ACC: Anthony Autry

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson released his post-spring offensive depth chart Wednesday, without many surprises. Stay tuned for the release of the defensive chart, set for next week.

For now, here are a few notes on the offense:
  • One of the biggest holes to fill is at A-back, where the highly productive Robert Godhigh is gone. Seniors Tony Zenon and Synjyn Days are listed as starters but there is plenty of talent and depth at the position. B.J. Bostic, Deon Hill and converted B-back Broderick Snoddy are all in the mix for playing time, along with a few others. Days (6-foot-2, 232 pounds) and Zenon (5-8, 174 pounds) are different backs so they will give the Jackets some versatility in how they can be used.
  • At B-back, there are no questions about Zach Laskey replacing David Sims in the starting lineup. But behind Laskey, there are some depth concerns after Travis Custis decided to leave the program and enroll at a junior college for academic reasons. Senior Matt Connors is currently listed as the backup there.
  • The offensive line remains a work in progress. Aside from veteran Shaq Mason, a near lock to be a preseason all-conference selection, everybody else is penciled in to their starting roles right now. Keep an eye on left tackle Chris Griffin -- the only redshirt freshman listed as an offensive or defensive starter. Center Freddie Burden, who has fought through injuries, also has never taken a collegiate snap.
  • No surprise to see Justin Thomas listed ahead of Tim Byerly at quarterback, but there are ways the Jackets could use both effectively this season.
  • At receiver, DeAndre Smelter impressed this spring, after giving up baseball to focus solely on football. Micheal Summers is listed as the other starter. Remember, Darren Waller and Anthony Autry are suspended for the first two games of the season for team rules violations.

Georgia Tech running back Dennis Andrews and receiver Anthony Autry were suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the athletic association’s student-athlete conduct policy, the school announced Friday.

Andrews played in all 13 games last season, rushing for 140 yards on 12 carries. Autry played as a freshman in 2012 before sitting out last season to recover from a knee injury.

The Jackets will have a bit of a receiver shortage to start the year. Leading returning receiver Darren Waller has already been suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of team rules.

Georgia Tech plays Wofford (Aug. 30) and at Tulane (Sept. 6) to open the season.
It’s ironic, really.

Georgia Tech, which ranked dead last in completion percentage last year but is one of the nation’s top rushing teams, might be the deepest it has ever been at wide receiver since Paul Johnson brought his option offense to the program in 2008.

Both starters -- senior DeAndre Smelter and sophomore Micheal Summers -- return this spring. Smelter, who came to school on a baseball scholarship and played for coach Danny Hall’s team the past three years, has decided to focus on football. His presence at spring ball will only help an already talented position.

Smelter, also a pitcher, was selected in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins. He played in just two games this spring. Last year, in his first season with the football team, Smelter had 21 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns.

He’ll be joined by senior Darren Waller, the most experienced receiver with 38 career games and more than 500 receiving yards, and Anthony Autry, who played well as a true freshman in 2012 before being sidelined with a knee injury in 2013. Autry will compete for a starting role this spring. Waller is suspended for the first two games of the season for a violation of team rules, but that won’t affect his practice time this spring.

Senior Corey Dennis also returns, along with Antonio Messick and Ricky Jeune, who both redshirted last year.

Georgia Tech’s receivers are one of the team’s answers this year. The question is whether Justin Thomas can get them the ball. He attempted only 17 passes last year, but he also didn’t get many meaningful reps.

The good news for Georgia Tech is that Thomas has at least four dependable receivers who can help him make the transition to a full-time starter.

Suspension a setback for WR Waller

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
Georgia Tech senior receiver Darren Waller, the team’s third-leading receiver who started four games in 2013, was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for a violation of team rules, the school announced Friday.

This sounds worse than it is, at least from a team perspective, as Waller's absence won't make much of a dent against the likes of Wofford (Aug. 30) and Tulane (Sept. 6 in New Orleans). It's more of an unfortunate step back for Waller, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver who looks the part of an NFL prospect but hasn't quite flipped the switch to live up to the potential and expectations.

The Jackets will still be fine at the position, as they return DeAndre Smelter (eight starts) and Micheal Summers (11 starts), both who had more starting experience. Georgia Tech also returns Anthony Autry, who most likely would have been a starter last year had he not been sidelined with a knee injury. Autry, who played as a freshman in 2012, is healthy now and will join the Jackets this spring.

