Nov 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets offensive lineman Trey Braun (78) celebrates their win with fans after their game against the Virginia Cavaliers at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech won 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
As is status quo for a Paul Johnson offensive line, you won’t find many 300+ lbs. interior linemen on Saturday’s in the white and gold. The interior of the line creates space for backs to run through by eliminating the defensive tackles and inside linebackers. The guards and center have to be conditioned to hitting the deck and making solid cut blocks to take out would-be run stuffers. With Tech attempting to run the gauntlet this year against a tough schedule, inside line play may be the key between a repeat of last year’s performance and a merely mediocre campaign.
Half of the guards spots are set in stone, but there’s a real battle for the other half. Offensive line coach Mike Sewak will have to find the right plug for the hole left by 4th round pick by the Patriots RG Shaquille Mason.
Projected Starters: Freddie Burden, Trey Braun and Shamire Devine
After redshirting and sitting out his freshman year with a knee injury, Freddie Burden won the center spot out of camp and started all 14 games at center. This preseason, Burden was selected for the Rimington Trophy Watch List as a candidate for the nation’s top center at the end of the season. As a redshirt junior at a hair over 300 lbs. who showed great play last year, there’s no reason to think he won’t be the man snapping the ball to Justin Thomas for the next two seasons.
Trey Braun, listed at 6’5″ and 294 lbs, is a poster child for consistency. He has started every game for the Jackets at left guard in the last season and a half, rarely even missing a snap. Along with Burden and tackles Bryan Chamberlain and Errin Joe, the second season of this quartet starting should bring good fortunes.
Devine began last season at a scale-busting 365 lbs. but has reportedly intended to drop 30 lbs. to prepare for this role. He played mostly tackle in high school and in practice with the Jackets, but is in the lead for the only spot on the offensive line not returning last year’s starter. Devine has great footwork for someone his size, and it would take a large event for him to not win the job.
Key Backups: Gary Brown, Andrew Marshall, Jake Whitley, Brad Morgan
Brown is a redshirt freshman from Tampa, Fla. and made a name for himself through his work on the practice field. He was named the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year at the year end banquet by the team and is ready to see live snaps in a backup role.
Andrew Marshall may be asked to back up both the center and right guard spots because of lack of depth at both spots. Marshall was the primary backup center last season as a true freshman and saw limited action in 10 games last season.
Whitley is a redshirt freshman standing in at 6’4″ and 288 lbs from North Augusta, SC. Brad Morgan is a member of the 2015 recruiting class along with his brother Scott Morgan, but may choose to redshirt if there is no immediate need for his services.
Eason Fromayon, who made an appearance on the Offensive Tackle preview, will be asked to backup both the left tackle and guard spots as needed, so if injuries strike, don’t be surprise to see him lining up as a guard.
Offensive line has the most fluidity among any position in this scheme. Tackles become guard and guards become centers in a pinch. Add in different formations for goal line situations, calls to pull and block on the outside, and the always present possibility of a rash of injuries, and these student-athletes have to be ready for anything. Still, the seniority of the starting unit should provide much needed stability for the rest of the team as they head into a difficult football schedule.
Next for Friday: Special teams