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Returning Starters Brown, Key lead Offensive Line

ATLANTA-Georgia Tech head football coach George O’Leary says the offensive line is usually the last position to come together, but he is satisfied with the progress of a unit that must replace three starters.

Tech’s front line returns a pair of senior all-star candidates in left tackle Chris Brown (Augusta, Ga.) and right guard Brent Key (Trussville, Ala.).

“The offensive line is usually the last thing to gel because there’s so much involved with offensive line play as far as the call their involved with and the coordination in the run game and the pass game,” said O’Leary after Friday’s morning workout. The Yellow Jackets, who open the season Aug. 27 at 10th-ranked Virginia Tech in the BCA Bowl, continue preseason drills with a pair of practices Saturday scheduled for 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Junior David Schmidgall (Clearwater, Fla.) steps in at center, with redshirt freshman John Bennett (Woodstock, Ga.) at right tackle and redshirt freshman Clay Hartley (Bryceville, Fla.) and sophomore Raymond Roberts-Blake (Walthourville, Ga.) battling at left guard. Depth behind that group is a concern, however.

“I think they’re progressing, but the second group needs to pick it up as far as tempo is concerned,” said O’Leary. “I do think we’re going to be fine up front as far as the first group. We get movement and we protect well enough. I’m more concerned about some of the second-team players and what kind of help we can get from them.”

Players trying to earn backup roles include junior Jason Kemble (Canfield, Ohio) and sophomore Dustin Vaitekunas (Chapin, S.C.) at tackle, sophomores Ashley Henderson (Valdosta, Ga.) and Tim Brown (Columbia, S.C.) at guard and redshirt freshman Hugh Reilly (Alpharetta, Ga.) at center.

O’Leary has also been impressed with true freshmen Leon Robinson (Garden City, Ga.) at guard and Jeremy Phillips (Watkinsville, Ga.) at tackle.

“There no question that the strength of both of those players is evident, even as true freshmen,” said O’Leary. “I think both are going to be fine offensive linemen.

“I would say that Leon Robinson, because of the position he’s playing, is catching on a little quicker, but I think both are going to have opportunities. They are both good enough athletes to be out there, but what they are struggling with now are the calls. Once we get that indecision out of their heads, they are going to be fine.”

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