Aug 27, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
The football season is nearly upon us, and no transition back into the gridiron games would be complete without something for fans to fret about; yes, even as Georgia Tech prepares to play Elon for the first time ever.
Really, though, any cause for concern over the Yellow Jackets’ collective inexperience at the wide receiver position ought to be delayed. If Micheal Summers, Corey Dennis, DeAndre Smelter and others struggle Saturday afternoon, then worry if you’d like.
But don’t fret yet, not without hard evidence.
Starter Darren Waller, the only Tech receiver who has receptions at the collegiate level, and redshirt freshman wideout Travin Henry were suspended for one game by head coach Paul Johnson for violation of team rules.
Waller was, and is when he returns, going to start. So the Jackets will go organic against Saturday The Phoenix. They’re going to be green.
Summers is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound redshirt freshman who chose to attend Tech rather than Florida, and Dennis is a 6-2, 201-pound junior with seven more career tackles as a safety and special teamer than receptions (0).
It says here that folks will be pleasantly surprised. Summers can fly, Dennis is uncommonly crafty, and Smelter was among the most pleasant surprises early in summer camp as he transitioned from playing baseball.
“Michael’s had a good camp,” Johnson said. ” He had the benefit of being one of the few healthy receivers this spring so he got a lot of work . . . he’s got good speed. He’s not afraid to be physical. He’s got to be a little more physical at times. I think he’s a good future.
“He’ll probably start, and probably Corey Dennis will start on the other side. DeAndre Smelter’s been out with a nagging injury, and we don’t know if we’ll get him back . . . if he doesn’t practice [Tuesday], then Corey will probably start.”
The schedule breaks preferably for Tech because with a starter suspended (and another out injured in safety Isaiah Johnson) for the first game, it’s a better deal to have it happen against an FCS opponent that was 3-9 last season than vs. a more daunting unit.
One can make the case that players are easier to amp up for a season opener like Virginia Tech, than a Southern Conference team, but that didn’t work out so well last season, and there are greater realities at play here.
With a new defensive coordinator and scheme, a new starting quarterback and this ticklish spot at wide receiver, the value of gaining game experience in something less than critical mass conditions seems additional. For several Tech wideouts, including possibly sophomore Brandon Oliver and junior Jamie Alvarez, this is a first run.
Would you rather that happen in an ACC game?
More is known about Waller than all the others, and now more will be learned about the others before the Jackets play at Duke on Sept. 14.
Johnson and his staff already know a few things, like the fact that while there is not much experience at the wide receiver position there is talent. He didn’t mean with his earlier comment that he’s certain that the Jackets have an NFL-caliber receiver in their midst, but neither are they staffed with converted Ray Benos on the flanks.
“We’ve got to play the games, but when we get everybody out there I think we can be as good as we’ve been at that position,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if there’s a Bay-Bay Thomas out there, but how many times do you have the first receiver taken in the draft? We’re hopeful that Darren Waller can fit that mold.
“I think DeAndre Smelter has a ton of ability, and the more he plays football the better he’s going to be. Travin Henry is a redshirt freshman, and Anthony Autry – who is sitting out [with a season-ending injury] — we thought was pretty talented as a freshman a year ago. I think [true freshmen] Antonio Messick and Ricky Jeune are going to be good players [and possible redshirts]. We’ve got some guys, some depth at that position.”
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