The trip to Ireland will almost be a home game for Georgia Tech senior Francis Kallon.
Kallon, who grew up in London, likely will have more family members at the season opener against Boston College in Dublin than any other Yellow Jackets player. Instead of flying across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the game, most of Kallon’s family will take a short flight across the Irish Sea. The flight attendants won’t even have enough time to get the snacks out of the trays.
The prospects of playing in front of his family, something most players take for granted, is exciting to Kallon.
“All my family is coming over from London for the game,” he said. “It’s the first time they’ve had a chance to see me play.”
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The fact that Kallon is even playing Division I football is pretty remarkable. He didn’t start playing until he was 18 years old while attending Central Gwinnett in Lawrenceville. But his physical attributes — he’s 6-foot-5 and weighs 294 pounds — made him appealing to recruiters.
Expectations for Kallon were probably elevated from the time he stepped on the campus. He was redshirted as a true freshman, played 10 games as redshirt freshman, six games as a sophomore and eight games as a junior. He has 22 total tackles for his career, including 15 in 2015.
More is expected from Kallon this year, especially since the defensive front is in a starting-over mode.
“We’re taking on the role of being a dominant front,” he said. “Every day is a new day to learn. Pat (Gamble) is doing a great job leading us, and I’m doing what I need to do.”
The Yellow Jackets need Kallon to step forward and play well. He showed a lot of progress last year when Adam Gotsis was injured and Jabari Hunt-Days quit the team, moves that forced Kallon to play.
The defensive line has had a few nagging injuries, primarily with two-year starting end KeShun Freeman being banged up. With Gamble entrenched at one tackle, Kallon is trying to hold off challenges from redshirt freshman Brentavious Glanton and sophomore Kyle Cerge-Henderson.
Special teams issues
Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson called out punter Ryan Rodwell.
“Ryan has to be more consistent,” Johnson said. “He’s very capable. He’s just got to be consistent.”
Rodwell, a senior, has been the starting punter the past two seasons and averaged 40.2 yards in 2014 and 39.3 yards in 2015. He punted 45 times last season and had eight kicks longer than 50 yards, including a 59-yarder against Clemson. But the unexpected shanks seemed to come at the least opportune time.
“He’ll hit two or three good ones and one not as good,” Johnson said. “He has ability because he can hit them the right way with power. He’s got to do it consistently.”
Johnson said place-kicker Harrison Butker has been fine this preseason. Butker tried a 60-yarder in Sunday’s practice. It was long enough but was wide.
Johnson said a “myriad” players have been tried on returns and said it was too early to speculate who would get a chance to replace graduated return specialist Jamal Golden.