ATLANTA (March 23) – Georgia Tech head coach George O’Leary prefers to call it “replacing” rather than “rebuilding,” but one of the Yellow Jackets’ concerns this s pring is the development of the offensive line following the graduation of a pair of all-conference performers.
Tech’s offensive line was a strength last season, helping the Yellow Jackets rank among the top three in the Atlantic Coast Conference in both rushing and passing while leading the league in fewest sacks allowed.
Three starters return on the offensive line, led by center David Schmidgall, but the Jackets must replace left tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.), a consensus first-team all-America, and all-Atlantic Coast Conference right guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ga.), both four-year starters.
“We have a lot of linemen right now, which normally is not the case in the spring, and we’re trying to find replacements for Brown and Key, who both had great years,” said O’Leary following Friday’s workout, Tech’s fourth of the spring.
Schmidgall, a senior from Clearwater, Fla., is an underrated lineman who was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week following Tech’s season-ending victory over Georgia. He was also voted Tech’s Most Improved Offensive Player following the season. Schmidgall is backed up by freshman Gavin Tarquinio (Marietta, Ga.), a 2001 signee from Wheeler High School who enrolled at Tech this semester.
“I like having the center back because he’s the quarterback of the offensive line,” said O’Leary. “David Schmidgall did a great job last year in his first year starting, and really, he may have been our most consistent lineman from start to finish.”
Sophomore tackle John Bennett (Woodstock, Ga.), a freshman all-America who started every game, is working at Brown’s left tackle position after playing on the right side last season. Senior Jason Kemble (Canfield, Ohio) is at right tackle, and O’Leary is also looking at junior college transfer Garren Findlay (Logan, Utah) and promising redshirt freshman Jeremy Phillips (Watkinsville, Ga.) at tackle.
Junior Raymond Roberts-Blake (Walthourville, Ga.) returns at left guard, while sophomore Hugh Reilly (Roswell, Ga.) is working at right guard.
Other linemen vying for playing time include sophomore Clay Hartley (Bryceville, Fla.), who can play guard or center, and junior guard Tim Brown (Columbia, S.C.).
The Jackets concluded Friday’s workout with a brief goal-line scrimmage session.
“I’m looking for effort down there and guys who keep driving,” said O’Leary. “That’s where you see the toughness of your group.
“Today was a good day as far as getting some contact work done, and we’ll scrimmage some more on Saturday and see where we are,” said O’Leary. “I think you learn how to play the game by playing it, so we’re trying to get a lot of people involved. There’s a lot of action going on there.”