Back in my post-NSD Mailbag, user jabbajacket asked me an interesting question:
Way-too-early breakdown on who in this class will redshirt, who will start, and who won't start, but will see playing time?
When I first saw the question, I thought it deserved more than a short ramble in the mailbag, so I decided to dedicate an entire article to it. In this article, I'm simply going to predict who will redshirt and who will play.
I don't believe that any of our recruits will win starting jobs to the point where I would be comfortable predicting that. Does that mean no true freshmen will start? Absolutely not. They may not start at the beginning of the season, but I'm comfortable predicting a couple guys to be starters by the end of the season.
There's really only two guys that I feel comfortable saying will be starters by the end of the season: Anree Saint-Amour and AJ Gray.
Saint-Amour is a guy who could come in and start from day 1. Tech struggled last year to find a mainstay at strongside defensive end and shuffled in guys like Tyler Stargel, Kyle Travis and Pat Gamble. They all did a decent job, especially Gamble, but none of them were as good as Saint-Amour could be at that position. His size and the speed he carries with that size project very well for him there. The main person which will stand in his way of being the starter is sophomore Tyler Merriweather, a guy that some thought could have starter at that spot last year.
AJ Gray is a special football player. His value comes from being able to read the quarterback like a book. He could easily step into the spot vacated by Isaiah Johnson, and he could do it in a similar fashion to the way Johnson took the spot. I get the feeling that the coaching staff will try to ease Gray in, but he will show very quickly how hard it is to keep him off the field.
These next two sections will be a little bit longer since I have to include the other 25 players from this class in them. For this section, I'm going to break it up into two sub-sections: those that receive playing time at their respective positions and those that receive playing time on special teams.
I think most of the guys that I'm going to mention will get playing time at their respective positions. On offense, Harland Howell II, Marcus Marshall, Quaide Weimerskirch, Brad Morgan, Omahri Jarrett, Nathan Cottrell and KirVonte Benson, will all receive playing time at their respective positions.
Howell II is already on campus and will be getting plenty of reps in during the spring. He was also one of the guys I considered putting in the starters category since we lost both DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller this past season. CPJ will need someone to step up and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see it be Howell II.
Brad Morgan was an interesting choice for me. I'm not totally convinced that he or his brother will ever be starters at Tech, but I think they could provide solid depth. They both seem like high-floor guys which is what you look for in rotational guys.
I decided to go with five backs not being redshirted. We obviously lost a lot of depth from both back positions last season and will need warm bodies to fill positions, at the very least. Marshall could also be swapped out with Mikell Lands-Davis.
On defense, Kyle Cerge-Henderson, Dante Wigley and Scott Morgan will play at their respective positions.
Like Howell II, Cerge-Henderson is already on campus and will get plenty of reps during the spring. And Scott, like his brother, is a high-floor guy that comes in at a position of need.
Dante Wigley is a guy that could come in and challenge for that third corner spot. If he doesn't win that spot, I think he ends up redshirting.
As for guys that will play solely on special teams, I only picked two: Vic Alexander and Brad Stewart.
Alexander will absolutely destroy some guys on special teams. If he does well enough there and Tech needs enough help at linebacker, he's a guy that could easily step in and get some playing time there.
Stewart is a guy that will play primarily on special teams. I think he will also be very willing to do so. He's hungry to get on the field and will do whatever it takes to do so. He might even get some snaps at receiver if Tech is up by a lot.
So obviously, the rest of these guys will redshirt. We've got some really good players that will likely redshirt too. My total list includes Will Bryan, Christian Philpott, Christian Campbell, Mikell Lands-Davis, Tyler Cooksey, Jaylend Ratliffe, Brant Mitchell, Dorian Walker, TaQuon Marshall, David Curry, Brentavious Glanton, Meiko Dotson and Trent Sellers.
I'm only going to touch on a few of these guys. The obvious names that stand out here are Bryan, Philpott, Lands-Davis, Cooksey and Glanton.
All these are guys that could easily get playing time this season. But I decided to put them in my redshirt list because of their level of talent. In other words, I think these guys could be so good I think they would benefit much more from taking a year to learn the system before getting paying time.
They guy I'm probably the most excited for is Will Bryan. He's a guy that could legitimately start this year. However, I think since only spot opened up from the line last year, that CPJ will opt to redshirt him so he can turn into a four-year starter and go with either Shamire Devine or Gary Brown at right guard.
What do y'all think? Who plays this season and who redshirts?