Special teams could play a big role for Georgia Tech this week against Vanderbilt.
The Commodores have an exceptional kickoff returner in Darrius Sims. The senior missed the first game and returned last week to return three kicks against Middle Tennessee, one of them for 47 yards. Sims, a wide receiver by trade, returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina in 2014, and is a threat to go the distance any time he touches the ball.
“Hopefully (Harrison Butker) can kick it deep enough to where, if they decide to bring it out, it’s rolling the dice,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “Just because you kick it deep in the end zone does not mean that it is not coming out if you have really good returners.”
In the first two games, none of Butker’s kickoffs have been returned. They have either sailed though the end zone or too deep to return.
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“They are dynamic in that area,” Johnson said. “They have good returners, so we will have to do a good job working on it and covering it. We do that, we work on it every week. We don’t take for granted that he is going to kick it in there and they are not going to bring it out.”
The other aspect of special teams that has come up clutch is blocking field goals. Georgia Tech has blocked one in each of the first two games. Pat Gamble deflected one against Boston College, and Kyle Cerge-Henderson got a block against Mercer.
“I think guys have done a good job getting penetration and getting their hands up,” Johnson said. “We just continue to work on it, and I think our guys understand how important it is.”
On the other hand, the job for starting punter has not been decided. Both Ryan Rodwell and challenger Grant Aasen were competing throughout preseason practice. Rodwell started the opener, and Aasen started against Mercer.
Mills set to play
Freshman Dedrick Mills is back in good graces after serving his one-game suspension and will play Saturday, although Johnson won’t announce the starter at B-back until Friday.
“Dedrick has had a good week of practice,” Johnson said. “He’s going to play.”
Mills was the leading rusher against Boston College with 68 yards and scored the winning touchdown. Marshall rushed for 51 yards as the starter against Mercer and has 82 total yards this season.
Marshall continues to have issues with ball security. He had the ball ripped away by Mercer, killing a drive.
Bowden helping the Commodores
Macon’s Nigel Bowden, a Central grad, is a big part of the Vanderbilt defense. The junior (6-foot-1, 240 pounds) starts at inside linebacker and ranks fourth on the team with nine tackles.
“We looked at him in recruiting,” Johnson said. “A real physical guy. He’s a good player.”
The Yellow Jackets will know by Friday whether Trey Klock will be able to play on Saturday. The right tackle twisted his ankle about 15 plays into the Mercer and was not able to finish. Johnson said earlier in the week that Klock was getting around OK, but also said, “We’ll know Friday.”
The depth took a hit when backup tackle Jake Stickler suffered an unspecified injury Wednesday. He will not play against Vanderbilt.