Georgia Tech safety Cooper Taylor, who did not play in the second half of last Saturday’s season-opening win after suffering from what coach Paul Johnson described as heat-related symptoms, has not practiced this week and Johnson said he is “highly doubtful” for Saturday’s game at Kansas.
Taylor, a third-year sophomore from Marist, missed Tech’s final 11-plus games last season and had surgery in November to remedy issues related to Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which can cause an irregular heartbeat.
Johnson did not say that Taylor has any new heart-related issues, but he has not denied that either.
Taylor was not available for comment.
In the event he does not play, freshman Isaiah Johnson – who at one point prior to the opener was listed as a starter only to see Taylor and senior Mario Edwards start – or junior Jerrard Tarrant will start.
More moving parts
Left guard Will Jackson also has not practiced and Nick McRae, who replaced Jackson when he sprained his left knee against South Carolina State, is the top candidate to replace him at Kansas. “We’ve worked Michael Johnson, [backup center] Jay Finch and Zach Krish, but more than likely it will be McRae,” the head coach said.
Ray Beno was in competition at guard in the preseason, but did not dress for the opener for disciplinary reasons. He’s not likely to be in the mix at Kansas. “I don’t think Beno is going to be on the trip this week,” Johnson said.
Johnson suggested Tuesday that sophomore Orwin Smith might earn a start in Embry Peeples’ A-back spot if he practiced well this week. Wednesday, the list of possible A-back starters opposite Roddy Jones expanded to include junior Marcus Wright.
Smith, who has earned points for his high energy level, sometimes struggles with certain assignments that tend to change play to play and he needs to be more consistent at that.
“Certain plays change against certain defenses,” said Smith, who also returns kickoffs. “If we go out there expecting one defense and they have a whole different defense, I have to know what to do against that defense.”
End Emmanuel Dieke (shoulder) remains out.
Johnson said the Jackets practiced with improved pace early Wednesday, which he said he’s been looking for, before dialing back the pace because of heat. “I tell you, it’s been really hot . . . and I kind of worry about the cumulative effect,” he said. Right guard Omoregie Uzzi said the goal is, “Just play fast, I guess do a little less thinking. Guys were more worried about missing assignments than going 100 mph.” . . . If as Johnson has said the Jackets are diligent about rotating in more defenders this week than last, sophomore Julian Burnett may see some action at inside linebacker behind starters Brad Jefferson and Kyle Jackson. Brandon Watts has been playing catchup there since missing more than a week of preseason practice injured, and Burnett – who started three games as a freshman – was a menace on the kickoff coverage team. “I love contact and I want to make plays. If I can’t get them on defense, I got to take what I got,” he said. “It’s a process so if I’m not in the starting rotation it means I’m not grasping some kind of concept, or something that we’re doing. I’m just being patient.”
– AJC contributor Matt Winkeljohn