ATLANTA (AP) Coach Paul Johnson says he has no problem defending his six-year record at Georgia Tech.
Entering Saturday’s opener against Wofford, the Yellow Jackets are 47-32 under Johnson, 14-13 over the last two seasons. They’ve finished either first or second every year but one in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division.
”If you go back and look, we’ve got the fourth-most wins in the league,” Johnson said. ”We’ve never finished lower than third in our division. We’ve won or tied it in three of the six years. I think that’s kind of where the program is.”
Johnson concedes that he’s unlikely to know much about the Jackets by playing an FCS opponent from the Southern Conference. Georgia Tech has beaten Elon, Western Carolina, South Carolina State and Jacksonville State twice by a combined 252-62 score in the last six openers.
”I think the program is on pretty solid ground, really,” Johnson said. ”It all depends on your expectations, I guess. If you’re expecting to win every game every year, there’s not many teams that aren’t going to fall a little short of that.”
Here are some things to look for when Georgia Tech kicks off its 101st season at Grant Field against Wofford:
THOMAS TAKES CHARGE: Johnson is eager to see how quarterback Justin Thomas fares as a first-time starter. Thomas, a redshirt sophomore, played in 10 games last year, rushing 33 times in the spread option attack for 7.1 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He was 9 for 17 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. If the Jackets build a big lead against Wofford, Johnson indicated that No. 2 quarterback Tim Byerly might take some snaps, but for now, the spread option offense is in Thomas’ hands. ”I think we’re way better at it than we were a year ago,” Johnson said.
LIGHT ON EXPERIENCE: Georgia Tech returns just 11 players who started at least seven games last season. Defensively, the Jackets are led by linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, tackle Adam Gotsis and a five-man secondary led by safeties Isaiah Johnson and Jamal Golden. ”We certainly have a bunch of guys that are playing in their first game,” Johnson said. ”It’s like anything. How are you going to hold up defensively? Offensively, are you going to take care of the ball? Are we going to get the ball to our wide receivers? The special teams – all of it – comes into play. I don’t think you’ve really found out a lot about your team until you’ve played three or four games.”
BRUISING IT: Senior Zach Laskey returns as the leading B-back, having rushed for 1,182 career yards. Laskey began his career as a defensive back and punt returner before moving to offense.
AIMING FOR MORE: Wofford is coming off a 5-6 season and a tie for fourth place in the Southern Conference. The Terriers return six starters on offense and seven on defense. Offensive lineman T.J. Chamberlain and defensive lineman Tarker Odom were the two Wofford players named first-team preseason All-Southern Conference.
LONGEVITITY: Wofford coach Mike Ayers is 176-121-1 in 27 seasons with the Terriers.