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October 26, 2011

The Center of Attention

Georgia Tech center Jay Finch is arguably the best lineman on the football team, but one offensive snap into the Miami game, Finch was being wheeled off the field with a leg sprain and now a trio of Jackets will aim to fill his shoes this week when 6th ranked Clemson comes to town. Junior center Nick McRae filled in as best he could on Saturday and he should get at least the opening series, but it could be center by committee the rest of the way for Tech.

"I am always ready to go into a game," McRae said after the Miami game. "Going after just one offensive play was a little bit of a shock, but we all have to pick up the slack while Jay is out."

McRae, utility lineman and starting left tackle Ray Beno and oft-injured redshirt freshman Morgan Bailey have been working with the Jackets three quarterbacks in practice all week knowing another seven-point outing won't get the job done against Clemson this week.

"Nick (McRae) will probably start and Morgan Bailey who came back last week will get some snaps at center and Beno will probably play some there too," head coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday evening on his weekly radio show.

Bailey has been sidelined with various injuries since he arrived on campus, but he looked sharp playing some offensive tackle and guard in the Jackets' season opener and had some good blocks. Beno played tackle and center in the loss to Miami and was originally recruited to play center by the Jackets in 2009.

"The biggest thing I have been doing is getting time at both positions in practice," Beno said. "As I've said before all of us need to know every position not only to know where we will get help on certain plays, but also for when someone goes down at another position."

When Beno plays center, Phil Smith will play left tackle and Tyler Kidney will play right tackle. Smith and Kidney have split time with Beno in a three-man rotation at tackle since fall camp. Coach Johnson said Finch is highly doubtful for Saturday's contest, so one of the three linemen will need to step up and fill that huge void in the middle of Tech's line if they want to upset the Tigers and stay alive in the race for the Coastal Division title in the ACC and have a shot at another ACC Championship and trip to the Orange Bowl.


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