Q&A with Georgia Tech OL Shaq Mason

There’s a tradition of strong offensive lines at Georgia Tech, with the Yellow Jackets finishing either first or second in the ACC in yards-per-carry every year since 2006. This fall’s line features some new faces, but guard Shaq Mason has the unit poised to be one of the ACC’s best groups again in 2014. We caught up with Mason to see how Tech’s O-line was looking as it gets set for the start of fall camp.

You’ve got two new starters on the line this year. How’s the group coming together so far this summer?

Shaq Mason: It’s coming together pretty good. We’re on a mission. We’re two steps ahead of where we were last year, which is a good sign.

What makes you say that?

SM: Just the way we’ve meshed. We’re closer as a unit this year. We all know every Thursday we all get together, set up on-field drills and then go out to eat after that, different stuff like that. That’s something that we just did. We weren’t doing that last year at all.

How did that come about this year?

SM: It was my idea. I just wanted us to be closer as an O-line. The team goes as far as we go. So I thought I’d put that in.

Who puts down the most calories when you all go out to eat?

SM: It’s probably even. We try not to go all out because we’ve got to weigh in the next day.

There’s a lot of turnover in the backfield this year, with QB Vad Lee and running backs David Sims and Robert Godhigh all gone. What does that mean for the offensive line?

SM: It doesn’t really affect us. If we do our job, they’ll run free and make plays. Basically, as our seniors left -- Robbie and Vad and David -- we knew we’d have some new guys back there, but we knew if we were doing our job, it wouldn’t be that different. It’s on us, but we’re looking forward to taking on that load.

Your unit has been one of the best in the ACC for a long time, but you don’t seem to get as much credit, probably because of the system you run on offense. Does it feel like your work gets undervalued nationally?

SM: It is undervalued, but we don’t look at it that much. At the end of the day, football is football. I’m an O lineman, and if I move a defender from Point A to Point B against his will, my job is done. That’s the mindset around the whole nation. It’s undervalued, and we get a lot of flack about it, but at the end of the day, it’s just football.

The Coastal Division looks pretty wide open this fall, with Duke, North Carolina, Pitt and others all looking like possible contenders. Are you interested to see where you stack up?

SM: Oh yes, no doubt. We’re very interested to see. We get into ACC play early, and it’s going to tell us where we stand early on. I’m really looking forward to it.

Does the more difficult early schedule play into that desire to build a strong bond on the line during the offseason?

SM: That’s another thing. If you get into it early -- this had to start in January. You can’t get that mindset now. It goes way back. So I’m glad we’ve gotten a jump on everything, because we knew we were getting into ACC play early, and we’re looking pretty good right now.

So what more do you want to see from the group between now and the start of fall camp?

SM: I just want to see everybody take steps forward. We can’t afford to go backward. I want to see us grind and take steps forward every day.