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2009 Georgia Tech Preview - Offense
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 5, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Offense

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Georgia Tech Preview | 2009 Georgia Tech Offense
- 2009 Georgia Tech Defense |
2009 Georgia Tech Depth Chart
- 2008 GTech Preview | 2007GTech Preview |
2006 GTech Preview 

What you need to know: Can the triple-option work in a major conference? So far, so good. Without all the right parts in place, Georgia Tech finished fourth nationally in rushing, led the league in total offense, and produced the ACC Player of the Year, RB Jonathan Dwyer. Still, there’s considerable room for growth. The offense sputtered too often on third down and in the red zone, which can be traced to spotty play by the offensive line and inconsistencies under center from Josh Nesbitt. While that year in the system is expected to solve some problems, the coaching staff is taking a more proactive approach by adding new wrinkles into the playbook. Oh, the option will still be the preferred mode of transportation, but Paul Johnson hopes to keep defenses honest by installing elements of the run-and-shoot and sprinkling in a few more deep routes to WR Demaryius Thomas.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Josh Nesbitt
54-123, 808 yds, 2 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Dwyer
200 carries, 1,395 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Demaryius Thomas
39 catches, 627 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB Jonathan Dwyer
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Josh Nesbitt
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Roddy Jones
Best pro prospect: Dwyer
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Dwyer, 2) Senior OG Cord Howard, 3) Junior WR Demaryius Thomas
Strength of the offense: The ground game, running back depth
Weakness of the offense: Passing efficiency, the offensive line, third-down conversions, red-zone scoring

Quarterbacks


Projected Starter: As he digested the new option offense, last year was a bit of a blur for 6-1, 214-pound junior Josh Nesbitt. He survived and grew, however, and should be much better prepared this fall. Despite playing in a passing offense in high school, he’s a real nice fit for the system, combining great speed with the ability to break tackles in the open field. While banged up throughout 2008, he managed to rush for 693 yards and seven scores, while going 54-of-123 for 808 yards, two touchdowns, and five interceptions through the air. His accuracy was a disappointment and, along with gaining a better comfort level running the show, a focus for improvement in the offseason.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jaybo Shaw gave glimpses of why he was recruited to the program, rising to No. 2 on the depth chart just months his high school graduation and playing in seven games. A nifty 6-0, 190-pound athlete, he rushed for 200 yards and three scores on 63 carries, while completing 15-of-24 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

While Shaw gained valuable experience in his first season, 6-1, 205-pound Tevin Washington redshirted and learned on the practice squad. Another gifted athlete, with the speed to perforate a seam in the defense, he’s also an underrated passer, who can hurt defenses with his accuracy and quick release. Although behind in experience, he’s determined to narrow the divide on Shaw.

Watch Out For ... less thinking and more reacting. Even for a quality athlete, like Nesbitt, the learning curve was steep a year ago. This season, however, things appear to be slowing down for the junior, who looked more instinctive in practice and was improving with his option reads.
Strength
:
Athleticism. Part by design and part luck with the inheritance of Nesbitt, Tech is home to three outstanding, who are all improving at running the option. It took a year with some poor fits on the roster, but the Yellow Jackets now have the type of athletes they need to make this offense purr.  
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Yeah, it’s the option, but don’t think Tech doesn’t want to capitalize through the air when the defense provides openings. It absolutely does. In fact, Paul Johnson wants to install a little run-and-shoot into the offense if the quarterbacks cooperate. Nesbitt was erratic last season, falling way short of the coach’s desire for a 60% completion percentage.
Outlook: Although the quarterbacks aren’t quite where Johnson needs them to be, they’re light years better than this time last year. If Georgia Tech is going to meet rising expectations, it needs Nesbitt to stay healthy and turn the corner, becoming a legit dual-threat behind center. If he evolves, few teams will be able to stop this attack.
Rating
: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: Sometimes a player is a hand-in-glove fit with a system. Junior Jonathan Dwyer and the option is just such a marriage. The reigning ACC Player of the Year, he emerged as one of the nation’s premier backs, rushing for 1,395 yards and a dozen scores on only 200 carries and catching eight balls for 209 yards and another score. The B-back, or feature runner in this offense, he’s already built for a career at the next level, combining the punishing skills of a fullback with the 4.4 jets and cutback ability of a much smaller tailback. With enough carries and support up front, he’s a legitimate Heisman contender.

