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2007 Georgia Tech Preview - Offense
Posted Apr 2, 2007

Preview 2007 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Offense

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Preview 2007 - Offense

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

What you need to know:
Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and depth.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Taylor Bennett
25-58, 523 yds, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Tashard Choice
297 carries, 1,473 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: James Johnson
39 catches, 608 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Tashard Choice
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR Greg Smith
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C
Trey Dunmon
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Andrew Gardner
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Choice, 2) Gardner, 3) WR James Johnson
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, line depth, running back depth
Weakness of the offense:
Number two receiver, quarterback experience


Projected Starter: Call it a blessing in disguise. While Reggie Ball's academic suspension at the end of last year might have cost the team a possible Gator Bowl win over West Virginia, it allowed now-junior Taylor Bennett a chance to get his feet wet. He was fantastic completing 19 of 26 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns prompting many Yellow Jacket fans to wonder why he hadn't been in earlier when Ball was struggling. While he's not going to run like Ball did, he's not a statue and is a night-and-day better passer with a strong arm and good decision-making ability. The 6-3, 215-pound left-hander should make the passing game continue to shine even without Calvin Johnson to throw to.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Byron Ingram and junior Kyle Manley have had time in the system and know what they're doing, and Calvin Booker has loads of potential.  The number two job would've gone to true freshman Steven Threet, but he chose to transfer to Michigan.

As well as they all might do pushing Bennett for time, everyone might just be keeping the seat warm for Josh Nesbitt, the team's top recruit and, arguably, the best quarterback prospect Tech has gotten in several decades. Nesbitt is Reggie Ball with an accurate arm throwing for 63 touchdowns and rushing for 1,745 yards over the last two years at Greene County High in Greensboro, Georgia. 

Ingram has a nice combination of size, arm and athleticism, but he'll have a hard time working his way into any sort of a backup role. Booker, a junior, is an Auburn transfer who has shown just enough to be in the hunt for the number two job. At 6-3 and 235 pounds, he has the size and the arm, and if he gets the offense down he could be the wild-card in the race. Jonathan Garner was supposed to be the star of the future, but got lost in the shuffle and will transfer to Marshall.
Watch Out For ... an amazing battle for the number two job that could carry over into a fight for the starting spot. Bennett is the unquestioned number one going into the summer, but Threet and Booker could quickly change that, and Nesbitt could make things very interesting down the line.
Strength: Options. The coaching staff can't go wrong with any of its choices. If Bennett falters in any way, there are several other prospects ready to give it a shot.
Weakness: Overall experience. Yeah, Bennett appears to be vastly improved and he should be more than fine, but he only has one good game under his belt while the backups have no experience. This is an ACC championship-caliber team that's relying on an inexperienced player at the most important position.
Outlook: It's addition by subtraction losing Ball but improving the overall position. Bennett appears to have a great command of the offense, but he has to make everyone around him better without Calvin Johnson to rely on. There are almost too many good options to work with making for an interesting battle for playing time over the next few seasons. From top to bottom, this may be the best stable of quarterbacks the program has ever had.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Former Oklahoma Sooner Tashard Choice has come into his own as a Yellow Jacket leading the team with 1,473 yards and 12 touchdowns last season averaging a solid five yards per carry. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, he's a strong back who can handle the workload with seven games of 20 carries or more and two with over 30. Only a 48-yard effort in the loss to Clemson broke up an impressive string of 100 yards games tearing off nine in his final ten outings including seven in a row to close out the year. While not a blazer, he has a good burst when he gets an opening.

Helping the cause is veteran Mike Cox, a senior fullback who's grown into a sledgehammer of a blocker and a valuable receiver. He'll never get any carries, but he's an invaluable do-everything-else type that every coaching staff loves to have.

Projected Top Reserves: The emergence of Choice diminished the role of senior Rashaun Grant as a runner, but he grew into a key player in other areas making plays as a kick returner and occasionally as a wide receiver. Choice brings the power, Grant brings the speed with the ability to get to the corner in a hurry. Injuries were an issue early in his career, but he hit the weights, got up to a solid 200 pounds, and now is better equipped to handle a pounding if he's needed to take over. The coaching staff is planning on creating even more of a niche for him to utilize his skills.

The third man in the mix, sophomore Jamaal Evans, will likely be the main man next season when Choice and Grant are gone. He's a compact 5-8 and 196 pounds with good power and tremendous cutting ability. A big-time recruit for the program last year, he'll get the ball more to keep Choice fresh.

Waiting in the wings this fall will be superstar recruit Jonathan Dwyer, who ran for 1,802 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in Marietta, Georgia.  He's 200 pounds with sprinter's speed.

At fullback, redshirt freshmen Trevor Bray and Quincy Kelly will back up Cox. Bray has more potential as a fullback, while Kelly has moved from running back to linebacker to fullback. Don't rule out another move back to the defensive side.
Watch Out For ... Grant and Evans to play a far bigger role now that Reggie Ball, the team's second leading rusher, isn't under center. Grant will become a more dangerous receiver, while Evans should at least double the 36 carries he got last year.
Strength: Depth. Tech has three tailbacks who can carry the load and a bona fide star in Choice. With Cox leading the way, the backfield is loaded.
Weakness: Proven home-run hitters. Grant and Evans have the wheels to crank out big runs, but neither has ripped off a game changer. Grant's longest carry last year was 26 yards, Evans' was 31, and Choice's was 46. This could all quickly change if Dwyer gets on the field right away.
Outlook: This might be the best Tech backfield in years with depth, a fantastic fullback, and an All-America caliber back to work the offense around, and a superstar freshman in waiting. They can all catch passes, they all know the offense, and all should combine for well over 2,000 yards.
Rating: 9


Projected Starters: While junior James Johnson won't be Calvin Johnson, he should grow into a solid number one receiver. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he's not going to outphysical his way past too many defensive backs, he's quick enough to get open and be a solid midrange target. He was second on the team with 39 catches for 608 yards and seven touchdowns averaging 15.6 yards per catch, and now his numbers should blow up with a passing quarterback like Bennett throwing to him.

