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Personnel changes among early challenges for Tech

ATLANTA — Three days into preseason practice in preparation for its opener against Elon on Aug. 31 at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech has had to deal with a few personnel issues.

Some of them were expected, such as getting starting left tackle Ray Beno some work at center while Jay Finch awaits to be cleared by team doctors to return to practice following an offseason shoulder injury.

Others were not, such as the recent dismissal of reserve safety Fred Holton of the team due to an unspecified violation of team rules.

Of the latter, Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson was as blunt as usual in discussing the reason for the action against the redshirt junior, who has been plagued by injury the last two seasons.

“It was probably both our decision,” Johnson said when asked if Holton’s absence from the team was by his choice or Holton’s. “He chose to break a rule, and I chose to let him no longer be on the team. … I think Fred has a lot of ability. I think he can be a really good football player, and hopefully, that will happen for him somewhere. It just didn’t seem to work out here.

“He’s been about as unlucky as you could be. He’s been injured a large part of the time he’s been here, through no fault of his own. But you still have rules, and they apply to everyone. They don’t just apply to some.”

Legends come home

Two of the program’s biggest names over the past 30 years have returned to Tech as part of the coaching and support staff this season.

Lawrenceville native and Central Gwinnett grad Ted Roof, who was an All-American and All-ACC linebacker for the Jackets from 1982-85, is back for his second stint as defensive coordinator, previously serving in the position from 1998-2001.

Meanwhile, Tech’s career passing leader Joe Hamilton is also back after serving as running backs coach down the street at Georgia State the past two years.

While Hamilton, who finished second to Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in the voting for the 1999 Heisman Trophy, has filled in as wide receivers coach during the first few days of preseason practice while regular coach Buzz Preston recovers from an illness, his primary role will be off the field as a recruiting assistant.

In addition to what they bring to the table for their respective job, Johnson likes the fact that both Roof and Hamilton have succeeded on the field and earned their degrees from Tech to give the current Jackets a good example to follow.

“You walk into the meeting rooms and look up on the walls and see guys who’ve been All-ACC, and you see the plaques and see their pictures, and they’re here,” Johnson said. “That’s great. The linebackers walk into the linebacker room to meet, and there’s the coach’s picture up on the wall. So, I think (both Roof and Hamilton have) got instant credibility with those guys.

“Plus, they know the academic side of it. They’ve gone to class here. So, I think that’s a positive. And it just so happens they were both very good players. Sometimes, you can have guys who went to a school and played at a school, but they weren’t the marquee players. Both those guys were. … So, you’ve got guys here who have gone through the process. It’s always a positive when you can do that.”

In addition, another former Jacket, Saeed Khalif (known as Kyle Ambrose when he played defensive line at Tech 1984-86), has joined the staff this season as Assistant Director of Player Personnel after serving as defensive coordinator at Savannah State.

Green still on the mend

The status of Grayson grad Shawn Green remains unchanged as he continues to recover from an unspecified injury suffered late during spring practice.

Johnson said the 6-foot, 280-pound redshirt senior should be able to return to the team at some point during the season, though no timetable has yet been set.

Green had been expected to be a major contributor on the defensive line after finishing with 22 combined tackles, including three for loss, with an interception in seeing action in all 14 of Tech’s games last season.

Surging Sims

Among the brighter health news coming into preseason practice was that B-back David Sims is 100 percent after being hampered by leg injuries almost the entirety of last season.

Johnson has liked what he’s seen from Sims so far, and believes the 6-0, 220-pound senior is primed for a big season now that he’s healthy again.

“I think you’re going to see a completely different David Sims this year,” Johnson said. “He played the better part of last year on one leg.”

For his part, Sims definitely feels better, and is ready to prove it on the field.

“It’s a big difference,” Sims said. “You go from laboring and doing everything you can just to be on the field … to actually being to the point of feeling healthy and feeling like yourself. It just changes your whole demeanor.”