Waller played in 12 games last season and had 17 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns, including a 72-yard touchdown reception against Ole Miss in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. In his career, Waller has played in 38 games with 25 receptions for 529 yards.

Weak and strong: Georgia Tech

June, 28, 2013
We move on in our series looking at the weakest and strongest positions on each team in the ACC with Georgia Tech.

Strongest position: Linebacker

Georgia Tech returns three starting linebackers as it transitions full-time into the 4-3 -- Quayshawn Nealy, Jabari Hunt-Days and Brandon Watts. Jeremiah Attaochu, who started last season as a linebacker, moves down to defensive end but has the ability to drop back in coverage as well. This group has the potential to be the best unit in the entire league. Nealy (84), Hunt-Days (79) and Watts (77) finished Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in tackles last season, but their sack numbers and tackles for loss numbers could rise in the new, more aggressive scheme Ted Roof has brought in. Let's also remember that Watts is the only senior in this trio, and the ceiling remains extremely high for Nealy (junior) and Hunt-Days (sophomore) after big-time seasons a year ago.

Weakest position: Receiver

Coach Paul Johnson's concerns about this position have been well documented. The Jackets went into spring practice facing the prospect of relying on true freshmen this fall. That thought was cemented when projected starter Anthony Autry re-injured his knee and could be out for the season. Jeff Greene's decision to transfer at the end of last season leaves Darren Waller as the only receiver on the roster who has made a collegiate reception. Yikes. Now, while it is true the Jackets are primarily a running team, they do need a passing game in order to try to keep defenses honest. And Johnson has spoken repeatedly about the need to improve the passing game. So there is no question this is an area the Jackets are going to have to focus on when their full roster of players starts up practice in the fall.

More on this series, click here.
Georgia Tech’s group of wide receivers was thin to begin with this spring, but the recent news that projected starter Anthony Autry has reinjured his knee -- the same knee he suffered a torn ACL in last fall -- has depleted the group even further.

Those within the program aren’t panicking because they are confident in the talent they’ve recruited, but this injury pretty much guarantees at least one true freshman receiver is going to see playing time for the Jackets this fall. Autry and Darren Waller were the only two receivers on the roster who had ever recorded a collegiate catch. A school spokesman said it hasn’t been determined how long Autry will be out, but he will definitely miss the beginning of the season.

Autry missed spring practices to recover from the torn ACL, and he was on his way to class at the end of the semester when he hurt his knee again taking a casual jump out of one of campus shuttle busses. It was extremely unfortunate, considering Autry was almost fully recovered from the original injury.

Corey Dennis, who began his career as a true freshman defensive back in 2011, is next up on the depth chart. He moved to wide receiver last fall and played mostly on special teams. Coach Paul Johnson has also said he expects to see improvement from Travin Henry, who also missed this spring with an injury, and Micheal Summers, who redshirted last year.

Keep an eye out, though, for true freshmen Ricky Jeune and Antonio Messick, as both will have an opportunity to contribute immediately. Georgia Tech also likes to use its A-backs like slot receivers, so there are plenty of options for pass catchers in the Jackets’ run-based offense. The key now is finding the most dependable -- and durable -- one.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 7, 2013
Plenty of NCAA super regional action to keep you entertained this weekend.
Georgia Tech released its post-spring depth chart on Wednesday without a whole lot in the way of big surprises.

Nothing is set in stone of course, as the Jackets use this chart as a starting point for the start of practice come Aug. 1. Among the highlights:
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2012 record: 7-7

2012 conference record: 5-3, Coastal

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Vad Lee, BB David Sims, DE Jeremiah Attaochu, LB Quayshawn Nealy

Key losses

QB Tevin Washington, AB Orwin Smith, CB Rod Sweeting, DE Izaan Cross

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Zach Laskey* (697 yards, 1 TD)

Passing: Washington (75-of-133 for 1,222 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs)

Receiving: Smith (288 yards, 1 TD)

Tackles: Isaiah Johnson* (87)

Sacks: Attaochu* (10)

Interceptions: Jemea Thomas* (4)

Spring answers

1. Attaochu at end. The Jackets had linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu play defensive end toward the end of last season. He was so effective, they moved him to the spot permanently to take advantage of his ability to rush off the end in the new 4-3 scheme Ted Roof brought with him. Attaochu had 10 sacks last year. He has a chance to be even more productive this season.

