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Football: #GTCAMP15 Offense Wrap-Up - A Long-Term Replacement for Justin Thomas & More Uncertainty at B-Back

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With school underway and fall camp wrapped up, let's look at where we stand with just a little over TWO WEEKS left until the season gets started again.

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

It's been a busy time for much of the staff over the last couple of weeks, and truthfully we haven't been the best about keeping you all up-to-date on how things were going during #GTCAMP15. That said, Saturday's scrimmage closed out the two week period, so let's take a look at how things stand for the offense.

Quarterback

Nothing has changed in a major way here -- Justin Thomas is still obviously the starter, and Tim Byerly is still a very solid backup if Thomas is injured or otherwise unable to go. I think the biggest change here is in the #3 slot, where Matthew Jordan has been moved to A-Back. Jordan can still play quarterback this season in an emergency-type situation, but reading between the lines, his move is based on two things:

  • Jordan is athletic and a very talented ball carrier that needs to be getting onto the field ASAP.
  • Christian Campbell has done enough in only a few weeks of practice to show the coaches that he's the long-term replacement for Justin Thomas.

The biggest issue for Jordan at quarterback was his passing ability, meaning his rushing ability will be capitalized on at A-Back. On the other hand, Campbell got some positive reviews from Thomas, who saw Campbell's improvement over the course of camp. With the graduation of Byerly after this fall, look for Campbell to be the primary backup going into 2016.

B-Back

As much as this position group was in major turmoil in spring practice as it dealt with injuries, it's somehow not much more stable at this point. In the spring, the heir apparent to Days and Laskey was C.J. Leggett, who tore his ACL and was lost for the season. That came after early enrollee and true freshman Quaide Weimerskirch suffered a foot injury that was thought to effectively end his season as well. All of that resulted in Marcus Allen getting moved to B-Back from wide receiver (where he had been moved from linebacker, where he had been moved from his original slot at B-Back). Allen did a decent job in the spring game, and seemed to have a leg up on the position coming into camp. Not long after that, a Stanford-educated human bulldozer named Patrick Skov announced his intentions to transfer to Georgia Tech for his final season of eligibility, presumably adding solid depth as a second-string B-Back behind Allen.

Fast forward to fall camp, and it seems that, while the list of players involved is more stable, the depth chart itself is not. Allen entered camp the favorite, but underwhelmed in scrimmages and practices and may be as low as the third-string player at this point. Skov didn't light the world on fire (he's still learning the position, after all), but he has made a case to be named the starter. Meanwhile, true freshman Marcus Marshall started to turn some heads and should see playing time this year, with a shot at starting early in the season, and the top B-Back on Georgia Tech's 2015 recruiting board (Mikell Lands-Davis) was moved to A-Back. (More on that in a moment.) Also, Weimerskirch recovered from his injury nicely and should be ready to play early in the season. It's unknown whether he'll redshirt the season, or if he'll be needed to add depth to the rotation.

Hopefully all of that made sense. (And if it did, please explain to us what all of it meant in the comments...even I'm not too sure.) The big idea here is that there's still a noticeable lack of clarity as to who will be playing which roles when the season kicks off, and that's not something I'm particularly excited about given how close we are to that point. Let's just say I was hoping that the depth chart would be more specific than all four guys listed under the first string, separated by a bunch of "OR"s.

A-Backs

This group has some clear talent in it, but you're going to see quite a few growing pains here in the fall. The group is limited in experience, and added a former quarterback and a true freshman during camp for extra depth. They return Broderick Snoddy, as well as redshirt freshmen Qua Searcy and Clinton Lynch, and it's expected that walk-on Isaiah "Ike" Willis will be playing a role as well. The group added freshmen TaQuon Marshall, Omahri Jarrett, and Nathan Cottrell, although Cottrell was likely lost for the season during camp due to a significant knee injury. That injury predicated Lands-Davis moving over from his original spot at B-Back, joining former QB Matthew Jordan as a mid-camp position transfer.

Reviews out of camp haven't exactly been glowing for this group, and a lot of that has been with regards to blocking. Only the coaches would know whether it's an effort issue or a technique issue, but either way, deficiencies in that area will be very detrimental to the offense's success. The good news is that it sounds like ball security hasn't been an issue thus far, where it's normally a major risk for A-Backs in particular.

Wide Receivers

The two primary candidates to start going into training camp are still in order to do so at the beginning of the season -- that's junior Micheal Summers, and sophomore Ricky Jeune, with Jeune's fellow sophomore Antonio Messick set to back them up as he continues to polish his skill set.

The interesting thing is that true freshmen Christian Philpott and Brad Stewart have turned some heads in practice and may be quickly closing the gap with the two leaders. Philpott's athleticism and Stewart's ball skills are making them both candidates for playing time this fall, and there's an outside chance that one of them could start a few games this season if the progress continues. It's been a pretty impressive showing thus far for that duo.

Offensive Line

This unit should look a lot like it did last year, with Chamberlain, Braun, Burden, and Joe all retaining their starter spots. Replacing All-American RG Shaq Mason (now with the Patriots) is the main challenge this group faced entering the spring, and it remained that way entering fall camp. The main issue hanging in the balance has been the physical conditioning of Shamire Devine, who has the talent to replace Mason but has struggled to play the number of snaps that would be expected of a starter. Early in fall camp, that issue had still not been remedied and the coaches were working others at the spot for a contingency plan, including backup center Andrew Marshall and backup tackle Trey Klock. Devine was pulled from the first scrimmage of the fall and was slated as a backup heading into the final week of camp, but turned things around and ended up drawing the praise of coaches and teammates after the second scrimmage this past Saturday. It looks like he'll take over the starting spot at right guard after all, although his conditioning is still something to be wary of moving forward.

There are two big things to know about this unit moving forward:

  • They should be roughly as good as last year, with most of their starters back and a suitable replacement for Mason in Shamire Devine. That'll be a big boost for an offense replacing almost all of the other pieces in its rushing game.
  • This unit should be at least as deep, if not deeper, than it was last year. The two-deep is full of completely capable players, and while no backup will ever seamlessly replace a starter there, every position on the line could be replaced with a player who would've been considered starter-quality in recent seasons.

Projected Week 1 Depth Chart

This is how I'd imagine the depth chart to look if the season started today. There's plenty of time left for this to change, and again, this is just how I'd imagine it. Usually, the way the coaches imagine things is more important than the way that I do.

Position First String Second String
QB Justin Thomas (R-Jr) Tim Byerly (R-Sr)
BB Patrick Skov (R-Sr)
Marcus Marshall (Fr)
Marcus Allen (R-Jr)
AB Broderick Snoddy (R-Sr) Qua Searcy (R-Fr)
AB Clinton Lynch (R-Fr) Isaiah Willis (R-Jr)
WR Micheal Summers (R-Jr) Brad Stewart (Fr)
Christian Philpott (Fr)
WR Ricky Jeune (R-So) Antonio Messick (R-So)
LT Bryan Chamberlain (R-Sr) Trey Klock (R-Fr)
LG Trey Braun (R-Sr) Eason Fromayan (R-So)
C Freddie Burden (R-Jr) Andrew Marshall (So)
RG Shamire Devine (R-So) Gary Brown (R-Fr)
RT Errin Joe (R-Sr) Will Bryan (Fr)

Check back tomorrow for a look at the defense!