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The Sting Daily Mailbag

Aug. 7, 2010

With three of 29 preseason practices behind them, the Yellow Jackets will practice again Sunday and then on Monday move into full-contact mode for the first time since spring. Sting Daily has been up and running for nearly a week, and readers have submitted a few questions. Here are answers to some from writer Matt Winkeljohn:

Q: How is our depth in the backfield, especially at QB? – Andrew Fenton

A: It has been years since Georgia Tech was deeper at running back. Anthony Allen has moved inside from A-back to B-back, and the Jackets may not miss a beat there. He averaged 9.7 yards last season, and at 6-feet, 237 pounds looks like a good bet to replace Jonathan Dwyer, who is on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster. Behind him, an ultra solid trio of senior Lucas Cox, Richard Watson and Preston Lyons. At A-back, juniors Roddy Jones and Embry Peeples look like the starters, and Orwin Smith – who showed promise last year as a freshman, junior Marcus Wright await behind them with Robert Godhigh, Jamal Paige and freshmen B.J. Bostic and Charles Perkins competing for time. At quarterback, the story is a little different. Sophomore Tevin Washington had a solid, and at times impressive, spring while taking the majority of the snaps as Joshua Nesbitt was out following ankle surgery. But the transfer of Jaybo Shaw to Georgia Southern leaves him as the only non-starter who with experience. He was in for a handful of snaps last season against Jacksonville State. Otherwise, redshirt freshmen Jordan Luallen and David Sims and freshman Synjyn Days – who ran a similar offense in high school — are in the stable.

Q: How are T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier doing at nose tackle? – Rick McCallum

A: The 6-foot-6 1/2 sophomore Barnes, who has slimmed down from about 355 pounds to around 333, is in one of the hottest competitions of camp. He’s battling with senior Ben Anderson – who started 12 games at tackle last season before a season-ending knee injury — and junior Logan Walls. All three may play. Lanier has moved to end, where’s he’s working behind starters Izaan Cross and Jason Peters and in the mix with several other players.

Q: Does Cooper Taylor end up an All-America outside linebacker at 245 pounds? – Rick McCallum

A: Well, since defensive coordinator Al Groh said when I asked him the prototypical size for an outside linebacker in his defense is, “6-4, 255,” Taylor is about the right height. But he weighs about 225 (which is stunning considering after heart surgery and a sedentary rehab period last winter he was well under 200), and his speed and coverage skills have him back at safety. He started the first three games there last season before his heart sidelined him, and three as a freshman in 2008 (playing in 13). There is a lot of competition at safety, including senior Mario Edwards, converted cornerback Jerrard Tarrant and true freshman Isaiah Johnson. Anthony Egbuniwe (6-5, 245) and A.T. Barnes (6-3, 248) are listed as the starting outside linebackers now. They have more of the heft that Groh is looking for. But they can’t cover or run like Taylor. If there has been conversation about moving Taylor to OLB, coaches have kept it to themselves, but who to say it’s not a possibility?

Q: I keep having nightmares, er, flashbacks about Iowa’s defensive line. I’m not really over LSU’s d-line, come to think of it, either. What’s being done to improve a cornerstone of our game [the offensive line].

A: The biggest reason to be optimistic that the offensive line can be better is experience. Even though the Jackets lost three starters (seniors Brad Sellers and Cord Howard, and junior Joe Gilbert), Tech has more players who were recruited by this staff to play O-line and they’re ready to compete. Sellers came to Tech as a tight end, starting tackle Austin Barrick was briefly a running back before moving to the O-line, and starting center Sean Bedford was a walk-on defensive lineman. In the mix this year, Phil Smith (who started some last season before a season-ending injury), Nick McRae, Will Jackson, Ray Beno, Omoregie Uzzi and Nick Claytor (among others) all came to Tech as O-linemen. Smith and Claytor are battling to start opposite Barrick, and Uzzi, McRae, Jackson and Beno are battling at the guard spots. Plus, the Jackson have tried to get bigger and stronger – as they do every year. “I’m up to 285 [pounds] after playing last year at about 270,” said Bedford, who was first team All-ACC. “Any time you work toward equalizing that [gap in size between the Jackets and bigger defensive linemen] you work on technique. I don’t think there’s any other sport where you have to have five guys who work in perfect unison. We make an effort to do as much as we can together.”

We’ll do this again next Sunday. Send questions, comments, feedback, suggestions, recipes and donations to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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