Tech’s most dynamic A-back is 5-9, 194-pound sophomore Roddy Jones, who had a breakthrough year of his own, turning 81 carries and eight receptions into 845 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. His 214-yard effort on just 13 carries against Georgia will go down as one of the greatest individual efforts in the long history of the rivalry. A lightning-quick jackrabbit in space, he dislocated his wrist in June, but is expected back before the opener.

The newcomer to the backfield, and Jones’ partner at A-back, will be 6-0, 225-pound junior Anthony Allen, a heralded transfer from Louisville. No ordinary import, he rushed for 1,102 yards and scored 23 touchdowns in a part-time role with the Cardinals. A physical, between-the-tackles runner, he has great hands as a receiver and the previous experience to make a smooth transition into this offense.

Projected Top Reserves: Behind Allen at one A-back spot is 6-0, 238-pound junior Lucas Cox, a more traditional fullback in other offenses. A starter for much of 2008, he rushed for 200 yards and three scores on 26 carries, providing a bruising change-of-pace for the ground game. He’s also the backfield’s most physical blocker, tearing open holes for the big-play runners.

Doing a pretty fair impression of Jones is 5-8, 175-pound sophomore Marcus Wright, an A-back reserve and one of the breakthrough performers of the offseason. An absolute blur and arguably the fastest Tech player, he’s going to force the staff to find ways to get the ball in his hands. He played sparingly as a true freshman, but that won’t be the case this fall.

Watch Out For ... many more options. Unlike last summer, the Yellow Jackets are loaded in the backfield, sporting depth and talent at each of the three starting spots. The addition of Allen and emergence of Jones, Wright, Richard Watson, and Embry Peeples will help keep everyone fresh.
Strength
:
Diversity. Whatever the need, this backfield has someone who can fill it. Obviously, Dwyer is the complete back, but Jones and Wright are the home run hitters, and Allen and Cox are capable of moving the pile. With so many unique options, Tech will be able to keep defenses guessing all season long.  
Weakness: Support. The only way this backfield stalls is if the offensive line doesn’t do its job or QB Josh Nesbitt fails to grow as the point guard of the attack. Neither can be ruled out. The line, in particular, was spotty last year and needs to replace All-ACC tackle Andrew Gardner.
Outlook:
With all due respect to Oklahoma and USC, Georgia Tech, too, belongs in the discussion about the nation’s most talented collection of running backs. Not only is Dwyer a bona fide All-American candidate, but he’s now surrounded by a terrific ensemble that’ll keep defenses from focusing on stopping him. If opponents commit too many resources to stopping the junior, Jones, Allen, and Wright will make them pay.
Rating: 10

Receivers

Projected Starters: Despite popular opinion, Georgia Tech will still throw the ball on occasion. And when it does, 6-3, 229-pound junior Demaryius Thomas is likely to be the target. Considering the system he’s in, he did a magnificent job of catching 39 balls for 627 yards and three touchdowns, or five times as many catches as the next closest receiver. A physical receiver, who can get behind the secondary, he has also become an asset as a downfield blocker.

Joining Thomas in the lineup is 6-0, 199-pound sophomore Tyler Melton, who started the first seven games of his rookie year before suffering a knee injury. He wound up with five receptions for 53 yards, numbers he’ll have no problem surpassing in his second year. More of a possession receiver to the big-play Thomas, he’ll work the short and intermediate routes.

Projected Top Reserves: Scaling the depth chart to the No. 2 spot behind Thomas is 6-3, 190-pound redshirt freshman Quentin Sims. While still raw and early in his development, he has the right size and athleticism to eventually be a playmaker on the outside.

Melton’s backup coming out of spring was 6-2, 202-pound junior Kevin Cone, a walk-on transfer from Shorter (Ga.) College. Although he sat out last season, he was still able to impress the coaching staff with his soft hands and ability to spring backs with downfield blocks.

