ATLANTA — Georgia Tech will bring momentum generated by two straight wins and encouraging injury news into Saturday’s rivalry game against Georgia.
The return of leading rusher Dedrick Mills from a two-game suspension provides an added boost.
An undisclosed violation of team rules forced Mills to sit out the Yellow Jackets’ wins over Virginia Tech and Virginia the last two weeks. Marcus Marshall, who ran for 127 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run, in last week’s 31-17 win over Virginia, may retain the starting job at the B-back position he has shared with Mills.
Mills, a freshman, also served a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules earlier in the season. He leads Georgia Tech with 578 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns despite missing the three games.
“It gives us some more depth,” coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday when asked about Mills’ return. “Most games we’ve played both those guys, and I’m sure that’s what will happen again. It’s good to have him back. I think he’s a good player.”
Added Johnson: “It never hurts to have one of your better players back playing.”
Marshall ran for 270 yards the last two games and said after the Virginia game the success made him a more confident runner.
“It definitely feels good to get some things going,” Marshall said. “In the game, especially as a running back, once you get some positive plays, it helps you with your confidence and helps you play better. I think it helps me play better.”
Johnson also expects to have some key players return from injuries.
Brad Stewart, tied for second on the team with 15 catches, is expected to play after leaving last week’s game with an ankle injury. Stewart also is the team’s punt returner.
Freshman left tackle Jahaziel Lee, who missed last week’s game with an undisclosed upper body injury, also is expected to play.
Lee and another freshman, left guard Parker Braun, are listed as starters. A third first-year offensive lineman, center Kenny Cooper, started against Virginia Tech.
Johnson said Mills, Lee, Braun, Cooper and receiver Jalen Camp have made this a strong class of freshmen on offense.
“I think that class is going to turn out to be a big class for Georgia Tech,” Johnson said.
Georgia Tech (7-4) might move up a notch on the Atlantic Coast Conference’s pecking order of bowl-eligible teams by beating Georgia. The bigger goal is winning the state rivalry.
Beating then-No. 18 Virginia Tech gave the Yellow Jackets a boost. Even so, Saturday’s game at Georgia could define the Yellow Jackets’ season.
Johnson said the season “could end up being really good or could end up being dead average.”
Johnson took a win over Georgia in 2008, his first season at Georgia Tech, but then suffered five straight losses in the series before the Yellow Jackets took a 30-24 overtime win in Athens in 2014.
Georgia (7-4) has won 13 of the last 15 in the series, including a 13-7 win in Atlanta last year.