2010 Record: (6-7, 4-4 in ACC)
Head Coach: Paul Johnson (26-14 at GT, 133-52 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Independence Bowl (lost to Air Force 14-7)
9/1: Western Carolina
9/10: at Middle Tennessee (2010 result: won 42-14)
9/17: Kansas (2010 result: lost 28-25)
9/24: UNC (2010 result: won 30-24)
10/1: at NC State (2010 result: lost 45-28)
10/15: at Virginia (2010 result: won 33-21)
10/22: at Miami, Fl (2010 result: lost 35-10)
10/29: Clemson (2010 result: lost 27-13)
11/19: at Duke (2010 result: won 30-20)
11/26: Georgia (2010 result: lost 42-34)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 26.0 ppg (6th in ACC, 71st in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 323.31 yds/game (1st in ACC, 1st in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 83.9 yds/game (last in ACC, 119th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 407.2 yds/game (last in ACC, 36th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 25.2 ppg (9th in ACC, 57th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 169.69 yds/game (8th in ACC, 78th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 201.9 yds/game (4th in ACC, 34th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 371.6 yds/game (9th in ACC, 64th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: -0.46 per game (9th in ACC, 86th in Nation)
Penalties: 53.0 yds/game (6th in ACC, 66th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Tevin Washington, Jr (25 of 61 for 417 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT)
Rushing: RB Orwin Smith, Jr (53 for 516 yds, 9.7 ypc 4 TD)
Receiving: WR Stephen Hill, Jr (15 rec for 291 yds, 3 TD)
Tackles: LB Julian Burnett, Jr (89)
Sacks: LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Soph; LB Steven Sylvester, Sr (3)
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1
Athlon Sports: None
Phil Steele: Military (vs Navy)
Chan Gailey coached the Yellow Jackets for six seasons and won seven games in every season except for one as he won nine games in 2006. That's why it was so impressive when Paul Johnson came in and posted nine wins in his first season and then backed that up with an ACC Championship (of which the NCAA has now taken away) and an eleven win season. Paul Johnson took the ACC by storm. But last year Tech fell back to earth as they only won six games, which was less than any Chan Gailey coached team. Now Paul Johnson is at a cross-roads. Is he as good as his 2009 season or is he as bad as his 2010 season? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. One thing is for sure and that is the defense has taken steps back every year under Paul Johnson. In 2008 Tech gave up 20.3 points per game, in 2009 they gave up 24.8 and last year they gave up 25.2. In those three years Tech has given up more yards rushing every year but the big thing is that Tech is simply not making as many impact plays. Sacks went from 34 in 2008 (when Tech had Derrick Morgan and Michael Johnson) to 25 in Derrick Morgan's final year to only 17 last year. 17 sacks placed Tech second to last in the ACC, in front of only the Duke Blue Devils. Another area of decrease was interceptions as the Jackets went from 18 in 2008 to 12 in 2009 to only 8 in 2010. When you look at the rosters it's clear that Tech had more talent in 2008 and that the talent level at Tech (at least on defense) regressed from 2008 to 2010. The big question now is can Paul Johnson recruit (and develop) the kind of players Tech needs on defense and how will Al Groh's defense take a step forward this year. One topic that permeates talk radio is if the offense Tech plays hurts their defense because they don't get as many reps against they type of offenses that they will see during the season.
This is also a cross-roads for Tech on offense because this is the first year that Paul Johnson will coach with a QB that he specifically brought in to run his offense. Tech heart and soul for the past several years was Joshua Nesbitt but now he's gone. After Joshua Nesbitt got hurt last year, the Yellow Jackets went downhill under Tevin Washington. He's got first crack at the QB job this year but it seems to me that the younger kids might have a higher upside. Also gone is Anthony Allen so Tech must replace it's top two rushers from last year. This year we also will find out if the ACC coaches are catching up with Johnson and his offense. Now that Johnson has been around three full years ACC teams have had a chance to look at a lot more tape and see the offense up close and personal on multiple occassions. Maybe the biggest thing missing from last years offense was the ability to stretch the field. In 2009, Tech passed for 1,700 yards and 10 TDs. Last year they didn't even hit the 1,000 yard mark as they passed for just 83 yards per game last year. With Bebe Thomas leaving in 2009, Tech has not found anyone to take his place and it's questionable whether or not Johnson can find a superior athlete like him to come play receiver in Tech's run driven offense. There seem to be a lot of questions surrounding this Georgia Tech team but I think they also could be a wildcard in the ACC if they find the right QB, stretch the field more than last year and make good strides in the second year of the 3-4. That's a lot of "what ifs" but Tech will be one of the more interesting teams to watch in Paul Johnson's fourth year as coach. To get the inside scoop on the 2011 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets we talked to The ACC and SEC Blog.
