2011 Georgia Tech Preview
Georgia Tech OG Omoregie Uzzi
Georgia Tech OG Omoregie Uzzi
Posted May 24, 2011

Two years ago, Georgia Tech took the ACC by storm with its dangerous running game carrying the way to a conference title. Last year, the program took a step back and struggled. Can head coach Paul Johnson lead the way to a bounceback year, or will the system sputter, even if this is the team no one likes to face? Check out the CFN 2011 Georgia Tech Preview.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Preview 2011

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Paul Johnson
4th year: 26-14
Returning Lettermen
Off. 22, Def. 21, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Georgia Tech Players
1. LB Julian Burnett, Jr.
2. RG Omoregie Uzzi, Jr.
3. LB Steven Sylvester, Sr.
4. DE Izaan Cross, Jr.
5. DE Jason Peters, Sr.
6. RB Orwin Smith, Jr.
7. RB Roddy Jones, Sr.
8. WR Stephen Hill, Jr.
9. S Isaiah Johnson, Soph.
10. CB Rod Sweeting, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sept. 1 Western Carolina
Sept. 10 at Middle Tenn.
Sept. 17 Kansas
Sept. 24 North Carolina
Oct. 1 at NC State
Oct. 8 Maryland
Oct. 15 at Virginia
Oct. 22 at Miami
Oct. 29 Clemson
Nov. 10 Virginia Tech
Nov. 19 at Duke
Nov. 26 Georgia

At least the systems have been installed on both sides of the ball.

For Paul Johnson and his coaching staff, 2011 might feel as if the program is starting all over, building up from the ground floor the way it did three years ago. The backfield is new. The line is under renovation. And the secondary loses all four starters. All this following a dismal 6-7 campaign capped by a weak finish and an uninspired loss to Air Force in the Independence Bowl. The profound difference for Georgia Tech compared to 2008, when Johnson arrived from Navy, is that the offense is no longer a work-in-progress and a second season under Al Groh's 3-4 alignment will be more easily digested.

No matter what happens on the Flats, the Yellow Jackets will be able to run the ball with authority as long as Johnson is on the payroll. The names might be different, but the results will have a consistent flavor, especially now that the option has been fully adopted by the kids. The keys will be to adequately replace QB Josh Nesbitt and B-back Anthony Allen, a pair of former ACC all-stars, and bolster the front wall. The favorites are Tevin Washington, who filled in when Nesbitt broke his arm last fall, and Preston Lyons. A pair of redshirt freshman, though, QB Synjyn Days and RB Charles Perkins, narrowed the gap in the spring.

On defense, Georgia Tech has plenty of work left to do for Groh and his assistants. The Yellow Jackets were mediocre in 2010, and have just five returning starters, none with postseason honors on his resume. The D isn't going to win many games for the program this year. The goal is to make sure it doesn't lose any for it. The special teams is parting with its most important cog, long-time PK Scott Blair.

Johnson has already proven unequivocally that his old-school approach to moving the ball can still work, leading the Yellow Jackets to 20 wins in his first two years and an ACC crown in 2009. Now, the coach is out to prove he can guide his team back from its worst season in 14 years, piloting Tech back to prominence in the Coastal Division.

What to look for on offense: Tevin vs. Synjyn. In the all-important battle to replace Josh Nesbitt at quarterback, junior Tevin Washington still maintains a lead over redshirt freshman Synjyn Days. However, it's shrunk since last year ended. Days played well in the spring, showing playmaking ability on the ground and a nice grasp of the offense. Washington, on the other hand, was ineffective and then had to have his knee scoped following spring practice. While it's still his job to lose, the cushion he enjoyed a few months back isn't quite as thick or comfortable today.

What to look for on defense: Attaochu. God bless you. Although he's started just a single game, the Yellow Jackets will soon be thanking the heavens that sophomore LB Jeremiah Attaochu chose to play for Georgia Tech a year ago. Signed as an ideal match for Al Groh's 3-4 defense, he's the kind of linebacker the team needed on the outside. A 6-3, 223-pounder, he's explosive off the edge, possessing the athletic ability to attack the backfield or drop back into coverage. By the end of the year, he'll be viewed as one of the futures cornerstones on defense.

The team will be much better if … it locates a big time rush. The line is the catalyst for the rest of the D, making first contact on running plays and life easier for the defensive backs. Well, at least that's the ideal plan. A year ago, however, Georgia Tech was feeble with its pass rush, ranking 11th in the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. Similar results will sabotage a rebuilt secondary. The Yellow Jackets must generate substantially more pressure this fall from defensive ends Izaan Cross and Jason Peters, and outside linebackers Steven Sylvester and Jeremiah Attaochu.

The Schedule: As long as the Yellow Jackets show up this year for the Kansas game, unlike last year, there should be a nice 3-0 start before starting out the ACC season against North Carolina in a key Coastal battle. Tech can't complain too much about the conference slate getting the Tar Hells and Virginia Tech at home and missing Florida State from the Atlantic. This year, playing Maryland is a plus and dealing with Duke on the road takes away a winnable road trip. There's a midseason stretch of three road games in four weeks, starting out at NC State and closing out at Miami, but three of the final four games are at home helped by a well-timed week off before dealing with the Hokies.

Best Offensive Player: Junior Omoregie Uzzi. Now that Georgia Tech's best skill position players have graduated, a lineman becomes the offense's steadiest performer. The only returning player on either side of the ball to earn All-ACC honors, he helps the running game go with his powerful, no-nonsense blocking. A skilled tactician after just two seasons of action, he can bully opposing defenders off the ball or get out of the blocks and into the second level of defense in a hurry.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Julian Burnett. When the 2010 season began, Burnett wasn't even a starter on this defense. Now, he's arguably its best player. Moving into then lineup in October, he went on to lead the Yellow Jackets with 89 tackles. While not the prototype on the inside at 5-10 and 222 pounds, he plays very big and very fast, using his vision and instincts to sniff out running plays as they develop.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Tevin Washington. This offense will only go as far as the quarterback can take it. And the program might only go as far as the offense can carry it. For Georgia Tech to be successful, it has to have consistent play behind center, getting timely pitches and scampers out of Washington, assuming he holds on to the job. If the quarterback position is an area of inconsistent play, the entire Yellow Jacket squad is going to suffer.

The season will be a success if ... the Yellow Jackets win eight games. After slipping below the .500 mark for the first time since 1996, Georgia Tech needs to bounce right back and deliver a winning season. There are too many changes on both sides of the ball for this squad to think about a second Coastal Division title in the last three years. However, with a slate that opens with Western Carolina, Middle Tennessee State, and Kansas, an eight-win season is not unreasonable.

Key game: Sept. 24 vs. North Carolina. After the somewhat cushy opening to the campaign, the Yellow Jackets will get their first serious test when the Tar Heels visit Bobby Dodd Stadium. Although still very early in the year, this is one of those games that could prove to be a bellwether for the entire campaign. A loss at home might be deflating. A win, however, could provide this young squad with the confidence boost it needs to carry it through October and November.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards: Georgia Tech 4,203 – Opponents 2,206
- Passing yards: Georgia Tech 1,091 – Opponents 2,625
- Fumbles lost: Georgia Tech 20 - Opponents 13

- 2011 Georgia Tech Preview | 2011 Georgia Tech Offense
- 2011 Georgia Tech Defense | 2011 Georgia Tech Depth Chart
- Georgia Tech Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006