A look at Georgia Tech's position groups going into spring practice, which starts Monday.
Returning: Sophomore Will Bryan, senior Freddie Burden, junior Shamire Devine, junior Eason Fromayan, junior Chris Griffin, sophomore Trey Klock, junior Andrew Marshall, redshirt freshman Brad Morgan, sophomore Jake Stickler, sophomore Jake Whitley.
Lost: Trey Braun, Gary Brown, Bryan Chamberlain, Errin Joe.
Incoming: Brandon Adams, Parker Braun, Kenny Cooper, Jahaziel Lee
Tech will go into the spring with 10 scholarship linemen, and Burden will not participate as he is recovering from thumb surgery. It will require offensive line coach Mike Sewak and new offensive line coach Ron West likely to shuffle players and hope for no injuries.
Among the most important jobs for the line will be simply to learn the offense. Missed assignments – where four linemen ran one play and the fifth ran another – happened too frequently during the season, as did ineffective pass blocking. In early January, Johnson said his No. 1 priority in the offseason is improving pass protection .
Last season, in part because of the protection problems, quarterback Justin Thomas’ passer efficiency rating fell from 153.9 in 2014 (top 15 in the country had he enough attempts to qualify) to 119.4 this past season, which was 89th.
As is the case at other spots on the offense, it’s a young group. Burden is the only senior in the group after last year’s line had three senior starters, Braun, Chamberlain and Joe. There’s a reasonable amount of playing experience – Bryan and Klock finished the season starting at right tackle (six games) and left tackle (three games), respectively.
Griffin started seven games in 2014 at right tackle and will be moving inside to guard. Devine started nine games in 2015. Marshall logged a decent amount of time backing up Burden in 2014 but didn’t play as much in 2015. He’ll likely be the first-string center in the spring with Burden out. In the fall, he’ll be a candidate to play at guard.
Johnson was encouraged by Marshall’s weight loss since the end of the season, but was clearly frustrated by the struggle that Devine is having with his weight.
One priority will be to find a No. 1 guard to replace Braun, who started 34 games over his career and is now an aspiring distance runner . Among returnees, Griffin, Whitley and Morgan are candidates.
Griffin has moved to guard, Johnson said, because he has grown in size.
“Right now, he’s fighting to stay under 300,” Johnson said.
Fromayan may provide the biggest push to Klock and Bryan at the tackle spots.
“We’ve played him in a bunch of spots,” Johnson said. “We probably need to get him in one and leave him.”
It’ll be the on-field debut for West, hired to fill the vacancy left by special-teams coordinator Ray Rychleski.
“I’m more comfortable with that model,” Johnson said. “I just like it better. I think it’s awfully hard for one guy to coach five guys.”
“We’re going to look at some things. We’ve always had different protections, but we just haven’t run them much in the game. We’ve been pretty consistent with our dropback or half-roll protections. We’ll look at it and see.” - Johnson on using different protection schemes in spring practice