Georgia Tech has four new scholarship football players – safety Coray Carlson, defensive lineman Ben Keith, A-back Jamal Paige and kicker David Scully, all of whom joined the team as walk-ons.
Carlson has scrapped his way up the depth chart and is working with the second team as a redshirt sophomore. Keith won the team’s defensive scout team MVP last season. Paige has been a dutiful scout-teamer for four seasons and has earned some special-teams snaps. Scully took kickoffs last season and is in a competition with Justin Moore for placekicking duties.
Coach Paul Johnson made the announcement, sort of, in a team meeting early in camp. In front of the whole team, Johnson said that the four players needed to see him in his office. Carlson knew that Johnson has awarded scholarships to walk-ons in the past during fall camp, but thought it came later on in camp.
“I thought maybe someone was in trouble,” Carlson said. “I was kind of sitting there thinking, ‘I didn’t do anything.’”
Later on, Carlson figured it out when teammates began high-fiving him. When he has had scholarship space available, Johnson has awarded grants to walk-ons. This year, with 81 players on scholarship, he gave out four to walk-ons with the proviso that they’re not assured of retaining them past this academic year.
Carlson is, or was, a true walk-on. A Lassiter High grad, he applied to Tech with an intention to major in architecture and no plans to play football.
“I didn’t think I was going to get in, but once I got in, I thought, Well, might as well talk to the coaches,” he said.
Carlson, who helped Lassiter to a region title in 2009 (his teammates included Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason, Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, N.C. State center Camden Wentz and Tech offensive line coach Mike Sewak’s son Michael Robert) and was named all-Cobb County as a senior, was invited onto the team prior to the 2010 season as a preferred walk-on.
“Basically, I came in not really expecting too much, because I was down at the very bottom,” Carlson said. “I just knew I had to work really hard, just listen really hard and watch everyone, see what everyone was doing, just learning the whole defense before I could move my way up. Whenever I had my opportunity, I just did the best I could.”
Carlson got on the field a few times last season and caught defensive coordinator Al Groh’s attention in the spring.
“This is a kid who’s got a real passion for football, who’s fully engaged in it,” Groh said.
Carlson, 6-foot-0 and 180 pounds, came into fall camp second on the depth chart at safety behind Fred Holton and has held his spot.
“He’s a player who, let’s say the line on his training camp graph has been consistently inching upwards,” Groh said. “Some days it’s bounded up, some days it’s just inched up, but his line really hasn’t plateaued at all.”
Given the rigors of architecture, Carlson switched majors as a freshman to chemical engineering. (Keith is an economics major, Paige is studying industrial engineering and Scully is studying biochemistry.) As for playing time?
Time will tell, but Groh acknowledged that “he’s certainly worked himself into the picture.”
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog