Thursday, August 11, 2011

season preview: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


9/1: Western Carolina (Thu.)
9/10: @ Middle Tennessee
9/17: Kansas
9/24: North Carolina
10/1: @ NC State
10/8: Maryland
10/15: @ Virginia
10/22: @ Miami
10/29: Clemson
11/5: BYE
11/10: Virginia Tech (Thu.)
11/19: @ Duke
11/26: Georgia

Skip: Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest

Projected starters:

QB: Tevin Washington (rJr.)
BB: Preston Lyons (5Sr.)
AB: Orwin Smith (Jr.)
AB: Roddy Jones (5Sr.)
WR: Tyler Melton (Sr.)
WR: Stephen Hill (Jr.)
LT: Phil Smith (rJr.)
LG: Will Jackson (rSo.)
C: Jay Finch (rSo.)
RG: Omoregie Uzzi (rJr.)
RT: Tyler Kidney (rSo.)

DE: Jason Peters (5Sr.)
NT: Logan Walls (5Sr.)
DE: Izaan Cross (Jr.)
OLB: Jeremiah Attaochu (So.)
ILB: Julian Burnett (Jr.)
ILB: Daniel Drummond (rSo.)
OLB: Steven Sylvester (Sr.)
CB: Rod Sweeting (Jr.)
CB: Louis Young (So.)
S: Rashaad Reid (Sr.)
S: Isaiah Johnson (So.)

K: Justin Moore (So.)
P: Sean Poole (rSo.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Paul Johnson (4th season)

Media prediction: 4th, Coastal Division


2010 1st team: RB Anthony Allen, C Sean Bedford
2010 2nd team: G Omoregie Uzzi
2010 HM: none
2011 preseason: G Omoregie Uzzi

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Is the Paul Johnson honeymoon coming to an end?  GT's had a rough 12 months - their 2009 ACC championship was stripped for using ineligible players, and the 2010 season fell three miles short of expectations.  The offense regressed, and the defense showed some major adjustment pains to Al Groh's 3-4 setup.  This year, GT will be trying to make it happen with a new quarterback and a thoroughly revamped defense behind the line.


Ah, quarterback competition.  GT has it, but with a different flavor than UVA's.  Whereas UVA is looking for someone to step up out of a muddle, GT has a heir apparent in Tevin Washington; the question is whether he keeps the job or gives way to redshirt freshman Synjyn Days.  Washington ran the show last year after Josh Nesbitt's season ended with a broken arm, but the results were less than desirable: GT was 1-4 post-Nesbitt after starting 5-3, and the only win was a 10-point squeaker over Duke.

The other most important position in GT's offense is the B-back, which is basically the feature tailback.  Tech has to replace Anthony Allen, and will look, at first, to Preston Lyons, who was used extremely sparingly last year.  There's likely to be some shuffling at first, especially if Lyons' results are less than stellar.  At least the A-back position is fairly loaded; Orwin Smith, Roddy Jones, and Embry Peeples all have plenty of experience there; they'll rotate frequently and provide a steady presence in a backfield that otherwise lacks one.  And Stephen Hill is growing nicely into the feature receiver position, though at Georgia Tech that means very little in the way of flashy statistics.

Of course, GT's offense relies on the offensive line to keep linemen out of the backfield long enough for the quarterback to make a decision, but the only sure thing on the line right now is right guard Omoregie Uzzi.  Uzzi was picked for the all-ACC preseason team; the rest of the line is in flux.  Left tackle Phil Smith just got himself suspended for the first two games of the season, and left guard Will Jackson has been out of camp with an injury.  And there will be brand new starters at center and right tackle.  Flux at the tackle position is a bad thing; the quarterback's reads often depend on what's going on at the ends of the line.  It's going to be an interesting start to the season for the Jackets while they settle down all the various questions on the offense.


Al Groh's first year as the GT defensive coordinator didn't go as planned.  GT had to put some square pegs into round holes and the results weren't good.  Despite having so many new starters, GT's defense might be poised to take some strides this year as players learn the system and better fits for that system are put on the field.

The defensive line should be able to do what Groh asks of a defensive line: stand its ground and give the linebackers space to make plays.  Izaan Cross is an absolutely huge defensive end at 292 pounds.  Logan Walls is a classic Groh DT who can clog the middle, and the Jackets will rotate T.J. Barnes, who stands a massive 6'7" and 333 pounds, behind him.

At linebacker, Jeremiah Attaochu is technically a new starter, but pulled down three sacks in a reserve role and looks like the prototypical Groh big rush linebacker, playing with his hand on the ground frequently.  (Think Clint Sintim.)  Groh went after Attaochu hard before he was fired at UVA, and did the same the moment he was hired at GT.  I suspect we'll find out why this season.  Julian Burnett and Steven Sylvester were productive last season - Burnett was the leading tackler and Sylvester led the team in TFL with 10.5 - and should continue to be so.

The secondary took some major graduation hits, though.  The remaining players are guys who've gotten playing time, but never in a starting role.  Rod Sweeting was the third cornerback last year, and safety Rashaad Reid has rotated into his share of plays in the past.  Reid was once a freshman all-American, but his career path since then has been backwards.  The rest of the secondary is more about potential than experience.  Sweeting was second on the team in passes defended last year with seven, so he looks capable of taking over; overall, though, the secondary is a big, big question mark.  Much has been made in GT circles of the lack of pressure on opponent quarterbacks.  Last year's secondary had experience and could help cover for that; this year, if there isn't pressure again, teams might find GT's pass defense to be very little obstacle.


Scott Blair's departure leaves a big hole at placekicker, and as ever, fans will hold their breath until a new one establishes himself.  Last year's punting was subpar as Sean Poole nudged Chandler Anderson out of the starting job, and still didn't reach 40 yards per kick.  That might be another ongoing battle as the season progresses.  Returns aren't in good shape either; B.J. Bostic averaged only 20.5 yards per kick return.


I was overly enthusiastic about Georgia Tech's prospects last year, suggesting they were likely to be 7-0 heading into the Clemson game.  They went 5-2, but won just one game the rest of the way.  If this were the GT of a couple years ago I'd suggest 7-0 again as a possibility, but there are just way too many up-in-the-air issues and probably a shortage of talent for them not to stub their toe a couple times.  Schedule-wise, they fortunately miss out on two of the conference's top defenses in BC and FSU.  GT fans for the most part blame the NCAA and not Paul Johnson for the punishment that was dropped on them (though largely the punishment was for not cooperating rather than the actual infringement) so Johnson is not actually under a world of pressure, but a season without a bowl game would fire up the cooker.  As with Clemson, I think GT will go to a bowl, but probably not a good one and would not be blown out of my chair to see them miss out.

1 comment:

PO13 said...

Hope Groh has a good end to his career coaching. I always respected the man and what he did for the UVA program and university.