Sophomore Greg Smith will either get the number two starting job or be the third receiver in the rotation. At 6-3 and 195-pounds he has good size to go along with a little bit of experience catching seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He has the speed to grow into a deep threat and should be a factor around the goal line. Tight end will be an issue early on after losing the top three players from last season.

Sophomore Colin Peek is the only tight end on the team with any experience being used as a blocker so far. He has the size at 6-6 and 250 pounds to go along with a world of potential, but he'll have to prove he can become a steady target.

Projected Top Reserves: It'll be an open casting call for the number two spot next to Johnson with Correy Earls, Andrew Smith and Bay-Bay (Demaryius) Thomas all getting a chance. Earls, a redshirt freshman, is one of the team's quickest receivers and will start out behind Johnson. Smith, a junior walk-on, has mostly been used on punt returns and will likely be the odd man out in the mix if everything goes according to plan with Earls and Thomas. Thomas is the most intriguing prospect with 6-4, 220-pound size and loads of athleticism. While not nearly as fast as Calvin Johnson, he has a similar build.

The tight end situation is also up for grabs with 6-3, 265-pound redshirt freshman Austin Barrick and 6-2, 265-pound Brad Sellers battling Peek for the job. Barrick is a true tight end with as much upside as Peek, while Sellers is a former defensive end who'll likely be used only as a blocker.
Watch Out For ... Johnson to be better than you think. Georgia Tech is bit of a college football wide receiver factory, and Johnson appears to be the next in line. Unfortunately for him, everyone will compare him to C.J., but don't be shocked if he puts up close to 1,200 yards like the future NFL superstar did last season.
Strength: Quickness. While there might not be a slew of household names, there are plenty of talented young players ready to breakout now that the passing game isn't all about one player. They can all move; getting open should be a problem.
Weakness: Experience. There's James Johnson and ... uh ... James Johnson. Tight end is a total question mark, while finding a number two receiver will be an ongoing search. The corps will be a work in progress.
Outlook: Don't be shocked if the overall production isn't all that bad with several prospects playing key roles. There's not a Calvin Johnson to count on in a pinch, but Bennett's also starting from near-scratch. It's not a stretch to call this the key to the Tech season as the receiver production might be the difference between another trip to the ACC Championship or also-ran status. The group, at the very least, has to be good enough to take the pressure off the running game.
Rating: 6

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The line was good last year and should be dominant this season with four starters returning and plenty of good backups. Junior Andrew Gardner is the star up front starting his third year in a row at left tackle. A good run blocker, his real worth is in pass protection where he's able to use his athleticism to handle most speed rushers. He should be even better now that he's used to playing at around 300 pounds after coming to Tech around 250.

6-7, 300-pound junior A.J. Smith will start on the right side, but he'll be in a big battle with sophomore Cord Howard who was sidelined this spring with a shoulder problem. Smith has been a backup over the last two seasons playing both tackle spots along with a little time at guard.

Senior center Kevin Tuminello is a two-time ACC All-Academic performer and veteran anchor starting every game over the last two seasons (26 straight). While he's good in pass protection, he's at his best in the running game.

On the left side is senior Matt Rhodes, the veteran of an experienced group with 34 career starts. Despite only being around 275 pounds, he uses his leverage well and is a strong run blocker. He's not special, but he doesn't make mistakes and he's always reliable.

On the other side is Nate McManus, who's been a mainstay at right guard for the last two seasons. The 6-3, 300-pound senior is one of the lines most talented and versatile players able to move to guard if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: While Smith should take over Mansfield Wrotto's right tackle job, that could change as the season goes on. Howard is a bit more talented and more of a mauler with the strength to play guard if needed. If he can prove he can be consistent in pass protection, the gig might be his.

Sophomore center Trey Dunmon won't have a shot to beat out Tuminello, he'll be the starter next year. At 305 pounds, he's a bit bigger than Tuminello and has the talent to eventually grow into a special blocker with excellent run blocking skills and good strength.

305-pound sophomore Dan Voss could play center, but with Dunmon appearing to be the future in the middle, he'll see time at left guard as the understudy behind Matt Voss.

6-7, 300-pound A.J. Smith is a big veteran reserve who's settled in behind Andrew Gardner on the left side after seeing time early on in his career at guard and center.
Watch Out For ... Gardner to grow into an All-America caliber talent. He's literally growing into the left tackle position and just scratching the surface on how good he can become.
Strength: Experience. Four starters with 113 career starts form the nucleus, while there's enough experience among the backups to fall back on if injuries hit.
Weakness: Right tackle. It's only a weakness because Cord Howard wasn't able to practice in spring ball. A.J. Smith should turn out to be more than fine, but it's the one area that's not a sure-thing.
Outlook: If it's true that a veteran offensive line is the true key to a good team, than Tech should be fantastic. Pass protection will be a bit more of a premium without the mobile Reggie Ball under center anymore, but this group should be able to handle it. Getting the backups, especially on the inside, more meaningful work would be a big help going into next year. There isn't a lot of star power outside of Andrew Gardner, but there's so much experience, so much returning production and so much good depth that anything less than a big year will be a huge disappointment.
Rating: 9


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