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Football: Week 4 Depth Chart Update

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Heading into the duel with Clemson, a few positions remain in flux

Vanderbilt v Georgia Tech Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

In this week’s exciting depth chart news: a true freshman reclaims his throne at B-back after a dramatic return to the lineup, a redshirt freshman has sparked a new position battle at linebacker, and the offensive line remains as muddled as ever.

The official lineup for tonight’s date with Clemson follows. As always, changes from last week are listed 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 Marshall (So.)
AB Qua Searcy (R-So.) Isiah Willis (R-Sr.)
AB J.J. Green (R-Jr.)
Clinton Lynch (R-So.)
n/a
WR Brad Stewart (So.) Harland Howell (R-Fr.)
WR Ricky Jeune (R-Jr.) Mikell Lands-Davis (So.)

If the last game was any indication, it’s shaping up to be a really fun year in the backfield. It doesn’t particularly matter who starts, because everyone on the two-deep right now will be a major factor going forward.

Despite some early-season mishaps—a fumble here, a suspension there—Mills and Marshall have emerged as a nice power/speed combo at B-back. Saturday left little question that Mills is the primary B-back, as the true freshman played nearly every snap in the first three quarters and ran for 58 yards and three touchdowns. On the occasions when Mills was able to build up some steam, he bowled over the defenders in his way, particularly on his final touchdown run. But it was Marshall who was on the field for Tech’s first play, and he made the most of it, turning a short pass out of the backfield into a blazing 81-yard score. While ball security remains a concern for Marshall, he’ll no doubt have a role in the offense in the weeks ahead, and it’ll be interesting to see how Paul Johnson makes use of him.

The A-back rotation is taking shape nicely, as a clear four-man rotation has emerged. Searcy and Lynch are the top playmakers at the position, while Green is a well-rounded option and Willis is the best blocker of the bunch. Others might get a few reps, such as seniors Lynn Griffin and Austin McClellan, but Paul Johnson will be leaning heavily on those first four over the next few weeks.

Offensive Line

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

On the record, only one thing has changed here: true freshman Jahaziel Lee now sits alongside sophomore Jake Stickler at second-string right tackle. In reality, last week shed some light on what has been a fairly unsettled line rotation to date.

With Klock sitting out last week with an ankle injury, Andrew Marshall shifted to the right side and was effective in both run and (particularly) pass blocking, scarcely letting a defender through whenever Thomas dropped back to pass. At this stage of the season, he looks like Tech’s best tackle by a good margin, but he’s also the team’s most versatile lineman—and that may be why he’s not listed as a clear starter at either spot. Regardless, Marshall and Klock should be the starting left and right tackles on Thursday (respectively) if Klock is healthy enough to go, and it’ll be Fromayan and Marshall if he’s not.

The guard positions are unchanged, but Braun is unofficially the main backup at both spots. Bryan struggled at times last week, so Braun could see a few series at left guard, the position his brother Trey held down for most of the last three years.

All three of Tech’s 2016 offensive line recruits have had their redshirts burned and now appear on the depth chart. It’s especially notable because over his first eight seasons at Tech, Paul Johnson played a total of three offensive linemen as true freshmen (Marshall, Bryan, and Shaq Mason). The situation is mostly due to a lack of depth across the line, but it’s still a very interesting development. Of the three, though, Braun is the only one who will factor heavily into the rotation against Clemson.

Defensive Line

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

There are no changes along the defensive line, but the SDE spot is worth monitoring. Simmons has been Tech’s most disruptive lineman so far, recording a forced fumble in the season opener and a team-high three tackles for loss this season. If that continues and he improves his run-stopping ability, he could challenge Rook-Chungong for the starting role; as it stands, he will get the occasional series and will generally be on the field in third-down situations. Beyond the players listed, true freshman defensive tackle Brandon Adams has been valuable as an extra run-stuffing lineman in short-yardage situations, but he is not likely to crack the two-deep in the near future.

Linebackers

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

After a strong game against Mercer, Curry supplanted Lewis as the starter at WLB against Vanderbilt. He didn’t light up the stat sheet, only recording two tackles, but he maintained his coverage assignments and was viable against the run. Curry should get the nod again this week, but with Clemson’s spread offense on tap, Tech will be leaning on the 4-2-5 front and neither WLB will see a ton of snaps.

Mitchell and Davis are secure as the starters at the other two spots. Redshirt sophomore Tre Jackson made a small splash in mop-up duty against Vanderbilt, recording a tackle for loss and tipping away a pass in the fourth quarter, but Alford and Alexander are comfortably ahead of him in the rotation.

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.)

The main secondary positions remain unchanged, but for whatever reason, there is no mention of the nickel back. Regardless, Lawrence Austin should get his first sustained action of 2016 at the nickel against Clemson’s spread attack, which will also be the first major test for the secondary this season. Jalen Johnson will be the backup nickel back and the de facto backup strong safety.

Specialists

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

Officially, the punting job remains undecided, but in reality it’s once again Rodwell’s to lose. The senior reclaimed the role for the Vanderbilt game and punted four times, recording respectable averages of 42.5 yards per punt and 40.8 net yards per punt. Rodwell’s shortest punt of the day—a 35-yarder—was downed at Vanderbilt’s one-yard line, and another was nearly downed short of the end zone but bounced in for a touchback. All in all, it was a solid day for the senior and should give him at least a little job security.