The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Record: 7-7; ACC 5-3
Bobby Dodd Stadium
Introduction: The Yellow Jackets finished the 2012 season with a 7-7 overall record, while going 5-3 in the ACC. Head coach Paul Johnson heads into his sixth season and will be working with just his third starting quarterback. Johnson has worked with QB Joshua Nesbitt and QB Tevin Washington over the past five years and now he will put his trust in QB Vad Lee to lead the Yellow Jackets. Lee will have the luxury of playing behind a talented and experienced offensive line. Lee may not have any reliable wide receivers heading into the season, but he will have two senior running backs to hand the ball off to. Defensively, the Yellow Jackets will have a new coordinator and will switch over to the 4-3 scheme this season.
Offense: The Yellow Jackets will run their spread-option scheme with QB Vad Lee, who is a much better passer than his predecessors, but also has the speed to outrun defenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if backup QB Justin Thomas plays in the pistol formation alongside Lee this season to utilize their run-pass talents. Lee will play behind an offensive line that brings back 94 career starts among six players, a group that produced the #4 ranked rushing offense in college football last year. The starting offensive line has three seniors and two juniors, led by senior C Jay Finch. The Yellow Jackets also return senior FB David Sims and senior HB Robert Godhigh, who will produce big numbers this year behind the massive offensive line. The biggest weakness for Georgia Tech is at wide receiver. Junior WR Darren Waller is the leading returning wide receiver with only eight catches, which may hinder the development of the passing game. Lee has the ability to pass the ball effectively, but with limited experience at wide receiver he will probably have to rely on his legs more than his arm this season.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Defense: Last season, Johnson fired defensive coordinator Al Groh midway through the year after they had surrendered 40-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time in school history. Johnson went out and hired Ted Roof, who was the leader of the Yellow Jackets’ famed “Black Watch” defense in the 1980’s. Roof will return Georgia Tech to the 4-3 scheme and will be tasked with improving a unit that hasn’t been ranked in the top 25 in the country in total defense since 2008. The Yellow Jackets will return eight starters from last season on defense. Senior Jeremiah Attaochu may be the most talented player on defense and he will move from linebacker to defensive end in the new 4-3 scheme. Georgia Tech has two future NFL draft picks in senior CB Jemea Thomas and senior CB Louis Young. Sophomore LB Jabari Hunt-Days has a ton of potential and could be the next big player on this Yellow Jacket defense. Roof will have a tough task in transitioning the defense over to the new scheme this season, but in the long run the defense will be better off with the new coordinator and scheme.
Special Teams: Harrison Butker, an incoming freshman, is the favorite to take over as the placekicker, an area in which the Yellow Jackets have struggled the last two years. Junior S Jamal Golden was the only player in the nation last year to finish in the top 10 in both kickoff and punt return average. Golden also became the first Yellow Jacket to return a kickoff for a touchdown since 1998, and he did it twice.
Final Analysis: Georgia Tech will return 16 starters from last year, most of which are seniors. Much of the Yellow Jacket’s success will depend on how consistent Lee can be as the quarterback. Georgia Tech will also have to handle a tough schedule in which it will play four Coastal Division opponents in a row, including Virginia Tech on five days’ rest. The Yellow Jackets, who play both Miami and Virginia Tech this year, are a combined 2-8 against the Hurricanes and Hokies since Johnson took over as head coach. Georgia Tech may not be the favorite in the Coastal Division, but they have the talent to win the division and play for the ACC Championship.