September 1, 2009

Jackets need healthy receivers

With a few days left of practice before the Jacksonville State game, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets find themselves a little shorthanded at a position that they had great depth at a few weeks ago. The Jackets receivers might not be the most important part of the offense, but they are critical to the team's success.

Heading into the first game, starters Demaryius Thomas and Kevin Cone are healthy as is backup Stephen Hill, but outside of those three things get a little iffy for the Jackets. Redshirt freshman Quentin Sims is also a part of the rotation, but he is spending time in practice as the team's emergency quarterback behind Josh Nesbitt and Tevin Washington.

"The one position we are a little short at is wide receiver. With Tyler Melton going down and Zack Fisher is status uncertain for the game," head coach Paul Johnson said. "We have Demaryius Thomas and Kevin Cone to start and Stephen Hill will play some but after that I am not sure how deep we will get at receiver."

Melton sprained the MCL in his left knee and could miss up to five weeks. Fisher has a leg injury and Daniel McKayhan has a groin injury sidelining them. Georgia Tech's coaching staff will not burn true freshman Jeremy Moore's redshirt for a couple of games, so walk-ons like Geoff Greco and Onu Okebie could see some time on Saturday if the game gets out of hand.

"Some of the guys we were counting on for depth may not play Saturday," Johnson said. "Other than that, I think we are healthy and we have everyone that we can possibly have ready to go.

Sophomore A-back Roddy Jones status for Saturday's game has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable, but Coach Johnson may be reluctant to play him.

"Roddy Jones is available if we want to play him. He started practicing full contact yesterday, but that may be a game-time decision on what we are going to do with Roddy," Johnson said. "Physically, he can go if we need to have him."

Melton, backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw (broken clavicle) and middle linebacker Kyle Jackson are the only returning players who are official out of action for Saturday's game.

Young middle linebacker making an impact

True freshman middle linebacker Julian Burnett has a knack for making tackles and his performance in camp has impressed the coaches enough move him into the backup position behind starter Brad Jefferson. Burnett looked like he would be the fourth middle linebacker heading into the season, but Kyle Jackson is still recovering from a foot injury and he was able to overtake B.J. Machen in a head-to-head battle in practice.

"There is tough competition out there and it is a lot different than high school," Burnett said. "I came in with no expectations and in that sense it is sort of a surprise how fast I was able to learn some of the stuff, but I came in the mindset that I wanted to play my first and that is what I am going to do."

Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary has been impressed with Burnett's skills at middle linebacker.

"Julian has been productive no matter what situation you put him in he always seems to find the ball," Jean-Mary said. "He is hard to knock to the ground and hard to cut. Julian always seems to be in a football position and able to take on a block and get to the ball carrier. Those have been the impressive things that he has done. He plays fast and he plays strong."

Coach Johnson also noted during his press conference that Burnett has impressed him.

"I hesitate to single anyone out. There were a couple of the freshmen that caught my eye in camp. Julian Burnett caught my eye in camp as being a guy that will play some. As far as returning guys, I think a lot of them have gotten better. Preston Lyons is a guy that has gotten better every week and should help us. There are a lot of guys in that category. I do not think there is any one guy that was overly surprising."

Lyons at B-back will back up Jonathan Dwyer along with Richard Watson and Lucas Cox.

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