Watch Out For ... more opportunities. While Georgia Tech isn’t about to go Texas Tech on the rest of the ACC, it does believe there are cracks in over pursuing defenses that can be exposed through the air. That’ll mean more chances for this receiving corps to make big plays, especially on play-action.
Strength
: Size. It all starts with Thomas, a 6-3, 229-pound wide receiver in the body of an H-back. All of the Yellow Jacket receivers can out muscle defensive backs for the ball and hold blocks on running plays, an underrated aspect of their job description.
Weakness:
Proven players after Thomas. The junior had 39 receptions last season, but the next closest wide receiver had only five. That’s a problem, which isn’t likely to be resolved this fall. With only one playmaker at the position, he can expect constant attention until someone else steps up.
Outlook: Thomas will again catch at least 30 balls for a hefty average, but he could use some help from the younger receivers. If Melton, in particular, can’t do some damage underneath, Tech’s dream of a more efficient passing game will be close to coming to fruition.  
Rating
: 6.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Although five players with starting experience are back, the program still feels the line needs to execute much better than a year ago. Leading the way will be 6-5, 310-pound senior Cord Howard, a steady left guard and a reigning member of the All-ACC second team. Very tough and physical at the point of contact, he needs to stay healthy and make another stride in his progression, especially with the NFL beginning to pay attention.

Right guard will be manned by 6-4, 288-pound sophomore Joseph Gilbert, who started a dozen games in his first season. A tough, no-nonsense blocker, he has good footwork and the ability to get to the second level in a hurry. After spending much of last year learning on the job, he should be more effective in Year 2 as a regular.

Back for a third season at the pivot is 6-4, 294-pound Dan Voss. More steady than spectacular, he brings the know-how and experience to be one of the line leaders, but like the rest of the line, needs to elevate the level of his play. Too often last year, he allowed penetration, stalling plays before they were able to fully develop.

Replacing all-star Andrew Gardner at left tackle is 6-6, 304-pound sophomore Nick Claytor, who was forced into the lineup by injuries over the last month of the season. Big, athletic, and nasty, he was one of the program’s signature recruits from the 2007. He does, however, have a bulging disc in his back, leaving the staff cautiously optimistic that he’ll have no complications this summer.

At right tackle, junior Austin Barrick is one of the best athletes on the line. Of course, at 6-3 and 254 pounds, he should be. A candidate to play running back in 2008, he slides effortlessly, but also got tossed around late in the season, especially versus Georgia and LSU. He gained some valuable experience after Gardner was hurt, but now he has to gain some weight in order to hold up in the trenches.      

Projected Top Reserves: Ever so gradually, the Yellow Jackets are building their depth through a succession of strong recruiting classes. At tackle, 6-5, 296-pound sophomore Clyde Yandell should be ready to challenge for a starting job after getting a taste of action in four games last year. With time and experience, his size and athleticism are going to translate into on-field success.

The guard of the future is 6-3, 291-pound redshirt freshman Omoregie Uzzi, one of the nation’s top lineman recruits of 2008. He plays with power, quick feet, and ideal pad level. In other words, he’s eventually going to be exactly the type of pulling that this offense craves. If Gilbert leaves an opening, it could happen as early as this September.

Watch Out For ... the injury reports. Right now, this is an average offensive line. However, if Claytor or Voss, who’s coming back from a torn labrum, suffer any setbacks, the unit will quickly degrade to somewhere south of average.
Strength
: The interior of the line. Tech’s strength, relatively speaking, is on the inside, where Voss and the guards bring a considerable amount of experience into the 2009 season. Howard has room to grow, but if he makes those strides, could be an anchor on the left side.
Weakness: The point of contact. Too often last season, the offensive line got bullied off the line of scrimmage by tougher opponents. Sure, it didn’t help that the old system of blocking had been scrapped, but from a purely physical standpoint, there’s a lot of work to be done before this group makes the kind of progress that the offense needs.
Outlook: Don’t be fooled by last year’s gaudy rushing numbers. The backs and the system, not the line, deserve most of the credit for that output. This is a marginal unit that really needs to turn the corner, or else the offense isn’t going to reach all of its potential. The coaches are encouraging a climate of competition, which could make for some very interesting battles when summer camp begins.
Rating
: 7