Depth, inexperience issues for Tech offensive line

Greetings-

In the final few weeks of the offseason, we’re taking a look, position group by position group, at the 2011 Georgia Tech team. Coming off of a 6-7 season, Tech’s first losing season since 1996, the Jackets have questions to answer along with hope for an improvement on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a look at the roster…

THE OFFENSIVE LINE

Projected starters: LT Phil Smith (Jr., 6-5, 292), LG Will Jackson (So., 6-3, 285), C Jay Finch (So., 6-3, 283), RG Omoregie Uzzi (Jr., 6-3, 300), RT Tyler Kidney (So., 6-2, 262).

Others to watch: Ray Beno, Morgan Bailey and Catlin Alford will push for playing time at tackle. Guard J.C. Lanier will try to build on his first spring tackle on offense. Incoming freshmen Trey Braun, Shaq Mason and Errin Joe are candidates to get playing time immediately.

Key losses: The Yellow Jackets graduated two-time All-ACC center Sean Bedford and saw tackle Nick Claytor leave after his junior season for the NFL draft.

Key fact: Alford, Bailey and Beno were among those missing portions of spring practice, which hindered the line’s chances to develop cohesion. The absences opened room for walk-on Kidney and Braun, an early enrollee, to get useful practice time.

Key fact II: According to espn.com, Georgia Tech’s offensive linemen have the fewest number of combined returning starts in the ACC with 37. The league average is 73.4. Uzzi, a second-team All-ACC guard last year, and Smith have 25 of them.

Key question: Can coach Paul Johnson and line coaches Mike Sewak and Todd Spencer get this group ready to hold its own? In part because of the injuries, the offensive line was routinely outplayed in spring practice. Further, aside from backup center Nick McRae, the other four second-teamers have played a combined four games, which is a stunning number. From the moment fall practice starts, there’s a lot of coaching and drilling to do.

Recent developments: Finch has made considerable gains in the team’s summer strength and conditioning workouts. Lanier switched from defensive line in the spring after playing in just one game as a redshirt freshman.

Outlook: Fair to poor. Uzzi, Jackson and Smith helped the Jackets lead the nation in rushing, and Finch and McRae were key backups. The rest of the line is a considerable question mark. Injuries to Tech’s most experienced linemen will be costly. For what it’s worth, Johnson said he thinks the unit will be fine.

Your turn: How do you think the offensive line is going to look?

137 comments Add your comment

South Ga Jacket

July 7th, 2011
9:41 am

Macon Dawg

July 7th, 2011
9:43 am

I think GT’s line will be what holds them back on offense this year. Similar to UGA, the lines will struggle at times and probably be the difference in winning or losing a couple of games.

JB

July 7th, 2011
9:47 am

Welcome to our world….How is ya’ll’s defense shaping up? ours appears to be better than last year, although no one has played a down yet. Good luck this year.

Wish I knew

July 7th, 2011
9:49 am

This is the obvious key concern this fall. Toward late in the season, Tech’s O-line depth is always challenged by nagging nicks and dings.
I predict that Tech’s rushing offensive style helps the line and they will pull it together.
However, wIll this be another year without a significant passing attack?

goldwreck

July 7th, 2011
9:52 am

I think GT has more depth than UGA.I also think they will
develop into a sound offensive line.The Tech line will not
be doing much pass blocking.If they do,I think Tech will
have much bigger issues than their offensive line.They have
got to play ball control and keep their defense off the field.

Genius Jacket

July 7th, 2011
10:02 am

These OL will not have to block too much. We run an option offense. We will have problems when we try to pass.

Washington is a poor passer, so I hope Days can be better.

George Stein

July 7th, 2011
10:03 am

I expect the offense to be fine simply because it always has been under Johnson. The line isn’t perfect but it doesn’t need to be. We will still move the ball well. Whether we can keep other teams from moving it equally well is the better question, and I’m sure Ken is working on that, too.

GT

July 7th, 2011
10:12 am

Tech really has problems with their offensive line when the down and yardage situation makes it obvious what they are having to do. They don’t have a tight end that hurts em some too.

I think Georgia will be fine. In Tech’s case look at the size of that line and then look at the size of Georgia’s. I think if Georgia would just man up more and run the ball they would wear most teams out. Tech has not got the talent for situations, Georgia has great talent but so far has lacked coaching and conditioning. If Georgia’s offense would stay on the field more its defense would improve too. They are the ones getting worn out by South Carolina and Auburn’s ground control. Newton was a runner first and a great passer because of it.

DawginLex

July 7th, 2011
10:12 am

Similar problems to UGA-no depth or at least no experienced depth.

Difference I see is the size of the line except for Lanier. UGA averages 325 while Tech averages well under 300. The style of play and the techniques involved allow Tech’s line to be undersized.

