By Lee Lance.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are coming off of their most successful season in years, a season in which they captured the ACC title and played in a BCS at the Orange Bowl. After a loss the Iowa in that bowl game, the Jackets still feel like they have something to prove, and many folks think this could be the year they get another shot to do that by playing in another Orange Bowl.
Helping Paul Johnson in the quest back to the ACC Championship are 14 starters from last years team, including starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt. Nesbitt accounted for 28 of the Jackets 58 total touchdowns in the 2009 season, 18 on the ground, as well as nearly 2800 yards of total offense.
Missing from this years triple option attack though is last years starting running back Jonathan Dwyer, who left after an outstanding 2009 season. In his sophomore season Dwyer rushed for over 1400 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Looking to fill his shoes though, are two very capable guys in Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones. Jones and Allen combined for almost 1000 yards last season, as well as nine touchdowns.
“I hope our production doesn’t drop off at the position (running back) and I don’t think it will. But I’m not ready to pronounce anyone to be better than Jonathan Dwyer until I see it on the field” said Coach Paul Johnson. One reason a starter won’t be named any time soon is because you will most likely see the two, Jones and Allen, splitting the carries pretty evenly, at least through the Jacket’s first three-to-four games in 2010.
Even if the Jackets feel comfortable about the running back position, they have another position of concern, and actually more so than most might think. Paul Johnson and Josh Nesbitt also need to find a go-to guy at receiver.
Believe it or not, the Jackets had the highest drafted receiver in last years NFL draft. Sounds hard to believe, right? Thing is though, despite the Jackets and Johnson’s offense being heavy in rushing, receiver Demaryius Thomas still managed to gain nearly 1200 yards in receptions and eight touchdowns, and averaged over 25 yards per catch while doing so. Junior Tyler Melton and sophomore Stephen Hill look to make the most immediate impacts in the absence of Thomas, and it should be interesting to see which one ends up being that favorite target.
Defensively, this years Ramblin Wreck will look completely different from last years, or at least Coach Johnson and the Tech fans hope so, anyway. Immediately after last years season ended, Johnson decided it was time to bring in someone new to run the show, and hired former Virginia Head Coach Al Groh. Groh is expected to employ a 3-4 defense, and he will have plenty of experienced guys to do so with. The Jackets not only return eight starters from last year, but they also look to start upperclassmen at every position on the defensive side of the ball.
One place that Groh will have to immediately place emphasis this season is on Georgia Tech’s rushing defense, because the Jackets weren’t the only ones running all over the field in their games last year. Opponents averaged almost 200 yards per game in 2009 versus the Jackets.
This years schedule doesn’t really help in the Yellow Jacket’s goal of a return trip to the ACC Championship game either, with four of their toughest games of the year being on the road, two of which are divisional games. The Jackets play North Carolina(although this game is getting easier every day), Wake Forest, Clemson, and Virginia Tech all on the road, with the 11/04 match-up with the Hokies most likely setting up to be a divisional “championship” game.