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Football: Week 2 Depth Chart Update

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Aer Lingus College Football Classic Ireland 2016 Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

After a narrow victory in the season opener that saw the offense record one of its worst rushing totals in years, Head Coach Paul Johnson has shaken up the depth chart this week. Several offensive line spots are up for grabs, and the B-back position has been reshuffled after a pair of untimely suspensions ahead of Saturday’s game. On the flip side, some position battles that lingered into Week 1—particularly in the defensive secondary—have been resolved.

A full breakdown of the new depth chart for the Mercer game follows. Players who have moved up or down at their positions from last week are denoted in bold text.

Offensive Skill Positions

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

While he won’t challenge Thomas for the starting role, Jordan has secured both the backup QB job and a role running at least some goal-line sets. The only formal change is that third-stringer TaQuon Marshall is no longer listed on the depth chart. It’s very possible he ends up redshirting if Thomas and Jordan stay healthy, which would give him valuable class separation from Jordan. Expect walk-on Chase Martenson to be the de facto third-string QB on Saturday.

On the official Week 2 depth chart released on Tuesday, true freshman Dedrick Mills was the starter at B-back and sophomore Marcus Marshall was the backup, which lined up with how they were used against Boston College. Of course, that was before Mills and fellow B-back KirVonte Benson got suspended for the Mercer game. With Mills out, Marshall reclaims the starting role he held for much of last season; senior Marcus Allen will be the primary backup, and redshirt freshman Quaide Weimerskirch will get to make his debut. More than anything, it’s a major missed opportunity for Mills and Benson, who would have benefited greatly from game experience in a low-pressure environment.

A-back is somewhat muddled after the corps had an unproductive day on the ground in Week 1, partly due to the unfavorable conditions at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. As usual, the position will see lots of players rotate in and out, but Searcy’s strong showing in the passing game (three receptions for 60 yards) has helped him lock down a starting role and a greater share of the snaps. Lynch, Willis, and Green will be fixtures in the rotation going forward, but it is possible that one of them emerges as a clear second starter.

The receiver depth remains the same as a week ago. Jeune and Stewart are entrenched as the starters and played almost every snap against Boston College, but the WR rotation should expand this week to get Howell, Lands-Davis, and true freshman Jalen Camp more involved. The latter two saw action on special teams in the opener.

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.)

Angry with the OL’s collective performance against Boston College, Head Coach Paul Johnson has declared most of the OL spots to be up for grabs, which leaves LT, LG, and RG unsettled heading into Saturday.

Fromayan started at LT in Week 1, but Marshall stepped in early and ended up getting most of the snaps there. Marshall—the longtime backup center—seems to have the inside track to win the starting job, but both should play going forward. Bryan and Devine should retain their starting jobs at the guard positions, where they face competition from a pair of freshmen; still, their newly questioned job security is a reflection of Johnson’s dissatisfaction with their play against Boston College.

The only other question of note is what would happen if Burden had to miss extended time. Cooper is the nominal backup, but Johnson could also shift Marshall back to center or go with senior Michael Muns, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship this offseason.

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.)

The front four sees no changes from a week ago, with the veteran starters retaining their jobs across the board. The position to watch in the short term will be SDE, where Simmons had a strong afternoon with five tackles and two tackles for loss, including a strip-sack late in the first half that ended up being Tech’s only sack of the afternoon. Continued strong play could earn him a greater role at either defensive end position.

Linebackers

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

The only change from a week ago is that Mitchell is now the official starter at MLB, but this is not an actual change, as Mitchell got the start in Week 1 even with Alford listed on the first string. The three starters should continue to get the lion’s share of the snaps, but Alford will spell Mitchell periodically and Curry—a converted safety—offers versatility against pass-happy opponents.

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.)

Two secondary spots that were previously contested have cleared up, as Griffin and Durham have locked up the starting jobs after strong performances against Boston College. Griffin had six tackles and ended BC’s opening drive with an interception, and Durham broke up two passes.

The big surprise was that Lawrence Austin, the most experienced member of the secondary, saw limited playing time in the opener. Still, he remains the top candidate to line up at nickel back when Tech faces opponents that run spread offenses.

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.)

The big news on special teams is that the punting job is officially up for grabs. Rodwell’s struggles in fall camp continued into his first game; of his five punts, two went for just 24 and 26 yards. It is entirely possible that Aasen will see his first serious game action on Saturday.

The kick and punt return depth has flipped from the week prior, though the new starters—Green and Stewart—handled all of the returns last week anyway. Green in particular had a strong debut, returning the opening kickoff of the second half 34 yards to give Tech great field position. With Mills out on Saturday, the backup kick returner will likely be either Marcus Marshall, Omahri Jarrett, or Nate Cottrell.