One of the biggest noted points of weakness through Paul Johnson's tenure at Georgia Tech has been the offensive line. Any time the offense has struggled, one of the first units to get blamed was the offensive line for getting blown up. Last year, that took a turn for the better with the breakout of the Goon Squad, as the line exhibited great chemistry and technique, resulting in more effective run blocking and MUCH more effective pass blocking. This year, I've got news for you: it's about to get even better.
Our line returns 5+ starters from last year -- and I say 5+ because at times CPJ has liked to play those positions "by committee", where we have 3-4 tackles or guards who need to see playing time given their level of skill. That being said, our biggest loss is OT Phil Smith, who graduated in May and transferred to UCF for graduate school. The guys we have returning are incredibly athletic, smart, and now have plenty of experience to aid them. Or, as the Goon Squad's Twitter account points out, they're "Bigger than You, Faster than You, Smarter than You." This unit is looking impressive, and they're sure to cause Frank Beamer all kinds of headaches with what he calls "Chop Blocks" (better known as "Cut Blocks").
Individual position breakdowns on deck, after the jump!
Center -- Starting at Center will be RS Junior Jay Finch. Finch is 6'3", 285lbs and is looking to be the anchor of a line he's played a big role in for the past two years. From talking to his buddy and previous mentor Sean Bedford, there's an awful lot of reason to be excited about what he'll bring to the line.
Guard -- RS Junior Will Jackson will line up to Finch's left at guard, while All-ACC RS Senior Omoregie Uzzi will flank him to the right. Jackson measures the same height and weight as Finch (and being in the same signing class, you know they have great chemistry together -- crucial on the O-Line), while Uzzi adds another 15lbs at the same height. Our interior line is strong, and is backed up mainly by Catlin Alford, Nick McRae, and Shaquille Mason.
Tackle -- We're looking at another "by committee" unit this year, as there are 3 good candidates for only two spots. RS Junior Ray Beno (6'2", 295), RS Junior Tyler Kidney (6'2", 262), and RS Sophomore Morgan Bailey (6'4", 295) all will be competing for playing time and may just rotate drives or series. These guys have been really impressive at run blocking for tackles (typically more focused on pass protection).
One thing that really strikes me about this group is how much size we're adding. In the past it was a struggle because our line, while technically sound and generally efficient, was simply smaller than the oafs they were trying to stop (picture is of 6'3", 351 John Jenkins), creating an obstacle nearly impossible to overcome. Now, our guys are bigger -- Finch, Jackson, and Kidney are the only linemen we have listed as less than 290lbs -- meaning the playing field is being leveled when it comes to size, and the technique will really be able to shine.
I'm really excited to see what this team can do on Labor Day. Johnson has said time and time again this offseason that this unit will be as deep as he's ever seen it at Tech, and may be the deepest and most talented on the team. I don't know about you, but I think we'll really like what we're going to see this fall from the Goon Squad -- and Grady will really like the ambulance that's going to be making loops to the visitor's locker room.
Excited about this unit? Think they're overhyped? Think you really wouldn't want to encounter them in a dark alley? Concerned for the well-being of opposing defenses? Let's hear your thoughts.