Spring Update: Georgia Tech

Few teams can lose a four-year starter at quarterback and be optimistic about their offense, but that is the case at Georgia Tech.

Junior Taylor Bennett, who set a Yellow Jackets bowl record with 326 yards passing when he took over in the Gator Bowl after Reggie Ball was declared academically ineligible, followed up that performance with consistent play in the spring.

He ended the workouts by throwing five touchdown passes in the spring game, two each to redshirt freshmen receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Correy Earls) who are looking to replace all-America Calvin Johnson. The fifth went to tailback Jamaal Evans.

With Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant forming a solid one-two punch at tailback and four starters returning to the interior line, the Jackets have the potential for a potent and likely more consistent offense than under the inconsistent Ball.

Despite losing All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson to the NFL, head coach Chan Gailey was more than pleased with what he saw from his team this spring.

"We concluded spring practice early in April and felt like we accomplished a lot," said Gailey. "We were able to get a lot of young players to get them a lot of reps. At the same time, we stayed fairly injury free."

Gailey also said his new starting quarterback looked good in his new role, despite the fact he's working under a new offensive coordinator.

"We have a lot of new passing game in our offense now," he said. "With John Bond coming in we implemented a lot of new passing. On the field, Taylor Bennett picked up right where he left off (last year) and he did a lot of great things on the field this spring."

Bond, who joins Tech after serving as the offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois University the last three years, will call the offensive plays and will also coach the quarterbacks.

Junior quarterback Taylor Bennett should be an upgrade over four-year starter Reggie Ball.
Tech also has its typical stingy defense that should put the Yellow Jackets in a strong position to complete the job they started last year when they made it to the ACC title game but lost to Wake Forest with an Orange Bowl bid on the line.

Still, Gailey said there are several spots he's still looking to build depth at later this summer.

"We still need to find a tackle, a tight end, outside linebacker and a corner, but we have a pretty good nucleus returning this year," he said.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The loss of WR Calvin Johnson leaves the biggest hole, even though QB Reggie Ball was a four-year starter. Junior QB Taylor Bennett backed up his impressive play in the bowl loss to West Virginia with an equally impressive spring. Four returning starters in the offensive line along with senior TB Tashard Choice look to give Tech a balanced attack.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Eight returning starters, led by senior LBs Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton, give the Jackets a solid nucleus on defense. Wheeler is a big-play guy who had nine sacks in 2006. There is some concern at corner and a lack of experienced depth at linebacker but the line looks strong, especially at end with seniors Adamm Oliver and Darrell Robertson returning.

SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Tech has a solid one-two kicking game with senior PK Travis Bell (12-of-18 on field goals) and P Durant Brooks (45.5 yard average) both returning. Sophomore Jamaal Evans and senior Rashaun Grant (kickoffs) and junior Andrew Smith (punts) lead the return game.

SPRING UPDATES: WR Demaryius Thomas -- With Calvin Johnson passing up his senior season to enter the NFL draft, the Yellow Jackets are short of receivers. Thomas was one of two redshirt freshmen to step it up in the spring, catching two touchdown passes in the spring game.

WR Correy Earls -- Earls was the other redshirt freshman who showed there is possibility of a passing game after Johnson's departure. He also had two touchdown catches in the final scrimmage, including one that covered 70 yards on the first play.

WORTH NOTING: With 17 starters returning from last year's Coastal Division championship the Yellow Jackets figure to be players in the ACC's BCS bid once again. The non-conference schedule features the season opener at Notre Dame, the season finale at home against Georgia, plus a home contest against Army.

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