With two weeks of practice in the books and only two weeks until the season opener in Ireland, it’s time to assess the Georgia Tech football team.
When head coach Paul Johnson talks about competition at most positions, he refers to the ebb and flow, meaning how the landscape changes from day to day. Johnson is also fond of saying that things are never as good or bad as they seem to be.
After Thursday’s session, you could tell that Johnson was happy to see preseason preparation reach the halfway point.
“We’re getting to the point where it’s starting to be a little bit of a grind,” Johnson said. “Playing against each other … it’s probably good that camp’s about over.”
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Here’s a look at the position groups going into Saturday’s closed scrimmage.
Quarterback: Justin Thomas is the clear-cut starter. Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall are dead even in the race for his backup and both continue to take snaps with the No. 1 unit. This may not be decided until the team plane hits the tarmac in Dublin for the season opener against Boston College.
B-back: Johnson says Marcus Marshall and Dedrick Mills are 1-A and 1-B, and he said both will play. Throw in KirVonte Benson, Quaide Weimerskirch and Marcus Allen and the team has remarkable depth at a position where they struggled a year ago.
“We’re way better at that position,” Johnson said.
A-back: A lot of players are in the mix here, too, especially Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy. Nate Cottrell, who has played through a hamstring tweak, showed flashes this week.
Wide receiver: The starters likely will be Ricky Jeune, who has missed some time with a minor injury, and Brad Stewart.
“The rest is still in flux,” Johnson said.
Offensive line: This is another spot where the improvement from last year could be dramatic. Even with experienced players returning, Johnson said as many as three true freshmen could be in the rotation.
Defensive line: This spot could be a little bit behind because of an injury that has slowed defensive end KeShun Freeman. At tackle, Pat Gamble has been solid and Francis Kallon has shown flashes.
Linebacker: P.J. Davis is the sort of player every team needs, active and motivated. There has been a great deal of competition in the middle between Chase Alford and Brant Mitchell. David Curry has begun to emerge at the other outside spot.
Secondary: This spot is another work in progress with the loss of four starters. Nickel Lawrence Austin, free safey A.J. Gray and strong safety Corey Griffin seem entrenched.
“There are days they do very well and days they struggle,” Johnson said. “It’s an ongoing process, and we probably won’t know until they play a few games. I think they’re athletic so hopefully they’ll be up to the level we expect.”
Kicking game: Place-kicker Harrison Butker and punter Ryan Rodwell are returning starters. The search continues for a return man, although Johnson said Marcus Marshall won’t be running back kickoffs this season. Johnson wants to see more production and consistency from the return men.
Freshman Woods injured
Freshman defensive tackle Jordan Woods sustained an upper body injury that will likely require surgery and keep him out this season. Woods is a four-star recruit from Citra, Florida, who likely will redshirt and be ready for spring.