Georgia Tech’s first scrimmage of the preseason confirmed what head coach Paul Johnson had thought all along: Freshman Jerry Howard could be a big contributor at B-back this season.
While that’s not a position of need — Dedrick Mills is the returning starter, leading rusher and considered an All-ACC-level player — it one of the most important positions on the team. Getting a contribution from a freshman, much like Georgia Tech got from Mills a year ago, would be a tremendous positive.
“Jerry really ran the ball hard,” Johnson said. “He’s a load. He played like I thought he would.”
Howard is a 6-foot, 215-pounder from Rock Hill, South Carolina. He is a three-star prospect who helped Northwestern to four straight state championships and the 2015 state championship. His prep career totaled 4,451 all-purpose yards, 3,352 of them rushing, and 53 touchdowns.
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“Jerry’s a load,” Johnson said. “He’s hard to tackle. I can see him playing. I kind of thought that’s what he was. You could see he was a wrecking ball in high school. He gets his pads down and he’s tailor-made for what we do.”
Howard’s ascension means more competition for KirVonte Benson, who entered the preseason as the primary backup to Mills, and Quaide Weimerskirch. Benson has been dealing with an injury issue early in camp but is expected back this week.
While the scrimmage may have served to confirm Howard as a contender for playing time, it did not help the discussion for quarterback. All four contenders played, but none stood out.
“Our quarterback play was spotty,” Johnson said. “It didn’t unfold at all like I thought it might going in, so we’re no closer there than I thought we would.”
Johnson wouldn’t reveal his preconceptions.
“That’s between me, myself and I,” he said.
No. 1 Matthew Jordan dinged his shoulder early and went out.
“He could have come back in, but there was no use,” Johnson said.
Johnson said all four quarterbacks moved the ball, each one led a scoring drive and none turned the ball over. But none of them threw the ball well.
Regarding redshirt freshman Jay Jones, Johnson said, “He’s a big play waiting to happen for somebody. He did a better job taking care of the ball (Saturday). He made some nice plays.”
Lucas Johnson had a long run during the scrimmage and TaQuon Marshall “had some nice plays.”
And while Jordan remains atop the depth chart, it may be awhile before the starter is named for the season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 4.
“We want to have him named by the first game,” Johnson said. “Our guys will know who the quarterback is. I don’t know that we’ll tell the other team who the quarterback is.”
Johnson estimated that 15 players were withheld from the scrimmage. He said two unidentified players have sustained injuries that may keep them out for the first game.
“We’ve been bumped up,” he said.
The Yellow Jackets return to work Monday. Johnson said the team will begin the week by focusing on itself, then segue into preparation for the season opener. The two-deep depth chart should be determined by the end of the week.
“You have to have your depth chart set because you have to have your scout teams set,” Johnson said.