ATLANTA -- When DeAndre Smelter was injured against Georgia, it did more than take away Georgia Tech’s most productive and most consistent receiver. It changed the whole game plan.
Against the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech shifted its offensive attention to the running game in the second half. The Yellow Jackets simply ignored the pass -- they threw it only twice in the second half -- and were content to pound the ball up the middle. They were rewarded with a big second half and a big win against the Bulldogs.
But can that same strategy work in the ACC championship game against defending national champion Florida State?
Georgia Tech will rely heavily on wide receiver Darren Waller, a talented big receiver who has not always answered the call. But Waller made a nice touchdown catch a week ago against Georgia. The senior had five catches against Duke, although most were late when the outcome had been decided. This season, Waller has 16 receptions and four touchdowns.
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Replacing Smelter will be senior Corey Dennis, third-year sophomore Micheal Summers and redshirt freshman Ricky Jeune. Summers has five catches for a 6.8-yard average, and Dennis has one catch for 7 yards. Jeune has played in 10 games but has no receptions.
Summers has been named the starter, although all three are expected to play.
“Our deal has kind of been, ‘Hey, it’s got to be the next guy up,’ and we’ve played a lot of guys at that position,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “Some of those guys that have play, they’ll have to step it up.”
Dennis is a veteran who will play in his 53rd game and is best known for his contributions on special teams. He’s also known as the boyfriend of Urban Meyer’s daughter, Nicki, a former Georgia Tech volleyball player.
Jeune missed most of the spring with an injury but is considered a deep threat. Summers is a speedy player who also happens to be a good blocker.
“I think they’re ready to play,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be smart. I don’t expect the same thing out of Corey Dennis that I do DeAndre Smelter. They’re two different guys. What I’ve got to do is help Corey be successful and Micheal be successful. They’re capable. They’re going to plug into the system, and we’ll find a way for them to help us.”
FORMER LINEMAN HONORED
John Davis, who played at Georgia Tech from 1983-86, will be among the players honored at the ACC Football Legends banquet on Friday. Davis was a first-team All-America as an offensive tackle and center.
Davis, a native of Ellijay, will join the likes of Florida State’s Derrick Brooks, Pittsburgh’s Hugh Green, Syracuse’s Art Monk and Virginia head coach George Welsh among those who will be recognized.
The forecast for Saturday in Charlotte calls for a 70 percent chance of rain early, dropping to 20 percent at night. The Weather Channel predicts partly cloudy skies, with a low of 41 degrees and 10-15 mph winds.