September 1, 2018 Atlanta - Georgia Tech running back Qua Searcy (1) and other players celebrate their 41-0 victory over the Alcorn State during the Georgia Tech home opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 1, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Kenny Cooper’s return for Georgia Tech will not happen this week

Georgia Tech center Kenny Cooper’s return to the playing field will not happen this week. Cooper, who suffered a foot injury in spring practice and was a possibility to come back this week for this Saturday’s game against USF, will be out, coach Paul Johnson said Sunday evening on his weekly teleconference.

“I don’t think he will be available,” Johnson said. “In fact, I know he won’t be available.”

As Tech’s level of competition rises sharply from Alcorn State to USF – going from a lower-tier FCS team to one that finished last season in the AP top 25 – Cooper’s absence will likely be felt more strongly.

Cooper was one of the team’s top offensive linemen last season. Jahaziel Lee, who moved from tackle to center after Cooper’s injury and started for the first time at the position against Alcorn State, did not get satisfactory marks from Johnson for his play against the Braves.

“I think he struggled,” Johnson said. “Played high. He can play much better.”

Not keeping pad level low is not uncommon for a player in his first game at center, but Johnson noted that Lee has been playing center all through the preseason. Johnson suspected that Lee got tired, a problem that might resurface with Lee and other linemen against USF on Saturday, when a high of 90 degrees with 71 percent humidity is forecast for Tampa, Fla., by the Weather Channel. The game kicks off at noon.

Tech’s options for No. 2 center are likely either Scott Morgan or Andrew Marshall.

Johnson also said that Cooper is expected to practice this week.

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