#56 Georgia Tech Football 2014 Preview

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Overall Rank: #56
#9 ACC

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Georgia Tech had yet another successful season in 2013, winning seven games and reaching their 17th straight bowl. Outside of a three game losing streak in late September and early October, the Yellow Jackets had a consistent offense and defense. By the end of the year, Georgia Tech even gave Clemson and Georgia tough games in November. The loss to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl was not the momentum this team wanted heading into 2014, but they will get another shot at a bowl win.

2013 Record: (7-6, 5-3)
2013 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Ole Miss (L 17-25)
Coach: Paul Johnson (47-32 at Georgia Tech, 154-71 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Paul Johnson
Defensive Coordinator: Ted Roof

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Laskey, RB, 485 yards
Passing: Justin Thomas, QB, 131 yards
Receiving: Darren Waller, WR, 367 yards
Tackles: Quayshawn Nealy, LB, 66
Sacks: Adam Gotsis, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Quayshawn Nealy, LB, 2; Tyler Marcordes, LB, 2; Chris Milton, DB, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR DeAndre Smelter, WR Michael Summers, CB D.J. White, S Isaiah Johnson, S Jamal Golden

Key Losses: RB David Sims, RB Robert Godhigh, QB Vad Lee, CB Jemea Thomas, LB Brandon Watts, DL Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Louis Young, OL Andrew Miller

Coach Paul Johnson’s triple option offense is always going to be dangerous on the ground…even without quarterback Vad Lee leading the way. Lee opted to transfer to James Madison and that has left the starting quarterback gig to either Justin Thomas or Tim Byerly. Thomas has a ton of talent and has been the presumed heir to Lee, but he was outplayed by Byerly in the spring. Byerly, a transfer from Middle Tennessee, is a tough runner and knows how to run the offense. However, this will be Thomas’ job to lose once again in the fall. The senior duo of Zach Laskey and Synjun Days will help ease in any quarterback. Laskey is the top returning rusher and is a great short yardage back. Deon Hill is yet another experienced senior who will rush for plenty of yards if he can stay healthy. The offensive line returns a few starters, but they also have a couple guys coming out of the spring pegged for the starting lineup who have no game experience. Line depth could be a problem sooner or later. The most experience on offense returns at wide receiver. That may not be a huge deal for a team that barely throws the ball, but the opportunity will be there for the new quarterback to get the ball down the field. DeAndre Smelter, a 6-3 senior, caught 21 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns last year. Darren Waller added 17 catches for 367 yards and three scores and sophomore Michael Summers is coming off of a very promising freshman campaign. Coach Johnson wants to speed things up every once in a while this season to keep the opposition off balance and that could lead to even more openings deep for the talented batch of receivers.

Georgia Tech is switching to a 4-2-5 scheme to help against all of the spread offenses they see in the ACC and to help cover for a pass defense that ranked 12th in the conference. But none of that is going to make much of a difference if there is no pass rush from the front four. Jeremiah Attaochu, a second round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers, finished up his career with the Yellow Jackets as their all-time leader in sacks. Jabari Hunt-Days, a former linebacker, is moving to Attaochu’s old spot, while sophomore Tyler Stargell, who tallied one tackle in 2013, is penciled in at the other end spot. Tackle Adam Gotsis is the only lineman with real experience on the line. Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy will once again be the main playmaker for a defense that needs to make more big plays. The secondary has talent despite the loss of leading tackler Jemea Thomas. That is mostly due to the return of free safety Isaiah Johnson, who missed all of last season with an injury, and Jamal Golden, who saw action in just three games in 2013. There are bigger problems at cornerback, but D.J. White is a quality piece to build around.

The Bottom Line:
This will not be the best Georgia Tech team Coach Johnson has had during his tenure in Atlanta, but the schedule is manageable. Missing Florida State and Louisville is huge and both Miami and Clemson have to come to Bobby Dodd Stadium. The offense should be fine no matter who wins the quarterback job and if the defense can replace Attaochu, this is a team that could hang around in the ACC Coastal title race for a little while. They do open up conference play at Virginia Tech before hosting Miami and Duke, so Georgia Tech could have a pretty deep hole to dig out of if they falter early.

Projected Bowl: Military Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 299.3 (6th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 130.4 (118, 14)
Total Offense: 429.7 (44, 3)
Scoring Offense: 35.1 (26, 3)
Rushing Defense: 115.8 (11, 2)
Pass Defense: 244.5 (83, 12)
Total Defense: 360.2 (27, 4)
Scoring Defense: 22.8 (29, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.3 (85, 12)
Sacks: 2.62 (26, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.08 (9, 1)


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