Justin Thomas was out Friday night, leaving Tim Byerly to take all of the first-team reps. Coach Johnson said that Thomas was available if it were a true game situation, but given the elements and his condition there was no use putting him out there. That said, Byerly started slow with a couple of turnovers but eventually looked very adept running the offense. He's a really good ballcarrier, and frankly the best we've had at QB since Nesbitt when you look at the total picture. He's got a bigger frame that helps him not to shy away from contact, and he's tough to bring down in general. He made some nice reads as well, though he wasn't anywhere near perfect. Passing the ball was rough across the board in this game, but you have to think that part of that was the awful conditions. I wouldn't expect the passing game to be a complete liability this fall, though it may not be a strength either.
Ty Griffin had an overall rough evening running the second-team (Gold) offense, but showed some really good potential. There were a lot of turnovers with him in the game, but that probably had a lot to do with the conditions of the field and the ball. That considered, he had a few nice runs where he showed some pretty good athleticism and running abilities. Matthew Jordan also got in the game for a couple of drives with the gold team offense, and held his own nicely. There were a number of busted plays over that stretch, but Jordan had a knack for fighting his way into a positive gain, occasionally involving large chunks of yardage.
Verdict: By all counts, Thomas is still the expected starter. That said, I think Byerly will be a pleasant surprise to most Tech fans as compared to expectations for him. He looks above average running the offense, and while he's no speedster, he compares heavily to Josh Nesbitt when running the ball -- something I think Tech fans will be very excited about and ready to welcome.
Similar to Quarterback, this is seen as a two-horse race, and on Friday one of the horses was kept in the stable. Zach Laskey saw almost all of the first-team (white) offense reps, while Matt Connors was the main B-Back for the second-string (gold) offense. Furthering the comparisons to the QB position, this is one where the fans are all rooting for one guy to become the starter (Thomas, Custis), where I think they're going to be pleasantly surprised by the other guy (Byerly, Laskey). Zach Laskey is a better ballcarrier than David Sims and probably has been for a couple of years. Sims got the nod as a starter the last two years because he blocks better and has the seniority, but in the realm of carrying the ball, Laskey is better. He has better breakaway speed and vision, and showed it with a really nice 40-yard TD run early on in the game where he was able to outrun the secondary in the back half of the run. He also did a nice job of catching a little screen pass that wasn't particularly well-thrown, and following his blocks for a medium-sized gain.
Verdict: Laskey will be the starter this fall, and with plenty of good reason. Custis reportedly looks fantastic running the football, but has a lot to learn in the way of blocking and some more of the details involved with playing B-Back. They should be a nice one-two punch as Custis develops some of the finer skills involved, and I think you'll be impressed the more you see of Laskey.
This group looks to replace Robbie Godhigh, and is hoping that the senior tandem of B.J. Bostic, Synjyn Days, Charles Perkins, and Tony Zenon can get that job done. (Deon Hill could also be added to that group, but he suffers from Crohn's disease, which has proven pretty debilitating. Anything he can add will be a bonus for this group.) Zenon had some nice moments carrying the ball during the game, frequently gaining 7 or more yards on rocket toss plays. Bostic was thrown to a couple of times, but struggled to make anything happen, largely due to the ball being soaked. Perkins didn't see any time in the game due to injury, and Days had a nice night with a few good carries.
Verdict: Days is going to need to be the stud A-Back in the mold of Orwin Smith this year given his size and athleticism. Bostic and Zenon are smaller guys with quicks but nowhere near the evasive abilities of Godhigh, where Days isn't quite as fast but has all the other abilities in both running and catching the ball. This is a deep, old group that will look very different in 2015, but for 2014 has a lot to capitalize on with its personnel.
It's not often that a guy is dubbed a starter and then later demoted, especially at a position like WR. Yet, it looks like that will be the case with Darren Waller. It's not that he's a poor receiver -- perhaps the issue is more that he hasn't improved. Waller has stagnated over the past couple of years, and now is behind at least three other receivers on the depth chart -- DeAndre Smelter, Micheal Summers, and Anthony Autry. For reference, Corey Dennis is currently competing with Waller for playing time. Ricky Jeune and Antonio Messick will also factor in here, and Qua Searcy could as well when he arrives this summer.
Verdict: I think, barring one of those three young guys emerging as a major factor, you'll see three main guys playing here: Smelter, Summers, and Autry. That group should be a pretty solid group of receivers, and maybe the best group of three WRs that Georgia Tech has seen since Demaryius Thomas left.
This group is going to have a couple of really solid guys in Shaq Mason and Trey Braun, but will have some questions going forward, especially at center. Jay Finch was a three-year starter at that spot and leaves big shoes to fill. Based on the number of fumbled exchanges on the snaps in this game, even with weather as a factor, I'm not confident at this point in the center play. Now, remember -- there are still 4.5 long, grueling, barren, football-less months until kickoff (I'm trying not to think about that right now), meaning there's plenty of time for Freddie Burden or Thomas O'Reilly to really step up and grab the spot as the dominant starter.
At tackle, Bryan Chamberlain again got the start for the first-team offense, but I'm still skeptical he'll be the starter come the fall given some of the difficulties he has. He's got a lot of competition from Chris Griffin and I expect Griffin to win that battle. On the other side, Chase Roberts got the start but would appear to be in a battle with Errin Joe for that spot. That one is a little more unclear as to who will win, and in any case the better man will be a solid player.
Also, there's this backup guard kid named DeVine...my GOODNESS is that a large human being. Shamire did a great job in the game. Stamina will be his biggest issue going forward, but when he's in, that guy can move some bodies around.
Verdict: This is a group that needs a lot more growth (mentally more than physically) as we move towards the season. It has some really nice pieces in place (Mason, Braun) but has clear holes left to fill. Can Johnson and Sewak piece together a better offensive line this year than they had last year? Time will tell, but for this team to achieve what it needs to, the offensive line will be a major factor.
What were your thoughts on the offense you saw in the spring game? Pleased with Byerly? Impressed by Laskey? Disappointed in anything? Expecting more from any individuals moving forward?