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2013 Pre-Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2012 Record: 7-7 (5-3 in ACC)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (41-26 at GT, 26-14 in ACC)

Four Year Trend: 8 wins and 5.5 losses

Last Bowl Game: 2012 Sun Bowl: beat USC 21-7

Stadium: Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, GA (capacity = 55,000)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 47th out of 69 BCS teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference: 8/31 vs Elon, 10/12 at BYU, 11/23 vs Alabama A&M, 11/30 vs Georgia

Toughest Home Game: 9/21 vs UNC, 9/26 vs Virginia Tech

Toughest Road Games: 10/5 at Miami (FL), 11/14 at Clemson

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stat to Fear: converted on just 80% of trips to red zone (tied for 9th in ACC), gave up 124 pass plays of 10 yards or more

Stats to Cheer: gained 25 turnovers in 2012 (tied for 1st in ACC), converted on 45.64% of third downs (2nd in ACC), held opponents to 78.57% conversion rate in red zone (2nd in ACC)

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 50th out of 124 teams

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 8, Special Teams: 2

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Jeremiah Attaochu (69 tackles, 10 sacks), CB Jemea Thomas (86 tackles, 4 INT), LB Jabari Hunt-Days (84 tackles), S Isaiah Johnson (87 tackles)

Key Offensive Returnees: RB Zach Laskey (697 yds rush, 5.24 ypc), RB David Sims (682 yds rush (4.53 ypc, 4 TD), QB Vad Lee (544 yds rush, 9 rush TD, 596 yds pass, 4 pass TD, 3 INT)

Top 2013 Recruits: OT Shamire DeVine, WR Ricky Jeune, RB Travis Custis

 

Inside Scoop with The ACC and SEC Blog:

CFBZ: The QB play has been up and down since the departure of Joshua Nesbitt. With Tevin Washington leaving who will assume the duties?
 
The ACC and SEC Blog: Vad Lee is the overwhelming favorite to start at QB.  He is more of a passer than Washington was and faster than Nesbitt though not as big.  A portion of the GT fan base thinks QB play was the reason for the (mostly) disappointing results the last two plus years; that faction must not know anything about defense in football.  Washington was serviceable, was not going to lose the game, but lacked big play ability.  Lee brings much more big play ability, but some of those big plays will be for the other team especially early.  

His backup is Justin Thomas, who will have a package of plays in most games.  Thomas was an Alabama commit at one point and has blazing speed, but is on the small side.  I think Lee is the starter the entire way but would not be completely shocked if Thomas wins out due to his speed and athleticism.
 

Both QBs will operate more in the shotgun than Washington or Nesbitt did.  After QB Coach Brian Bohannon left to take over the new Kennesaw State program, Paul Johnson hired Bryan Cook from Cal Poly who runs the popular spread option offense.  Johnson will still call the plays but Cook will have influence especially if the shotgun flourishes.  Frankly, both Lee and Thomas probably both operate better in a shotgun than under center.  
 
 
CFBZ: Georgia Tech also seems to be missing that primary running back option that they've had in the recent past with players like Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen. Do they have a guy that will step up and take that job or will they continue to be RB by committee?
 
The ACC and SEC Blog: Once he recovered from early season injuries David Sims took over the starting job increasing his rushing yards each of the last six games.  Zach Laskey will also get some carries. Sims has the edge heading into Fall practice but Laskey, who is great at getting the tough yards, will be given a shot.  Both guys lack that burst that made Dwyer so dangerous so expect more grinding out drives.  Broderick Snoddy will see some time especially when GT is in the shotgun.  He was a Georgia state champion in the 100 and 200 meters but injuries have kept him off the field.  
 
In my opinion this has been the most disappointing area of Georgia Tech recruiting – to have the first two B-Backs get drafted and still playing in the NFL but not able to recruit another dynamic player.  The B-Back is the feature position of this offense and will get 20+ carries a game if they have the talent.
 
 
CFBZ: The Georgia Tech defense has been stuck in mediocrity the last few years. Will we see any changes on his side of the football?

 
The ACC and SEC Blog: Ted Roof is coming back to Georgia Tech where he starred in the 80s and was Defensive Coordinator in George O'Leary's last three seasons.  The defense is switching back to a 4-3 after two plus seasons under Al Groh's 3-4 makeup.  After Groh was let go in mid season, Tech played a 4-3 so the concepts will be familiar to the returning players.  

