Friday, June 18, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2009 Record: 11-3 (7-1 in ACC)
2009 Bowl: Orange Bowl (lost to Iowa 24-14)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: #13
Head Coach: Paul Johnson (20-7 at Georgia Tech, 126-46 All-Time)
Non-Conference Schedule: South Carolina State (9/4), Kansas (9/11), Middle Tennessee (10/16), UGA (9/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 33.8 points per game (1st in ACC, 14th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 295 (1st in ACC, 2nd in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 126 (last in ACC, 116th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 422 (1st in ACC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 24.8 points per game (6th in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 151 (8th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 208 (6th in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 360 (7th in ACC)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.57 per game (2nd in ACC)
Penalties: 47 yards per game (6th in ACC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 7
Defense: 9
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Josh Nesbitt, Sr (75 of 162 for 1701 yds, 10 TD, 5 INT)
Rushing: QB Josh Nesbitt, Sr (279 carries for 1037 yds, 18 TD, 3.7 ypc, 74 ypg)
Rushing: RB Anthony Allen, Sr (64 carries for 618 yds, 6 TD, 9.6 ypc, 44 ypg)
Receiving: RB Embry Peeples, Jr (8 rec, 244 yds, 1 TD)
Tackles: LB Brad Jefferson, Sr (95)
Sacks: LB Steven Sylvester, Jr (3)
Interceptions: CB Jarrard Terrant, Jr (2); CB Mario Butler, Sr (2)

ACC Unit Rankings
QB- Phil Steele #1; Athlon Sports #2
RB- Phil Steele #2; Athlon Sports #2
WR/TE- Phil Steele #12; Athlon Sports #12
OL- Phil Steele #4; Athlon Sports #5
DL- Phil Steele #7; Athlon Sports #10
LB- Phil Steele #9; Athlon Sports #9
DB- Phil Steele #7; Athlon Sports #6
ST- Phil Steele #6;

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #28
Lindy's: #17
Phil Steele: #33
Rivals: #15
Scout: #16
Sporting News: #18
Sports Illustrated: #8

2010 Pre-Season ACC Coastal Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #4
Phil Steele: #4

2010 Bowl Prediction  
Athlon Sports: Music City Bowl (vs. Tennessee)
Phil Steele: Music City Bowl (vs. Tennessee)

Georgia Tech really put themselves back on the map with the gutsy hire of Paul Johnson. Johnson has gone 20-7 at Tech, won an ACC title, went to a BCS game and split with in-state rival UGA. It would be hard to ask for a better start. This year will be an interesting one for Johnson and the Jackets. Johnson losses 2 of his best offensive weapons (WR Demaryius Thomas and RB Jonathan Dwyer) and his best 2 defensive players (DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett). Tech also lost back-up QB Jaybo Shaw (transferred to Georgia Southern). If All-ACC candidate (and dark horse Heisman candidate) Josh Nesbitt can stay healthy then this won't be a problem. But in the offense that Georgia Tech plays the QB takes a lot of punishment. Having no experienced back-up could make or break Tech's season depending on how the back-up performs when called upon. Paul Johnson recognized that his defense did not play up to par last season and made a huge get in the off-season by bringing in former Virginia coach Al Groh to run the defense. When we have questions on Georgia Tech football we go to the SB Nation blog From The Rumble Seat. John Bird gave us his insight going into the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2010 season.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The biggest strength of this team under Coach Paul Johnson is its ability to build and sustain momentum through the regular season. The biggest weakness is the post season. The average points scored per month from 2008-2009 is as follows: September (27.9 PPG), October (31.6 PPG), and November (32.4 PPG). Essentially, the timing on the options and the deep passing routes are coming together by November making the offense almost unstoppable. Then, the routine is broken up. The reps drop as we prepare for the bowl game. And then, we get into a bowl game and make uncharacteristic mistakes. The offense stalls out and the defense had yet to show the ability to win games without an awesome offensive effort (hence, the termination of DC Dave Wommack).

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Defensively, UNC presents a huge challenge for Tech. The past two trips to Chapel Hill have been terrible for Tech offensively (scoring a combined 14 points in both games). The Heels return a ton of defensive talent that includes 9 or so starters, I believe.

