An Offseason Look: Georgia Tech

Some of the guesswork has been removed at Georgia Tech, and it certainly made for a smooth spring. "We accomplished some things," said head coach Chan Gailey, entering his third season. "We were able to find a couple of guys who've come on and helped us in spots."

Gailey admitted his first two seasons were more of a scramble to learn who could play in certain positions.

"The first year, I didn't know anything (about team). Then, last year was a lot of questions to be answered, a lot of things to get done," said Gailey. "This year, it's a lot smoother."

The biggest relief is quarterback. The Yellow Jackets know what they have. Reggie Ball shined as a true freshman last season, often making plays no rookie is supposed to make.

He set school records for a freshman in passing yards, total offense and completed 52 percent of his passes. The downside was Ball struggled with coverage recognition. He threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns.

"There are some fundamental things that we need to work on with Reggie," Gailey said. "Overall decision making and teaching him to anticipate better will be the emphasis."

The focus everywhere else will be on building depth. This has been Tech's biggest weakness for several years. Injuries or performance problems leave the team vulnerable.

"I'm excited about where we can be," Gailey said. "We are not there yet. We have a lot of work to do, but we have some great things to build on from last year. There is some potential.

"Our biggest concern is depth at a lot of positions."

But Tech has reason to be encouraged. Last year's team finished a surprising 7-6 and won the Humanitarian Bowl. In preseason, Tech was picked to finish eighth and some pundits wondered how they might win an ACC game.

This was a team ravaged by 11 academic suspensions and other issues. The success of Reggie Ball and Gailey's coaching helped avoid a disaster.

Preseason Predictions: DL Eric Henderson, 2nd team All-America by Street & Smith's; 3rd team by Athlon. DB James Butler, 3rd team All-America by Street & Smith's.

Key Game: Oct. 28 vs. Virginia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets love to play a Thursday night home game and this is another center-stage test. The Hokies and Miami are replacements on the home schedule for Florida State. Tech could have as many as three losses at this point in the season, so beating Virginia Tech will be a necessity in order to think about another bowl trip.

The Mindset: The Yellow Jackets made a habit last year of defying odds. Just when it seemed they were buried, they rose up with an upset win. A large reason for the surprise was QB Reggie Ball, who played better than anyone expected. Named the ACC rookie of the year, Ball is the reason Tech avoided a losing season. He will be boosted by tailback P. J. Daniels, the ACC's leading rusher. These two are the cornerstone of an offense that needs to find playmaking receivers. Tech also lost two all-conference offensive linemen. On defense, the biggest question is linebacker, where all three starters graduated.

Big Shoes to Fill: LB Daryl Smith -- Actually, you can also add LB Keyaron Fox, who was the leading tackler last year for Tech. Smith was a second-round NFL draft pick (Jacksonville Jaguars). He and Fox combined to turn Tech's defense into a feared group. The Yellow Jackets had a winning season due to their defense. This will be the greatest weakness this season. The Jackets have to hope newcomers like sophomores Nick Moore and KaMichael Hall can help make up the difference.

Quote to Note: "We'll always build our team through speed and quickness. We've got a lot of speed up front on defense, and I think we've got some savvy players in the secondary." -- Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey.

Also See: Scott Rhymer's Previewing Georgia Tech. Top Stories