I think UGA’s 1st team OL is very good and has 2 players with tons of experience. Tech’s line will probably be OK but thank God for the TO or this line would be in big trouble.

George Stein

July 7th, 2011
10:14 am

UGA is a deep team with really good players, goldwreck. I’m not sure we are deeper than they are and we certainly are not as talented. Whether their coaches get the most out of the talent in Athens is a completely different question.

George Stein

July 7th, 2011
10:17 am

Bingo, GT. Georgia fans make fun of our offense – which makes no sense because we are averaging 34 a game against them under Johnson – but they’d be wise to take some pointers from Tech. They have the players to line up in an I and just hammer teams but they don’t. I will never understand why.

Tech75

July 7th, 2011
10:30 am

Well, that’s the million-dollar question now, isn’t it? Can CPJ recruit the OL effectively?

Based on results so far, I’m not so sure.

As the OL goes, so goes the offense; I am always hopeful, but in this case not as optimistic about our ability to simply pound the ball forward.

May have to get some play-action in there and mix it up.

Protect the QB

July 7th, 2011
10:33 am

I just hope our OL can step up this year. We finally have a passing QB in Vad Lee and we will dominate if he has protection in the backfield to find an open receiver. The season can’t get here fast enough!!!

Vad Lee passing highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q2k95TtTdk&feature=related

GT

July 7th, 2011
10:35 am

Johnson is perfect for Tech. Through the years Tech could get offensive lineman and develop them into pro types. The kid might be marginal in high school but come to Tech with a great work ethic, along with a tall frame and things would work out. The problem is Tech could not consistently bring in the talent to be doing the same thing its opponent is doing and beat them at it. For this reason Johnson brings in the fullback type lineman like Bear Bryant use to do that is not the poster child but gets 80% of what he needs done by athletic ability as opposed to strength on strength. They will never look good measured by tape and in some obvious situations they will look down right bad. Johnson says some of this bad can be corrected by performing the right assignments. I believe Johnson and don’t mind him calling out his players that blow assignment. It is not for him it is for the player who hides in denial. What he really hasn’t had at Tech but I think is getting better is the defense. The offense will eventual score a lot of points in a game, in doing so they turn the ball over to the other team and have to play some defense to win.

SavannahJacket

July 7th, 2011
10:39 am

56 days until kick off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need football!!

O-line is young but should be okay. I am sure that there will be a few mistakes early in the season but as they work together CPJ will have them ready to go. The bigger questions shoule be how is the D-fence going to hold up.

Thanks Ken. Keep them coming.

Always a Jacket

July 7th, 2011
10:41 am

Since CPJ arrival, Tech’s special teams and defense have been disapointments. Special teams probably due the lack of depth and defense due to lack of a system. 2011 seems to be worst than 2010 becase we can add OL and QB to the list. Defense needs to prove something this year or it could get very ugly. If defense can make some stops, the CPJ offense will score enough to win even with an undersized inexperenced line. He was able to take the Gaily line and have them ready his first season.

GT 1

July 7th, 2011
10:43 am

But PJ did get us a ” long-snapper”, so we can punt alot

Here we go

July 7th, 2011
10:46 am

Once Tech gets a passing game that compliments the running game, they will be dangerous. That’s why teams were stacking the box the last season because Tech had zero passing game. But like I said, once Vad or Synjn take the helm, look out! It will be like 90’s Nebraska. They just need to control the clock, decrease turnovers, play with some discipline, and play some dang defense!

GT

July 7th, 2011
10:46 am

Vad Lee is going to be hot. Tech has a way of getting players that are really good with very little fanfare. I think the press helps them out plus many of the better players come from out of state and it is difficult to figure them out. That running back at Georgia has the weight of the world on his shoulders. If Georgia keeps it simple the kid will be good but if they try to pass every other down that pass blocking can be very confusing and lose a lot of yards while he is learning. It will be interesting to see how Johnson breaks Lee in. I bet we won’t even see him till mid season if then.

The Beach

July 7th, 2011
10:46 am

Better start recruiting the kid at Pickens Co…..6′3, 265lbs, smart, aggressive and a few GT grads in his family that are now doctors.

NorthAvenueRules

July 7th, 2011
10:52 am

Can’t wait until the team begins practice next month. Also, can’t wait to attend the scrimmage in late August to see how well Vad has picked up the offense. If the media is right saying Vad Lee will Redshirt all season, the scrimmage may be the only time we see him will the ball in his hands this year.

