By GEORGE HENRY, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech is still arranging its depth chart with the season opener four days away.
As the Yellow Jackets prepare to host Alcorn State of the FCS, coach Paul Johnson won’t be surprised if it takes a couple of games to settle some positions.
“You don’t really know until you play other people for a couple of weeks and get a better feel for it,” Johnson said Tuesday.
Shawn Davis has a temporary hold on the kicking job. The offensive line is still waiting for Kenny Cooper to return.
Juanyeh Thomas won the kickoff and punt return jobs but hurt an ankle in practice and might not play this week.
Reserve quarterback Lucas Johnson went down with a season-ending lower leg injury a couple of weeks ago. Tobias Oliver is the primary backup to starter TaQuon Marshall, but the injury has caused the Jackets to take a long look at talented freshman James Graham, whom they’d prefer to redshirt.
KirVonte Benson is the most notable name on Johnson’s radar this week, and not because of injury. Benson, the ACC’s fourth-leading rusher a year ago, is benched for the first quarter of the opener for what the coach called a minor team infraction. Johnson expects Benson will still get to play plenty of snaps.
Either Jordan Mason or Jerry Howard will start in Benson’s place.
“KirVonte was a minor issue, but I’ve challenged our guys this fall camp for minor things, for missing a breakfast check, missing class,” Johnson said. “We used to run at 6 a.m. I’m tired of that. I’m through running at 6. It doesn’t seem to register, so we just won’t play him. We’ll see if that registers.”
Johnson is beginning his 11th season at Georgia Tech and 22nd overall as a head coach. The Jackets went 5-6 last year and missed going to a bowl for the second time in three years.
Davis has beaten out Brenton King to handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points, but he has a short leash. Johnson said throughout the last four weeks that he’s been disappointed with all of the kickers.
Davis won the job last year in camp but suffered a season-ending knee injury trying to make a tackle at Miami. He went 2 for 4 on field goals and missed one of 20 extra-point attempts. King took over and went 5 for 6 on field goals and missed one of 16 extra-point tries.
“I think like I said last year, I think Shawn’s capable,” Johnson said. “We’ve just got to get some consistency out of him. You’ve got Brenton King who could possibly kick, and we’ve got a couple of other walk-on kids, too. Maybe they can kick. We’ll see.”
Cooper is expected to return to practice from a foot injury next week when the Jackets prepare to face South Florida in Tampa. Jahaziel Lee will start at center this week and Parker Braun is set at left guard, but Johnson says the other jobs are less certain.
Cooper and Lee will start at South Florida barring injuries. Johnson just isn’t sure who will be in what spot. Will Bryan, Zac Quinney and Brad Morgan are listed as starters against Alcorn State.
“All those kids are going to play and then as you start to play other competition and you get into two or three games, if there is a huge dropoff, then you’ll have a starter,” Johnson said.
If Thomas can’t play this week, Brad Stewart will handle punt returns, a role he held the last two seasons. Jaytlin Askew, who won a cornerback job, will handle kickoff returns with Nathan Cottrell getting a chance, too.