Offensively, NC State will be the first shoot out of the year. Tech's defense has yet to show that it can stop an accurate passer. Dwight Dasher, Jacory Harris, and Russell Wilson all should throw for season high totals if our defense doesn't improve over last season's.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

If we're talking about fear as in afraid to be upset, I'd say UNC. They are the only team on our schedule with defensive talent comparable to Iowa's. However, I'd say that whoever our bowl opponent is will probably have the best shot of any team on our schedule of beating us because our schedule lines up pretty well putting the weaker teams at the front and the better teams at the back end.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Every season an A-back (slotback) has emerged from the ranks to rush for big time YPC and about 600-700 yards total. Predicting who the A-back will be can be tricky but I'd say either Roddy Jones or Marcus Wright will bear a significant load of our rocket sweeps and triple option carries. Roddy has the surer hands as a receiver and the A-backs will definitely have to step it up with the departure of Tech's All-ACC receiver, Demaryius Thomas.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Josh Nesbitt makes this offense go. He may not be the best passer in the ACC but he is by far the best leader in the conference amassing an 18-7 record as a starter over two seasons. If Josh Nesbitt is leading our team, most Tech fans feel we can defeat any team in the country in the regular season.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team? What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

I combined these two questions because I think they're very much so related. Brad Jefferson is gonna be this year's D star. He was our leading tackler a year ago and this year we're transitioning to the Al Groh's 3-4. As a really good 4-3 middle linebacker, Jefferson's got to adjust playing 50% of the field rather than 100%. The guy that's gonna have to step up will be opposite of Brad. We're going to need balance in our 3-4 so that opposing offenses don't simply pound our physically weaker side. Right now, it's looking like Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett will be playing opposite of Jefferson.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

The backup quarterback has played significant minutes every season since Paul Johnson arrived. The winner of the Tevin Washington, Jordan Luallen, and David Sims QB competition to be Nesbitt's backup will be a huge part of this year's offense because they will receive a majority of reps and be prepared to go in at a moment's notice.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Anyone that has a pulse on the defensive line will be the newcomer of the year. Tech just needs someone to eat up space in the middle and whether that's Logan Walls or T.J. Barnes remains to be seen.

Re-Alignment is a big discussion point around College Football right now. Tech has been mentioned as a possibility for both the Big Ten and SEC. Where would you like to see Tech end up, including staying in the ACC (this question was posed to John prior to Nebraska and Colorado exiting the Big 12 and the rest of the Big 12 staying put)?

Old Tech fans want Tech back in the SEC because they think it'll return us to prominence. New Tech fans hate the smell of the SEC and its unwashed hordes. I would prefer we stay in the ACC as there is always an emphasis on basketball, baseball, and other sports. The SEC is a one horse show and all other sports are merely along for the ride. The rumors related to the Big Ten are just hogwash. The money is important from a business stand point but what's the point of more money if you're just gonna get killed in recruiting by Southern teams. You recruit instate and within your home region so kids can stay near home. If the local kids can't see your games because you're in Bumble, Iowa or Goober, Wisconsin, then you'll never get the top shelf talent. We aren't Notre Dame. We tried it in the 60's and 70's and it didn't work. A move to the Big 10 would be equivalent recruiting-wise to being independent and would fail miserably. Tech would get more money from TV but that's the only real positive from going to the Big 10. And despite the talking heads weird opinions, there's more to football than the short term financial gains.

Tech's 2008 shootout win at Georgia was their first win against the Dawgs since 2000 and really renewed the "Clean Old-Fashioned Hate" rivalry. How big is beating Georgia every year? Is it as big as winning the ACC or was that one victory just so huge since it had been so long since Tech had won?

To say the rivalry was renewed is a misnomer. Tech and Georgie fans hate each other every day of every year in every sport. The rivalry would only be cooled by a cessation of the series. Winning the ACC felt better than beating Georgie just because it's a title that means something to people outside of the state. However, winning titles is won through recruiting and if Tech can't consistently beat Georgie on the field, then Tech won't consistently win in recruiting. Titles and beating Georgie go hand in hand.

Who is Tech's biggest football rival after Georgia?

Clemson for proximity reasons. Virginia Tech for purely football reasons. Clemson is two hours away and is our most played ACC opponent (besides Duke but Duke football doesn't count). Clemson travels incredibly well and every game is typically a nail biter despite the teams' records entering the game. VT and GT have won the Coastal Division every season since expansion. In fact, VT and GT are the only two teams in the Coastal with winning records against the Atlantic and Coastal divisions.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Worst case scenario is an 8-4 season because of our tough road games and gauntlet run in November. However, our momentum should be in full swing by mid-October so I'm gonna say 10 wins with losses to the Hokies in Blacksburg and one more ACC loss. I hate Clemson and I think Dabo is a terrible coach but for some reason I feel like the stars will finally align for them to beat us.

 Thanks to John and From The Rumble Seat. They are the go-to spot for Georgia Tech sports.

Next Up: Boston College Eagles

2010 Previews
ACC- Maryland Terrapins
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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