NorthAvenueRules

July 7th, 2011
10:54 am

That said, the first few games of the season (Western Carolina, etc.) would be a great time for Vad to “cut his teeth” on college football…

GT

July 7th, 2011
10:57 am

Here we go, you want to see what it can look like go look at the old Hambone at Georgia Southen. Tracy Ham was a household name. Then add a defense like only Russel could coach and you got a football team. Tech’s coaching staff is about as Georgian as a peach. Georgia has more right to some of these guys than we do but keeps going out of state for coaches. Vince Dooley is the legacy that Bobby Dodd was before him in good coaches. Southern made it back to the playoffs last year with a Tech assistant becoming they head coach. Georgia needs to bring Smart home, maybe Tommy Spangler from La Tech to coach their defense. You need to discover these guys while they still have fire in their belly. Something about the way Tech plays that get dirty football keeps that fire going too.

NorthAvenueRules

July 7th, 2011
10:59 am

GT:

Also, check out Raymond Gross winning the National Championship at Southern!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPms0Se0C4M

Yeah baby!!!!

Ramblin Man

July 7th, 2011
11:06 am

All comes down to can they stay healthy. The depth looks better than it has in the past, but with a player going out every other game it is hard to gain that cohesive unit GT needs. Hopefully they can gel in fall camp and I fully see the incoming guys not redshirting to gain playing time. The first two games will allow these guys to come together and by the Kansas game we should know what kind of season we fans can expect. It’s a rebuilding year so I mainly just want to see progress in each game.

Big Macon Dawg

July 7th, 2011
11:07 am

Gonna’ be a long year for you GT fans…

Made even worse by our march to a MNC.

GT Fan

July 7th, 2011
11:09 am

@Big Macon Dawg:

Gonna be hilarious watching Boise St. suck the wind out of your sails first game of season…

George Stein

July 7th, 2011
11:13 am

We are all shaking in our little space boots, Macon.

The Ole Ball Coach

July 7th, 2011
11:13 am

“Georgia get’s all these players but what happens to them?” ~ Spurrier

NYC Jacket

July 7th, 2011
11:15 am

I cannot wait until September!!! This clip should get all college football fans fired up for next year!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyNJdFq8ChI&feature=youtu.be&t=1m31s

GT 94

July 7th, 2011
11:38 am

Dawginlex, that is a pretty fair post i must say. I will note that our 0-lineman for this type of attack ( Spread option attack) usually are smaller and quicker so they can get down field quicker. This is to our advantage not disadvantage. You guys prefer beef but are slower. The speed factor is not what will hold you guys back as it would our O-line. Our disadvantage is clearly experience. I like the size and athletic ability our lineman have. Last year what kept us from winning 9 or even possibly 10 games was TURNOVERS and poor special teams which cost us 2 games at least!!! Our Defense was with a 1st year coordinator and i expect the defense to be much improved in year 2 under groh. CPJ has taken over special teams and so i can only hope we can get better there because it was pitiful on SP. My biggest concern is being young at QB ( as i expect a freshman to win the job) in which we could have some growing pains because of the youth there. We also have nobody that can catch the damn ball.

We need a deep ball threat and that makes this offense even more dangerous and you have to respect the long ball. However, we don’t have this threat and teams will stack the box and dare us to throw which wastes downs when you have nobody who can complete the passes or catch them. In reality we have a softer schedule and could win 8 games possibly. We also could see a complete repeat of 2010. I have no idea what to expect in full from this team we have.

Robert Barron

July 7th, 2011
11:43 am

An easy thing to do this off season has been to knock Tevin Washington but with a kicker who can successfully kick an extra point, we have UGA on their field, 35 to 35, with a few minutes to go. That’s pretty good for his third or fourth game. How about we let the backups actually beat him out before declaring he isn’t very good?

collegeballfan

July 7th, 2011
11:51 am

The OL is the key to the offense and the DL is the key to the defense. There is nothing new here.

Jacket1985

July 7th, 2011
11:53 am

What really bothered me about last season was not the blocking up front but the lack of blocking on the edge and into the secondary. Wide receivers and back side blocking has to improve dramatically this year or we will get nowhere fast.

gtfanfrom1951

July 7th, 2011
11:53 am

The line will be fine because we do not pass very often and they should know how to run block. Washington is about at the same place Josh was in 2008. Most people forget that he was Mr.Ala. football when he was in high school.

I am STUNNED

July 7th, 2011
11:59 am

First off, it’s about damn time we had something to read here about the Jackets. It’s been nearly 2 weeks since we had anything. Secondly, WOW, all these posts and only one mutt making an ass out of himself (yeah, that would be you, BigMaconDawg). Cudos to you, DawginLex, for your classy, knowledgeable posts

wrecked wrecks wrecked

July 7th, 2011
11:59 am

At the rate he’s going PJ will have Tech fans wishing they were playing with his peers in the Southern Conference and service academies

DawginLex

July 7th, 2011
11:59 am

GT 94

point well made. It also shows clearly how stupid it is for either fanbase to be upset over OL prospects not going to either school. In a lot of cases, GT is not even recruiting the same type of OL that UGA is and vice versa. When you factor in academic choice, it is no wonder the recruiting battles are few for OL.