The biggest question facing Georgia Tech has to be who replaces Joshua Nesbitt. Do you think Tech will go with Tevin Washington or will they turn the offense over to one of the younger guys?
Tevin Washington has the starting job heading into fall practice. Redshirt freshman Synjyn Days will get a chance to unseat Washington which he could not do in Spring Practice. I think barring an injury Washington will start the first game against Western Carolina. Right now, he gives Tech the best chance to win and sometimes the best chance to win means not losing the game. This is Days problem as sometimes he tries to do too much.
Washington is not the fans choice right now because he went 1-3 in games he started last season only beating Duke. Days is clearly the more athletic of the two, but he brings very little in terms of passing right now. He will get playing time early but he has to become a better decision maker and a better passer to unseat Washington. By the end of the season he may well have done that.
But until Days can show he make be more consistent making reads on the option and pass the ball more effectively, Washington will start. Washington did have minor knee surgery after Spring practice but he is expected to be at full strength in the fall
Over the last couple of years Georgia Tech has had some very productive B-Backs in Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen. Who will step up this year?
Preston Lyons came out of Spring as the number one back, but redshirt freshman Charles Perkins is pushing for playing time too. Many fans want Perkins as Lyons doesn't exactly excite you with his speed and agility, but Lyons has by far the most experience having played in this offense in high school and now two seasons at Tech. Perkins was one of the top backs in the state of Georgia two years ago so the talent should be there.
The other two B-Backs Richard Watson and David Sims will also get carries. Sims was a QB his first two seasons but his athleticism was too good not to find a place for him somewhere. I am not sure if anyone of the four has the breakaway speed of a Jonathan Dwyer but Perkins and Sims may come close. Johnson has only run one B- Back thus far at Tech, but it was not uncommon for him to run two guys at Navy. I think we will see a rotation early on and then he may settle into a feature back if one of the four stands out.
Georgia Tech switched to the 3-4 last year after hiring Al Groh. What kind of improvement do you think we will see on the defensive side of the football in the second year of this scheme?
This area has to be the biggest area of improvement for Tech to increase their win total. The defense was downright awful at times last year. The talent is there as is depth to start the year and I think the coaching is significantly better under Groh than the previous coordinator. First order of improvement has to be against the run. It wasn't so much of a tackling issue as it was getting off blocks and missed assignments last year. All three lineman return as do two starting linebackers and a third who played significant snaps last year on passing downs. The defensive line did not generate much of a pass rush last year. That has to (and should) change with all three starters returning.
Who are some under-the-radar guys to keep an eye on for this Tech team?
Linebacker Julian Burnett may be the best player on the team, but due to his size he does not get a lot of pub. Another linebacker to look out for is OLB Jeremiah Attaochu. He played primarily on third down last year but was one of the team leaders in tackles for loss.
Most people have heard of him, but if Tech is going to improve on offense WR Stephen Hill has to play better this year. Hill needs to win more one on one battles against smaller corners and become a better blocker on the edge. Having a threat at wide receiver really makes this offense effective.
A more 'under the radar guy' is new Center Jay Finch. Finch started a few games at Guard last year and played backup Center. His predecessor and two time All-ACC player Sean Bedford said Finch is infinitely more talented than he was.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
The two most important games of the year are Virginia Tech and Georgia. The winner of VT/GT has won the Coastal every year since the ACC expanded to two divisions. The Yellow Jackets get the Hokies at home this year on a Thursday night which should make for a good environment.
UGA is important every year. It is for state bragging rights. Some Tech fans will tell you it cannot truly be considered a good year unless you beat the Bulldogs.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
I think 8-4 will be the mark this season. In the odd years, Tech has the majority of their toughest games at home (VT, Clemson, UGA, UNC). I see a win reversal from Kansas last year so that makes it 7-5 and a win against either Clemson, UGA, or Va Tech (in order of likelihood) to make it 8 wins.
Given the circumstances heading into this year, a successful season should be defined one of two ways:
1. Beating Georgia and going to a bowl game OR
2. Playing in the ACC Championship Game
Some fans will say that is setting sights low but considering Tech's recent history I think you have to be realistic.
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