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Football: Week 10 Depth Chart Update

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A pair of injuries will test the backfield’s depth

Duke v Georgia Tech Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A week ago, Tech was without a starter on each side of the ball, with B-back Dedrick Mills and linebacker P.J. Davis sitting out with injuries. Both have returned, but now Tech faces two injuries in the offensive backfield—B-back Marcus Marshall and A-back J.J. Green—and a pair of suspensions in the secondary. The Green injury in particular has shaken things up at A-back and kick returner, and replacing his production will be Tech’s biggest challenge this week.

The official depth chart is up here. It still has both Marshall and Green listed, so speculative replacements are listed below and discussed. Changes from last week’s depth chart are noted in bold text.

Offensive Skill Positions

Offensive Skill Positions
Position First String Second String
QB Justin Thomas (R-Sr.) Matthew Jordan (R-So.)
BB Dedrick Mills (Fr.) Marcus Allen (R-Sr.)
AB Qua Searcy (R-So.)
Clinton Lynch (R-So.)
n/a
AB Isiah Willis (R-Sr.) Lynn Griffin (R-Sr.)
WR Brad Stewart (So.) Harland Howell (R-Fr.)
WR Ricky Jeune (R-Jr.) Mikell Lands-Davis (So.)

Jordan got onto the field for the first time since Week 3, and he wasted no time getting the job done. The sophomore ran it in from two yards out on his first carry, giving Tech an early 7-0 lead. He had a second opportunity to punch in a touchdown in the third quarter, but a false start penalty pushed the offense backward and force Jordan out of the game. At the very least, it’s clear that coach Paul Johnson intends to continue using Jordan at the goal line.

Mills cleared the team’s concussion protocol and, as expected, will be ready to go on Saturday. He instantly returns to his spot atop the B-back rotation. The surprise was that Marcus Marshall, who started last week with Mills out, will sit out Saturday with an undisclosed upper body injury. As a result, Allen will once again be the primary backup on Saturday. The senior can’t match Marshall’s athleticism, but he does offer better ball security (which was once again an issue for Marshall against Duke) and better pass blocking, which could make him a nice complement to Mills this week.

Green is officially out after injuring his right leg on a kickoff return against Duke. Johnson has not disclosed the specific nature of the injury, but given that Green couldn’t even put weight on his leg as he was helped off the field, he may be out for some time. It’s a big hit to the A-back rotation, as Green had started every game this season and had been both an effective blocker and a crafty runner. In his absence, the two seniors, Willis and Griffin, are in line to take on bigger roles; it might translate to more carries for them, but realistically Johnson will be leaning more heavily on Lynch and Searcy to deliver big plays. Barring further injuries, it's unlikely that anyone outside of those four A-backs will receive any significant playing time.

Offensive Line

Offensive Line
Position First String Second String
LT Jahaziel Lee (Fr.) Jake Stickler (R-So.)
LG Parker Braun (Fr.) Brad Morgan (R-Fr.)
C Freddie Burden (R-Sr.) Kenny Cooper (Fr.)
RG Will Bryan (So.) Shamire Devine (R-Jr.)
RT Andrew Marshall (Jr.) Eason Fromayan (R-Jr.)

The big surprise last week was that Bryan—who had previously been the starting left guard before Braun overtook him—got the start at right guard ahead of Devine. It was not reflected on last week’s depth chart, but this time Bryan is listed as the starting right guard. Both Bryan and Devine have had their share of struggles, and all three of the guards will definitely play this weekend, but for now Bryan appears to have reclaimed a spot in the starting lineup.

The only other change on the listed chart is at right tackle, where Marshall is no longer listed as a co-first stringer with Fromayan and instead has the job to himself. It’s not much of a surprise, though, as Marshall has gotten the nod almost every week that he has been healthy. Fromayan will continue to rotate in at both tackle spots to spell Marshall and Lee, who has locked down the left tackle job with his surprisingly effective play over Tech’s past two games.

Defensive Line

Defensive Line
Position First String Second String
WDE KeShun Freeman (Jr.) Anree Saint-Amour (So.)
DT Kyle Cerge-Henderson (So.) Francis Kallon (R-Sr.)
DT Patrick Gamble (R-Sr.) Brentavious Glanton (R-Fr.)
SDE Rod Rook-Chungong (R-Sr.) Antonio Simmons (Jr.)

