ATLANTA — Georgia Tech left tackle Andrew Gardner, who leads the nation with 48 consecutive starts, will miss the rest of the season after deciding Tuesday to undergo shoulder surgery.
Injured in last week's win against Florida State, Gardner opted to have his left labrum repaired on Thursday so he will be ready for the NFL combine in February. The fifth-year senior, named first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference last year, is projected to get picked between the second and fourth rounds.
"After talking with his family, they felt this was the right thing to do," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "We'll support him and wish him the best. I certainly understand where he's coming from."
When the No. 22 Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2 ACC) visit No. 19 North Carolina (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday, they will start Austin Barrick in Gardner's spot. Georgia Tech also likely will start Nick Claytor for the second straight game instead of David Brown, who has a spinal injury.
"Honestly, I don't worry about that stuff," Johnson said. "You can't control it. If guys get hurt, then we'll put someone else in and let them play. My big thing is to make sure they know where they are going. If they do that, then we'll be fine.
"Nick and Austin pretty much played the whole game Saturday at right tackle, and I don't think anybody noticed any difference. One man's misery is another man's opportunity."
Georgia Tech leads the ACC and ranks eighth nationally with an average of 242.3 yards rushing. Johnson, now in his first year with the Jackets, indicated that Gardner originally hurt his shoulder last season.
"I think he probably hurt it a little worse two weeks ago against Virginia," Johnson said. "The doctors told him it was his decision. He could finish out the year and they could do it. He opted to do it now."
Central Michigan offensive lineman Andrew Hartline has started 47 straight games.