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Talented "Yutes" Could Help Right Away

Aug. 14, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

You can read in other places about Joshua Nesbitt running like a thoroughbred in Saturday’s scrimmage.

He’s an old man, and already counted upon. Today, Sting Daily shall dwell on youth, and those upon whose shoulders the future will rest.

Georgia Tech has enough “yutes” (to steal from Joe Pesci) that a few true and redshirt freshmen are going to play this season, and perhaps even push one of last year’s top newcomers into a redshirt while also making life tough on some former upper class starters.

Yet Tech ha built enough depth, finally, that coach Paul Johnson’s goal of redshirting most freshman will become more of a reality than in his first two seasons on The Flats. Assuming, of course, there is no rash of injuries.

After Saturday morning’s scrimmage, in which Nesbitt did not look like his former, pre-surgery self but even better, Johnson acknowledged that sophomore safety Jemea Thomas – who played in all 14 games as a true freshman – is probably going to redshirt this season.

That’s saying something; that’s saying that Tech is building depth and recruiting better than any forsaken rankings might indicate.

No spot on the team is deeper than safety, where the back stories are the most disparate.

Senior Mario Edwards, who transferred a couple years ago from Virginia Tech in part because of a family illness in his hometown (and that of Bill Curry) College Park, is in the mix.

So is Cooper Taylor, who started the first three games last season before missing the rest of the fall and then undergoing heart surgery in November.

Jerrard Tarrant started at cornerback last season, and scored four touchdowns – two on punt returns, one on an interception return and another by taking a fumble back. He’s been moved as a fourth-year junior to safety, yet will have to battle for playing time in part because . . .

Isaiah Johnson enrolled in January. The true freshman is going to play, and he may start.

Whodathunkit? He was good in high school, but ranked only the 21st best prospect in the state by Rivals, and 28th by Superprep.

Yet he has inherited the No. 1 jersey worn by Morgan Burnett. Maybe that should be no surprise. He comes from Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, the same high school that sent wide receiver Calvin Johnson and offensive lineman Andrew Gardner up to Tech, and now the NFL.

Tarrant was moved from cornerback in part because coaches felt that former safety Dominique Reese would be a better fit physically and in terms of skill set at corner, and that Tarrant would fit better at safety.

There appears to be no desperation at corner, where Mario Butler will start opposite Reese. Butler has played in every game of his Tech career but one as a freshman, starting as a sophomore and junior.

Juniors Rashaad Reid and Michael Peterson played there last season in reserve roles.

The growth of sophomore Rod Sweeting and true freshman Louis Young – who had an interception early in Saturday’s scrimmage – may bump Reid down or to safety although Young’s potential remains more in question. Peterson was working with the third unit Saturday.

Young, by the way, was strongly considering going to Virginia before Tech hired former Virginia coach Al Groh, who had been recruiting him on behalf of the Cavaliers.

The goal here was to focus on the secondary, but that’s not the only place where the Jackets have youth aplenty.

It does not look at this point like any true freshmen will contribute significantly along the offensive or defensive lines, and the only true freshman who is likely to pitch in on offense is reserve A-back B.J. Bostic, who may factor into the return game.

In its way, that’s a good sign; Tech has, as Paul Johnson has said, an uncommonly high number of seniors who are going to be depended heavily upon.

The future is coming hard and fast, though, especially on defense.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Watts will likely start at inside linebacker, and Isaiah Johnson may start at safety.

Bostic, who like Johnson and running back Charles Perkins enrolled in January, is not guaranteed to avoid being redshirted. Perkins, who had a few impressive runs himself Saturday, may redshirt but only because the Jackets’ depth is significant in the backfield.

Young and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, who like Young is a D.C. product who was leaning heavily toward Virginia before Groh joined the Jackets, may see action as true freshmen.

Freshman kicker Justin Moore will give Scott Blair a run for his job.

Should any of these players redshirt, they should not despair.

It appears to be working for Watts. Three players who redshirted as freshmen last year – Jay Finch, Ray Beno and Will Jackson – are competing to start on the offensive line, perhaps even start.

Philip Wheeler played as a true freshman for the Jackets, redshirted the next year and now plays for the NFL’s Colts.


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