As usual, the defensive line sees no changes in the two-deep. After several strong games prior to the bye week, Simmons had one of his most unproductive games against Duke, and it coincided with Freeman playing reasonably well at the rush end spot.

Freeman is coming off arguably his best game of the season and Simmons just played one of his least productive games, which hurts the limited momentum Simmons had been building to potentially take over a starting job.

Linebackers

Linebackers
Position First String Second String
WLB David Curry (R-Fr.)
Terrell Lewis (Jr.)
n/a
MLB Brant Mitchell (So.) Chase Alford (Sr.)
SLB P.J. Davis (Sr.) Victor Alexander (So.)

The linebacker corps gets a major boost this week with the return of Davis, who will immediately reclaim his starting role. Getting the senior back is particularly big after a week in which the entire defense struggled to both make impact plays and get players positioned correctly. Aside from that, the lack of speed among the linebackers has been exposed in recent weeks—particularly last week, when Duke’s tight ends took advantage of poor coverage and slow movement by the linebackers. This could lead to more playing time for Alexander, who is faster than Mitchell and Alford but has similarly struggled in coverage, or Lewis, who started alongside MItchell last week and would be an upgrade in coverage over the other SLB and MLB options.

Secondary

Secondary
Position First String Second String
FCB Lance Austin (Jr.) Dorian Walker (R-Fr.)
FS A.J. Gray (So.) Shaun Kagawa (Jr.)
SS Corey Griffin (R-Jr.) Lawrence Austin (Jr.)
BCB Step Durham (Jr.) Lamont Simmons (R-So.)

Safeties Jalen Johnson and Christian Campbell were suspended by the Institute following Johnson’s arrest over the weekend, and they will not return until an Office of Student Integrity investigation is completed. Previously, Paul Johnson had elected not to suspend Jalen Johnson and had made no mention of Campbell (whose brother Donavaughn, an LSU offensive lineman and former Tech recruiting target, was arrested in the same incident), so this is an instance of the school going around the coach to levy punishment.

Jalen Johnson is the backup nickel back and Campbell is not on the two-deep at any position, so the short-term damage on defense is relatively minor. However, both players have been contributing on special teams and Tech is not especially deep at safety, so it could be problematic if they end up missing multiple games.

While Gray and Griffin are getting almost all of the snaps at the two safety spots, subpar play at cornerback—particularly this past week—has led to all four corners on the two-deep seeing plenty of playing time. While they haven’t been close to perfect, Durham and Simmons have generally been the two best cover corners; however, defensive coordinator Ted Roof seems insistent on keeping the boundary and field corner groups separate, which prevents the two from being on the field at the same time. The corner to watch this week may actually be Walker, whose speed could make him the best candidate to mark UNC speedster Ryan Switzer.

Special Teams

Specialists
Position First String Second String
K Harrison Butker (Sr.) Shaun Davis (R-Fr.)
P Ryan Rodwell (R-Sr.) Grant Aasen (Jr.)
LS Casey Wilson (R-So.) Lucas Patelles (Fr.)
KR Dedrick Mills (Fr.) ???
PR Brad Stewart (So.) Qua Searcy (R-Fr.)

The coaching staff has provided no clarity on who will be taking over for Green at kick returner. Mills has been on the two-deep at kick returner all season and is healthy, so in theory he should be next up... but an injury to Mills would mean Tech’s top two B-backs would be down, so there’s also a case for keeping him in reserve and sending someone else back to return kicks.

Who that would be is anyone’s guess. There had been no indication that Lance Austin was an option at kick returner until he went out there last week, and after his rough performance (three kick returns that went to the Tech 10, 17, and 14-yard line), he isn’t likely to get another shot. Several players took reps at the returner spots in fall camp, including A-backs Lynn Griffin, Nate Cottrell, and Omahri Jarrett. The last two probably won’t play again this season at A-back outside of garbage time, so this could be a nice way to get one of them onto the field—particularly Cottrell, whose open-field speed would make him an interesting option.