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Five questions about Georgia Tech’s spring football game

Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) runs for a touchdown against Wake Forest in Atlanta last season.
Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall (16) runs for a touchdown against Wake Forest in Atlanta last season. Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia Tech wraps up four weeks of spring practice on Friday with the annual White and Gold spring game. Coming off a disappointing 5-6 season, there has been plenty of work for the Yellow Jackets to accomplish in the last month.

Here are five questions to consider about the spring game, which begins at 7 p.m., at Bobby Dodd Stadium

How will the new defensive scheme work? Nate Woody joined this staff in the off-season as the defensive coordinator, replacing Ted Roof. When Woody came on board, he brought a new 3-4 defensive scheme along with him and spent the spring installing it.

“The goal was to come out of this thing with our personnel for the two-deep (roster), teach fundamentals, install the base defense and get them hungry,” Woody said.

This is the third time Woody has installed a 3-4 defense and he learned from his previous efforts at Wofford and Appalachian State. A new defense, he learned, is more than just putting chalk marks on a board.

“Schemes are easy to draw up, but the guys that are really good at getting off blocks and really good at tackling, that’s the way you win football games,” he said.

How are the linebackers going to line up? The new scheme requires two outside linebackers and two inside linebackers. Woody and his staff have spent the spring trying to determine who will play where and which players might be cross-trained to play both.

“We had to grab, borrow and steal guys from other positions,” Woody said. “That’s not easy to do. That’s what we’re going through. That’s part of the identification process. We’ve got to identify our personnel and see who’s going to fit best at that outside backer position, who’s going to fit best at that inside position.”

Can the defensive line adjust to the new setup? There are plenty of changes for the defensive linemen in the new setup, too. The three players on the front are required to cover more ground and use different footwork. There’s been a definite learning curve.

One of the bright spots has been Chris Martin, a redshirt sophomore who has fought through injuries early in his career but seems to have found his niche with the 3-4.

“This is (Chris Martin’s) defense,” teammate Desmond Branch said. “He’s been having his way.”

Who has the edge in the race for backup quarterback? Things have changed over the past year, when the concern was over who the starter would be. Now TaQuon Marshall has a year under his belt, led the team in rushing in 2017 and is established as the starter, so the discussion has switched to the backup.

The only two contestants are Lucas Johnson and Warner Robins native Tobias Oliver. Johnson was the quasi backup a year ago as a redshirt freshman and Oliver was redshirted last fall. Oliver, a superior runner, may have closed the gap in the race because Johnson, a better passer, missed a large part of the spring with an unspecified injury.

Johnson said not much has changed in the battle to determine the primary backup.

“Not really,” he said. “Lucas, you know, he missed a lot of practice.”

Has a threat been developed at wide receiver? Top receiver Ricky Jeune graduated and is likely headed for an NFL training camp. His absence leaves Brad Stewart as the only legitimate receiving threat. It also leaves the door open for other players to win playing time. Among those who are expected to be in the mix are Jalen Camp and Macon native Steve Dolphus.

Dolphus (6-5, 210 ) is learning to use his size advantage against smaller defensive backs.

“I’ve learned how to use my size at all times,” Dolphus said. “Be physical at all times.”

About the game: Admission is free. Gates to Bobby Dodd Stadium open at 5:30 p.m. Free parking is available on a first-come basis starting at 5 p.m. at the Lower Peters Deck, Klaus Deck, Student Center Deck and Physics/Boggs/Mason Lot.

Wreckfest begins at 5 p.m. in Callaway Plaza at the north end of Bobby Dodd. It includes games, face painting, inflatables, a photo booth and a concert by DJ Babey Drew.