Aug. 20, 2017
Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Heading into fall camp, coaches like to inspire their players by saying every position is up for grabs.
Obviously, some positions are more up for grabs than others and the fewer of those there are, the better, when you have, say, a primetime opener against a big-time SEC rival.
Of course, as camp goes on things can change, literally overnight.
For the first two weeks of Georgia Tech’s fall camp, the only battle at B-Back appeared to be for backup time. But following Friday’s dismissal of Dedrick Mills, there is now a battle to start there and the field is wide open.
“We’ll just have to see,” head coach Paul Johnson said following Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, which marked the end of Yellow Jackets’ 16-day camp. “You’ve got KirVonte Benson, you’ve got Quaide [Weimerskirch], you’ve got Jerry [Howard], you’ve got [Jordan Ponchez-]Mason. We’ll have somebody when we line up against Tennessee.
“When one guy goes down, another guy moves up,” Johnson continued. “Hopefully, we can get guys coached up and they can go out there and be successful. I see no reason why they can’t. I expected (Mills) to have a great year. Now I expect the other guys to have a great year, whether it’s KirVonte or Quaide or Jerry or Mason or whoever it is. Whoever gets in there and plays, I expect them to have 1,000 yards.”
There’s no reason for Johnson to think otherwise. He cites precedent.
“Historically, find me a year where the guy who played that position didn’t have a lot of yards,” he said. “Whether it was Anthony Allen or Synjyn Days or Zach Laskey or Jon Dwyer or Marcus Marshall or Dedrick Mills … I could just go on and on. We’ve got guys that can play.”
They just haven’t played much. As Howard and Ponchez-Mason are true freshmen and Benson and Weimerskirch have both played in seven games and combined for one career carry — by Weimerskirch, which resulted in no gain and a lost fumble.
But a new year presents a new opportunity — an even greater one after Friday.
That opportunity began for all but Benson in Saturday’s second scrimmage — Benson was held out as a precaution as he’s still a little banged up. Johnson said that he should be back in time for the Sept. 4 opener against Tennessee and might be back at practice as soon as Monday.
But the redshirt sophomore is the likely front-runner.
“It would be KirVonte if he were out there practicing, so if he can get back out there in time, then somebody would have to beat him out. That’s kind of where he was on the depth,” Johnson said. “He’s 215 [pounds]. Last week he was bigger than Dedrick. Everybody talks about how little he is but he’s about 215, really strong, pretty fast, probably the fastest one at that position. He’s got ability. Now what’s he going to do when he gets out there? But we’re going to get him healthy before we put him out there. I’m not going to try to rush him out there too soon. He’s got two weeks. In fact, he’ll probably be back Monday.”
Following Saturday’s scrimmage, Weimerskirch earned a mention.
“We ran him pretty good the first series. He did okay,” said Johnson.
Howard, a 6-0, 215-pounder from Rock Hill, S.C., has continued to impress as he learns the offense.
“Jerry’s a load. He’s hard to tackle,” Johnson said following the Jackets’ first intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 12. “We kind of thought that’s what he was. He was kind of a wrecking ball in high school. When he goes through there, he gets his pads down and he is tailor made for what we do. I can see him playing.”
Johnson stated that dismissal of Mills didn’t come in a vacuum and that player morale is still very high.
“They’re not dumb. They know what goes on,” he said. “I have a firm belief that guys want discipline. They don’t know they want it but deep down they want it.”
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Discipline wasn’t the issue on Saturday as much as the ability to hold on to the ball.
“We had the ball out too much, that’s for sure,” said Johnson. “I don’t know how many we lost but (QB) TaQuon [Marshall] had a couple. It’s disappointing when anybody fumbles the ball.”
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While Johnson is confident someone will step up at B-back, he’s already seen plenty of guys do so at A-back. It was a deep field displayed on Saturday, even without redshirt sophomore Clinton Lynch, who was held out of action.
“J.J. [Green] played pretty well,” said Johnson. “Nathan Cottrell’s gotten better all the time, Omahri Jarrett does some good things, Qua Searcy’s a good player. So we’ve got guys.”
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Another interesting battle to keep an eye on is at linebacker, where youth could be served and rewarded with field time.
“I’ve said all along, those younger guys are going to play some,” he said. “You’ve got the three freshmen [Jaquan Henderson, Bruce Jordan-Swilling and T.D. Roof]. You’ve [also] got Jakob Brashear, you’ve got [Tyler] Cooksey. Those guys, they’ve been here. If we go down the depth they’ll play. We’ll see what they can do.”
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The Jackets continued their quest to find the replacement for kicker Harrison Butker on Saturday, as the team worked on extra points and tried one field goal — a successful 34-yarder by redshirt sophomore Shawn Davis. Davis and freshman Brenton King are still competing for the position.
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Happy Birthday to Coach Johnson, who turns 60 on Sunday.