Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech offensive linemen like ‘pieces in a puzzle’ as coaches work around injuries

The offensive line that Georgia Tech will start on Saturday against Temple looks different than the one that took the field when the season opened a month ago.

Injuries have cost the team a pair of starters at a position that was already thin. But it didn’t really catch the staff off-guard. They had already worked through all the “what-if” scenarios before the season began and were able to plan the answers before the problems occurred.

“We understood when we looked at the roster and evaluated the roster, we understood where we might be with numbers depth-wise,” offensive line coach Brent Key said.

Key had long advocated the need to have eight or nine players ready to rotate through in each game, whether to help with depth or in case an injury arose. He didn’t want to take on being caught short, even though offensive linemen probably suffer more injuries than other position groups.

“We just didn’t expect it to happen in game two or three,” Key said.

In the second game of the season against South Florida, Georgia Tech lost left guard Mikey Minihan and center Kenny Cooper. Minihan hurt his foot and was wearing a boot on the sideline a week later. Cooper, who is on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy that is given to the nation’s best center, returned the next week.

In the third game against The Citadel, the Yellow Jackets lost starting left tackle Jahaziel Lee with a broken fibula. Lee is out for the season, although he could request a medical redshirt and be eligible to come back for another season.

“It’s unfortunate for Jahaziel, but it’s a situation we had planned for already,” Key said. “As coaches that’s what we do. We understand the challenges.”

In the last game, the Yellow Jackets started Cooper at center, Jack DeFoor at left guard, Lee at left tackle, Jared Southers at right guard and Zach Quinney at right tackle. Although the starting lineups haven’t been announced for Saturday’s non-conference game at Temple, the Yellow Jackets are expected to start Cooper at center, and then mix and match others as needed. Quinney will likely see time on the left side and Connor Hansen is rounding into shape.

“Thursday night I go through every scenario that could happen,” Key said. “It’s not a gut feeling. Everything is planned out. Everything is worked out to the smallest detail. It’s like pieces in a puzzle. I’ve spent more time on it this year than in the past. It’s definitely been worth it.”

The other linemen who are “above the line” include sophomore walk-ons William Lay III and Hamp Gibbs. Lay played significant minutes against South Florida when Cooper was injured and Gibbs played a lot at right guard against The Citadel.

Starting time set for North Carolina game: Kickoff for the ACC home opener against North Carolina has been set for 4 p.m. The game will be the school’s annual Family Weekend and Hall of Fame contest. The football will wear its new onyx gray Cape Day uniforms in honor of kids battling diseases and illnesses at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

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