A closer look at Georgia Tech football after completion of spring practices

Georgia Tech running back Jamal Haynes (11) takes off ahead of Georgia Tech defensive lineman Ayo Tifase (50) in the first quarter during the Spring White and Gold game at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field In Atlanta on Saturday, April 13, 2024.   (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Georgia Tech running back Jamal Haynes (11) takes off ahead of Georgia Tech defensive lineman Ayo Tifase (50) in the first quarter during the Spring White and Gold game at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field In Atlanta on Saturday, April 13, 2024. (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Georgia Tech is now a little more than three months away from the next major circle on the calendar, a day in late July when the Yellow Jackets return as a whole team to begin preseason practice ahead of the Aug. 24 opener against Florida State in Dublin, Ireland.

For now, though, things are a little quieter around Bobby Dodd Stadium (save for ongoing construction to tear down the Edge Center) after the program completed spring ball with the annual White and Gold Game on Saturday. Second-year coach Brent Key, his staff and his players will have a bit of down time - relatively speaking – before summer workouts begin.

“Every day’s a challenge. We truly wanna live every day as a day we work to get better and live that day a day in its own, not look forward, not look back, be where your feet are and work to get better,” Key said about the next few weeks of the academic calendar leading into the summer. “That was what we did this spring. That’s the way we wanna work every single day.”

Key’s 2024 team has already gone through a slew of changes since it last took the field in December in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Fla. There are new assistant coaches, true freshmen who enrolled at the Institute in January and several transfers already on the roster.

Key hinted that roster will continue to evolve even more before the start of the ‘24 campaign.

“That’s the name of the game in college football is to constantly be working to build the depth of your football team. You build your roster and constantly want to build that roster from the bottom up,” he said. “To improve that part of your football team is you improve the competition and by that you continue to improve the competition all around. I think we saw that (Saturday) with the depth that we have, that we’re starting to build.”

With Tech’s spring practice officially in the books, here’s a closer look at what was learned about the Jackets and what to expect with a new season on the horizon:


The biggest question marks for Tech’s offense going into the spring was who would emerge as the team’s starting right guard and what depth would be featured at the tight end spot.

For the former, the Jackets will likely look to Corey Robinson (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) or Middle Tennessee transfer Keylan Rutledge (6-4, 310), but both were out of spring practices with injury. Ethan Mackenny (6-4, 292), the team’s starting left tackle, moved inside to improve his versatility and coaches also praised the play of freshmen Harrison Moore (6-5, 260) and Jameson Riggs (6-6, 305).

At tight end, senior Brett Seither didn’t play in the spring game. That allowed former Mississippi State and Georgia playmaker Ryland Goede to have three catches for 25 yards. Earlier in the spring Key also lauded the abilities of Yale transfer Jackson Hawes.

Elsewhere, Tech showcased its depth at running back with Jamal Haynes, Trey Cooley and newcomer Anthony Carrie, and at wide receiver with Eric Singleton, Malik Rutherford, Chase Lane, Christian Leary and Abdul Janneh. And, of course, the offense is in solid hands at quarterback with returning starter Haynes King.

“The first one is the standard and we gotta hold everyone to the standard. The second one is details,” King said on what the focus will be for the offense going into the summer. “We might have a good play called and somebody be open and something just not happen. Now you gotta go back and look at details. What was it? What made that play not happen? At the end of the day, if you can make about four or five game-changing, big-chunk plays, you have a really chance at winning that game.

“We don’t wanna take losses offensively. Minimize the losses, minimize the turnovers. Details fit into that. Going into summer workouts just holding the standard and accountability of what we are as a team.”


Before Tech sees a different colored jersey, it will be difficult to evaluate if the Jackets have improved or not under a new defensive staff. Coordinator Tyler Santucci undoubtedly has some key pieces to feature at all three levels in 2024, but whether that unit can slow down the likes of Florida State, Louisville, Notre Dame or Georgia, to name a few, is a question which can’t be answered at the moment.

Until it can be, Stacking depth at all defensive positions continues to be a talking point for Tech’s program.

“I liked the fact that even early on in the game (Saturday) the first group was running to the football. The line of scrimmage was stalemated, the line of scrimmage was flat-walled, which is what we wanna see,” Key said. “The first group of guys, we got some good players. We’ve gotta continue to develop the depth on our defense. That’s what we wanted to see (Saturday), we wanted to see a lot of those guys get there that might not have gotten as many reps before. That’s a main focus we have moving forward is that we have to develop the depth.

“You might have 11 starters that are good players, but on defense you gotta have 25-30 guys that can go in there. That’s a major, major emphasis we have moving forward of being able to increase that depth on that defensive side of the football.”

Tech’s defensive front will be anchored by Zeek Biggers (6-6, 333) and Horace Lockett (6-6, 341) in the middle. That duo will be flanked primarily by ends Josh Robinson (6-6, 253) and Kevin Harris (6-4, 245).

Linebacker may be Tech’s best-stocked position with returning starters Kyle Efford and Trenilyas Tatum anchoring the spot. Tech brought in E.J. Lightsey (Georgia) and Jackson Hamilton (Louisville) as well and freshman Tah’j Butler is a name that was consistently praised all spring.

The back end features veteran safeties LaMiles Brooks and Clayton Powell-Lee. Tennessee transfer Warren Burrell, who had an interception Saturday, and Ahmari Harvey are penciled in at cornerback alongside Rodney Shelley or Syeed Gibbs at nickelback.

“The game is all about confidence. When you’re learning a new defense you don’t have much confidence so it’s hard to play fast,” Efford said. “One thing we did a good job of was slowly stacking, slowly progressing each day. We started getting to the point where I was much more comfortable out there like (Saturday) I was feeling very comfortable in this new defense.”

Special teams

Kicker Aidan Birr was matter-of-fact this spring when stating he wants to set a Tech record for longest field goal made in program history. Had Saturday’s 62-yarder been during the regular season he would have made true on his promise.

Birr’s big leg has Tech’s placekicking job solidified going into the year, as does the return of punter David Shanahan. There will be, however, a new man handling kickoff duties after Gavin Stewart announced post-spring he intends to transfer.

Special teams coordinator Ricky Brumfield will give Shelley a try at returning punts. Leary, a senior, returned 21 kickoffs for 463 yards in 2023.