Roof wants to bring more of an attacking style (but doesn't every DC want to do this?), but I am not sure he has the players yet to do this.  The defensive line is still a big concern as they have not been able to generate a significant pass rush since Derrick Morgan. One thing Roof definitely brings is a history of being able to stop the run.  Opposing teams have been able to turn the sticks on Johnson by running against his defense and holding the ball.  If Roof can have a top 25 rush defense then that will be a major improvement. I still think Tech is 2-3 years away of better recruiting from a top 25 defense.  

Arguably the most NFL ready prospect, Jeremiah Attaochu, will be moving from OLB to DE in the new defense.  Jemea Thomas will be starting at one corner and has a chance to be All-ACC.  A linebacker to watch out for is MLB Jabari Hunt-Days.  

 

CFBZ:  What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?

The ACC and SEC Blog: I think 9 wins will be a clear success and puts GT in position to return to the ACC Championship Game and have a chance of beating UGA which should be the top goals every year.  But if Ga. Tech only won 7 or 8 and somehow was able to upset the Bulldogs or win the ACC fans would certainly take that too. 

 

Verdict:

Paul Johnson took the ACC by storm going 20-7 in his first two seasons and posting a 12-4 conference record. But that was with Chan Gailey's players. The last three years tell a different story. A story of mediocrity as the Yellow Jackets have gone 21-19 overall and 14-10 in the ACC. Generally speaking, the best teams that the Jackets play every year are Clemson, Georgia and Virginia Tech. In his first two years, Johnson posted a 5-2 record against that trio. Since then he's gone just 1-8. Can Johnson get the Jackets back on track?

Paul Johnson has had time to recruit a triple option QB for his system but he's still yet to find anyone who could run it as well as Joshua Nesbitt did. It looks like Vad Lee is the next guy up as Tevin Washington has exhausted his eligibility. Lee was a highly sought after recruit who also had offers from South Carolina and Auburn. At RB, Tech has options but they don't seem to have that workhorse back like they've had in the past with Dwyer and Allen. If a workhorse can step up that will help the offense click. Another area where Tech has been missing the last few years is that go-to receiver that they can throw it deep to and hope they can win the jump ball. Demaryius Thomas caught 46 passes in 2009. Since then the Jackets leaders in receptions have caught 15,28 and 18 passes. Tech has to be a little more balanced or at least have the threat that they can go deep and hurt you. The strength of the offense is the offensive line as they return 105 starts and they are in tune with what Paul Johnson wants to do offensively. Phil Steele ranks this unit as the third best in the ACC and Athlon has them fourth.

On defense, Georgia Tech allowed just 20.3 points per game in Paul Johnson's debut season. In every season since then, the defense has allowed more points than the previous season. There isn't as much talent on this squad as Johnson inherited when he came to town but there is talent. DE Jeremiah Attaochu is All-ACC caliber and Jabari Hunt-Days is a star in the making. The question will be their support staff. Isaiah Johnson and Jemea Thomas are good secondary players but they had to make way too many tackles last year. The ability to stop the run is a concern as Tech got gashed last year by Middle Tennessee, Miami, Georgia and Clemson. They gave up 27 TDs on the ground in 2012, which was next to last in the ACC. 

Georgia Tech's out of conference schedule has two freebies and two really tough games as they travel to BYU and must play Georgia (who they have beaten just once in the last twelve years and have not beaten at home since 1999). The in-conference schedule lacks FSU so that's a good thing. The key games will be the divisional games against UNC, Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) and all of those come in the first half of the schedule so we will know the direction and trajectory of this team by the mid-year point. I would not be shocked to see Georgia Tech win their half of the ACC but I also wouldn't be shocked to see them finish fourth or fifth. There really doesn't seem to be that much difference between teams in the Coastal so it should be a really good race. For Georgia Tech, it's about re-establishing their option as the lethal threat it was when Johnson first arrived and improving on the defensive side of the football. Can they get back to the ACC Championship Game? I think they are a year or two away (if Lee's the right guy).

Prediction: 7-5

 

Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews:

ACC- MiamiVirginia
Big 12- Kansas StTexas Tech
Independent: ArmyIdahoNavyNew Mexico StOld Dominion
The American- HoustonMemphisRutgersSMUTempleUCFUConnUSF
Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots

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