Aug. 3, 2015
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
Micheal Summers understands the tendency some have to look at what Georgia Tech’s football does not have before considering what it has, but he’s here to remind folks that the Yellow Jackets’ cupboard is not bare at wide receiver.
Sure, Tech lost starters DeAndre Smelter (49ers) and Darren Waller (Ravens) to the NFL draft, and they took 61 of the Jackets’ 106 receptions with them. Summers, though, did not just show up for the first as practice began Saturday.
The fourth-year junior has played in all 27 games over the past two seasons, and he started in 19 of them. It’s a very good bet he’ll start all of them this fall provided he stays healthy, and his role is sure to grow in other ways as well.
“You’ve got to go out there and lead by example, show guys the ropes,” he said. “The expectations aren’t any less going into this season. We have guys like Ricky Jeune, Antonio Messick, and some incoming freshman as well as myself who are going to carry the load.”
With seven receptions for 45 yards, Summers was Tech’s fifth-leading receiver last season behind Smelter (35 receptions, 715 yards, seven touchdowns), Waller (26 receptions, 442 yards, six TDs), and graduated A-backs Deon Hill (10) and B.J. Bostic (8).
In catching 10 passes for 211 yards as a redshirt freshman, he demonstrated big-play ability and he will be looked to for that this fall. Smelter’s rapid improvement over the past two seasons, after he returned to the sport after first playing baseball for the Jackets, grew his role so quickly that Summers’ ebbed.
With the simultaneous departure of several A-backs, Tech will be incorporating more new faces at the skill positions than any other on either side of the ball.
Messick had one reception last season, for a touchdown, and Jeune will get chances to show his wares as well. Head coach Paul Johnson and his staff also are auditioning freshmen Christian Philpott (6-foot-3), Brad Stewart (6-1), early enrollee Harland Howell (6-3) and others.
If the Jackets are only going to have one starter returning among skill positions, they have the best in quarterback Justin Thomas. The fourth-year junior quarterback runs Johnson’s nuanced offense as well or better than any of his forebears and figures to help bring all wide receivers and running backs faster.
“Most definitely,” Summers said. “When you have a guy who’s run this offense for, what, four years now? . . . it helps a lot throughout the summer in terms of working out and being in the film room together. I’m not as nervous as I have been. I know what to expect.”
Add the fact that Tech lost just one starting offensive lineman, Shaq Mason, and guard Trey Braun is confident that Summers and Co. will be just fine along with other new faces in several places.
“Absolutely,” Braun said. “A lot of people are gone, but there is a lot of talent coming in and a lot of guys who have worked hard who believe in the program. Having Justin back there is such a safety net for us because we know that he’s going to make the right decisions.”
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