2010 Season: 6-7 (4-4)
By: Danny O’Donnell
Georgia Tech is going to have a complicated season coming up this fall. Paul Johnson is coming off his second losing season in his 14-year career as the Yellow jackets head coach. And though he won the ACC title the year before, it has been taken away from the program due to NCAA sanctions. With all the turmoil surrounding the program, the Yellow Jackets are going to need to answer a lot of questions before they see smiles on their fans’ faces.
Georgia Tech’s bread and butter is the triple, super sneaky, pound your face in, three yards at a time option. So it shouldn’t shock anyone when Georgia Tech finished in last place in passing yards in 2010 after averaging just 84 yards a game. Joshua Nesbit (674 yards, 7 TDs) was a perfect fit for the team at quarterback until an injury sidelined him for the season. Tevin Washington will be returning to the program and needs to work on his arm before being confident he has the starting role. He averaged 105 yards rushing in each of his four starts but barely reached a dismal 40 percent completition rate. The Yellow Jackets are losing both their rushers from 2010 and will rely on Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith to make the offense work. After returning only six of their starters, the Yellow Jackets are going to need people to step up early and often; namely the offensive line. Phil Smith, junior left tackle, is a physical presence especially when the option is coming to his side. Sophomre Ray Beno will take over on the other side but needs to show production due to the stiff competition from 6’4, 300 lbs freshman Morgan Bailey behind him.
The defense is returning even less. Five players from the 2010 team will be back on the field for Georgia Tech this fall. Last year’s squad finished ninth in the ACC in total yards allowed and gave up 170 yards rushing a game. Julian Burnett (led the team in tackles last year with 89) will be the leader and voice of the defense. He and senior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester will need to plug up the holes by the defensive line to stop the bleeding from the run game. The defensive line will be the most experienced portion of this years entire team, but hasn’t seen much production in past years. Returning all three of their lineman to Tech’s 3-4 defensive scheme, defensive ends Jason Peters and Izaan Cross, along side nose tackle Logan Walls, will need to use their years and size to fix last year’s difficulties.
Weakness: Defensive Backs. The Jackets will bring in all new faces to each position in the secondary. Rod Sweeting (1 interception last season) is the only “most likely going to start” player in the group. At 6’1, Sweeting will be called upon to take on the taller and more physical receivers from the division.
Strength: Running backs. This should not be taken as a compliment; more like a gut check to the rest of the team. Jon Dwyer was a freak in 2009 and no one knew who would replace him in 2010. Anthony Allen then racked up 1,316 yards rushing to answer that question. Unfortunately, can that happen again with Allen leaving? Four players will be competing for the starting spot and should be headed by junior speedster Richard Watson.
2010 Team Rankings:
Scoring: 26.0 ppg (6th ACC, 71st National)
Rushing: 323.3 ypg (1st ACC, 1st National)
Passing: 83.9 ypg (12th ACC, 119th National)
Scoring: 25.2 ppg (9th ACC, 57th National)
Rushing: 169.7 ypg (8th ACC, 78th National)
Passing: 201.9 ypg (4th ACC, 34th National)
Special teams have been a huge concern for Paul Johnson this offseason after the loss of kicker Scott Blair. Midway through the season, Blair took on all three kicking responsibilites and has now moved on from the program. Georgia Tech must also replace kick/punt returner Jarrard Tarrant. Sophomore running back BJ Bostic should take over the responsibilites but will the special teams depth to come through if he wants to have any opportunities.
Big Man on Campus: None. This Georgia Tech team is not flashy due to their playbook. This Georgia tech team is not productive due to their talent. The team can win six or more games this season, but it will be ugly battles going into the fourth quarter. Someone needs to step up, but it’s uncertain who will.
On the Rise: Stephen Hill, WR. It’s tough to get receiving yards in Atlanta unless you’re Roddy White. The triple option offense isn’t favorable to receivers but when Hill gets his shots, he has the explosiveness to take advantage of them.
Breakout Freshman: Jabari Hunt-Days, LB. Their are four linebacking positions and the majority of them are filled for both starters and backups. But Hunt-Days is a 6’3, 225 lbs engine and could see significant time on special teams and filling in on long, third down defenses. Hunt-Days was ranked the No. 11 linebacker in the nation according to Rivals.com.
The Georgia Tech fan base is specific to locals and alumni. With that being said, Tech is going to need to win more than six games to lock up a bowl game in 2011. They’ll have to face some top quality competition this year and will have a dreadful three-game stretch with Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech. Having to face a rising UGA team at the end of the year will be a challenge all by itself. Duke is still the low man on the totem pole in the division, but keep an eye on Virginia to move up to fourth in front of the Yellow Jackets by the end of the season.