ACC: Micheal Summers

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 spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
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Three things we learned in the spring about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:

1. New defensive scheme. Second-year coordinator Ted Roof moved from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5 base, building off last season as Georgia Tech tries to develop a better pass rush on the edge and create more opportunities for its defensive playmakers. It's a unit that sacrifices size for speed for the sake of the many spread offenses it will face.

2. Tim Byerly emerges. Justin Thomas is the starting quarterback, but Byerly has given the Yellow Jackets some much-needed insurance -- and maybe even more than that. The Middle Tennessee State transfer will earn a scholarship this summer, and his impressive spring game further cemented himself as a legitimate game option for this fall.

3. Strong special teams play. Georgia Tech brings back one of the ACC's best kickers in Harrison Butker, but its biggest lift came in March, when the NCAA granted Jamal Golden a fifth year of eligibility. Golden was one of the top punt and kick returners in the nation in 2012 and gives the Yellow Jackets another scoring threat.

Three questions for the fall:

1. It is Justin Thomas' job … right? Paul Johnson praised Byerly for closing the gap with Thomas, and Byerly will likely see the field a good amount this fall regardless. Still, neither Thomas nor Byerly has ever started a collegiate game, and as impressive as both have been, little will matter until they live up to the praise.

2. Can the D-line reload? No group took a bigger hit after last season than the defensive line, which said goodbye to three starters, including All-ACC performer Jeremiah Attaochu. Adam Gotsis is the leading returner up front, and he'll need help from fellow pass-rushers to excel in the 4-2-5. Jabari Hunt-Days moved from linebacker to end to help get some more athleticism on the edge.

3. Will the O-line help improve the run game? Johnson has said that his team will be better at running the football this season than last, which was the worst of his Georgia Tech tenure. That will depend in large part on the growth of a young offensive line, which lost three fifth-year seniors from last season's squad.

One way-too-early prediction:

Thomas and Byerly will make many people forget about Vad Lee. Sure, Lee's decision to transfer was a bit of a surprise, and neither of his potential replacements boast much meaningful college experience. But Thomas and Byerly have said and done all the right things this spring and, more important, Georgia Tech brings back what may be the best receiving corps of the Johnson era, led by DeAndre Smelter, Micheal Summers and Darren Waller.

Suspension a setback for WR Waller

February, 28, 2014
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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.

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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.

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
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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
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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?

True freshmen to watch in ACC

August, 23, 2012
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Now that we are closing in on the start of the season, we have a much better idea of how many true freshmen could make an impact in the ACC this season based on preseason practice time and early depth charts.

Maryland could end up playing the most, and having players who make the biggest impact. You have quarterback Perry Hills starting in place of the injured C.J. Brown. Highly touted athlete Stefon Diggs has had an outstanding preseason camp. Don't forget about running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown, who also have looked really good.

Here are a few young players to keep an eye on at each school.

Boston College: Justin Simmons, DB. Defensive back is an area where Boston College needs help, especially after the loss of Al Louis-Jean, who's out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Simmons already has made his presence felt. In a scrimmage last weekend, he had two interceptions. Also watch for defensive back Bryce Jones and linebacker Steven Daniels.

[+] EnlargeTravis Blanks
John Albright / Icon SMI The versatile Travis Blanks may line up at a number of positions on defense for the Tigers.
Clemson: Travis Blanks, DB. One of the top defensive backs in the country out of high school, Blanks enrolled early and had an impressive spring showing. He has followed that up with a great preseason, and will line up in a variety of positions -- nickelback, cornerback and some linebacker as well. On offense, watch for Germone Hopper, who has had some pretty explosive plays this fall.

Duke: Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell, RBs; Ross Martin, PK. Duncan and Powell have turned heads during the preseason, and coach David Cutcliffe said he would feel comfortable using both players in the opener against FIU. Martin is sure to get plenty of game experience as the starting kicker this year. Others to watch: receiver Max McCaffrey, tight end Erich Schneider and safety Dwayne Norman, who had an interception return for a touchdown in one scrimmage.

Florida State: Ronald Darby, CB. Do not be surprised if Darby ends up starting in the spot vacated by Greg Reid. Darby and Nick Waisome are competing for the starting job. Coaches like both players, but there is something special about Darby. Said coach Jimbo Fisher: Darby is "going to be a very, very good one." Also watch for defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and tight end Christo Kourtzidis.

Georgia Tech: Anthony Autry and Micheal Summers, WR. Georgia Tech only has four other scholarship wide receivers, so that increases the chances for Autry and Summers to play this season. Autry seems to have a slight edge over Summers. Others to watch: defensive back D.J. White.

Maryland: In addition to Hills, Diggs, Brown and Reid, several others could make an impact this year. Punter Brad Craddock is competing for the starting position with redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro; and cornerback Sean Davis could be starting on opening day because he has done well, and there are some injuries on defense.

Miami: Ereck Flowers, OL. Flowers is listed as a starter right now at right tackle, helped in part because of Seantrel Henderson's absence. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has been extremely impressed. Others to watch: defensive back Tracy Howard and running back Duke Johnson. Howard is listed on the two-deep behind Ladarius Gunter but has drawn raves so far and so has Johnson, who should also return kickoffs this year. Deon Bush is in the mix for a starting safety spot.

North Carolina: Quinshad Davis, WR. Davis missed some early practice time because of a medical issue but has returned in the last week and has a big chance to make some noise. The Tar Heels are lacking depth at this position, and the way Larry Fedora likes to spread the ball around, he will take as many good receivers as he can.

NC State: Charlie Hegedus, WR. Receiver is a position of need for the Wolfpack, and Hegedus has seen more reps during fall camp with the injury to Bryan Underwood. One player NC State hopes you do not see this year is backup quarterback Manny Stocker, a true freshman behind veteran Mike Glennon.

Virginia: Maurice Canady, CB. Coaches are extremely high on Canady, who is in the mix to earn a starting spot in a secondary that has to be rebuilt this year. He has been working with the first team recently. Others to watch: Michael Moore at outside linebacker, and Eli Harold at defensive end.

Virginia Tech: J.C. Coleman, RB; Donaldven Manning, DB. Both players enrolled in January and are virtual locks to play this season. Coleman has separated himself from another true freshman, Trey Edmunds, despite a hand injury. He has had an outstanding fall camp. Manning has had to deal with a hamstring injury, but his early enrollment works in his favor.

Wake Forest: The Deacs rarely play true freshmen. But if there is one player who has a shot this year, it is defensive end Tylor Harris, who has stood out this fall for his pass-rushing ability -- something Wake Forest needs help improving this year.

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