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

of probation.

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.”