ATLANTA -- This might be the opportunity that Micheal Summers has been waiting for. The junior wide receiver from Statesboro is going to be given every chance to stake his claim as a starter for Georgia Tech next season. Part of that is because of his ability, and part of it is because of the lack of returning players at that position.
Last season, Georgia Tech had 106 receptions. Most of those went to DeAndre Smelter, a former Tattnall Square standout, and Darren Waller -- players who are expected to be in NFL camps this summer. The returning players accounted for only 12 receptions, and Summers had seven of them.
Summers played in all 14 games last season and made eight starts. His seven catches covered 45 yards, a 6.4-yard average, and he did not have a touchdown reception. But two of those receptions came in the Orange Bowl, when Smelter was watching from the sidelines because of a knee injury.
Perhaps a more fitting look at Summers came in 2013 when he played in 13 games and started 11. He had 10 catches for 211 yards. That includes three catches at Clemson and two against Georgia. Summers had an impressive catch in the first scrimmage of the spring, making a nice play on a throw from Tim Byerly.
Summers, Ricky Jeune and Antonio Messick, who had one catch last year, are expected to be the main contenders to become the lead receiver.
Jeune played 10 games in 2014 and is still trying to make up the ground he lost by missing last spring with an injury.
A lot of the decision on playing time likely depends on how they block, a necessity in head coach Paul Johnson’s option offense, and what sort of hands they display when given a chance.
Another possible contender for playing time is Marietta’s Harland Howell, a freshman who enrolled in school in January and is participating in spring drills. That could give him a jump on other incoming freshmen like Brad Stewart of Savannah, Dorian Walker of Kennesaw and Christian Philpott of Tallahassee, Florida.
Another position to watch during the rest of the spring is center, where starter Freddie Burden and backup Andrew Marshall are both unavailable.
Burden, a redshirt junior from Statesboro, started all 14 games and was named honorable mention All-ACC. Marshall, a sophomore from Cumming, played in 10 games last year, including the final six ACC games.
“It’s going to be an interesting dynamic,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to find some guys. The one good thing is we do have bodies. Those guys will all get a chance to play.”
Former Auburn transfer Thomas O’Reilly, who might have been a contender at the position, is no longer with the team.
That leaves sophomore Niko Anderson as a candidate for playing time. The Mount de Sales graduate joined the program as a walk-on and was redshirted his freshman season. He did not play during 2014.