#65 Georgia Tech Football Preview

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Overall Rank: #65
#9 Atlantic Coast Conference

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2010 Record: (6-7, 4-4)
2010 Bowl: Independence Bowl vs. Air Force (L 14-7)
Coach: Paul Johnson (26-14 at Georgia Tech, 133-53 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Paul Johnson
Defensive Coordinator: Al Groh

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Orwin Smith, RB, 516 yards
Passing: Tevin Washington, QB, 417 yards
Receiving: Stephen Hill, WR, 291 yards
Tackles: Julian Burnett, LB, 89
Sacks: Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, and Steven Sylvester, LB, 3
Interceptions: Julian Burnett, LB; Isaiah Johnson, S; Rod Sweeting, CB, 1

Other Key Returnees: DE Izaan Cross, RB Roddy Jones, RB Embry Peeples, DE Jason Peters, OT Phil Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, NT Logan Walls

Key Losses: RB Anthony Allen, K Scott Blair, CB Mario Butler, S Mario Edwards, DE Anthony Egbuniwe, LB Brad Jefferson, QB Joshua Nesbitt, S Dominique Reese, CB Jerrard Tarrant

Fresh off an 11-win season and an ACC championship, Georgia Tech came into 2010 with a Top 20 ranking and visions of another BCS bowl berth. But the Yellow Jackets were stung by a late-season swoon that saw them lose five of their last six games, including an ugly Independence Bowl defeat to Air Force. The expectations coming into this new campaign are much more modest, and for good reason, as Tech has issues on both sides of the ball that could spell the end of the school’s impressive streak of 14 straight seasons with a bowl appearance.

In the copycat world of football, few coaches truthfully can be called a pioneer. Paul Johnson is one such man. He has been befuddling opposing defenses for decades with his flexbone offense, and while last year’s Tech attack was not up to Coach Johnson’s usual standards, you can be sure that the Jackets will get their share of big plays out of their triple option offense. A stable of fleet and elusive backs are needed to make the flexbone work, and Tech has amassed another fine collection led by Roddy Jones (6.8 yards per carry in 2010) and Orwin Smith (9.7 – yes, 9.7 – yards per carry). With such fine ball-carriers, and with three starters back on the line, the Yellow Jackets could very well lead the nation in rushing again. Defensively, Georgia Tech was decent against the run last season and it stands to improve thanks to the return of all three starters on the front. Having leading tackler Julian Burnett back at linebacker lends even more stability to the unit.

Quarterback Tevin Washington received valuable experience filling in for injured starter Joshua Nesbitt for the final four games of 2010. But consistency is vital when running the precise flexbone and Washington was up and down during his stint as the starter, with the lowest point coming in the turnover-marred bowl game (Tech was minus-4 in that department). As a team, Georgia Tech put the ball on the ground way too often – the Jackets’ 20 fumbles lost led the conference last year. Further hampering the attack was a weak kick return unit that regularly forced the offense to undertake long marches to the end zone. Former Virginia head coach Al Groh was supposed to add bite to Tech’s defense with his 3-4 alignment. Instead, the Jackets’ D remained average while failing to produce many game-changing plays. A strong suit was the pass defense, but with four new starters in the secondary Georgia Tech could find itself vulnerable through the air.

The Bottom Line:
On the one hand, there is reason for optimism in Atlanta. Washington showed aptitude in running Coach Johnson’s difficult offense and, with a posse of dynamic backs, he could have Tech’s attack humming once again. Meanwhile, the defense could take a major step forward now that it is more familiar with Coach Groh’s scheme. But that word “could” is double-edged. The offense could again major in self-destruction if it does not solve its turnover problem. And the defense could prove that its issues stem from a lack of talent, not a lack of comfort with the 3-4. In the end, Georgia Tech might have too many question marks to mount a serious threat in the challenging Coastal Division.

Projected Bowl: None

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 323.31 (1st in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 83.92 (119, 12)
Total Offense: 407.23 (36, 2)
Scoring Offense: 26.00 (71, 6)
Rushing Defense: 169.69 (78, 8)
Pass Defense: 201.92 (34, 4)
Total Defense: 371.62 (64, 9)
Scoring Defense: 25.23 (57, 9)
Turnover Margin: -.46 (86, 9)
Sacks: 1.31 (101, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (23, 1)

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