March 31, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
While spring practice grinds onward, every day along Georgia Tech’s offensive line is moving day as injuries have prompted player swapping from the left flank to the right and in between.
Errin Joe, who came to Tech as a guard only to last year play mostly right tackle while starting the final seven games, remains at right tackle. Bryan Chamberlain, who started 13 of 14 games at left tackle after starting seven games at right tackle a year earlier, is anchoring the left guard spot.
The Yellow Jackets must replace just one starter, yet departing All-American Shaquille Mason leaves a big hole at right guard. For now, senior Trey Braun – who saw most of his action last season at left guard – is manning that spot.
Then, there are injuries and surgical recoveries. When the Jackets first put on pads last Saturday, four offensive linemen – three likely starters and a key backup – were/are out. Starting center Freddie Burden, guard Shamire Devine, tackle Chris Griffin and backup center Andrew Marshall have been on the beach.
So the Jackets are cross training. Youth is being served.
“We kind of put a little pressure on the younger guys to step up,” Joe said. “One thing about these young guys, they’re really eager. They want to know, `How do I fix this? How do I get better?’
“That lets you know that even though we have guys out, the group is going to grow as a whole because we’re trying to learn the system, what’s going on.”
With Burden and Marshall down, utility man Nick Brigham has spent considerable time at center.
A Maryland transfer, Brigham played in 10 games in 2013 and seven last year, at a variety of positions. He’s going to play next fall; there’s no telling where as Burden and Marshall are expected to return to summer practice.
“We had as many as what could be four starters out on the offensive line Saturday so we’ll get some of them back,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “[Brigham] did some OK things. He’s going to be a journeyman guy.
“I don’t think he’s going to be one and two out [at center], but he did some decent things. He’s going to probably have to learn all the positions to play.”
Devine, a sophomore who is the Jackets’ biggest lineman at 6-feet-7, 325 pounds, is a candidate to start at left guard. He may return Wednesday.
Griffin, who started the first five games last season at right tackle in his redshirt freshman season before injury kept him from playing in one of 14 games, may be the left tackle. For now, third-year sophomore Eason Fromayan and redshirt freshman Trey Klock are working there.
The right tackle may well be Joe, a fifth-year senior who scuffled through numerous injuries in his first three-plus years at Tech.
“We have a lot of guys who are interchangeable,” said Joe. “I’ll tell you this: if somebody has to play a position they’re not used to, they’re real team players and they can step in there. One thing about O-line: everybody knows what everybody else does.”
Chamberlain’s not worrying about where he works, just about working well.
“Everybody has the same goal [to play]. If one guy drops down, then the next guy should be able to pick up the slack,” he said. “This gives the young guys a chance to learn. We need depth. All I can say is you don’t want to lose your time.
“[Guard] is more physical. Everything happens right now. At tackle, you’re more playing in space. It’s a new challenge.”