Last month, at the start of Georgia Tech’s camp, I posed five questions for the Yellow Jackets preseason. Here’s the answers, four weeks later. (Spoiler: Not all questions have really been answered completely.)
Q: Who will emerge out of the defensive line group to earn a spot in the rotation?
A: There were no great surprises here. The starting four will be Adam Gotsis and Shawn Green on the inside, Tyler Stargel at strongside defensive end and either Roderick Rook-Chungong or KeShun Freeman at rush defensive end.
The fact that there is uncertainty at that spot would indicate that the two are close enough to both merit playing time. On the inside, Patrick Gamble has had a strong preseason and will be the No. 3 tackle. How much Francis Kallon plays as the No. 4 tackle is unclear. Coach Paul Johnson said last week that he’s working hard, but has a long way to go. In the non-conference schedule, Stargel’s backup Tyler Merriweather figures to get a chance to prove he is a capable backup. Regardless, Gamble’s improvement and Green’s going into the season healthy are probably the two biggest developments of the preseason on the defensive line.
Q: What shape will the offense take?
A: The honing of the option offense continued and seemed to progress well. Coach Paul Johnson has largely been pleased with camp, and I suspect the development of the offense is one particular reason.
The team’s work on no-huddle was evidently successful. Like a lot of these questions, the answers will only reveal themselves with the actual season, but it sounds like it’s on the right path. As I mentioned in a recent video, I think one of the biggest benefits of the no-huddle work for the offense is the simultaneous training that the defense received at that tempo.
Q: Is there an A-back or wide receiver ready to be a consistent playmaker?
A: It’s still to be determined. However, A-back Charles Perkins stepped forward to claim one of the starting spots along with Tony Zenon. Both have played plenty and earned praise in the preseason, but whether they can produce over the long term will only be answered this season.
Those two will be interesting to watch. Perkins, you may remember, came to Tech with considerable hype as the successor to Jonathan Dwyer. We may finally see his considerable ability put on full display this season. As for Zenon, he has been a “player to watch” type, particularly on word from teammates, as far back as his freshman season. If he can be the player he has shown himself to be to them, it would be a big boost for a team that needs playmaking from that position.
At wide receiver, Micheal Summers and Darren Waller appear to be the most likely candidates to pair up with DeAndre Smelter. I heard a lot of good things about Waller in the preseason, although he’ll miss the first two games due to a suspension.
Q: Can Tech make it through healthy?
A: This was perhaps as important a question as any. Various players were dinged, but I believe there were no long-term injuries coming out of camp. Credit goes to strength and conditioning coach John Sisk and his staff for preparing the players to get to camp in shape and to the players themselves for being in shape, and to whatever divine force it was that granted them healthy passage through camp.
Q: Which true freshmen will step forward?
A: The answers were not a great surprise. Lance and Lawrence Austin, the twin cornerbacks from Lamar County, have earned spots on the two-deep depth chart. Defensive end KeShun Freeman may not start in the season opener, deferring to Rook-Chungong, but is expected to be a contributor. (Johnson indicated last Wednesday that Rook-Chungong would start.)
Offensive tackle Trey Klock may be the only one of the six incoming freshman offensive linemen to make the depth chart. Merriweather came on to win the backup strongside defensive end job behind Stargel.