ATLANTA -- The bad news about Georgia Tech’s offensive line is that All-ACC guard Shaq Mason, a four-year starter, is gone. He was an anchor on the right side and certainly will be missed.
But that’s virtually the only bad thing about the players who will do the blocking and opening the way for what has proven to be one of the best rushing teams in the nation.
Otherwise, the offensive line looks like it could be better than ever.
“We want to continue what we started off last year,” senior right tackle Errin Joe said. “We lost Shaq, and somebody is going to have to fill those shoes, but if we fill that position, we’re going to be OK.”
Georgia Tech has rushed for 300 yards or more in 48 of the 94 games of the Paul Johnson era, going 38-10 when that occurs. They Yellow Jackets are 13-3 in the past 16 games when rushing for 300 yards and have rushed for 200 yards in 14 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation.
Joe is in the middle of the action. The fifth-year senior (6-foot-3, 313 pound) played 13 games last season and started the final seven.
The other returning starters are left tackle Bryan Chamberlain, a senior who started 13 games and was named honorable mention All-ACC; left guard Trey Braun, a senior who started all 14 games; and center Freddie Burden, a junior, who started 14 games last year and was named honorable mention All-ACC.
The new starter at right guard was expected to be Shamire Devine, a sophomore who played 13 games last year.
“I’ve gotten used to Shamire and some of the other guys rotating in there,” Joe said. “He’s put in some good practice. Pushing through practice is good for him.”
But Devine has been less than impressive, causing many to wonder if true freshman Will Bryan or sophomore Andrew Marshall would do enough in camp to take the job away. Devine played better in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Head coach Paul Johnson said that overall the line was OK, but added that “Shamire Devine did much better. He got some really nice blocks on the first couple of drives.”
Others expected to play are tackles Trey Klock and Jake Stickler, a pair of redshirt freshmen, and guards Eason Fromayan and Gary Brown. Fromayan started one game last year and played in 13. Brown was voted the best offensive scout team player but didn’t play last year. Neither did Stickler or Klock.
Nick Brigham opted to stop playing football because of concussion issues, and Michael Preddy left school and enrolled at the College of Charleston.
“We can all help each other,” Joe said. “Last year, we were still learning the offense. This year, I have a good feel for the offense, and going forward I can help the younger guys.”
Part of it might simply be preseason posturing, but Johnson has not been overwhelmed by the offensive line’s performance during the first two weeks of the preseason.
“He just expects more out of us, especially for a few of us individuals who has a lot of experience under their belts,” Chamberlain said.
The Yellow Jackets held their second scrimmage of the preseason, running 100 plays and scoring on their first three possessions, with quarterback Justin Thomas leading two scores and backup Tim Byerly leading the other.
It also marked a breakthrough for graduate transfer Patrick Skov, who had his best day since arriving from Stanford. The B-back hopeful ran eight times for 86 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 24-yard pass.
“Patrick really played well,” Johnson said. “It was his best performance to date. It was good to see him be physical and finish runs forward.”
Marcus Marshall, a true freshman from Raleigh, North Carolina, shared the first-team snaps with Skov.
The defense created two turnovers. Reserve cornerback Step Durham recovered a fumble, and safety Jamal Golden intercepted a pass.
Georgia Tech will not practice Sunday. Classes begin Monday.