On offense continuity is more important. You want some rotation on the offensive line in case of fatigue in a game or as a failsafe for injuries but its also important for each lineman to know the tendencies of the guys next to him. Additionally, you usually want to grow and strengthen incoming linemen although a few do enter college with bodies ready for the college game. GT usually grows lineman so it's rare to see a kid ready to play instantly like Nat Dorsey did unless it's just to help with depth.
Quarterback is the toughest position on the field to play right away (but don't tell that to Reggie Ball). Running backs and wide receivers have the ability to play but usually only if the depth at the position is depleted or if they are just completely outstanding athletes (see Calvin Johnson).
Other positions that are usually tough to break into early are the fullback and tight end positions. Generally those players are full grown men and battle tested. You like to see players at those positions with a couple of years in the program to add the muscle, weight & skill to successfully fill those spots. Given the above challenges to playing early on offense, here are my thought on who could fit the bill in 2005 for the Yellow Jackets.
RT: Brad Honeycutt, Jacob Lonowski, Cordaro Howard
RG: Mansfield Wrotto, Eddy Parker, Salih Besirevic, Dan Voss
C: Nate McManus, Kevin Tuminello, Travis Kelly, Trey Dunmon
LG: Matthew Rhodes, LeShawn Newberry, Kieran Delaney, Randall Cox
LT: Andrew Gardner, A.J. Smith, Will Miller
My take on who plays:
GT has a pretty solid first team offensive line so opportunities for a true freshman starter seem slim. Depending on a few factors, though there may be an opening or two on the two-deep in 2005. Question marks heading into summer include: Will Wrotto stay on the OL? Will Tuminello return healthy? Will Kieran Delaney return at all? Delaney was back at home during spring practice, missing valuable experience.
The one player I see with the best chance to step in early is Dan Voss. One reason is the position he'll play… guard. All of the question marks from above affect the guard position. If Tuminello returns, he could take the starting center spot from McManus, moving him back to compete for a spot at guard and serve as the backup at center. If Wrotto goes to defense, the chances of McManus starting at guard are almost definite, given a healthy Tuminello. After Wrotto & Rhodes, the depth has very little experience. In a similar situation last season McManus was able to earn some playing time and didn't redshirt. The other reason I like Voss to get a look on the two deep is that I've seen him in person and he already has the college body. He's big and solidly built. Randall Cox is supposed to also have the toughness to possibly step in as well but I've seen less on Cox during recruiting and admittedly know less about him but certainly wouldn't count him out based on that. I've watched about 45 minutes of video on Voss and have seen him in person and I'm sold on his potential based on his high school play, and his physical & mental makeup.
Cordaro Howard and Will Miller are big tackles (especially Howard) but I think the opportunities are less on the two-deep there than at guard. At tackle the depth experience level is equally low but I feel like AJ Smith and Jacob Lonowski are promising backups with a higher potential to start in the future. The backups at guard seem more open to future challenges at their spots in my humble opinion. Howard is also well built but unless there are injuries I see Cordaro & Will taking a year to learn the position better and grow.
Trey Dunmon would have to be an instant star to necessitate being played in 2005. Tech currently has at least three players who know and can play the center position: McManus, Tuminello & walk-on Travis Kelly. That will be the toughest place to break in on the line in 2005.
WR: Calvin Johnson, James Johnson, Xavier McGuire, Martin Frierson
WR: Damarius Bilbo, Patrick Clark, Chris Dunlap, Eddie Lee Ivery Jr. (INJ), Greg Smith
TE: Michael Matthews, George Cooper, Wayne Riles, Gavin Tarquinio, Colin Peek
My take on who plays:
I made the chances of a freshman tight end playing early sound pretty bleak but now I'm going to go back on that for this case. Normally with 3-4 returning tight ends on a team, a freshman wouldn't have much of a chance. But two things make me thing that things could be different with Colin Peek. First off, the 4 returning players have been very inconsistent at the least. None have really stepped up to distinguish themselves against the others. Additionally this group has had past troubles as pass catchers even though their reputation for being good blockers is what gives them their true value. On the other hand Peek is the jewel of the class on offense. He was 1 of 3 Yellow Jackets commits to show up on the Scout.com's 2005 Southeast Top 100. He has a reputation for having very good hands and could already be perhaps the best receiver among the Tech tight ends. Having this skill, which is lacking at times among the current group, could distinguish Peek enough to get him onto the field.
Playing time for a freshman wide receiver could be scarce. After spring it is apparent that the coaches are very comfortable with the top 4 guys (Johnson, Johnson, Bilbo & Clark) and they will all see the field a good bit. After that group, Dunlap and McGuire have been inconsistent but have shown the ability to contribute in small doses when called upon. Between incoming players Frierson & Smith I don't really see an impact player to where they just have to play. However, an injury to one of the 4 key players could mean one of the two would be needed to provide depth. I think it's possible that Tech redshirts both players but I think it's more likely that one will actually play.
Receivers, like defensive backs, make good special teamers and returners. I think someone like Martin Frierson has a shot work his way up the depth chart some while contributing on special teams as well. From what I've seen on Martin, he has very good hands and good speed. He could be an asset to this year's team in several ways. Inconsistent hands have been the biggest problems for Dunlap & McGuire so I think it's possible that Frierson could challenge them for a spot early on. As for Greg Smith, I've seen little on him so I don't really know what his strengths are. I know his high school team ran the ball a lot so he may need some reps in the Tech offense before being ready for the college game.
My take on who plays:
Jonathan Garner is a talented quarterback and I hear that the coaches at Tech are very high on his future. With that being said, there is little chance he'll have to play in 2005. For the first time in a while Tech has multiple true quarterbacks as backups instead of players better suited for other positions as was the case with Pat Carter, Mark Logan and Damarius Bilbo. Reggie Ball is a returning 2-year starter and Bennett & Manley both showed in spring that they could provide the team with a better backup option than last season when both players were taking redshirts. Bottom-line at QB is that it would likely take at least one injury before Tech coaches begin to think about using Garner right away unless he just blows everyone away as Ball did two years ago. But that's a rare sight to see at quarterback.