QB battle takes center stage at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech went to its 15th consecutive bowl last season and won eight games for the fourth time in six seasons.
But the Yellow Jackets also lost five games, giving them 12 losses in the past two seasons; it also was the ninth time in 11 seasons that Tech lost at least five games.
The 8-5 finish was somewhat disappointing, considering Tech opened 6-0. Defense, or lack thereof, was the reason for the second-half swoon. The Yellow Jackets gave up at least 24 points in six of their last seven games, and surrendered at least 30 in each of the last four.
Coach: Paul Johnson (5th season)
Last season: 8-5 overall, 5-3 in ACC
Spring practice dates: March 26-April 20
Returning starters (minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (8): T Ray Beno, C Jay Finch, G Will Jackson, RB David Sims, RB Orwin Smith, T Phil Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, QB Tevin Washington
Defense (6): LB Jeremiah Attaochu, E Izaan Cross, S Isaiah Johnson, LB Quayshawn Nealy, CB Rod Sweeting, CB Louis Young
Special teams (2): K Justin Moore, P Sean Poole
The run defense must improve. Tech runs a 3-4 set and lost two starting linemen; in addition, the Yellow Jackets also need two new starting linebackers. The secondary looks good, but the pass rush could stand some improvement.
It’s no surprise that Tech again had one of the nation’s best rush offenses. The Yellow Jackets ranked second nationally running the ball, at 316.5 yards per game.
But QB Tevin Washington, the returning starter, will have to battle to keep his job this spring. He lacks breakaway ability and also has a long way to go as a passer.
Speaking of the passing attack, it was a bad one last season. Tech wide receivers caught just 45 passes last season – and the two guys who made all of those catches are gone, meaning the Yellow Jackets are the only team in the nation without a wide receiver who had a catch last season.
The biggest problem: Quarterback. The Yellow Jackets are still looking for a playmaker at quarterback. Returning starter Tevin Washington goes into spring atop the depth chart, but sophomore Synjyn Days and redshirt freshman Vad Lee are more physically gifted players who will give Washington a run for his job. The other area of concern is inside linebacker. Two-year starter Julian Burnett suffered a career-ending neck injury in the Sun Bowl and senior Daniel Drummond has struggled in passing situations. Underclassmen Tremayne McNair, Jabari Hunt-Days and Anthony Harrell have a shot at earning a starting spot this spring.
On the spot: Washington and Drummond. Both will have younger players nipping at their heels for playing time. OLB Brandon Watts, G Omoregie Uzzi and DE Izaan Cross are also on the hot seat, with young players such as OLB Nick Menocal, G Shaq Mason and DE Euclid Cummings pushing for starting jobs.
On the verge: S Fred Holton. He was poised to start last season before a freak Achilles’ tendon injury in fall camp sidelined him for the season. Holton is a big hitter and playmaker, with the size (6 feet 1/209 pounds) and speed of a NFL safety. The Jackets’ coaching staff thinks highly of Holton and he could end up an All-ACC level performer in a stocked secondary.
General overview: Heading into spring camp, the Jackets have a number of areas in which Johnson would like to see improvement. Georgia Tech struggled in run defense, kicking and punting, and the staff did not get the type of production they expect from the B-back position, the featured running back. Johnson hired special teams coordinator Dave Walkosky to help with that area of concern. The run defense could improve if some of the young linebackers move into the starting lineup since they were recruited for Al Groh’s 3-4 defense. The B-back position will be a three-man competition between returning starter David Sims, sophomore Charles Perkins and sophomore Zach Laskey.
For in-depth coverage of Georgia Tech athletics, go to Jacketsonline.com
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