2. Quarterbacks coming along. Johnson wanted to spend the spring getting both Lee and Justin Thomas an adequate amount of reps, and he did that, saying he feels comfortable with either player behind center. Lee has the edge to start, but do not count out Thomas. “They both athletically are as good as we’ve had here,” Johnson said.

3. Defense adjusts. One of the biggest spring storylines focused on how the defense would adjust with Roof in charge and a scheme change. By all accounts, players have embraced the changes and are buying into the system. The front seven has an opportunity to be really good this year, given some of the talent returning.

Fall questions

1. Backs rotation. The Jackets seem to have a plethora of players to play the A-back and B-back positions. But who will emerge to become a playmaker at A-back to replace Smith? Who will emerge to provide consistency and playmaking ability at both spots?

2. Receiver. This is one area where the Jackets are thin, and it didn’t help matters that several players got hurt during the spring. Darren Waller is a player Johnson believes can be a difference maker. But Johnson also is going to need young guys like Anthony Autry, Micheal Summers and Travin Henry to step up.

3. Getting healthy. This team was banged up during the spring, missing several starters on the offensive line, at receiver and at linebacker as well. They should all be back in time for fall practice, but all the guys who missed time are going to have to get up to speed quickly to begin preparations for the season.
College football fans who have been following Paul Johnson through the years and watching his spread-option offense haven’t seen it change much.

“I mean, the core principles of it are pretty much intact,” Johnson said. “You have some wrinkles here and there. We've added some things. If you watched us play in 1985, it's probably not a lot different now, truthfully.”

Still looks the same -- the Jackets threw the ball 194 times last year and ran it 808. That doesn’t mean, though, that Johnson is opposed to change. In fact, if Georgia Tech has a receiver emerge this summer, Johnson said he would be willing to call more pass plays this fall with first-year quarterbacks Vad Lee and Justin Thomas.

“I could see possibly throwing the ball a little more with these guys,” Johnson said. “I think they're a little better at it than what we've been playing at, if we can get the protection and the guys that can catch it. It's not just one guy, it all intertwines together.”

With Lee penciled in as the starter at quarterback and an underrated passer in Thomas, the Jackets could have the pieces in place to get more out of their passing game. The spring wasn’t a good gauge of the position, as injuries depleted the group, but only two receivers who caught a pass in 2012 will return this fall. Darren Waller had eight catches last season for 162 yards and is the leading returning receiver. Anthony Autry (three catches for 117 yards and a touchdown) missed the spring with an injury, along with Travin Henry, a talented redshirt freshman.

“Darren Waller is a guy who has all the tools to be a really good player,” Johnson said. “He's 6-6, 230 pounds. There's been days in practice that he looks unstoppable, then there's days that he's not. He's got to become consistent.

“Anthony Autry is a freshman, started some last year, hurt his knee about seven or eight games in. Micheal Summers is a redshirt freshman. Travin Henry got hurt last year. He'll be a redshirt freshman. I think any of those four guys probably could step up.”

Friday mailblog

April, 19, 2013
Step into our office: Andrea Adelson and I are both taking mail today ...

Tim Jones in Greenville S.C. writes: Heather, What is the latest on the ACC Vs. Maryland Lawsuit? Last I knew the Maryland Attny general was trying to have it dismissed but that seems like months ago. Can you fill us in?

HD: Yes. I spoke with the AG's office this week, and the bottom line is this: Maryland and the ACC are still caught up in the legal battle over where this case will be tried -- in North Carolina or in Maryland. This is going to drag out for a while. The next date is April 23, that's the deadline for the attorney general's office to respond to the ACC's motion to dismiss the suit. That's simply filing a piece of paper. On May 23, there will be a hearing on that motion to dismiss the suit in Maryland. Those are the only known dates at this point. The judge in Greensboro, N.C., has ruled against the AG's motion to dismiss and ruled they didn't have the right to appeal. The AG then filed a motion with the court of appeals in North Carolina to overturn that ruling. On Thursday, the court of appeals granted Maryland’s Petition for Writ of Supersedeas, which means no trial can proceed while Maryland appeals the trial court’s order that denied its motion to dismiss the ACC lawsuit in North Carolina.

