As the competition continues to win the two tackle positions on Georgia Tech’s offense, assistant coach Todd Spencer said it puts his mind at ease to know that each of three candidates — Phil Smith, Nick Claytor and Austin Barrick — have experience in games that have shaped the Paul Johnson era in Atlanta.
“Most of those kids have played in some big games, ACC championship game, Orange Bowl game, rivalry games, the Chick-fil-A bowl,” Spencer said. “All three of those guys have been in big games, played in big games and done good things in big games.”
A mostly experienced group, Smith, a redshirt sophomore, is the youngest, Spencer said the trio understands the nuances of the positions and are able to better understand and apply what he and assistant Mike Sewak are teaching them in the classroom and correcting during practices. Between them, Spencer and Sewak have worked with or for Johnson for 25 years. So they understand what needs to be done.
The challenge has been the three players have missed time during the spring or August practices because of class or injuries. Because of that, Spencer said they haven’t been able to develop as consistently as the coaches had hoped. Smith missed the spring because of a broken ankle and Barrick missed some practices in the spring because of class. Claytor has missed time in August because of an undisclosed injury.
“Like any of our guys, it’s hard to miss practice time because of those three components: speed of the game, pad level, the precision, maniacal precision that we try to play with up front,” Spencer said.
The evaluations will continue at today’s practice and Friday’s scrimmage. Johnson said on Wednesday that all three will play during the games.
“I’m looking forward to seeing those guys play,” Spencer said. “We’ve had a lot of practices. It’s time to play somebody else. It’s time to go play.”
A look at the tackles
Nick Claytor 6-6, 283 Played in 12 games last season; started five in 2008
Phil Smith 6-6, 276 Started four games last season and played in nine more
Austin Barrick 6-3, 279 Started nine games last season; started five in 2008
Zach Krish 6-5, 279 Played in four games last season