May 28, 2009

Johnson pleased with OL depth

During Georgia Tech's spring game, there were not a bunch of experienced offensive linemen leading the first or second team and head coach Paul Johnson liked that. With injuries keeping out the Yellow Jackets' top four linemen, a mix and match group played well in the spring setting what will be a very heated competition for playing time this fall.

"We played most of the spring with ten offensive linemen and in a way that was a blessing," Johnson said. "We had three guys that started and were injured this spring and did not play. Cord Howard was out there early, but got hurt after a week and a half. What that enabled us to do was get some young guys out there and get some reps in spring. I think we will have one heck of a competition in fall camp."

Among the offensive linemen looking for playing time are four freshmen, Raymond Beno, Jay Finch, Antonio Foster and Will Jackson. Johnson believes they will push the veterans and some will probably make it into the two-deep.

"We have four freshmen coming in scholarship wise on the offensive line," he said. "All four were all-state and three of the four were first team all-state in Georgia. One was the Class AAA player of the year in the state of Tennessee and was all-state. I think those guys will come in and compete right away too."

The added depth will allow for substitutions, which should helping the rushing attack and drive the offensive linemen to push each other for playing time.

"We went from last year having five or six offensive linemen to choose from to this year having 14 competing for five spots," Johnson said. "I think the competition will make them all a little better."

Getting back to 85

Coach Johnson plans to get the Yellow Jackets back to a full 85 scholarships after this season. With six seniors and the departure of Willie White, seven scholarships are open. Johnson also held four scholarships and only signed 21 players for the 2009 class.

"We did well with our recruiting this year signing 21 players of which 17 were from the state of Georgia. That is something we talked about last year and a point of emphasis for us. We will still be under the number of 85 scholarships this year. We will probably play with around 79 scholarship players. The reason I did that was that we only have six seniors this year."

After the 2009 season and 2010 recruiting class, Johnson said the Yellow Jackets should be bringing in full classes every year.

"We are still a really young football team and in order to balance the classes back out I held four scholarships from last year," he said. "We will put those four scholarships with the six seniors and we may have a junior or two that come out and you usually loose one or two players to attrition. We are probably looking at a class of 13 to 14 people. What that will help do is balance out our classes and we should be back up at 85 following this season."

Johnson pleased with the direction of the program

During the Georgia Tech Caravan in Duluth earlier this month, Johnson said he was happy with the way things are building for the program.

"We had a good initial start and we have laid a good solid foundation to build on. We look forward to moving with our recruiting this year."

Spring practice a dangerous time for injuries was also fairly injury free for the Yellow Jackets.

"We had a good spring practice," Johnson said. "The way I evaluate spring practice is that no one got seriously hurt and that you see guys make individual improvements and the positions groups make improvements. One of the biggest goals this spring was to establish some depth and not just play with our first team guys. I think we were able to do that."

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