April 10, 2017
Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
As Georgia Tech prepares to roll into the third week of spring football practice on Monday, offensive coaches have seen plenty to confirm suspicions about most returning starters at the skill positions and they’re gathering information on up-and-comers who figure to lend depth.
There’s competition aplenty at quarterback, where redshirt junior Matthew Jordan has the most experience, yet junior TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshmen Jay Jones and Lucas Johnson are making impressions as well.
Saturday’s scrimmage in Bobby Dodd Stadium — less than two weeks ahead of the annual spring game on Friday, April 21 that will be open to fans and media — was about B-backs and Marshall.
Sophomore Dedrick Mills rushed four times for 56 yards from the fullback position, where third-year sophomore Quaide Weimerskirch and redshirt freshman Kirvonte Benson stole the show.
Weimerskirch, whose path on The Flats was slowed by a foot injury after he enrolled early in 2015, carried eight times for 114 yards, and tallied rushing scores of 35, 38 and six yards. Benson rushed seven times for 97.
“The line was blocking real well and B-backs were going off their blocks,” the 6-0, 217-pound Weimerskirch said following Saturday’s scrimmage. “Being here . . . I’m getting more familiar with the plays and things are starting to feel like second nature.”
Mills joined the scoring fun, gathering a 13-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass from Marshall. Marshall also threw scoring strikes to wide receiver Brad Stewart for 55 yards and from 24 yards out to sophomore wideout Jalen Camp.
Stewart and leading receiver Ricky Jeune return after starting all 13 games at wide receiver last season and Camp is emerging.
“We have a lot of talent in the receiver corps; we didn’t lose anybody,” said Stewart, who had 19 receptions for 382 yards last season. “[Camp] is great. He’s an athlete. He makes plays and that’s what we need. He knows the system. I feel like he’ll be able to contribute a lot this year.”
The wide receiver spot is in many hands, as senior Antonio Messick is joined by redshirt freshmen Stephen Dolphus (6-5, 197) and speedy Jair Hawkins-Anderson (6-1, 196) in the quest for depth.
“Jalen made a couple nice plays today,” said head coach Paul Johnson. “Antonio Messick made several pretty good plays, caught two fade throws.”
The Jackets have considerable depth at A-back, where juniors Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy and senior J.J. Green all return, and B-back is locked up at the front of the line.
Johnson said it was good to see help emerging behind Mills.
“KirVonte did some things, Quaide had some runs,” he reported. “I just don’t know until you watch the film if it was nobody around them, or that kind of thing . . . Dedrick’s No. 1.”
There’s nowhere near that delineation at quarterback.
In Jordan’s lone start last season, he rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns in Tech’s upset win at Virginia Tech. He has company, though, in Marshall, the elusive Jones and the big and big-armed Johnson, who has impressed despite battling tendinitis.
“Matthew hasn’t done a bad job; he’s done a good job,” said the head coach. “Lucas made some pretty good throws and TaQuon made some nice throws . . . Jay Jones was all over the place, can’t anybody tackle him.
“A lot of times it’s not the way it’s supposed to go, but he reverses and he’s athletic,” Johnson continued about Jones. “He is a really, really good athlete. It’s good to have depth. We have more depth there than at any position. When you’ve got depth, competition goes all the time. I’m not sure [Jones] can’t be the quarterback.”
Stewart spent the majority of his practice time the past couple seasons working with departed three-year starting quarterback Justin Thomas. There are four players presently chucking it and “It’s a little different,” Stewart said. “It’s good to have diversity and not get comfortable with one thing.
“You get better as a receiver learning new quarterbacks and new timings . . . All the quarterbacks did well, threw the ball well, ran well. I’m really excited to see we’ve got a lot of options.”