2010 Georgia Tech Preview
Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt
Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt
Posted Jun 16, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Preview 2010

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Paul Johnson
Third year: 20-7
Returning Lettermen
Off. 24, Def. 28, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 11
Ten Best Georgia Tech Players
1. QB Josh Nesbitt, Sr.
2. LB Brad Jefferson, Sr.
3. RB Anthony Allen, Sr.
4. C Sean Bedford, Sr.
5. CB Mario Butler, Sr.
6. SS Cooper Taylor, Soph.
7. CB Jerrard Tarrant, Jr.
8. RB Roddy Jones, Jr.
9. OT Austin Barrick, Sr.
10. LB Steven Sylvester, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 SC State
Sept. 11 at Kansas
Sept. 18 at North Carolina
Sept. 25 NC State
Oct. 2 at Wake Forest
Oct. 9 Virginia
Oct. 16 MTSU
Oct. 23 at Clemson
Nov. 4 at Virginia
Nov. 13 Miami
Nov. 20 Duke
Nov. 27 at Georgia

Paul Johnson has manufactured a charmed life in two short years at Georgia Tech. How will he and his Yellow Jackets to a little bit of adversity and raised expectations?

Practically overnight, Tech has gone from the hunter to the hunted, winning its first ACC championship in two decades and even stealing some of the spotlight from rival Georgia in the process. However, all of the program's success has come with a price tag, as more than half of last year's all-stars, RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Demaryius Thomas, DE Derrick Morgan, and S Morgan Burnett, opted for early entry into the 2010 NFL Draft. Had the quartet remained on the Flats, the Jackets would have been prohibitive favorites to repeat. Without it, there are holes on both sides of the ball that could bring them back to the pack.

Having already proven that his version of the run-heavy spread-option can win big, Johnson is planning to maintain the level of success he's achieved in Atlanta. The encouraging news is that the Yellow Jackets retain some key parts to that heralded ground game, including All-ACC first team QB Josh Nesbitt and big-play backs Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones, who are itching for a chance to supplant Dwyer. While the general consensus is that as the running attack goes so goes Tech, the team is still aiming for a turnaround on defense as well. Enter Al Groh, a coup of a hire, with an eye on revamping an underachieving group. He, as much as anyone else, could hold the key to back-to-back BCS bowl bids.

Now that Johnson has soared beyond his blueprint for success, what does he do for an encore? He can start by overcoming some huge losses to the NFL, which is a sure-fire way to enhance a budding legacy with the program.

What to look for on offense: An Allen sighting. Wherever he's played, be it in Louisville or as a backup with Tech, Anthony Allen has had a penchant for long runs and trips to the end zone. Literally hitting the ground running upon transferring, he turned his first 64 carries with the Yellow Jackets into 618 yards and six touchdowns. Now that he's slotted in at B-back, the feature position in this offense, there's no telling how prolific he might be when he gets his hands on the ball 20-25 times a game. If the line blocks, the senior has all-conference potential, at a minimum.

What to look for on defense: The return of SS Cooper Taylor. When Taylor was lost in September to Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a rare heart disorder, the Jackets lost much more than a starter. They were robbed of an emotional leader and one of the best all-around athletes on defense. Well, one heart surgery and countless frightening moments later, he's back and ready to pick up where he left in his breakout debut in 2008. In a secondary pining for leaders and playmakers, his return will be both timely and inspirational considering how close he was to never playing again.

The team will be much better if … Groh can help transform the defense. Even with two All-ACC performers, DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech was downright mediocre on defense a year ago, ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in many statistical categories. Too often, the Jackets were dragged into shootouts. Now, they won far more than they lost, but the program would prefer not to live so dangerously for a second straight year. If Groh can weave a little magic on this side of the ball, out scoring the potent Tech offense becomes markedly more difficult.

The Schedule: It's not going to be easy. The first half of the year is sneaky-tough with three road games in four weeks after starting out against South Carolina State. Going to Kansas will be interesting with a key Coastal battle at North Carolina coming up the following week. Having to go to Virginia Tech all but kills hopes of repeating as the ACC champion with a brutal three-game stretch of at Clemson, at Virginia Tech, and against Miami. If you thought the first part of the slate was interesting, that's nothing compared to the finishing kick with a trip to Georgia to close out the brutal finishing kick. The week off comes in between road games at Clemson and Virginia.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Josh Nesbitt. The light went on for Nesbitt a year ago, and ACC defenses were left squinting throughout the season. Looking completely comfortable running the spread-option, he parlayed big numbers and a league crown into a spot on the All-ACC first team. The undisputed leader of the attack, he did it all, rushing for 1,037 yards and 18 touchdowns, while averaging over 20 yards a completion. The staff feels he'll be even more at ease with the system this fall, troubling news for Tech's opponents.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Brad Jefferson. Finally healthy, Jefferson put his repertoire on display in 2009, leading Tech with 95 tackles, eight stops behind the line, and two forced fumbles. Simply a beast against the run, he'll patrol the Yellow Jacket D from one of the two inside linebacker positions. He diagnoses plays quickly, locking in on his target and lowering the boom with textbook tackling fundamentals.

Key players to a successful season: Defensive ends Jason Peters and Izaan Cross. Morgan had 12.5 sacks a year ago, which matched the rest of the entire roster. So, it's sort of obvious that no single player can adequately fill his pads. That said, if Tech wants to make any progress on defense, especially versus the pass, it has to find rushers, who can keep opposing quarterbacks from having all day to throw. Peters and Cross, a converted tackle and exciting sophomore, respectively, are first in line to start on the new three-man front.

The season will be a success if ... Georgia Tech wins at least nine games for a third straight year. As tempting as it may be, resist the temptation to set the bar at another ACC championship. The Yellow Jackets aren't quite at that point yet, especially playing in a very deep division. They are, however, talented enough to pick up nine wins and finish the year at a very nice bowl game. Anything more is a triumph considering a schedule that includes tough road games at North Carolina, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Georgia.

Key game: Sept. 18 at North Carolina. While nothing that happens in September will serve as a death knell, this is one of those games that'll be a tone-setter for both schools. In the tightly-packed Coastal Division, which also includes Miami and Virginia Tech, every head-to-head match up could wind up being pivotal when tiebreakers begin getting discussed in November.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Third down conversion percentage: Georgia Tech 52% – Opponents 41%
- Average yards per catch: Georgia Tech 22.7 – Opponents 11.9
- Time of possession: Georgia Tech 33:49 - Opponents 26:11

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