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After long wait, Jackets, Hokies ready to rumble

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech and Virignia Tech have had just as much anticipation about the opening week of the 2012 college football season.

The Yellow Jackets and the Hokies will have to wait one more day before they finally get a chance to tee it up for the first time this year against each other Monday night at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.

And from his perspective, Tech head coach Paul Johnson said his team is more than ready to play.

"It's exciting to ... finally be this close to getting a chance to play football again," Johnson said Friday in his opening remarks of his first weekly press conference of the season. "I think any time you go through the offseason and the drudgery of camp, for the players and everybody involved, you're actually looking forward to the games and having a chance to see what progress you've made.

"Clearly the challenge will be huge ... Monday. We've got a heck of an opponent, in Virginia Tech. A top 20 team, (an ACC Coastal) division game on the road. It'll be a tremendous challenge, but it's also a tremendous opportunity."

Ranked No. 15 in the preseason Associated Press poll, the Hokies, who feature such impact players as quarterback Logan Thomas and defensive end James Gayle, are a very formidable foe under any circumstances, but especially in a season opener.

Much of the interest -- at least from the media and the national television audience -- will focus on the matchup Tech's spread option offense and Virginia Tech's defense.

A particular focus may be how well and how quickly redshirt senior quarterback Tevin Washington and the Jackets' offense can operate against a Hokies defensive unit that has been traditionally stubborn under head coach Frank Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

"They always have good defensive players," Johnson said of Virginia Tech. "They're going to play within their system, I would think. They haven't varied from it a great deal. We're going to be within our system. They're going to be within theirs. And we'll play.

"There will be some tweaks, I'm sure, and some different things you'll have to adjust to during the game. But I don't suspect we'll see a lot of wholesale changes from what they've done the last four times we've played."

While the Jackets may not be making wholesale changes, they will definitely experience a few personnel tweaks that weren't necessarily planned on at the beginning of training camp.

For example, injuries throughout camp and developments in the final week of preseason practice have resulted in Collins Hill grad and 2009 Daily Post Offensive Player of the Year Charles Perkins getting the start at B-back on Monday, though Johnson added that incumbent David Sims and Zach Laskey are also expected to see action.

And while the B-back by committee approach is different from what the situation has been throughout Johnson's first four seasons at Tech, when single go-to backs like Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen were featured, the coach believes it is more of a function of an accumulation of depth, rather than a lack of it.

"I think that position is fluid," Johnson said of the B-back situation. "You've got, really, four and even five guys that have had good camps. I could throw (redshirt sophomore) Matt Connors in there, too. ... (Redshirt freshman) Broderick Snoddy brings some things. They all bring something different to the table, and this week in practice, Charles has probably been the best at all of them. ... Overall, he kind of had the best week.

"We're planning on going in -- we'll see how it goes, but may even rotate series with (Perkins) and Zach and see how it goes. ... He's a guy that's got good athletic ability and shown some toughness and fought through some things. I said two weeks ago when everybody was making a big deal out of the depth chart then, it's fluid. It's still fluid. He just happens to be the starter right now."

Perkins may not be the only Gwinnett grad that has an impact on the Tech offense Monday.

With redshirt senior receiver Chris Jackson expected to be held out due to uncertainty about his academic status, Norcross grad Anthony Autry has become one of just two true freshman -- along with cornerback D.J. White -- to be listed on the Jackets' two-deep depth chart.

"Anthony's a good athlete," Johnson said. "He's got good speed. He comes out of breaks well. He plays hard. He's raw. We'll see how much he plays. If we go into a three-receiver rotation, Darren Waller will be the first guy up. But with the loss of Chris, Anthony's probably going to wind up playing some.

"We'll try to use him in certain situations, but I've got confidence in Anthony. He's got a bright future. Until you get in the games, you don't know what's going to happen, but what we've seen in practice leads me to believe that he's got a good career (ahead of him) and will be a really good player for us."