#19 Georgia Tech Football 2015 Preview

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Overall Rank: #19
#3 ACC

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The ACC Coastal Division was not where the best football was being played last year, but Georgia Tech was quietly putting together a great season and by the end of it they were not being very quiet about it. The Yellow Jackets lost a couple games against Duke and North Carolina in October, but were extremely dangerous after that. They closed out the regular season with wins over Clemson and Georgia and went into the ACC title game with a lot of momentum. Of course, Georgia Tech lost to Florida State, but they played very well in that game. The Yellow Jackets ended up in the Orange Bowl where a strong third quarter led to an impressive 49-34 victory over Mississippi State.

2014 Record: 11-3, 6-2
2014 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Mississippi State (W 49-34)
Coach: Paul Johnson (59-35 at Georgia Tech, 166-74 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Paul Johnson
Defensive Coordinator: Ted Roof

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Justin Thomas, QB, 1,086 yards
Passing: Justin Thomas, QB, 1,719 yards
Receiving: Broderick Snoddy, RB, 100 yards
Tackles: P.J. Davis, LB, 119
Sacks: KeShun Freeman, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Jamal Golden, S, 4; D.J. White, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: S Demond Smith, DL Adam Gotsis, K Harrison Butker

Key Losses: RB Synjyn Days, RB Zach Laskey, RB Charles Perkins, WR DeAndre Smelter, WR Darren Waller, OL Shaquille Mason, LB Quayshawn Nealy, S Isaiah Johnson

With Coach Paul Johnson’s triple option attack, Georgia Tech will be among the top rushing teams in the nation even if there are a lot of skill players to replace. But quarterback Justin Thomas had a strong sophomore season, rushing for a team high 1,086 yards and throwing for 1,719 yards. Thomas is still developing and the big game experience he picked up in 2014 should make him more efficient and consistent this season. Thomas does need to find some new receivers with DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller gone. Nobody else on the team caught more than ten passes. The bigger concern though is at running back where the trio of Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins must be replaced after combining for 2,218 yards on the ground. Redshirt freshman C.J. Leggett was brimming with potential, but a torn ACL leaves little depth at the B-back position and Stanford graduate transfer Patrick Skov may be asked to step into a starting role. At the A-back spot, Broderick Snoddy showed potential last year before breaking his leg. With four starters returning to the offensive line and Thomas pulling the strings, the lack of experience in the backfield is far less of a concern at Georgia Tech than it sounds.

The defense struggled last season, ranking 13th in the conference in total defense and tenth in scoring defense. That was a very young and inexperienced unit. Depth was a problem too, especially in the front four, but the story could be the same this year. Jabari Hunt-Days, who was ineligible in 2014, will join All-ACC honoree Adam Gotsis in the middle of the line, while sophomore end KeShun Freeman will be asked to get to the quarterback. There are more bodies than last year, so Coach Johnson could be able to rotate his linemen more, but there seems to be a pretty big drop off after the starters. Seniors Tyler Marcordes and Anthony Harrell must replace the production of lost linebacker Quayshawn Nealy. Nealy was a great leader in the middle of the defense and it remains to be seen if Marcordes and Harrell can fill that role. The secondary returns the most talent with safety Jamal Golden and cornerbacks Chris Milton and D.J. White leading the way. Still, the unit as a whole needs to be more effective if Georgia Tech wants to continue to be a player on the national stage.

The Bottom Line:
The Yellow Jackets will be tested a little more this year too and that may not be a bad thing. The nonconference slate includes a trip to Notre Dame on top of the season ending game against Georgia. They also play both Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic Division. If this team plays as well as they did at the end of last season, they can win those games and finally gain some of the recognition they deserve. But more likely this is another 11-3 or 10-4 type of team that will reach the ACC championship game.

Projected Bowl: Sun Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 342.1 (1st in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 134.4 (121, 13)
Total Offense: 476.5 (19, 1)
Scoring Offense: 37.9 (11, 1)
Rushing Defense: 167.6 (62, 9)
Pass Defense: 243.7 (87, 13)
Total Defense: 411.3 (79, 13)
Scoring Defense: 25.7 (52, 10)
Turnover Margin: 0.79 (14, 1)
Sacks: 1.43 (105, 13)
Sacks Allowed: 0.79 (2, 1)


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