Last week, Georgia Tech Head Football Coach Paul Johnson met with Atlanta area alumni as part of a coaches caravan.
Johnson talked about what he thinks happened with last season and quickly moved on to how the off season is going saying the accountability and work ethic from the team is the best he has seen since he has been at Tech.
The coach then went on to talk about how Spring Practice went and how the depth chart is shaping up.
Johnson thinks this position has improved the most since last season with all three starters returning. Look for Jason Peters and Izaan Cross to man the end position with Logan Walls at the nose tackle.
Also in the mix will be TJ Barnes at NT and a bevy of defensive ends including Euclid Cummings, Emmanuel Dieke, Anthony Williams, and Christopher Crenshaw. Redshirt freshman Shawn Green broke his leg in the Spring but should be back in the fall to compete at nose tackle.
The one player Johnson didn't mention is Denzel McCoy who sat out last year due to a medical condition. His status is still unknown.
The two starters as of now, Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond, at Inside Linebacker both missed the Spring game due to injuries. Johnson commented on Drummond's work ethic since he moved to ILB after last season watching film with Defensive Coordinator Al Groh several times per week to better understand his new role.
On the outside Johnson singled out Jeremiah Attaochu as a player who has tremendous upside and a motor that is always running. Senior Steven Sylvester is expected to man the other outside linebacking spot. Others competing for playing time on the outside will be Brandon Watts who moved from ILB a year ago as well as Malcolm Munroe and Rutgers transfer Morgan Carter. On the inside Albert Rocker, BJ Machen, and the star of the Spring Game Quayshawn Nealy will all have a shot in the fall.
Johnson thinks this set of DBs is the most athletic he has had in his three years. Currently, Rod Sweeting and Louis Young are holding down the starting spots at Cornerback with Jemea Thomas and Michael Peterson also pushing for playing time. Redshirt freshman Ryan Ayers will also get another look in the fall after a solid Spring.
The safeties will have two new starters this year but do not lack for experience with Isaiah Johnson having played a lot as a freshman and Rashaad Reid leading the team in games played with 40. Backing them up initially will be Lance Richardson and Fred Holton though a true freshman Jamal Golden could also see playing time here as well.
Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton both return at the wide receiver spots but if you know anything about Johnson's offense you know multiple receivers will playing during the game. DJ McKayhan and Jon Lockhart could also see time as well as redshirt freshman Jeremy Moore. Johnson is excited about the three freshman coming in who are all 6'3" or taller.
In regards to the inconsistency last season at the position Johnson thought the players put too much pressure on themselves to be the next BeBe Thomas or Calvin Johnson on the Flats. You can safely assume Johnson was referring to Stephen Hill with this comment. About BeBe, Johnson said he was the best receiver he has coached in 32 years of football.
This position is one of the deepest on the team in terms of experience. Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith will start, but expect to see a lot of Embry Peeples as well as Marcus Wright, BJ Bostic, and Deon Hill. Johnson noted the progress redshirt freshman Tony Zenon has made this off season. Zenon was one of the last scholarships given in the 2010 class. With the depth here it is hard to see a true freshman cracking the rotation.
If the season were to start today, Preston Lyons would be the starter followed closely by Charles Perkins. Also in the mix are Richard Watson and David Sims. Johnson thinks this position is the deepest on the team in terms of talent and feels comfortable with all four. Lyons does not have the explosiveness of a Jon Dwyer but is very good at reading the defensive gaps having played in a similar offense in high school.
This position, not Quarterback, is the one Tech fans should be most worried about. Jay Finch is the likely starter at Center where he played in some key moments last year due to injury. Omoregie Uzzi and Will Jackson are at Guard while the Tackle position is unsettled. I got the feeling from Johnson's comments that Phil Smith had slipped a little bit here allowing other players to gain ground. Ray Beno, who played Guard and Center last year, is trying to crack the rotation at Tackle as is walk-on Tyler Kidney. Also in the mix at Tackle are Caitlin Alford and Morgan Bailey.
Nick McRae is the likely backup Center but can also rotate over to Guard where he would be joined by JC Lanier. Also at Guard is true freshman Trey Braun went through Spring Practice.
This unit is going to be a work in progress throughout the Fall.
Now we get to the all important QB battle between Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days. Johnson talked about both QBs, but failed to go as far as naming a starter or even a leader.
For those who came only to the Spring Game you would think Days is going to be the starting QB. But having seen more than just one practice I can tell you Washington out played Days for most of the Spring and did it on a bum knee that he had surgery on as soon as practice was over. Days has very good athleticism, but he is relying solely on that right now in running the offense. His performance in the Spring Game was impressive but keep in mind it was against the second team defense, half of whom won't play this season. Tech is not able to run Johnson's full offense with Days because the redshirt freshman is not fully making the reads to the B-Back and on the pitch. And when Days goes back to pass he is more so looking for running lanes than throwing lanes.
If Washington is able to come back full strength from the knee surgery then I will be surprised if he is not the starter against Western Carolina. Days will likely get playing time as he has shown progress and has the bigger upside for the future.
However, I don't think Johnson can afford to go with a work in progress like Days early on as the starter coming off a 6-7 season because there will surely be bumps in the road. This is not to say that by the end of the season Days will not have overtaken Washington, but Days has to be able to run the full offense and not just rely on his legs to do so.
Lets just say the coaching staff was less than thrilled with the place kickers during Spring but still has hope one can find consistency in the fall. Johnson said he was involved in the return game planning last season, but plans to be even more involved this season to improve the units' performance.
The article originally appeared on ChuckOliver.net