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Georgia Tech Spring Football Game Preview: Three Things to Watch For

There's a lot of things that need improvement from the 2015 season. Here are the most important ones to watch.

Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics

You can see a list of names, numbers, and positions for each team by clicking here: link.

Offensive Line Play

This was a constant struggle and issue for Georgia Tech in 2015, which was extremely disappointing given that they returned 4 of 5 starters from a seemingly dominant unit in 2014. The biggest issues were in pass protection, where there was some clear miscommunication, as shown in several Vines and YouTube videos around the internet.

In 2016, Georgia Tech will have to replace graduated starting tackles Bryan Chamberlain and Errin Joe and graduated starting guard Trey Braun -- a trio of players with a ton of experience between them. Of the players expected to replace the departed, Chris Griffin has struggled healing from an ACL injury suffered shortly after the end of the 2014 season, Jake Whitley has reportedly been dealing with headaches and potential concussion symptoms, and Shamire Devine has continued to struggle with his physical conditioning. In addition, Freddie Burden has missed all of spring practice while recovering from a wrist/hand injury, and will be unable to play on Saturday. It should also be noted that Ron West joined the coaching staff as co-offensive line coach, where he's been working with the players in tandem with Mike Sewak.

None of that bodes particularly well for the offensive line in Saturday's game, but there's still plenty to be excited about. Sophomores Trey Klock and Will Bryan saw multiple starts at the end of 2015 and have bright futures within the group. Bryan in particular is being moved from tackle to guard, where he should fill the gap left by Braun's departure. Andrew Marshall, a backup center for the last two years and one of the team's best returning linemen, is going to get plenty of playing time, either at center or another spot.

Keep an eye on the offensive line's performance Saturday, particularly in pass protection. If 2016 is going to be better than 2015, it's going to start with keeping Justin Thomas upright and making room for ball carriers.

Defensive Secondary Replacement

It's not as much that this group was an issue in 2015, but that all of the starters graduated and have to be replaced in 2016. With D.J. White, Chris Milton, Jamal Golden, and Demond Smith headed for the next stages in their lives and careers, some younger players on defense have big shoes to fill moving forward.

At cornerback, Step Durham has been the primary backup over the past two seasons and figures to be one of the starters. The other starter should either be Lance Austin, who has played a little more sparingly on defense in his two years, or Lamont Simmons. (You'll remember that Simmons transferred in from Southern Cal prior to last season and got good reviews from the coaches in his limited practice with the team early on.) Other guys who could factor in and who should see plenty of action on Saturday are redshirt freshmen Meiko Dotson and Dorian Walker. The last guy who might make an appearance here is former DB Lynn Griffin, who switched to A-Back in the middle of last season but now appears set to rejoin the defense. No word yet on whether this is a long-term change or not, but Griffin is a senior in 2016 so "long-term" would all be relative anyways.

At safety, rising sophomore AJ Gray had a strong year as a true freshman in 2015. He figures to start at one spot, while the other spot is a little more up in the air. A trio of juniors -- Lawrence Austin, Corey Griffin, and Shaun Kagawa -- are the primary players involved there, although there may not be a single clear-cut "starter" when it's all said and done, especially with Austin's involvement at nickel corner. Jalen Johnson should also factor in and see some time here.

Perhaps the most interesting player to watch here is Christian Campbell, who's converted over to safety from quarterback. He's got a lot to learn about the position and scheme, but Campbell brings a ton of athleticism to the field and should be fun to watch getting a chance to play.

You're going to see a lot of passing in Saturday's game (relevant to what we've gotten used to from this offense), so keep an eye on how the secondary handles things with so many pieces in new positions and guys having to step up for the first time.

Offensive Backfield Improvement

Between all of the seniors who left after 2014 and the injuries that plagued this position group in 2015, the A-Backs and B-Backs figure to make a major step forward moving into 2016. You should see signs of that progress beginning on Saturday.

At B-Back, Marcus Allen and Marcus Marshall return, and are being joined by redshirt freshmen KirVonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch, as well as early-enrolled true freshman Dedrick Mills. We became very familiar with Marshall in 2015, who is brimming with talent but needed some polishing with regards to ball security and pass protection. Allen played quite a bit as well, although he was generally limited by somewhat frequent injuries. Adding Weimerskirch to the group will provide as much of a "sledgehammer" type as guys like Synjyn Days have been, while Benson and Mills figure to rival Marshall in terms of pure athleticism. The other player in the mix here is C.J. Leggett, though he's missed the spring with lingering injury concerns and won't play on Saturday.

At A-Back, what was once something of a log jam has cleared out due to some position changes. Between Griffin's switch back to the defense (as mentioned above), Mikell Lands-Davis moving to wide receiver in spring practice, and TaQuon Marshall moving to quarterback in spring practice, a group of 9 returning players has shrunk now to only 6. Of those, Nathan Cottrell has missed this spring, but the remainder of the group figures to be healthy and active on Saturday. That includes georgia transfer J.J. Green, who we'll see for the first time in a Georgia Tech uniform. Qua Searcy will play in his return from injury after a strong start to 2015, and he'll be joined by Clinton Lynch -- who may have had the biggest breakout performance of the year in 2015. Isaiah Willis will also play here, along with Omahri Jarrett and potentially some others. This unit should be far better in 2016 with better fortunes regarding health and more snaps under each of their belts.

Improvement should be expected from the A-Backs and B-Backs in 2016, and it should lead to significant improvements in offensive output altogether. You should see some of that improvement in the Spring Game on Saturday.

What are you watching for in Saturday's game, Georgia Tech fans?