Jon in Atlanta, Ga., writes: What are the chances of Paul Johnson opening up the offense to more passing? The run game is great, the passing game, not so much? Defenses crowd the line because of no respect for the pass. Even some quick screens could disrupt a defense. Any chance of seeing the ball in the air more?

HD: I've said this repeatedly about Georgia Tech's offense, Jon: The Jackets don't need to throw the ball more to win the ACC; they just need to throw it more efficiently. That's hard to do when only two receivers who caught a pass in 2012 return and both of them -- Darren Waller and Anthony Autry -- were injured this spring. Paul Johnson isn't going to give his offense a makeover. It's what they do, and nobody knows it better than he does. He'd be the first to tell you he'd like to throw it more consistently, but they've got to get some wideouts to step up and do it.

OK, Andrea's turn ...

Dave DeCook in Richmond, Va., writes: I thought it pretty amazing you could write a story on the tragedy in Boston and find a way to feature Clemson. The bias you and HD show for Clemson, FSU, and Miami is really pretty stunning but to ignore the anniversary of the shootings at VT shows a stunning lack of awareness any "journalist" should be embarrassed about.

AA: So let me get this straight, Dave. You have taken issue with a story about a doctor who helped treat severely injured victims in the attack because it is related to Clemson? If it makes me biased to tell the story of a hero during a horrific event, then slap that label right on my forehead. Had he been related to any other coach on any other team in the league, the blog post still would have been written. It had nothing to do with Clemson, and everything to do with Dr. John Scott and his efforts to help those injured Monday night. As for the Virginia Tech massacre, Heather linked to this piece this week. That anniversary was not ignored. Nor will it ever be ignored.

Dr. David C Shaffer in Washington DC writes: You do know Pitt is now in the ACC? I wonder because you rarely if ever report anything about them.

AA: I suggest you refresh your ACC blog feed there, David. Heather visited Pittsburgh last week and has had five posts alone this week, including this one on Paul Chryst changing the culture.

Jeff Carlucci in Erie, Pa., writes: Dear Andrea, despite their injuries on a depleted defensive line ...the Canes will be a surprise team BCS wise. They have enough on defense to get a dangerous offense touches with the ball, which can score from just about anywhere. Go Canes! Duke wins the Heisman stemming from running for 1,300! Have a great weekend!

AA: Ah, the unbridled optimism of spring! I actually do not think it is a stretch to say Miami could be a surprise BCS-wise. Heather and I both believe this team is the favorite to win the Coastal Division, which would put the Canes into the ACC title game. But that defense remains a major question mark and didn't really answer many doubters this spring. As for Mr. Johnson, I believe we will know more about his Heisman candidacy following Week 2 against Florida. And he probably needs more than 1,300 yards to win the Heisman! The last running back to win the award, Mark Ingram, had 1,658 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009.

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
Georgia Tech had its first day in full pads on Saturday, and it was a chance for new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to get a better look at the defense.

"We've got a long way to go," he said.

The standards have been raised, and that's a good thing -- Georgia Tech struggled defensively in the first half of 2012, and former coordinator Al Groh was fired midseason. The Jackets showed significant improvement, though, in their Sun Bowl win over USC, and there have been positive reviews following the hire of Roof.

The challenge now is to get some positive reviews out of Roof.

"There were some good things, some mistakes, obviously," he said. "Things we've got to clean up. We’ve just got to be a lot more consistent, a lot more consistent from angles of pursuit, to finishing tackles, to finishing plays. We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area, but that's something we can correct."

A few other notes from Georgia Tech, according to the team's practice reports:
  • Injuries have created some opportunities for backups, especially at wide receiver, where Anthony Autry and Travin Henry are sitting out all spring, and returning starter Darren Waller was in red on Saturday. That leaves redshirt freshman Micheal Summers, who has impressed the staff, and junior Correy Dennis.
  • The A-back competition is heating up, as a number of players are working to take Orwin Smith’s starting job. Among those competing this spring: Deon Hill, Synjyn Days, B.J. Bostic, redshirt freshman Dennis Andrews and others. Tony Zenon will also be in the mix when he returns in August.
  • Sophomore Ryan Rodwell is the only experienced, healthy punter in camp, as senior Sean Poole is recovering from shoulder surgery. Poole initially injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle against Miami last September, but held off on surgery until the offseason. Poole and Rodwell, who had identical 39.7-yard averages in 2012, should compete deep into August for the starting job.

