Georgia Tech took advantage of their early schedule and jumped out to a 6-0 record and were ranked as high as #12 in the country. The season turned in Charlottesville when the upstart Cavs pulled off the upset of the Jackets. Georgia Tech went just 2-5 (including the bowl loss to Utah) to close the season and left a bitter taste in Paul Johnson’s mouth and lots of questions to answered. To get their take on the 2011 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and an early look into 2012, we talked to The ACC and SEC Blog.
CFBZ: After starting out 6-0, Tech won just 2 of their last 7 games. What went wrong?
The ACC and SEC Blog: The Yellow Jackets ran into much tougher opponents to beat. Just two of the first six opponents Tech beat ended with winning records while of six of the final seven had at least a .500 record or better. I also think the Jackets began looking ahead to the tough part of their schedule after winning at NC State and over looked a prepared Virginia team. Miami just has Paul Johnson’s offense number shutting them down the last three seasons. A lot of teams lost to Virginia Tech and Georgia this season. The bowl loss was on Johnson for going too conservative on offense and making a weak defense hold a lead.
CFBZ: It’s been two years for Al Groh and the switch to the 3-4 defense. On paper the defense stayed pretty stagnant versus 2010. What will it take for Tech to take the next step defensively?
The ACC and SEC Blog: Get three big, athletic defensive lineman like you see at Alabama or Georgia. Then back that up with four good linebackers. Despite returning all three starters up front, Tech was clearly over matched against physical teams especially at the nose guard. God bless Logan Walls, but he simply isn’t a dominating player like you need in the 3-4. I thought OLB Jeremiah Attaochu would have more of a impact this season than he did The secondary played pretty well most of the season save for one safety position. Until Georgia Tech gets better in the front seven, teams will continue to use power sets to run the ball and control the clock.
CFBZ: Is Tevin Washington the answer for Georgia Tech at QB or do you see someone else as a potential starter for 2012?
The ACC and SEC Blog: The QB competition will start back up again in the Spring, but I expect Washington to emerge as the starter barring injury. I have no clue what Washington did to a faction of the fan base that continually blames him for everything. Washington was a good QB this season, not a great one, but he certainly wasn’t the main reason Tech struggled in the second half of the season. His backup this season, Synjyn Days, is more physically gifted, but I am not sure he can hold onto the ball well enough to overtake Washington. The wild card is Vad Lee who practiced with the Varsity all last season. He has the highest ceiling of all three mostly due to his passing ability. The Jackets will sign two QBs in this class, but I expect both to redshirt.
Paul Johnson has bigger problems (Defense, Special Teams) to solve than the QB position right now. If he gets those improved then Washington could lead this team to an ACC title next season. If he doesn’t get those problems worked out then Washington, Days, nor Lee can win the ACC.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
The ACC and SEC Blog: Despite a really sour end to the season, I think it has to be good coming off 2010. You started 6-0, beat a top five (at the time) Clemson team on national TV, and had a really, really good chance at nine or even 10 wins if the ball bounces your way.
I think Tech’s lack of success has a lot more to do with issues outside of Johnson’s control than what he does control.
CFBZ: Looking ahead to the 2012 season, what are biggest issues facing Georgia Tech?
The ACC and SEC Blog: As I mentioned above, its Defense and Special Teams. Things have to change in the off season conditioning program because too many teams are simply physically bigger and stronger than the Jackets especially on the defensive side. Regarding Special Teams, I think when you get better players overall your coverage teams will become better. The Kicking positions are an enigma because Tech has usually been pretty solid here, but it really hurt them in two of their losses (Miami, Utah). I would not be surprised to see the Jackets take a kicker in this class.
Also, the schedule is tougher with trips to Blacksburg, Clemson, Athens, and BYU replacing Kansas so Tech will have to be better to get to eight wins again.
And though many will not consider receiver a big position in Johnson’s offense, Tech returns 0 receptions from 2011 after Stephen Hill’s early departure. Finding a deep threat will be key to a successful offense.
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