Tech’s football spring practice has concluded and the annual spring game takes place next Friday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. After graduating 11 starters from last year’s team, there are a lot of starting positions up for grabs and several more position battles as well.
Three offensive and three defensive lineman will have to be replaced and those positions are the ones of biggest concern. The most notable starting position to be filled will be the quarterback position. Despite the fact that there is no returning full-time starter, all things point to sophomore Justin Thomas winning the starting quarterback job. Thomas is the only quarterback on the team left with major experience and it will be his job to lose.
Currently only one player on the offensive line is a lock to be a starter—senior right guard Shaquille Mason. Mason is coming off a season where he was named first team All-ACC by the members of the media. Mason will be the anchor of the offensive line and the leader of the unit.
The center spot will be filled by either junior Thomas O’Reilly or sophomore Freddie Burden. O’Reilly appears to have the edge and Burden has been working out with the offensive tackles as well. Mike Sewak, the offensive line coach, has been scrambling players around this spring trying to find who will be able to play where and what the best fit for the team will be.
Left guard will be filled by junior Trey Braun or redshirt freshman Shamire Devine. By fall, the favorite should be Devine. Devine was Tech’s highest rated offensive recruit in Coach Johnson’s era and Braun is expected to play both the guard and tackle next season.
Both tackle positions are up for grabs. Sophomore Chase Roberts started a few games last year, but has been out for the spring with the lingering effects of a concussion. His status for next year is unknown. Junior Bryan Chamberlain started the team’s first seven games last year, but lost the job as the season winded down. Chamberlain will be competing with junior Errin Joe, sophomore Nick Brigham and redshirt freshman Chris Griffin. It would come as little surprise if Griffin is a four year starter on the offensive line. Griffin and Devine are two to watch as they have great potential on the offensive line.
This spring, Tech had to find new playmakers at the running back positions. Tech is replacing A-back Robert Godhigh and B-back David Sims. Senior Zach Laskey will most likely start at B-back, but freshman Travis Custis will be on his heels and will see plenty of game action this fall as he had an impressive spring. Custis wears number eight, which was worn by former Tech great, Demaryius Thomas.
Senior Deon Hill seems to be guaranteed to start at A-back as he started in three games this past season. Hill would have started every game, but he was slowed down after being diagnosed with Krohns disease.
The other starting A-back will be one of seniors Synjyn Days, Charles Perkins or B.J. Bostic. Days is the favorite to win the spot. Moving back to A-back was junior Broderick Snoddy. Snoddy has been praised for his work by coaches in the spring and he will be one to watch as he is the fastest player on the team by a long shot.
The wide receiver position is pretty much set in stone. Senior DeAndre Smelter and sophomore Michael Summers will start this season. Redshirt freshmen Antonio Messick and Ricky Jeune made big strides in their first spring and will be ones to watch in the future.
On the defensive line, junior Adam Gotsis returns, but the rest of the line still remains undetermined. Sophomore Tyler Stargel is the leader at one of the defensive ends, but the starter at both spots will probably not be known until the week before the season starts.
Former wide receiver Travin Henry has moved to defensive end and junior linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days has been working out with the defensive ends as well. Defensive end is the biggest position of concern on the football team as no one has much game experience.
The other defensive tackle position is currently a four man competition. Redshirt freshman Darius Commissioning, sophomores Francis Kallon and Patrick Gamble, and senior Shawn Green are all battling it out for the starting job. Green has the most experience, but an injury filled junior year set him back. Kallon and Gamble stand 6’5” and have great size for the position.
Tech will lose outside linebacker Brandon Watts, but will return Hunt-Days and senior Quayshawn Nealy. The linebacker position returns a lot of depth and a lot of guys are competing for starting jobs. Nealy is the only one who is locked in and the struggles of Hunt-Days have opened the door for a big competition. Sophomore Paul “PJ” Davis has had a great spring and if Tech chooses to run the 4-2-5, also known as the Nickel formation as their base-D, then Davis is the favorite to start alongside Nealy.
Last year defensive coordinator Ted Roof ran a lot of Nickel last year which caused Hunt-Days to not see as much action as his freshman year. Also competing for starting spots are Beau Hankins and Tyler Marcodes. Junior Anthony Harrell was out for spring practice with a torn ACL, but should be ready come fall.
The secondary loses Jemea Thomas and Louis Young, but has plenty of depth returning to be a strong unit. Tech returns senior safeties Jamal Golden and Isaiah Johnson. Both were key players from 2012 but were sidelined with injuries last season. Before sitting out last year, Johnson started 26 games in a row and most certainly should win his spot back. Golden started the first three games of 2013 and has a great chance to start as well.
After Golden went down, junior Demond Smith replaced him and performed very well. They will all be battling with junior Domonique Noble and Tech’s safety unit will be one of the most experienced in the country.
At cornerback junior DJ White has emerged as the positions most talented player. White grew a lot of the over the last few games of the year and will be asked to cover each team’s best wide receiver. Competing for the other spot will be junior Chris Milton who is making the switch from safety and sophomore Lynn Griffin. Early enrollee, Step Durham has done well this spring and most likely will not get redshirted as he is expected to play a lot from the start.