Georgia Tech’s injury situation on the offensive line is such that coach Paul Johnson was prepared to shed the redshirts of one or more freshman linemen against Virginia, the eighth game of the season.
Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference that he didn’t know if either guard Shaquille Mason or center Jay Finch, who both were nursing injuries, would play Saturday until pregame warm-ups in Charlottesville, Va. As a result, freshman linemen Shamire Devine and Chris Griffin, along with freshman walk-ons Niko Anderson and Zack Harness, were just-in-case alternatives.
“I talked to Shamire last week and asked him, ‘Do you want to play?’” Johnson said. “He goes, ‘Yeah, I want to play.’”
Tech is without five scholarship linemen it counted on going into the spring. Freddie Burden tore his ACL in the spring, Catlin Alford left the team before preseason camp, Errin Joe suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in camp, Ray Beno is considered week-to-week with a foot injury and Morgan Bailey has played in only three games this season because of a variety of injuries.
Against Virginia, backup Nick Brigham was out with a head injury, reducing the depth even more. Brigham is expected to return this week. Johnson wouldn’t rule out Devine still playing. Johnson said he would be playing had he not reported to camp overweight and then gotten injured, which set him back.
“He’s got the ability to help us,” Johnson said.
Johnson spoke with some sympathy for Bailey, saying he hadn’t had a player in his coaching career with as much bad injury luck. He has had concussions and had surgeries for a torn labrum and a sports hernia, as well as injuries to his neck, ankle and hamstring. A junior, he has played 15 games, starting seven.
“It’s been disappointing for him because we really felt like he was a guy with a lot of ability,” Johnson said. “He’s just never been able to maximize his ability because he’s had a hard time staying out there. It’s been just crazy injuries; it’s just been one right after the other.”
Staying fresh: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof is taking care of his defense’s legs this week after the Yellow Jackets defense was on the field for 93 plays against Virginia. That doesn’t include plays wiped out by penalty and the special-teams work that some players, such as defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, performed.
“We’re working hard, but at the same time, we’re being smart because we understand we’ve got to get everybody to the (starting) gate,” Roof said.
Roof said that defensive end Emmanuel Dieke played 95 snaps in the game and also played his best game of the season. Dieke had a career-high seven tackles and a sack. Johnson called it the best game of his career.
“I hope I’m saying that again next Tuesday about him,” said Roof, whose media availability is on Tuesdays.
700 club: With a win Saturday, Tech would have its 700th win in school history. The overall record is 699-471-43 in 121 seasons. The win total does not include the vacated 2009 ACC championship game win over Clemson.
Entering the season, Tech ranked 17th all-time in wins. Michigan is the leader at 909 wins. The Jackets ranked 28th in winning percentage (.593) at the beginning of the season. Michigan also barely led that category, at .734, one percentage point ahead of Notre Dame.