RT: Tyler Kidney, Morgan Bailey
RG: Omoregie Uzzi, Nick McRae* / J.C. Lanier, Bryan Chamberlain, Chase Roberts
C: Jay Finch, Nick McRae*, Errin Joe
LG: Will Jackson, Shaquille Mason, Trey Braun, Freddie Burden
LT: Raymond Beno, Catlin Alford
* = Nick McRae has played backup at both center and guard.
Current Seniority Chart:
2 seniors – Uzzi (R), McRae (R)
5 junior – Kidney (R), Lanier (R), Finch (R), Jackson (R), Beno (R)
3 sophomores – Bailey (R), Mason, Alford (R)
5 freshmen – Chamberlain (R), Joe (R), Braun (R), Roberts, Burden
Expected 2013 Class Open Slots: 3
Notes: The offensive line at GT is actually being managed very consistently in terms of the coaches' theory on redshirts. It's simple, if you're an offensive lineman you're going to be redshirted. And it's probably a good thing considering the complexity of the offensive system. Of the 12 linemen returning for the 2012 team, 11 of them are playing with a redshirt year under their belt. The one exception is last year's true freshman contributor Shaq Mason. Now what does that say about Shaq/Tech? You would think it was either that Tech was really short-handed or Mason was just too good to keep off the field. Actually, the numbers were fine - about the same as they'll have going into the next season. There was, however, a shortage of seniors. Tech had exactly zero on the roster, so it was a young line. Mason is a promising talent and his services were needed. He played in 11 games and started the bowl game against Utah. Omoregie Uzzi missed that game so that explains why Mason is not penciled in as a starter for next year. He'll be in the rotation at guard behind Uzzi & Jackson. Having said that, it will be an interesting battle between Mason and Jackson this spring. While Jackson has the current lead on the starting position, the question will be as to whether or not he can hold on to it. Back to the point on redshirting, there are three more years possible for Mason to redshirt so it remains a difficult task to make it through Tech under Paul Johnson and not redshirt (Mason excepted). I suspect Roberts & Burden will use the coming year to get acclimated to the Tech offense and build up their bodies for the college game. Phil Smith is the lone player leaving the depth chart from year - transferring from the program following 2 suspensions. As a junior, he played in 10 games last year and started in 8.
Roberts (6-3, 292) is a three-star player who is ranked as the #32 offensive guard by Scout.com. He followed in his dad's footsteps to go to Georgia Tech, "I'd be lying if I said it didn't have anything to do with my father – he opened the door for me, and it caught my attention because they've always had a good football team," Roberts told Sean Breslin last year. Being an early commit – March 2011 – Chase didn't build up an enormous offer sheet before making his pledge. In his preseason analysis, Scout.com recruiting analyst Chad Simmons had Chase as his #8 OG in the south. Chase is the longest-standing commit in the Tech '12 class.
Insight: "Not many play with the constant intensity that Roberts plays with. He really gets after on the field, he has that nasty streak you look for in an offensive lineman, and he is a strong run blocker." – Chad Simmons
Notes: There's really nothing to dislike about this pickup. The offer sheet isn't gushing with the names of football factories but he knew what he wanted early and got the Tech class off to a good start. The fact that Chase maintained a reputation as a good player and did not get late offers speaks less about what teams thought about his talents and more about the signals he put out there as to the chances he would listen to additional pitches from other teams (we'll see examples of the opposite later). Analyst like him, he's ranked well, has nice size, has a reputation for his intensity, and with strengths for run blocking he's a good fit for this particular offense. If there are areas to complain about in this class, this player is not one of them.
Burden (6-3, 291) is another three-star OL ranked down the list from Roberts as the #59 offensive guard by Scout.com. Freddie was under the radar early on but made an impression on Chad Simmons at the Atlanta MVP Camp held at Lovejoy. "Burden is a big OL that will play inside on the next level," Simmons wrote after the camp. "He showed a great base and strong hands at the MVP Camp." Burden had interest from some of the more "name" football teams but his offers came from some of the lesser name schools like Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Presbyterian, South Carolina State, Grambling and South Alabama. He liked N.C. State and Florida early on but they didn't offer. Ultimately he was ready to pounce of offers from the Yellow Jackets or the Wolfpack, whichever would come forward first. When offered on his official visit to Tech, he accepted on the spot. Freddie joined high school teammate Micheal Summers as Tech commits when he made his decision. Tech coaches were well aware of Burden throughout the season and kept a close eye on him thanks to their interest in Summers.
