March 19, 2014
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech begins spring football practice Monday afternoon as seventh-year head coach Paul Johnson welcomes back 44 letterwinners from a team that tied for second place in the ACC’s Coastal Division and played in a bowl game for the 17th consecutive year.
The Yellow Jackets will hold 14 practice sessions leading up to the April 18th spring game (15 sessions total).
“We’re excited to get started,” Johnson said. “There should be competition at almost every position and usually that leads to some spirited practices. Every spring you hope to get a lot accomplished and end it without any significant injuries.”
Georgia Tech returns 11 starters – six on offense and five on defense – from a team that finished 7-6 last season. While the Yellow Jackets lost 50 percent of their starters (players who started at least seven games), there are 23 players on the roster with starting experience. Eight players who missed most or all of last season because of injuries also return, seven of which are healthy enough to participate in spring practice.
Leading the list of returnees is senior guard Shaquille Mason, a first-team All-ACC selection in 2013 and an All-American candidate this fall. Tech’s three most productive wide receivers from last season – DeAndre Smelter, Micheal Summers and Darren Waller – return this season, as does senior B-back Zach Laskey, who has rushed for more than 1,000 career yards.
On defense, the Yellow Jackets must replace two leaders, DE Jeremiah Attaochu, the school’s all-time sacks leader, and DB Jemea Thomas, who will likely join Attaochu in the 2014 NFL draft. Leading the way this year is junior DT Adam Gotsis, and linebackers Quayshawn Nealy and Jabari Hunt-Days.
The defense will be bolstered by the return of defensive backs Isaiah Johnson and Jamal Golden. Johnson, who started in 2011 and 2012, sat out last season to recover from a knee injury. Golden, who ranked among the national leaders in both punt and kickoff returns in 2012, missed Tech’s final 10 games last season because of a shoulder injury.
Harrison Butker, who enjoyed a solid rookie campaign as a true freshman kicker, is back for his sophomore year.
Four true freshmen who enrolled at Georgia Tech in January – DB Step Durham, DE KeShun Freeman, LB Tre’ Jackson and QB Matthew Jordan – will participate in spring practice, as will RB Travis Custis, who originally signed with the Jackets in 2013.
The spring game is set for Friday night, April 18th, in Bobby Dodd Stadium. More details coming next week.
March 24 – First day of spring practice
March 28 – Pro Day
April 15 – International student football clinic
April 18 – Spring game