Georgia Tech will be without wide receivers Darren Waller and Travin Henry for the Yellow Jackets’ season opener against Elon on Saturday due to a violation of team rules. Coach Paul Johnson made the announcement Monday following the team’s practice.
Johnson did not elaborate on the violation. Waller is a returning starter and the only healthy wide receiver on the roster with any catches or significant game experience at the position. Waller had eight catches last season in 10 starts. Henry, a redshirt freshman, is returning from an ACL tear.
“No time to dwell on the negative!” Waller wrote from his Twitter account Monday evening. “I’ve talked to God we got this.”
Micheal Summers, a redshirt freshman who had already been elevated to the first string opposite Waller, will start for the Jackets at one spot. The other will either be Corey Dennis or DeAndre Smelter, who has been out since last week with an injury but whom Johnson expected to be available for the game. Dennis is a junior who has mostly played special teams. Smelter joined the team over the summer after playing for Tech’s baseball team for the past three years.
The second-string backups are walk-ons Jamie Alvarez and Brandon Oliver. Dennis has played 27 career games. The other four receivers on the depth chart have played a combined four games (all by Alvarez).
Finch returns: Center Jay Finch returned to practice Monday after an injury that kept him out of practice most of last week. Finch had just returned after missing spring practice and much of preseason camp recovering from shoulder surgery.
“As long as I can go (play), I’m going to go,” said Finch, who declined to identify the injury. “It had just gotten really aggravated.”
Finch was advised to not practice for a few days, advice he followed.
“It’s wear and tear,” said Finch, who has a history of shoulder injuries. “It’s something that I’ve had to play with for years.”
Back together: Monday was the first time in the preseason that the offensive line had as many as four of its projected starters on the field at the same time – Ray Beno at left tackle, Will Jackson at left guard, Finch at center and Shaquille Mason at right guard. Right tackle Morgan Bailey is recovering from an undisclosed surgery and could be back for the Duke game Sept. 14 after the open date.
Bryan Chamberlain, who has shown considerable improvement in preseason camp, is subbing for him. Offensive line coach Mike Sewak was pleased to the see the four – all returning starters – reunited and working together.
“Every once in a while you get an opportunity to see the flashes of how it’s supposed to be done – the right footwork and the punch and the set,” he said.
Sewak indicated he doesn’t plan to limit the line’s playing time, including Finch’s, against Elon.
Injury report: Safety Isaiah Johnson “looked really good” in Monday’s practice as he returns from an ACL tear, Paul Johnson said. The coach said he made a point to specifically watch Johnson move around in practice. He is leaving it up to Johnson, a senior and two-year starter, when he feels ready to return. It will be the Duke game at the earliest.
“As soon as he tells me he’s good, then we’re ready to go,” Paul Johnson said.
Johnson also said that defensive tackle Shawn Green, who missed all of the preseason with a shoulder injury, could be back for the Duke game.
On the air: Johnson’s weekly radio show debuted Monday night from the Hudson Grille in Midtown, broadcast for the first time on 680 the Fan. Among his offerings: Harrison Butker, the true freshman kicker who will start for the Jackets against Elon, was kicking the ball “six, seven, eight yards deep in the end zone” on kickoffs in a scrimmage last Friday.
After heavy advance billing that Butker could address Tech’s kicking struggles in the recent past, “he’s done nothing in camp to make us believe we weren’t right about him,” Johnson said.
Athletic director Mike Bobinski will begin a weekly segment on Wednesday on 680 at 3:50 p.m. He’ll speak with show hosts Matt Chernoff and Chuck Oliver. Johnson’s show airs Mondays at 7 p.m. on 680 and then on tape delay at 9 p.m. on 106.7 FM, Tech’s flagship station.