2007 Georgia Tech Preview

Posted Apr 2, 2007

Georgia Tech came so close to winning the ACC championship last year, and now it's even better despite losing Calvin Johnson, Reggie Ball and offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. LB Philip Wheeler leads a veteran-loaded team that could be a national sleeper if the passing game comes together.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Preview 200

By Pete Fiutak & Michael Bradley

- 2007 GT Offense Preview | 2007 GT Defense Preview
2007 GT Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Georgia Tech Preview 

Now that Chan Gailey is back in Atlanta and through with his flirtation with the Steelers and Dolphins, he has to be wondering whether he’ll be presiding over the team which knocked around West Virginia for three quarters of the Gator Bowl or the one which staggered down the stretch of the regular season managing a mere 18 points in the final two games.        

It’s a good question, and one which Yellow Jacket fans no doubt share. Since GT was 9-5 last season and 9-2 in mid-November, it’s hard to indict Gailey. But there’s little secret that while Gailey isn’t a pariah in Atlanta, he isn’t an administration favorite, if only because AD Dan Radakovich didn’t hire him and wasn’t the one who extended his contract after the 2005 season.

Head coach: Chan Gailey
6th year: 37-27
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 24, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Tech Players
1. LB Philip Wheeler, Sr.
2. DE Adamm Oliver, Sr.
3. RB Tashard Choice, Sr.
4. OT Andrew Gardner, Jr.
5. SS Jamal Lewis, Sr.
6. P Durant Brooks, Sr.
7. FS Djay Jones, Sr.
8. DT Darryl Richard, Jr.
9. DE Darrell Robertson, Sr.
10. QB Taylor Bennett, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

at Notre Dame

Sept. 8


Sept. 15

Boston College

Sept. 22

at Virginia

Sept. 29


Oct. 6

at Maryland

Oct. 13

at Miami

Oct. 20


Nov. 1

Virginia Tech

Nov. 10

at Duke

Nov. 17

North Carolina

Nov. 24


2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

9/2 Notre Dame
9/9 Samford
9/16 Troy
9/21 Virginia
9/30 at Virginia Tech
10/7 Maryland
10/21 at Clemson
10/28 Miami
11/4 at NC State
11/11 at North Carolina
11/18 Duke
11/25 at Georgia

As Gailey emerged as one of the favorites for the Dolphins’ job, there were rumblings from the Tech community that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if he left. That way, Radakovich could bring his own man (Jimbo Fisher?) in to run the program, and Gailey could leave on good terms after posting winning seasons in each of his five years.

Well, it didn’t happen, and Tech is loaded and ready to defend its Coastal Division title with 17 returning starters including junior QB Taylor Bennett, who looked tremendous in the Gator Bowl loss, throwing for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Trouble is, he won’t have Calvin Johnson, who’s off to be the NFL’s superstar, around to catch anything thrown within his area code. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix left, too, bolting for Miami at the height of the rumors that Gailey was on his way out.

But Gailey is back. And even though he has four years left on his contract, Gailey needs to take a step forward, if only to keep his new boss happy. He said all the right things at his press conference, after he withdrew from consideration from the NFL gigs – “I’m excited about the future here at Georgia Tech” – but that future had better include a few more wins.

It should include a little more offense. Last year’s team allowed just 300.6 yards per game, but QB Reggie Ball was awful completing a mere 44.4% of his throws. If Johnson hadn’t been around, he might not have connected on 30%. Bennett looked good in the bowl game, and if he can continue to thrive without Johnson, Tech should be more dangerous all around. It had better be, or else the next time Gailey goes looking for work, it might not be with another job on which he can fall back. On the flip side, if the team plays up to its potential, Gailey could be hailed as a superstar and very suddenly, an indispensable head man.

What to look for on offense: Ball couldn’t pass, period, so Tech should be more potent through the air with Bennett. Don’t expect the Yellow Jackets to become some sort of high-wire act with a great running game to rely on. Senior Tashard Choice will be one of the nation’s best backs, and he’ll work behind a line that returns all but one starter. James Johnson might not be Calvin Johnson, but he caught 39 passes and averaged 15.6 yards per reception and should flourish in the number one role.

What to look for on defense: As good as last year’s defense was, this one will be even better. With nine starters returning, this is a veteran group that should keep almost everyone under 20 points. Few coaches in the country are as talented as Gailey at establishing a defensive tempo. GT forces plenty of turnovers and can get to the quarterback, and should be a terror in opposing backfields all season long.

This team will be much better if … it establishes a consistent passing attack. The Yellow Jackets are going to stop just about everyone and will get good all-around special teams play, but if they want to be ACC champions, they’ll have to throw the ball more effectively. Bennett has the potential to provide a big-time boost to the attack, provided other targets emerge besides James Johnson.

The Schedule:
It's not bad. Four of the final five games are at home, and the one road date is at Duke. Boston College and Virginia Tech have to come to Atlanta, so if the Yellow Jackets can survive road dates at Virginia, Maryland and Miami, they should be in for a huge ACC year. Notre Dame is going to need time to jell, so going to South Bend for the season-opener might not be that bad. Georgia has to make the trip to Tech this year.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Tashard Choice.  With Calvin Johnson and Reggie Ball out of the picture, Choice is prepared to become the headline act of the Yellow Jacket offense.  Flashing power and quickness to the hole, the one-time Oklahoma Sooner led the ACC in rushing surpassing 100 yards on the ground in nine of his last ten games.   

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Philip Wheeler.  The disruptive and extremely athletic Wheeler is a perfect fit for Jon Tenuta, who asks his linebackers to blitz often and create havoc all over the field.  Even after shifting inside before the start of last season, he still led Tech in sacks and tackles for loss to go along with 89 stops.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Taylor Bennett. While it’s been fashionable to fire on Reggie Ball and his erratic career, he did win games and he did occasionally come up with the big play when it was absolutely needed. Most Tech fans would rather have a consistent, accurate passing attack, and that’s where Bennett comes in. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, he’s a tall, pure passer who should get the overall completion percentage well over 50%.

The season will be a success if ... Tech wins the ACC title. It had everything set up for a conference championship last season before struggling so much in the loss to Wake Forest. Now the defense is better, the offense should be improved, even without Calvin Johnson, and the schedule works out relatively well with Virginia Tech, Boston College and Clemson coming to Atlanta.

Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets stunned the Hokies 38-27 in Blacksburg to basically seal the Coastal Division title before the race really began. Virginia Tech will be a top ten-caliber team that’ll need this win to get/stay in the national championship race, while Georgia Tech might need the victory after going to Miami a few weeks earlier.

2006 Fun Stats: 

- First quarter scoring: Georgia Tech 104 – Opponents 43
- Third down conversions: Georgia Tech 74 of 196 (38%) – Opponents 66 of 208 (32%)
- Kickoff return average: Opponents 27 – Georgia Tech 19.4


Related Stories
2007 Georgia Tech Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 2, 2007
2007 Georgia Tech Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 2, 2007
2007 Georgia Tech Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 2, 2007

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