In the wake of a pretty brutal loss in an important conference game, it would be natural for a coach to at least consider sweeping changes on offense and defense. And then then there’s Paul Johnson, who went in the exact opposite direction after Thursday’s loss to Clemson. According to the published Week 5 depth chart, he didn’t change a single thing from last week’s lineup.
In fairness, the new depth chart does not reflect the most recent injury report. Even otherwise, there weren’t many obvious candidates for positions that called for immediate overhauling. The only ones that stood out in that regard were several spots on the offensive line, but those were already contested and remain that way.
So in lieu of going through all the position groups as usual, this week we’ll focus on positions where either an injury has affected the depth or a position battle is ongoing.
Injuries: Trey Klock (out)
Projected Starters: Eason Fromayan (LT), Andrew Marshall (RT)
Klock—one of two offensive linemen with a secure spot on the first string—is officially out for Saturday with a leg injury. That means Fromayan and Marshall will start on the left and right side (respectively), just as they’ve done for the last couple weeks.
The biggest problem here is depth. Behind Fromayan and Marshall are Jake Stickler, a sophomore who has barely seen the field outside of garbage time, and Jahaziel Lee, a true freshman. Barring further injuries, the starters will be on the field almost the entire time on Saturday against an aggressive Miami defensive front.
Injuries: Shamire Devine (questionable)
Projected Starters: Will Bryan (LG), Parker Braun (RG)
If depth is a problem at tackle, it’s an impending disaster at guard, where both depth and performance have been lacking all season. As of Thursday afternoon, starting right guard Shamire Devine is questionable for the Miami game. If he’s unable to go, Tech’s starting do will be sophomore Will Bryan, who has struggled mightily this season in both run and pass blocking, and true freshman Parker Braun, who has acquitted himself well so far but remains relatively inexperienced. The only other player on the depth chart is redshirt freshman Brad Morgan, who has played sparingly to date.
The guards will be tasked with holding off a group of Miami defensive tackles that have combined for 12 tackles for loss this season. Granted, most of those TFLs came against Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic, but it’s still a disruptive group of interior defensive linemen going up against a very inexperienced group of Tech guards. Even if senior center Freddie Burden pulls his weight, that will not be enough if the guards are consistently out of position.
Injuries: Step Durham (doubtful)
Projected Starters: Lamont Simmons (BCB), Lance Austin (FCB)
The bad news is that starting boundary corner Step Durham is doubtful for Saturday with an ankle injury. The good news is that his replacement, Lamont Simmons, has gotten more and more playing time in recent weeks and was one of the bright spots for Tech against Clemson, with a well-timed breakup of a deep pass in the second quarter. Simmons is most effective when playing man coverage and using his length to disrupt receivers and swat away passes, but Tech leans heavily on soft zone coverage for the secondary, so his skillset may not be fully utilized on Saturday.
Projected starter: David Curry
This competition flared to life in Week 2 and saw Curry capture the starting job from Terrell Lewis by the time of the Vanderbilt game.... but it was then tabled for a week, as Tech stuck with a 4-2-5 alignment for almost the entire game against Clemson’s spread attack. Given how well Lawrence Austin played against Clemson (team-high 12 tackles), it’s possible Tech continues to lean on the 4-2-5 with Austin acting as a third linebacker as needed, but defensive coordinator Ted Roof seems committed to using a 4-3 front as much as possible. That bodes well for Curry and Lewis, both of whom need more opportunities to prove themselves.