Deep Georgia Tech looks to return to top of ACC
Coach Paul Johnson said Georgia Tech has so much depth that he’s
yet to decide on starters at several positions.
The Yellow Jackets still have more than two weeks before the
season begins Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech, but with two more Atlantic
Coast Conference games on the calendar next month, Johnson wants
the jobs filled soon.
”I think we’ve got good depth, probably the most we’ve had
there, too,” he said. ”In my mind, we’re at least two deep at
every position. It all works on staying healthy. You lose two guys
at the same position and that depth goes like that.”
Georgia Tech went a combined 14-12 over the last two years, and
2011 was Johnson’s toughest yet in five seasons with the
Before the season began, the ACC stripped the school of its ’09
league championship after the NCAA placed the Jackets on four years
Last season the Jackets won six straight games before losing
four of their last six. They closed with a third straight loss to
Georgia and a seventh consecutive bowl loss – this time to Utah in
the Sun Bowl.
Senior quarterback Tevin Washington said the team has let go of
last year’s disappointment. The goal this season is to win the
”I feel like being a competitor, when you set a goal and don’t
reach that goal,” Washington said, ”it’s like I’m back to the
drawing board and I’ve got to get to that goal.”
Washington held off Synjyn Days and Vad Lee to retain his job
after a productive spring overseeing Johnson’s triple-option
offense. The other spots to fill are at A-back opposite starter
Orwin Smith, at B-back and both receiver spots.
Incumbent B-back David Sims and top reserve Charles Perkins are
trying to recover from injuries and have left a chance for Zach
Laskey to take the job. At the other A-back spot, Robert Godhigh
and Deon Hill are the top candidates. B.J. Bostic is playing behind
Smith, who will attempt to become the fifth player in school
history with 4,000 all-purpose career yards.
With Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton having departed, candidates
for the receiving jobs are Jeff Greene, Chris Jackson, Jeremy Moore
and Darren Waller – none of whom has caught a pass in a game.
The offensive line, led by left guard Omoregie Uzzi and center
Jay Finch, has its starters set. Johnson has given Finch more
leeway to make calls once the defensive front sets before the
Finch takes the role serious. The Jackets need more balance
after finishing second nationally in rushing and 112th in
”I’m a perfect example that when you’re dragging the team back,
there’s no reason for that,” Finch said. ”I’m probably the first
one to get in somebody’s face when the players, let alone the
coaches, can see the dragging. We’ve all got the same treatment,
the same reps. It’s time to go.”
In defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme, the Jackets need
two inside linebackers to claim jobs. Quayshawn Nealy, Tremayne
McNair, Daniel Drummond and Jabari Hunt-Days are the
It will be tough for Georgia Tech to fill loss of Julian
Burnett, the inside linebacker whose career was cut short a year
because of a neck injury. Burnett led the team in tackles in each
of the past two seasons.
The defense needs to give the offense a lift after finishing
60th nationally last year in scoring. Georgia Tech allowed an
average of 32.3 points in its last four games with the only victory
coming 38-31 at Duke.
Groh’s line is led by three-year starting end Izaan Cross. The
other end spot will be decided between Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid
Cummings. Nose tackle T.J. Barnes stands 6-foot-7, 345 pounds and
has no competition for his job.
Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu returns as the team leader
with six sacks. Cornerback Rod Sweeting is tied with Barnes for
most career games played among active players with 39.
Groh believes his third-year scheme, which he brought from
Virginia after working nine years as the Cavaliers’ head coach, is
now fully understood by the players.
”In the past we’ve had to really spell it out,” Groh said.
”Now, a lot of them really understand the concepts of what we’re
doing, so it gives us the opportunity to not only incorporate new
concepts within a call, but to mix and match to solve the issues
that the offense presents.”