game was subpar last season. Tech was 93rd nationally in kickoff return average (19.38 yards per return) and 66th in punt return average (7.35 yards per return).