Given that he hasn’t played in a year and is playing a new position, there is reason to think that the development of Georgia Tech defensive lineman Jabari Hunt-Days will be slow, and perhaps not matching the excitement and optimism held by fans. That said, the depth chart that coach Paul Johnson released on Friday might indicate that Hunt-Days’ progress after a year of academic ineligibility is something faster than plodding.
Hunt-Days was listed as the starter at nose tackle for the No. 16 Yellow Jackets’ season opener Sept. 3 against Alcorn State at Bobby Dodd Stadium. He had begun camp listed as the backup to defensive tackle Adam Gotsis. For the purposes of the depth chart, at least, coaches moved Hunt-Days up to nose tackle and shifted Patrick Gamble from No. 1 nose tackle to co-starter at defensive end, along with Rod Rook-Chungong. Gamble is still expected to play both end and tackle.
Coaches often say that they want to put the four best linemen on the field, and this would be an indication of how coaches see Hunt-Days and his progress. A little more than a week into the preseason, Johnson said that if the season were to start at that point, the starters would be KeShun Freeman and Rook-Chungong at end and Gotsis and Gamble at tackle.
Other newsworthy changes on the chart:
First-year freshman Brad Stewart is listed as one of the starters at wide receiver, along with Ricky Jeune. Returnee Micheal Summers has been out with an undisclosed injury, but coaches hope he can return to practice Sunday following a two-day break for the team. If he does, Summers likely would keep his starting spot and Stewart would drop to the second string. If not, Stewart would become the first first-year freshman to start in the season opener since wide receiver Tyler Melton in 2008.
Stewart is one of 13 first-year freshmen listed on the 55-player chart for offense and defense, which is two deep at most positions, three deep at others and also includes 12 positions on defense. The extra position takes into account Tech’s base defense – the five-defensive back nickel alignment – and its 4-3 defense. Other first-year freshmen include A.J. Gray at strong safety behind Demond Smith and offensive tackle Will Bryan behind Bryan Chamberlain.
The defensive line has three first-year freshmen – defensive end Anree Saint-Amour and tackles Brentavious Glanton and Kyle Cerge-Henderson. Saint-Amour and Cerge-Henderson are listed as third-teamers.
Former walk-on Chase Alford, who was put on scholarship at the start of the semester, is listed as a starter in the 4-3 defense along with P.J. Davis and Tyler Marcordes. Alford supplanted Beau Hankins, who going into preseason camp was the No. 1 linebacker along with Davis and Marcordes.
Graduate transfer B-back Patrick Skov has the top spot at his position. Following the team’s second scrimmage Aug. 15, Johnson said that Skov and first-year freshman Marcus Marshall were both on the top line of the depth chart. Marshall is now listed as a co-No. 2 with Marcus Allen, who entered camp as the No. 1.
Two positions did not have a clear-cut starter, nickel (Lynn Griffin and Lawrence Austin) and defensive end (Gamble and Rook-Chungong).
Jeune has changed his number from 81 to 2. The single-digit number became available when its previous owner, Anthony Harrell, transferred to Florida in late June following a suspension. Johnson typically holds the coveted single-digit numbers as a reward for performance either in spring practice or in the preseason.