“Our job is to find the five best guys for us to go win a football game,” Tech offensive line coach Geep Wade said Tuesday after Tech’s 13th practice of preseason camp. “That sounds cliché, but it’s not. We’ve got to go find the five best guys that will go give Georgia Tech the best chance to win a football game. I think we’ll do that here in the next couple days.”
Wade, who has spent the past two seasons at Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, respectively, was one of coach Brent Key’s first hires in December. Wade inherited a unit that Key himself led for three-plus seasons before Key took over as interim coach after four games in 2022.
The offensive line is a group led by right guard Jordan Williams, one of virtually five starters who return up front. Williams is flanked by Weston Franklin at center and Jakiah Leftwich at right tackle.
On the opposite side, starting left tackle Corey Robinson is back. Joe Fusile, a walk-on from Richmond Hill High who started eight games at guard in 2022, is the odds-on favorite to take over full-time duty at left guard.
Fusile was Tech’s top-ranked lineman in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus, at 31st nationally.
“I would definitely say we have much more confidence,” Robinson said. “We’ve all played snaps in some big games. I feel our chemistry is a lot better now. We kind of were real young last year, getting a lot of experience, now I feel we play with a different edge to us now that we have more chemistry and experience underneath our belt. I’m real excited for the season.”
Behind that quintet, Wade has some options.
Connor Scaglione, a right guard, played five seasons and 31 games at Princeton. Left tackle Jordan Brown played seven games for Charlotte last season after a redshirt season in 2021. Paul Tchio, a left guard, redshirted with the Jackets in 2022 after playing 14 games for Clemson in 2021.
Tech also signed five freshmen in the 2023 class. Ethan Mackenny from Lassiter High could be in position to backup Leftwich at right tackle.
“You’re always looking for 8-10 guys. I think at this level, I think if you have eight guys, you’re doing good. We feel like we possibly have eight guys,” Wade said. “The center position is a position we’re really working hard at because there’s a bunch of different combinations that we’ve been working. We just got to find some continuity with those combinations. That’s something that’s really going to have to be worked on throughout the end of this week going into next week.”
The Jackets showed flashes of O-line brilliance last season, such as when they paved the way for 232 rushing yards at Pittsburgh or 210 rushing yards at Virginia Tech. There also was some major concern in the form of allowing 3.25 sacks per game, one of the worst rates in the nation, and a whopping 8.25 tackles for loss per game (only four teams in the nation allowed more per contest).
Fusile was candid in acknowledging that he and his linemates know that the current narrative is that Tech’s offensive line isn’t very good. He and his peers are out to change that.
“It’s extremely motivating. People will tell you not to listen to people, but hearing that, it just makes you want to prove them wrong,” he said. “It’s been a big part in our preparation for getting ready for the season. I think we’re going to be very prepared coming into (the game against) Louisville (in the season opener Sept. 1).”