Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Georgia Tech Preview

2008 Schedule
Sept. 6@Boston College
Sept. 13@Virginia Tech
Oct. 4DUKE
Oct. 18@Clemson
Nov. 8@North Carolina
Nov. 20MIAMI
Nov. 29@Georgia

2007 Results: 7-6 overall, 4-4 ACC (3rd Coastal Division); lost to Fresno State 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl

Offense: To put it mildly, this should be an fascinating unit to watch over the next few seasons. The switch over to Paul Johnson's triple-option-spread is as big of an overhaul as you're likely to see in any other major program for quite awhile. On the plus side, the Jackets appear to have the talent to make it work - eventually. Sophomore QB Josh Nesbitt (53 carries, 339 yards under Chan Gailey's clunky attack) appears to have locked up the position. Tech's always potent stable of running backs will be most helpful in this offense, with sophomore Jonathan Dwyer likely being the feature back (called the "B-back" in Johnson's offense), usually called on to pound the ball up the middle like a fullback. The likes of Calvin Johnson and Kelly Campbell can rest assured that their receiving records are untouchable as long as Johnson reigns in Atlanta. Yes, the Jackets will throw the ball more often than Johnson did at Navy, but not nearly as much as they did under Chan Gailey (and that's probably a good thing - former Tech QBs Reggie Ball and Taylor Bennett completed less than 50% of their passes each of the last four years). Despite all the young talent at QB and RB, the offense won't do much if the young OL doesn't pick up on the new blocking schemes quickly and completely. Four of the first-team linemen have some starting experience, but only one (LT Andrew Gardner) was a full-time starter last year.

Defense: Much like last season, the Jacket defensive line should be a monster, anchored by senior tackles Darryl Richard and Vance Walker. DE Michael Johnson, at 6'7", should bat down approximately 700 passes this season against the generally weak-armed quarterbacks of the ACC. The linebackers and secondary are another matter. 2007's top two LBs in Phillip Wheeler and Gary Guyton are gone, along with much of last year's disappointing secondary. However, the two bright spots in the '07 secondary - Jahi Word-Daniels and Morgan Burnett - are back and will likely be tutoring a lot of freshmen this season. But the biggest concern of all is the loss of Jon Tenuta at defensive coordinator. Johnson brought in Southern Miss LB coach Dave Wommack to take charge of the defense and let's just say I'm not entirely impressed with that move.

Special Teams: Ouch. Gone are Ray Guy Award winner Durant Brooks and 12-year kicker Travis Bell (OK, it just seemed like he was there since about 1995). Sophomore Scott Blair, who handled kickoffs last year, likely will perform all three kicking duties this season. The leading returners are all back, but since most of them are also RBs, you have to wonder if Johnson will install new personnel on returns in order to keep his backs fresh and safe for the offense.

Coaching: The hiring of Paul Johnson from Navy ushers in an era of enthusiasm not seen in Atlanta since the days of Joe Hamilton and perhaps even as far back as the 1990 national title team. I have no doubt that Johnson's offense - which is adaptable according to personnel - can work in the ACC, it's just a matter of when. And when is also the question Jacket fans have on their mind in terms of beating Georgia. Gailey's 0-6 mark against the Dawgs was the single biggest reason for his dismissal, and Johnson's domination of Army and Air Force while at Navy gives Ramblin' Wreck fans hope that Tech can turn the tables on UGA, and soon. However, the loss of uber-DC Jon Tenuta is a tough blow to overcome, and the hiring of Dave Wommack (LB coach at Southern Miss last year, DB/LB coach at South Carolina in 2005-06) as his replacement leaves me skeptical about the continuation of dominant Yellow Jacket defenses. Nonetheless, long term, Paul Johnson might be the best hire in the ACC in years. Short term, it's probably going to be a bumpy ride.

Odds & Ends: With their 17-14 win over Miami last year, Georgia Tech joined Florida State and Virginia Tech as the only schools since 1983 to have beaten the Hurricanes in three consecutive years.....Paul Johnson went 4-7 against ACC schools while at Navy, but all four wins (and one of the losses) were against a backup role last season, RB Jonathan Dwyer averaged a touchdown every nine carries (82 rushes, 9 TDs)

Schedule Analysis: Johnson probably couldn't have picked a less-friendly overall schedule for his inaugural year. Yes, Jacksonville State is a welcome tune-up in the opener, but the Jackets get thrown to the fire almost immediately after that, travelling to Boston College and then Virginia Tech in weeks two and three before returning home to face suddenly resurgent Mississippi State. And then Tech gets a bye week before facing....Duke. Road trips to Clemson, North Carolina and national-title favorite Georgia are the major second-half-of-the-season challenges, along with a renewal of their rivalry with Florida State (the two haven't played since 2003 thanks to expansion). Despite two 1-AA opponents on the slate, this is still the toughest overall schedule in the league this season, due to the brutal opening weeks, unfriendly road contests, and unhelpful placement of bye weeks. Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest are absent from this year's slate.
Projected Wins: Jacksonville State, Duke, Gardner-Webb
Projected Losses: @Boston College, @Virginia Tech, @Clemson, @North Carolina, @Georgia
Toss-Ups: Mississippi State, Virginia, Florida State, Miami

Primo Yellow Jacket Blogs: Mash on the Gas, Georgia Tech Sports

Heartwarming You-Tubery:

Nifty. But don't look for these hijinks under Paul Johnson.

Preview Disclaimer


Winfield said...

I don't think the loss of Tenuta will be as bad as some people anticipate. Offenses were beginning to read us and anticipate what we were doing and it seemed like Tenuta would never adjust when it was clear that our defensive scheme was not working.

Marcus said...

I think that can be said about most DCs. I'm an FSU fan and have said the same thing about Mickey Andrews for 10+ years, but in the big picture he is (maybe was) one of the best. Yes, there were times that Tenuta got taken to school in individual games, but rarely if ever did you see a Tech defense get blasted under Tenuta (I think they gave up 30+ points just 4 or 5 times under him, and never 40+ in any game save for his last game in the bowl when he was also head coach).

Still, my skepticism about Tech's D this year has more to do with Wommack being there than Tenuta not being there.