Georgia Tech needs WRs to step up

March, 27, 2013
Every spring, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson talks about wanting to improve the efficiency of his passing game.

That statement has taken on a bigger sense of urgency this year, as the Yellow Jackets have some major questions at the receiver position. Only two wide receivers who caught a pass in 2012 return this year -- Darren Waller (eight catches for 162 yards) and Anthony Autry (three catches for 117 yards). Autry is out for the spring. So is Travin Henry, a talented redshirt freshman.

So finding and developing depth is a major priority.

"You’d like to hope that Darren Waller will be a go-to guy," Johnson said in a recent phone interview. "He played some last year. He’s got all the tools physically. He’s about 6-6 and 225, 230 pounds, can really run. We’ve got a couple guys that we redshirted. Micheal Summers, whom we held out, he’s got a chance. Corey Dennis played a little bit last year on special teams so we have some guys there. It’s just a question of them getting more game experience and producing on the field."

How did the Jackets get to this point? Jeff Greene, the team's leading wide receiver, parted ways with the team before the bowl game. Chris Jackson and Jeremy Moore were both seniors. Waller started 10 games last season; Autry started three. Otherwise, there are no receivers left on the roster with a start.

Though the Jackets are a team known for their run, they do rely on receivers to make big plays. That, in turn, helps the efficiency of the passing offense. Incoming starter Vad Lee got his opportunities last season and showed flashes, though he only completed 48.2 percent of his passes with four touchdowns to three interceptions.

"Some of it is inexperience and some of it is situational," Johnson said. "If you’re throwing the ball way down the field, he’s not going to complete as many as you were if you were checking down and doing those kinds of things. I think he’ll be fine. You constantly work on mechanics and you constantly work on him reading defenses. But he’s got a strong arm so he should be able to throw the ball."

The question remains -- who will he throw it to?
The biggest question on defense this spring for Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is not having a new coordinator on the field.

It is having some of his best players on the sideline.

Johnson said Tuesday that three starters will be out when spring practice opens next Monday -- linebackers Jabari Hunt-Days and Brandon Watts and safety Isaiah Johnson. Safety Fred Holton, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, won't be full-go for spring, either.

"We have a couple linebackers out and couple guys in the secondary but what it’s going to do is give the young guys a chance and hopefully we’ll be able to develop some depth that way," Johnson said.

Starting center Jay Finch also will miss spring practice, along with A-back Tony Zenon and freshmen receivers Anthony Autry and Travin Henry. B-back Charles Perkins, who opened 2012 as a starter but sustained a season-ending injury in early September, should be back. Johnson said, "We’re counting on him, but we really won’t know for sure until we get out there and start banging a little bit."

There also are a few position changes to note on defense. Jeremiah Attaochu will become a full-time defensive end, after he thrived in that role in the second half of last season.

And Jemea Thomas is moving back to cornerback after switching to safety in 2012. He will be leading the competition to take Rod Sweeting's starting spot. Johnson said of Thomas, "He may have been our best defensive back a year ago."

Georgia Tech moving on without top WR

December, 14, 2012
With leading receiver Jeff Greene no longer on the team, Georgia Tech will be down to three wideouts for the Dec. 31 Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC -- Darren Waller, Jeremy Moore and Chris Jackson. The trio has combined for 18 catches this season in the Jackets’ run-based offense. Greene was leading the team with 18 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns -- an average of 21.8 yards per catch -- when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported he was no longer with the team.

Coach Paul Johnson confirmed Greene’s mutual departure following Thursday’s practice session.

“Guys have to do what they've gotta do," Johnson said.

The good news for Georgia Tech is that Greene hadn’t started the past four games, so there is other experience available. The Jackets have also used their A-backs, or slot backs, more than the receivers this year. There are still plenty of targets available for quarterback Tevin Washington. As far as receivers go, though, Moore started at Georgia and against Florida State in the ACC championship game, and Jackson started against North Carolina and Duke. Not having Greene for the bowl game will be a loss, but the position will improve next year, as the bulk of experience returns, along with Anthony Autry, who showed some promise in the first eight games before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament.