Freshman Dedrick Mills has earned a spot in the Georgia Tech starting lineup.
Mills, who enrolled in January after graduating early at Ware County (Ga.) High, impressed coach Paul Johnson enough during the spring and fall camps that he will start on Saturday when the Yellow Jackets open against Boston College in Ireland.
“Honestly, he’s better than I thought he would be and I don’t usually say that about freshmen,” Johnson said.
Mills got the nod ahead of sophomore Marcus Marshall, who led the team with 654 yards rushing in 2015, when he broke through as a true freshman.
“(Mills) is hard to tackle, he’s 226 pounds, he’s got good vision, he’s got good speed, good balance and he’s got a good understanding of football,” Johnson said. “Does that mean when the lights come on and you’re a freshman and it’s the first game you might go the wrong way? Maybe, but I’ve got confidence he’s going to be a really good player here for a long time.”
While Mills will start, the Yellow Jackets will still depend heavily on Marshall, who Johnson has tabbed as “1-B.” Marshall has shown the ability to break big gains, but has must also get past some issues with ball security. Johnson said Mills and Marshall will both play a lot and said the position has plenty of depth there with Marcus Allen, Quaide Weimerskirch and KirVonte Benson.
“It’s more than just than two-deep,” Johnson said. “Dedrick is going to end up getting the starting job. He’s earned it in spring and fall camp. Marcus is kind of 1-B. Both going to play and we’re going to roll them like we did with Synjyn (Days) and Zach (Laskey). I think it will make both of them better.”
The two-deep roster has few surprises. Clinton Lynch is listed as the starter at one A-back spot, with Isiah Willis or Georgia transfer J.J. Green starting at the other spot. Qua Searcy, Austin McClellan and Nathan Cottrell may also play there.
“There’s a bunch of guys (at A-back) who have played that position and it gives you a little bit of depth and a chance to roll some guys in there,” Johnson said.
Brad Stewart and Ricky Jeune are the starters at wide receiver. The starting offensive line will be center Freddie Burden, guards Will Bryan and Shamire Devine and tackles Eason Fromayan and Trey Klock.
The defensive front starts KeShun Freeman and Rod Rook-Chungong at end and Patrick Gamble and Francis Kallon at tackle. The outside linebackers are Terrell Lewis and P.J. Davis with Chase Alford getting the nod in the middle over Brant Mitchell.
The secondary has Lance Austin at corner and A.J. Gray at free safety. The other spots are undecided – Corey Griffin or Lawrence Austin at strong safety and Lamont Simmons or Step Durham at the other corner spot.
“It’s the first time I can remember we’ve got everyone on the two-deep roster healthy,” Johnson said. “We haven’t lost anybody in camp. What a difference from a year ago. I’m excited about that and I’m excited to play and see where we’re at.”
The Yellow Jackets will leave for Dublin on Wednesday after practice and arrive on Thursday morning.