The two competing quarterbacks are true freshman Reggie Ball and veteran A.J Suggs.
Suggs is the bigger of the two with more experience. He is more of a pocket passer and doesn't posses the mobility of his freshman counterpart. However, there is a reason why Ball has secured the starting role from Suggs. It's because of his playmaking skills and mobility. The Georgia Tech coaches feel Ball provides more intangibles and possibly opportunities to exploit BYU's swarm defense.
At 5-11, Ball is a fleet-footed quarterback who likes to roll and throw out of the pocket. He is more productive on the run than inside the pocket. Look for Georgia Tech coaches to exploit this ability. With BYU's swarm defense and Ball's strength as a runner, he will likely roll out of the pocket a lot to give him the option to either throw the ball on the run, or utilize his running ability to turn it up field if the opportunity permits. Ball is very quick and possesses breakaway speed.
Containing Ball on the corners or forcing him inside could be crucial to BYU's defensive success. In passing the football, Ball is very accurate up to the 20-yard range. In high school, he was also effective in throwing the deep ball. Where Ball saw the least amount of success was throwing in the 20-45 yard range and over the middle. It will be interesting to see if Georgia Tech coaches have addressed this apparent weakness with their talented freshman quarterback.
If the problem persists, BYU fans will know early if Ball is continually rolling out of the pocket to throw within the 15 yard range to the outside or to receivers deep downfield along the side lines.
Georgia Tech's offensive line is very well coach by Joe D'Alessandris, who is in his second year there. The line is big and experienced, anchored by with 6-6, 330-pound, All-Atlantic Coast Conference Nat Dorsey at left tackle. BYU defensive end Brady Poppinga will be Dorsey's primary counterpart with Justin Carlson-Maddux in a back-up role.
With 6-1, 225-pound tailback Ajenavi Ezimefe possibly out for the BYU game to a high ankle sprain, and outstanding running back Tony Hollings unceremoniously departed, look for 5-10, 205 pound former walk-on running back P.J. Daniels (redshirt freshman) to line up as the primary backs in Georgia Tech's two back set. Because of BYU's defense look for Daniels on runs primarily to the outside on sweeps.
As Georgia Tech's fourth leading rusher in 2002 with 72 carries for 255 yards, Daniels' experience could be somewhat of an issue. Utilizing Daniels' talents along with Ball's mobility, look for Georgia Tech to throw to Daniel in the short flats. On running plays, look for a majority of runs to be pitch-outs to the outside.
Executing on simple plays is the key to Georgia Tech's success with their young talent.
From Miramar, Florida, and a pleasant surprise to wide receivers coach Tommie Robinson has been 6-0, 185 pound receiver Chris Dunlop and standout walk-on freshman Finesse Usher. Usher and Xavier McGuire, a 6-4, 210 pound freshman should be in the rotation behind 5-10, 190 pound junior Jonathan Smith and 5-10, 190 pound redshirt sophomore Nate Curry. With 6-3, 220 pound quarterback Damarius Bilbo being moved to wide receiver, expect their primary receivers to be: Dunlap, Bilbo, McGuire, Smith, Curry and Usher in the rotation.
Look for the starting receivers to be primarily used in quick routes to the outside with Ball throwing on roll-outs out of the pocket to crossing receivers over the middle. Bilbo, a Gatorade Player of the Year and a USA Today Player of the Year in Mississippi, was rated by ESPN analyst Tom Lemming as a Top 25 quarterback his senior year. While there is no question about his athleticism, he jury is still out on whether he can emerge a top flight receiver for the Yellow Jackets.
Curry, meanwhile, has been in the program for some time is a major strength in Georgia Tech's offense. Despite key injuries the past two years (including a torn ACL) that kept him out of the starting line-up, Curry will be one of the go-to receivers this year on Tech's offense.
The primary receiver will be Smith, a junior who ranks 11th in Georgia Tech's career receptions and 14th in receiving yards. In 2002, he was the third leading receiver with 36 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns.
YELLOW JACKET DEFENSE:
The Georgia Tech defensive line is not as good as their offensive line. There are some question marks here.
Redshirt Gerris Wilkerson, a 6-3 230 pound linebacker from Oakland, California, has been converted to defensive end and could start. Sophomore Eric Henderson is a talented, but young defensive end. At 6-3 and 260 pounds, he recorded two sacks, five tackles with three for a loss in Tech's win over BYU in 2002. Henderson can start at defensive tackle, but can switch over to play defensive end against BYU. Redshirt sophomore Chirod Williams, at 6-4, 245 pounds, will rotate with either Henderson or Wilkerson.
Switching from defensive end to tackle is 6-5, 275 pound redshirt sophomore Travis Parker. Parker will be playing alongside the largest defensive tackle on the Yellow Jacket line in Mansfield Wrotto, a 6-4, 285 pound freshman.
Georgia Tech's defensive line runs a four-man front formation and will look for every advantage to help them get off the ball quickly and fill the gaps. Look for their defensive line to time their jumps on the snap count by guessing the breaks of receivers in motion.
The strength of the Yellow Jacket defense lies in their young and relatively inexperienced secondary which includes Reuben Houston, Chris Reis, James Butler, Dawan Landry and Jonathan Cox. At times, Georgia Tech runs a five defensive back variation with three safeties and two cornerbacks. Their coaches will utilize the speed of their secondary to pressure BYU's quarterback, Matt Berry.
If the Yellow Jackets succeed in putting secondary pressure on the BYU offense, it will come primarily from two rising stars among a talent laden backfield. The first is 6-0, 200-pound cornerback freshman Reuben Houston. Houston is big and fast and we would venture to guess if their youthful defensive line cannot put pressure on BYU's quarterback, most of the blitzing will be done by Houston from the left outside defensive cornerback position with a safety moving up into coverage. Strong safety
Chris Reis at 6-1 and 200 pounds, is the other primary blitzer that could be moved up into an already establish two-man linebacker position to blitz up the middle along with Houston on the outside.
Rising star Dawan Landry, at 6-2 and 215 pounds, along with junior strong safety James Butler, at 6-3 and 208 pounds, is strong, quick and is Georgia Tech's version of Aaron Francisco. He has the most experience of the secondary and will be leaned upon heavily for leadership among a young but talented backfield group.
The starting corners are Jonathan Cox at 5-10, 185 pounds and Houston are the primary cornerbacks with Butler, Landry and Reis in the safety positions.
Senior linebacker Keyaron Fox and strong side linebacker Daryl Smith will man the middle and will be occasionally joined by safety Reis in the middle for blitzes.
Overall, the key to Georgia Tech's defense knowing they are a young but talented secondary that will be asked to pressure BYU's backfield if their young defensive line is not successful. Additionally, they have to cover a solid core of experienced receivers on a pass happy offense.
Luckily for the Cougars, Georgia Tech's sack leader and defensive end Greg Gathers remains sidelined by a kidney ailment. As game time approaches, tailback Ajenavi Exiemefe may also miss the BYU game because of injury.
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