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PJ likes effort at Tech practice; Albany’s Zenon falls down depth chart

With an injury slowing his progress, former DWS star Tony Zenon is currently no higher than No. 3 on Georgia Tech’s running back depth chart. (File Photo)

With an injury slowing his progress, former DWS star Tony Zenon is currently no higher than No. 3 on Georgia Tech’s running back depth chart. (File Photo)

ATLANTA — Coach Paul Johnson said much was accomplished in Georgia Tech’s fully-padded practice Wednesday following Tuesday’s double session. Johnson credited the defense for its effort.

Cornerback Lynn Griffin, recently moved from safety, meted out another big hit and cornerback Jemea Thomas, a former Fitzgerald High School star, contributed two pass breakups during the 11-on-11 portion of practice.

“I thought the guys had decent energy,” Johnson said. “Like I said, I thought the defense flew around pretty good and competed and had some energy.”

Center Jay Finch returned to practice, the first time he has been in a contact situation since the Sun Bowl. Finch had shoulder surgery following the season and missed spring practice and the first 14 practices of preseason. Finch worked with the first- and second-string offenses, sharing reps with Thomas O’Reilly, who retained the top spot on the depth chart.

“He was O.K.,” Johnson said of Finch. “I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.”

Offensive tackle Ray Beno, A-back Tony Zenon and wide receiver Micheal Summers continue to miss time with injuries. Beno and Summers, at least, are expected to return soon.

Johnson also shed some light on some details of the depth chart.

On safety Demond Smith ascending to share the first-string spot with Chris Milton:

“Demond’s had a good camp. He played a lot last year. He played in the ACC championship game, he played in the bowl game. … He was nursing a bad hamstring for a while but once he got that fixed, he’s come back, he’s played a lot of football.”

On Corey Dennis being first string wide receiver opposite Darren Waller and Jamie Alvarez, a walk-on, holding the No. 2 spot opposite DeAndre Smelter:

“They know where to go and they practice hard and work hard. As I said, all that stuff’s fluid. That’s for you (media) guys to have fun with.”

On possible depth and variety of options at wide receiver:

“I’m not sure there’s (not) two or three of those guys that are better than the rest. When we start playing, we’ll find out, I think.”

NEW DEPTH CHART RELEASED: Coaches released the latest two-deep depth chart this week, the first update since the start of Georgia Tech’s camp.

Smelter, one of the surprises of the preseason, is now listed with the second string behind starters Darren Waller and Corey Dennis. Smelter, who is playing football after playing on the baseball team for the past three years, was not on the depth chart going into camp.

At strong safety, where Milton was the sole starter going into camp, he is now listed as a co-No. 1 with Smith. At strongside defensive end, Emmanuel Dieke is on the first string. Going into camp, he shared it with Chris Crenshaw, who is now a co-No. 2 with Anthony Williams.

Only three spots go into the third string — B-back and both A-back spots — indicating the depth of the competition. At B-back, the order is David Sims, Zach Laskey and Broderick Snoddy, while at A-back, Robert Godhigh, Synjyn Days and Dennis Andrews are at one slot and Deon Hill, B.J. Bostic and former Deerfield-Windsor star and Albany Herald Player of the Year Tony Zenon are at the other. Hill has taken over the No. 1 spot from Bostic.

As coach Paul Johnson put it in a tweet, the chart is “accurate until … next practice.”

LIKING SAFETY: Defensive back Domonique Noble, recently moved from cornerback to safety, is happily ensconced.

“I love it,” he said of the switch.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof made the move, thinking Noble’s skillset, length and range suited him to play free safety. On his third play in the first practice after the change, he intercepted a pass, one of several he has made during camp. Noble is listed second on the depth chart, along with Coray Carlson, behind Jamal Golden, although Isaiah Johnson likely will take back the spot when he is cleared to play after recovering from his ACL tear.

“It’s going good,” Noble said. “It’s a big learning experience, but gradually I seem to pick it up more and more every day.”

FORMER THOMASVILLE STAR HOLTON TRANSFERS: Former safety Fred Holton has transferred to Valdosta State. He enrolled Tuesday, according to a school spokesman. Johnson dismissed Holton from the team Aug. 2 for violations of team rules.

In dropping to Division II, Holton can play immediately and has two years of eligibility remaining. He could gain a third season through a medical hardship waiver, having missed all of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with injuries suffered in preseason camp.

Valdosta State is the defending Division II national champion. The Blazers are coached by David Dean, a former Tech wide receiver. The school is about an hour’s drive from Holton’s hometown of Thomasville.