August 26, 2009

OL will earn their spots on the field

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had a solid day of practice on Wednesday afternoon, head coach Paul Johnson, and the coaching staff is still sorting out the depth chart on the offensive line with a little less than two weeks to go before kickoff. The Jackets have a few starters penciled in, but two of the most important spots left tackle and center are mired in close competition.

The left tackle position is between senior Brad Sellers a former tight end, defensive lineman and long snapper and junior Nick Claytor who started five games filling in for injured starters last year. The center competition is between senior Dan Voss last year's starter who is coming off shoulder surgery and junior Sean Bedford.

"It is competitive and they all know they are going to play," Johnson said. "That thing may not sort itself out completely for two or three games, but right now Sellers is the starting left tackle and Bedford is probably the starting center."

Claytor has been battling injuries for quite sometime and he is currently behind Sellers in the battling for the starting offensive tackle spot opposite Austin Barrick. Claytor has been hampered by a groin injury that has caused him considerable pain, but he is playing his way through it like he did last year with his back injury which he had surgery for in the offseason.

"It is tough to catch another injury after coming back, but it is something I deal with. I dealt with it last year and it will take a lot more than that to keep me out," Claytor said. "I am not at 100-percent, but I am getting there. I had a slow start and had I known I was going to have the surgery I would have done it earlier, so now I am just working hard."

The competition has been very stiff on the offensive line and Claytor says that is driving the competition.

"There is a lot of competition and if you are slack you are not going to play," Claytor said. "You have to go hard every player on the offensive line and we have people who started last year and they are the ones and we are pushing them going into the first game."

Claytor and Sellers will battle for the starting tackle spot and Claytor says he will fight for the starting spot everyday until the first snap of the first game.

"Sellers is ahead of me and the competition is really good. Sellers came on a lot after last year and he is a lot quicker and faster because he used to be a tight end," he said. "Seeing that on film, I try and emulate his speed. I have a little less than two weeks to catch him."

Receiver rotation

The Jackets have one sure starter in Demaryius Thomas and a pair of players splitting time on the side in Tyler Melton and Kevin Cone. Cone has a slight edge right now according to receivers coach Buzz Preston.

"From the starting standpoint Bay-Bay is one starter and across from him, Kevin and Tyler are in a nice little battle for the other spot, but they will all play," Preston said. "The way we do things number five will get out there and there is a possibility that Quentin Sims and Zach Fisher will be out there. I think we have a nice little blend. Our offense is so vertical that you need more than two guys."

The number five Preston is referring to is true freshman Stephen Hill. Hill has been one of the most impressive performers in camp.

"Stephen is doing some good things out there and we are working with him to be a consistent player versus a sometimes great player," Preston said. "A sometimes great player is good enough to get your beat, but a consistent player makes great plays that make you look good. We are trying to get him to grow up and that is always tough for a freshman. We are excited about him and I am looking forward to seeing him answer our challenge."

Melton has been battling hamstring problems throughout camp and Preston says that is one of the reasons Cone has jumped into the starting spot for the moment.

"Melton has fought through the injuries, but his legs are a little dead and that is one of those things that happens," Preston said. "We are a vertical offense so there is a lot of running and he is starting to get his legs back and he is starting to make some of the plays we expect him to make. Competition is always good and someone has to step it up."

Cone has been one of the most consistent players in camp, which has helped elevate him after he sat out the 2008 season following his transfer from Shorter College.

"Kevin has shown me a lot and exactly what I thought we would get," Preston said. "He is consistent and hardworking. He is a great energy guy and a solid player. I am happy for him and I hope he can keep it going."

Special Teams

Kicker Scott Blair can scratch punting off his list of responsibilities this season with Chandler Anderson and Sean Poole slated to handle the punting duties.

"Chandler Anderson and Sean Poole are competing to punt and right now Chandler probably has the upper hand and Scott Blair is the kicker," Johnson said. "Scott is not punting any more and he is strictly kicking."

Injury update

The Jackets will likely hold out starting A-back Roddy Jones for the Jacksonville State game. Jones had the pins from his wrist removed and he is no longer in a cast, but he still has some work to do before Coach Johnson will let him on the field.

"Roddy should be good to go, but I have not see him. We have held him out of practice the last two days," Johnson said. "He should be back tomorrow."

Jones could play if needed, but there is plenty of depth at A-back to get Georgia Tech through the first game.

"He could play if we wanted him to. We will have to see. I doubt we would play him without more practice," Johnson said. "We are probably shooting for the next week."

The Jackets will go full pads on Thursday and scrimmage on Friday against the scout team for the first time.

"We will scrimmage on Friday and we will come back next week and it will strictly be Jacksonville State," Johnson said. "That really is what we are doing now with scouts. We will come back and get our legs back so we can get ready for the game


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