Monday, July 23, 2007
Georgia Tech Preview
2006 Results: 9-5 overall, 7-2 ACC (1st Coastal Division); lost to West Virginia 38-35 in the Gator Bowl
Offense: Four-year starting QB Reggie Ball has ridden off into the sunset (huzzah!), taking Wideout-of-the-Decade, but criminally under-utilized, Calvin Johnson with him (not huzzah!). Taking over for Ball is Mayberry's very own Opie Taylor Bennett, who in his one start last season in the Gator Bowl displayed staggering competence not seen in Atlanta lo' these many years. Last year's ACC rushing champ Tashard Choice returns in the backfield. The departure of Calvin the Consummate has left the WR unit mighty thin, with James Johnson (no relation, I think) the only returnee with solid game experience. That said, receiver is the easiest - or more aptly, least difficult - skill position to replace and there's certainly talent there for the Jackets, just most of it a very dark shade of green. Four starters return on the offensive line, so look for Choice and the OL to take the reins early in the season while Opie and his receivers develop a rhythm.
Defense: One word: Loaded. One more word: Deep. Eight starters are back, anchored by the powerhouse defensive line. Leading tackler from '06 LB KaMichael Hall and All-ACC DT Joe Anoai have departed, but most of the remnants of last year's solid unit (the Clemson and West Virginia fiascos notwithstanding) are back for blood. Most of the second-teamers on the depth chart have seen significant playing time. Look for this defense to rival Virginia Tech's for tops in the ACC.
Special teams: The nation's best punter in Durant Brooks is back, eager to pin opposing offenses inside the 10-yard line so that his pals on defense can unleash bloody, murderous hell. Hot-and-cold (latest reading: hot) kicker Travis Bell is back for his final season, and the return game is in the excellent hands of sophomores Jamaal Evans and Tyler Evans (no relation, I think).
Coaching: Out- Patrick Nix, the much-maligned offensive coordinator during the Reggie Reign of Error, inexplicably hired by Coastal Division rival Miami; In- John Bond, most recently the OC at Northern Illinois, where his units finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in the MAC during his three seasons in DeKalb. Replacing Nix with my 8th grade math teacher (deceased) would likely have been been an upgrade, considering that Nix - armed with Calvin Johnson, Tashard Choice, and a veteran offensive line - found his offense held to 12 points or less in five games last year (the most grotesque display of ineptitude being a sordid 7-0 affair with North Carolina). Newcomer Bond may lack sizzle, but he brings solid credentials and more than 20 years of coaching experience. The rest of the coaching staff returns intact, most notably Chain Gailey as the head honcho, and the oft-praised Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator.
For What It's Worth: Georgia Tech's national ranking in total offense in the Nix years, 2004-2006: #80, #80, #67; and that was with Calvin Johnson in the lineup each of those seasons....the overblown Chan Gailey Equilibrium was nearly put to rest last season, as the Jackets won 9 games, but still lost 5.....the Ramblin Wreck has finished .500 or above in league play for 12 straight seasons; next closest is Clemson with 8 straight....Tech's Top 20 recruiting class this winter was by far the best of the Gailey Era
Schedule Analysis: Very manageable - no Florida State or Wake Forest, and aside from a bit of a mess in late September-early October (@Virginia, Clemson, @Maryland, @Miami), all the toughies are nicely spaced apart. Notre Dame in week one and Boston College in week three are separated by a glorified-scrimmage with Samford; the Jackets get a bye week before Virginia Tech comes calling, then visit Duke the next week; and they get a home date with UNC before Georgia travels to Bobby Dodd. As I said, a very manageable slate, which leads to the somewhat surprising projections below...
Projected Wins- @Notre Dame, Samford, Boston College, @Virginia, @Maryland, Army, @Duke, North Carolina
Projected Losses- none
Toss-Ups- Clemson, @Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia
For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Yellow Jacket Insight: Georgia Tech Sports, Ramblin' Racket
Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:
Look Away, Clemson Fans. I Mean It.