Days to Kickoff: 52 Days
As the 100 Days to Kickoff series nears the midway point, this week will feature a series of position previews across the roster. These articles will go position-by-position to look at players that have departed, players that return from a year ago, new faces at the position, and the overall outlook for the 2017 season. The overall goal is to examine what the depth chart will look like next season and look at realistic expectations for each position group.
Here, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Georgia Tech only really lost one player from its offensive line last season. The bad news is who that player was: center Freddie Burden. For the last two years he was here, Burden was the leader of the offensive line and was well-known for his athleticism from the center position. At some point, Burden should get an opportunity in the NFL, but thanks to a broken ankle suffered during the TaxSlayer Bowl, that may be put on hold.
Former Yellow Jacket Trey Klock also announced his intentions to transfer to Northwestern as a grad transfer. Klock was a guy I was always a big an of, as he had a lot of potential in this offense, but unfortunately, due to injuries, he was never really able to set himself apart.
The last player Tech lost was Eason Fromayan, who forwent his senior season in order to pursue a career in NASCAR (no, I didn’t make that up).
Aside from Burden, the Yellow Jackets return the rest of their starting offensive line, plus two other players with starting experience (Kenny Cooper and Shamire Devine). Overall, it should be a pretty experienced group.
In last season’s recruiting class, the Yellow Jackets added a whopping five new offensive linemen to the mix in Michael Minihan, Zach Quinney, Connor Hansen, Boe Tufele, and Charlie Clark. The team also added a few walk-ons in Blake Bradfield, Jack Coco, Hamp Gibbs, Joe Santrock, and William Lay.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String|
|Position||First String||Second String|
|Left Tackle||Jahaziel Lee||Zach Quinney (Or another freshman)|
|Left Guard||Parker Braun||Brad Morgan|
|Center||Kenny Cooper||Scott Morgan|
|Right Guard||Will Bryan||Shamire Devine|
|Right Tackle||Andrew Marshall||Jake Stickler|
What to Expect
Going into Fall practice, I only see on position that is really up for grabs, and that would be right guard, where Will Bryan is trying to fend off Shamire Devine. Once two highly-rated prospects, neither of these guys have really lived up to the expectations, but still have the ability to be solid players. We’ll most likely see a good bit of both of them, especially given Bryan’s flexibility to play tackle and guard.
Elsewhere on the offensive line, things are looking pretty fun. As a freshman last season, Parker Braun came in and took a starting job, and now in Year 2, he has already been named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, which is awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman. Braun was one of only 17 offensive guards to be named to the list; so yeah, that sounds like pretty high praise.
I’ve already touched on Kenny Cooper earlier in the offseason, but will do so again here. Cooper got some pretty significant playing time last season, as Freddie Burden dealt with a few injuries against Virginia Tech and in the TaxSlayer Bowl. In both games, he performed pretty well, including the upset of VPISU without Justin Thomas even playing. With the starting job already secured, he could become scary good this season.
At the tackle positions, Andrew Marshall should be pretty set to move forward with business as usual. Marshall came in as a center, but moved to tackle last season and was almost instantly a star. With another year under his belt, he’ll only get better. On the other side of the line, Jahaziel Lee came in as a true freshman and managed to win the starting job at left tackle by the end of the season. Now, there were certainly some growing pains, but I felt like he was starting to come into his own by the end of the season.
How do you think the offensive line will perform this season?