Insight: "Burden is a very strong interior offensive lineman that I see fitting in perfectly with the Georgia Tech offense. He comes off the ball well, he holds his blocks, and he keeps moving his feet." – Chad Simmons
Notes: Burden gets good marks from the fan base for having good size (very similar to Roberts), fitting a need, and landing a good three-star ranking. As Scott Kennedy told me years ago, you can win a lot of games with a team full of three-star players, particularly if they are coached well. Recruiting critics will raise their hands and say yes but the #59 guard in the country isn't anything to write home about and the offer sheet was not impressive. With Roberts, he had few offers but he committed early. Burden waited for the big-time offers to come by mid-January before finally getting one from the Yellow Jackets. N.C. State seemed like a legitimate possibility too but it didn't happen. The insight on Burden paints a picture of a solid blocker with good feet who should be a solid addition for a run-heavy offense. The coaches saw plenty of Burden so you have to trust they liked what they saw enough to give him the last remaining OL opening.
The one who got away:
Will Adams (Auburn)
This was an easy call. Adams was a late defection after being "committed" for some six months. There were a lot of things that seemed to have him firmly locked in Tech's corner. Tech has a great pipeline to his school with Calvin Johnson, Andrew Gardner, and Isaiah Johnson paving the way. His grandfather and uncle previously attended Tech and his brother is currently a student there (from Rod Mackenzie article Jul 25). His recruitment at Tech began his sophomore year. With scholarships tight, this was particularly painful to lose one so late. Now, I won't knock a kid for switching and certainly GT has taken kids from other teams in the past. But, what does get me is the way it reportedly went down. After a late offer from Auburn, it looked as though he was going to put Coach Johnson's visit policies to the test. The issue is though, he wouldn't admit to Coach Johnson he was going and went anyway. In the end, he successfully gamed Georgia Tech - waiting until late enough that GT couldn't invite another player that might take his place and still visiting another school. I'll say this for this player or any other – even ones who sign with Tech – people can have a change of heart but how you handle your business says something and it's particularly going to come into play at sometime in a team environment.
Following Adams' switch to Auburn, the following opinion was expressed by Chad Simmons. "I think he can go farther playing in a system like that than he could have in the triple option offense at Georgia Tech and that's not a knock at Georgia Tech or Paul Johnson," wrote Simmons. I respect Chad and include his insights regularly in these articles but I don't agree here. First, you can probably imagine that this is the type of negative recruiting Tech coaches face on the road. The problem is, people can and will continue to say that until Tech puts some of Johnson's OL into the League. When you have a player like wide receiver Demaryius Thomas have success in such a big and notable way, guys can no longer say a wide receiver from a triple-option offense can't have success in the NFL. Coach Johnson will have to put some linemen in the league too to shut off that criticism. Personally, I don't buy it at all. The NFL is full of sharp minds who know how to spot talent – and they are paid handsomely to do so. If you can play, you'll be spotted. And I don't think honing skills in a run-oriented offense hurts you.
Particularly on the offensive line, I always note in NFL games what a hodgepodge of teams make up the starting lineups at those positions. Below are the offensive line starters from the two Super Bowl teams. Without researching it all in great depth, I suspect there are several different offensive systems and coaching styles.
Johnson will just need to get a player or two in the league at OL or he could continue to face that criticism on the recruiting trail. Let's hope that following his senior season Uzzi is able to put that to rest and make it in the NFL. As noted in the above example, the fact that you see a lot of guys from non-football factory teams playing OL in the NFL shows that these guys can develop late and come from places like North Texas and Southeast Missouri State.
Other guys connected along the way as having an offer from Tech include the following: Joe Harris (South Carolina), Caleb Peterson (North Carolina), Mark Harrell (Notre Dame), Vadal Alexander (LSU), Derrick Nelson (Rutgers), and Mike Madaras (Maryland). Harris had Tech as an early Top 5 school before eventually becoming a Gamecock. Madaras is from the same school as Louis Young so there was a connection but Mike committed to Maryland early on. These misses show that the coaches cast a wide early net and at least took a shot at some of the bigger names.