For a coach who just lost his best offensive player, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson didn’t seem to be on the verge of a panic attack.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Johnson didn’t deviate from his previous statements regarding the loss of B-back Dedrick Mills. The sophomore from Ware County was kicked off the team Friday for a violation of team rules. Like other situations when the Yellow Jackets have lost players of assorted value, Johnson said the only approach is to move on.
“You’d like to have the best player, but I’m not going to rush home and get in a closet and shoot myself,” Johnson said. “We’ve got guys that can play.”
The B-back plays an important role in the Georgia Tech option offense. With a good B-back in the lineup, the team has achieved great success. Jonathan Dwyer, Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey were all very productive there. Mills was good enough to start as a freshman, lead the team in rushing and win the MVP trophy at the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Johnson said the B-back spot is in good hands with holdovers KirVonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch and incoming freshmen Jerry Howard and Jordan Ponchez-Mason. Johnson had planned to move Ponchez-Mason to A-back, but that plan is likely on hold.
Benson is coming off a very good spring. He rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Benson has been sidelined by an injury during fall camp, but Johnson said Benson would return to practice Monday.
Benson can’t match Mills for bulk but has an advantage in speed.
“Probably the fastest at that position,” Johnson said. “He’s got ability. Now, what’s he going to do when he gets out there?”
The find of the spring has been Howard, a true freshman from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Johnson has been highly complimentary of Howard during preseason practice, but it would be unfair to expect him to approach what Mills achieved a year ago. Johnson said Saturday that Howard definitely would play in the opener against Tennessee on Sept. 4.
Mills was dismissed for violation of an athletics department policy, not a criminal matter. The unspecified violation carried a mandated dismissal from the team.
“It’s pretty much cut and dried,” Johnson said. “The rules, they kind of are what they are.”
Mills likely will transfer to an FBS program and have three seasons of eligibility remaining after he sits out a season. Johnson said he would not block a transfer other than a team on this season’s schedule.
“Hopefully, it’ll work out for him, and he’ll learn from it and be very successful wherever he ends up,” Johnson said. “He’s a good kid. I don’t think there’s a bad bone in his body. He’s a hard worker. He loves to play football. He just made some poor choices.”
Happy birthday, Coach: Johnson celebrated his 60th birthday Saturday. He was serenaded by the players at the end of practice.
Scholarship winners: The Yellow Jackets awarded four walk-on players with scholarships this week. They were senior B-back Brady Swilling from Chatsworth, junior defensive back Josh Selembo from Roswell, junior defensive back Zach Matthew from Suwanee and junior quarterback Chase Martenson from Dunwoody.
“Guys who have here and done pretty much anything we’ve asked them,” Johnson said. “These guys earned them. They put in a lot of hard work.”