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Plenty of position battles to watch in Georgia Tech spring game

Georgia Tech concludes its spring at noon Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Here are three storylines to follow with the Yellow Jackets in their spring game:

1. The secondary. This was the first group Paul Johnson mentioned Wednesday on the ACC teleconference when asked about position battles. The Jackets lost all four starters from last season due to graduation, but they do have a handful of underclassmen defensive backs with plenty of playing experience.

“Lance Austin and Step Durham have both played a little bit; Lamont Simmons is a transfer from Southern Cal who sat out last year who I think brings some ability, and then Meiko Dotson and Dorian Walker, two freshmen that we redshirted a year ago, and they're competing,” Johnson said. “So you go to safeties, and A.J. (Gray) played a lot last year, Corey Griffin played a lot last year at safety, Lawrence Austin, so there are some guys who have played at that position, as well, and it gives them a chance to compete.”

Interestingly enough, coordinator Ted Roof told local reporters that he and linebackers coach Andy McCollum have switched position duties for this spring, with Roof now coaching linebackers and McCollum in charge of safeties. Whether that lasts into the fall remains to be seen.

2. Offensive line. Replacing three regulars up front is difficult enough, especially for a team that runs the ball as much as Georgia Tech does. But injuries have made the task tougher, as the O-line continues to try to jell. Center Freddie Burden (hand) has been out this spring and Will Bryan was moved from left tackle to left guard, bumping Andrew Marshall over one spot to his right, to center. Trey Klock looks like the right tackle, but the guard battle next to him is unsettled.

Moreover, Johnson said Wednesday that he is unsure if guards Chris Griffin (ACL) or Jake Whitley (head) will ever play again. Griffin has starting experience from 2014.

“I think we'll be better than we were a year ago,” Johnson said. “Certainly we need to be.”

3. Quarterbacks. Everyone knows what Justin Thomas is capable when everything is clicking around him. His preseason darkhorse Heisman campaign went wayward last season on a 3-9 team, but his return for his fifth season is among the biggest reason that Tech is optimistic its 2015 was an aberration. Behind Thomas, though, there is an interesting development, as sophomore TaQuon Marshall has moved from A-back to quarterback, competing this spring with redshirt sophomore Matthew Jordan for the No. 2 job. While neither is a threat to unseat Thomas, these kind of future battles are the ones that often take center stage in events like spring games.