Curtis Ryans didn’t get a lot of attention coming out of high school because his grades weren’t great. But coach Paul Johnson saw something in the young man from North Cobb and offered him a chance. Now Ryans is rewarding that trust.
Ryans, a redshirt freshman who plays defensive end, is one of the players who have benefited from a season of attrition at Georgia Tech.
The team that Georgia Tech will field Thursday night against North Carolina State will be considerably different than the one that started the home opener in September. And Ryans is expected to play a role.
Injuries have taken a deep toll on the team, which started the season with a deficit in the experience department. This already-young team has continued to get younger as the older players have been sidelined by a variety of injuries.
The Yellow Jackets have started 44 different players over the first 10 games of the schedule — second-most among major college teams. Only N.C. State, with 45 starters, has used more. By comparison, a year ago Georgia Tech used only 35 different starters in 13 games.
“We’ve got to do a better job collectively making sure that we’ve got guys throughout the entire organization learning how to play at a high level, regardless of attrition,” Tech coach Geoff Collins said. “They’ve got to be ready, when it’s their turn, to step up and play and play at a high level, and to play physical, tough football.”
The Yellow Jackets (2-8, 1-6) host N.C. State (4-6, 1-5) on Thursday at 8 p.m. in a nationally televised game on ESPN. A win would prevent Georgia Tech from finishing in the cellar of the ACC’s Coastal Division.
If there is a bright spot in the volatility, it’s that many inexperienced players have been given a chance to play. Players like Ryans, who might not have otherwise gotten on the field, have found themselves in starting roles. Ryans has worked his way up to get “above the line” and was on the field when the game started on Saturday.
“I just kept working hard and here I am,” Ryans said. “I was nervous, but felt I was made for the moment. I’ve been playing football all my life.”
In last week’s 45-0 loss to Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets were without 13 players who had been listed on their “above the line” depth chart at some point this season. Six of those were linemen and four were defensive linemen, which helps explain why the defense gave up 461 yards against the Hokies.
Georgia Tech had five players who made their first start of the season and four of those made the first start of their career: redshirt freshmen Peje Harris at wide receiver, Jordan Domineck and Ryans at defensive end and true freshman Dylan Deveney.
Ryans took advantage of his opportunity. He had a career-high four tackles and recorded a tackle for loss on the second play of the game. The performance didn’t surprise Ryan, who said he learned from competing against the starters in practice each day.
“At practice with the 1’s, I noticed I could do it,” Ryans said. “I just kept playing harder and harder. The 1's made me who I am.”
Domineck took advantage of his opportunity, too. He had five tackles and shared a sack with JaQuon Griffin. They were playing in place of Kelton Dawson, Chris Martin Antwan Owens and Chico Bennett, a group that had combined to make 20 starts on the defensive line this fall.
On offense, Deveney started when Georgia Tech opened with two tight ends. He caught two passes, including a 10-yarder for a first down. Harris caught one pass for 4 yards.
“There were a bunch of guys playing roles that they had not had to play all year and they battled,” Collins said.
Kickoff set for UGA game: The annual Old-Fashioned Hate game between Georgia Tech and Georgia will begin at noon on Nov. 30. It will be televised nationally on ABC. A limited number of tickets were still available.