Saban

July 7th, 2011
11:59 am

Tech will surprise a lot of folks this year. So will the dawgs with their three wins.

GT Fan...

July 7th, 2011
12:00 pm

In PJ I trust.

PJ knows what he’s got, and if he’s saying the OL will be fine, then I have no worries. Staying healthy & limiting TOs is the key. Limiting TOs = more TDs. Limiting TOs = more Ws.

2008 GT scored 37 offensive TDs … 9 Ws
2009 GT scored 58 offensive TDs … 11 Ws
2010 GT scored 40 offensive TDs … 6 Ws

2010 was GT’s worst for TOs & injuries ….

DawginLex

July 7th, 2011
12:00 pm

Here’s a surprise

Penn state 63
Alabammer 3

Arkansas 49
Alabammer 7

GT-Jake

July 7th, 2011
12:02 pm

We will struggle to win 6 or 7 games this season, and that’s not just my opinion— we’re picked to finish only ahead of Duke in one pre-season ACC poll.

1. No offensive line, no QB and new B-back.

2. Undersized defense playing the wrong scheme.

Redshirt Vad Lee, and rebuild for next season.

Exciting Years Ahead

July 7th, 2011
12:14 pm

What I do know is there will be a time over the next few years when Vad Lee and CPJ will spend an entire season burning defenses that cheat up to the line by using Vad’s arm. Thereafter, the triple option will be in full effect!

Jacket Man

July 7th, 2011
12:21 pm

The “demise” of the Jacket Offensive Line is, once again, premature. Since Paul Johnson has been on campus, all he’s done is establish one of the top rushing offenses in the Country; do any of you honestly think this happens by accident?

However, for the first time he’s been on campus, CPJ is going to actually have a majority of “his” O-Linemen playing this coming season, that is of course, they can stay healthy. This also means most of these guys have now had several years learning the correct blocking techniques for the CPJ spread/TO.

The only question that should remain is whether the QB will be able to make proper reads and be able to pass the ball effectively. If these two things can happen, then GA Tech’s Offense should be fine.

Tech Guy

July 7th, 2011
12:25 pm

Tech should be 3 and 0 early in the season and has Duke late in the season. Tech will only have to win three of seven other ACC games to have a winning season. We could do better if the defense improves and receivers can catch the football.
I predict Georgia will win the SEC.

GT Fan...

July 7th, 2011
12:25 pm

I’ve worried about the lack of QB experience too, but the more I’ve thought about it, the less I worry.

In 2008, NOBODY had “game” experience with PJ’s O, and the Jackets managed 9 Ws. 2011 is totally different story. Limit TOs (20 or fewer) and it’s 8+ Ws.

I recall 2 games off the top of my head from 2008 which TOs hurt GT bad.
UNC … Late 3rd qtr, UNC 7-0 lead, Roddy back to receive punt…FUMBLES, UNC recovers at GT 30′ish yd line. Scores TD couple mins into 4th. NEXT GT possession (J. Shaw in for injured Nes) FUMBLES, UNC recovers again at GT 30′ish yd line. Scores TD few mins later, now up 21-0 with about 6 mins remaining.
UVA … Opening drive of 2nd half, GT up 14-10, drives into UVA territory … FUMBLES! UVA recovers, scores TD on its possession. Next GT drive the Jackets move ball inside UVA 5 yd line, will retake lead … FUMBLE, UVA recovers at 3 yd line.

Stay as healthy, limit TOs, gt more Ws.

Daddy

July 7th, 2011
12:25 pm

Watch out for Mason; he is a devastating run blocker who loves to compete!

OL is BIG

July 7th, 2011
12:30 pm

We’ve got plenty of size this year. There is no reason we can’t get the job done on the OL.

Phil Smith 6′5” , 291 lbs.
Trey Braun 6′5″ , 305 lbs.
Errin Joe 6′4” , 305 lbs.
Morgan Bailey 6′4″ , 305 lbs.
Catlin Alford 6′4″ , 295 lbs.
Bryan Chamberlain 6′4″ , 285 lbs.
Omoregie Uzzi 6′3″ , 300 lbs.
Shaquille Mason 6′2″ , 305 lbs.

dawgfan

July 7th, 2011
12:38 pm

Fortunately for Tech, they have one of the most laughably pathetic schedules of any BCS team this year. I don’t follow the ACC that closely but I can’t imagine anyone in that league outside of Virginia Tech will make any noise nationally. That means it will be clear in to MID-NOVEMBER

dawgfan

July 7th, 2011
12:39 pm

….before Tech plays a team with a living breathing pulse. Who needs depth on the offensive line?

Tech goes 8-4 this year and Techies will once again act like Paul Johnson invented the game of football and cured cancer.

Thanks.