CFN: Georgia Tech Preview

New coach, new era, killer defensive line. Paul Johnson might be getting all the headlines bringing his running attack to Georgia Tech, but it's Vance Walker, Michael Johnson, and the defensive front that'll freak everyone out in the ACC. Check out the CFN Georgia Tech Preview.

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

Head coach: Paul Johnson
1st year at Georgia Tech
12th year overall: 107-39
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Tech Players
DT Vance Walker, Sr.
2. DE Michael Johnson, Sr.
3. LT Andrew Gardner, Sr.
4. DT Darryl Richard, Sr.
5. RB Jonathan Dwyer, Soph.
6. SS Morgan Burnett, Soph.
7. CB Jahi Word-Daniels, Sr.
8. WR Demaryius Thomas, Soph.
9. LB Anthony Barnes, Soph.
10. QB Josh Nesbitt, Soph.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: COMING
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 28 Jacksonville State
Sept. 6 at Boston College
Sept. 13 at Virginia Tech
Sept. 20 Mississippi State
Sept. 27  OPEN DATE
Oct. 4 Duke
Oct. 11 Gardner-Webb
Oct. 18 at Clemson
Oct. 25 Virginia
Nov. 1 Florida State
Nov. 8 at North Carolina
Nov. 15  OPEN DATE
Nov. 20 Miami
Nov. 29 at Georgia

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2007 Record: 7-6

Sept. 1 at Notre Dame W 33-3
Sept. 8 Samford W 69-14
Sept. 15 Boston College L 24-10
Sept. 22 at Virginia L 28-23
Sept. 29 Clemson W 13-3
Oct. 6 at Maryland L 28-26
Oct. 13 at Miami W 17-14
Oct. 20
Army W 34-10
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech L 27-3
Nov. 10
 at Duke W 41-24
Nov. 17 North Carolina W 27-25
Nov. 24 Georgia L 31-17
Humanitarian Bowl
Dec. 31 Fresno State L 40-28

Well, this should be interesting.   

With new head coach Paul Johnson comes the adoption of the triple-option offense and the exit of defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, who deftly turned the Yellow Jackets into a perennial nuisance for the rest of the ACC. As if all of that upheaval isn’t unsettling enough, the defense loses three of last year’s four all-league performers and the special teams unit must replace Durant Brooks and Travis Bell, the best punter-kicker combo in the history of the program. Yup, if Georgia Tech is eventually going to take two steps forward under Johnson, it’ll likely have to take one big step back first.

If nothing else, this will be a great experiment for the current college football world that has gone mad with love for the spread offense. Is there still a place for an option attack at the BCS-league level? If this works and if the Yellow Jackets can dominate on the ground like Johnson’s Navy teams did, leading the nation in rushing for the last three seasons, it could spark a major trend.

For Tech fans who keep waiting for their program to make the turn to another level, tinkering and getting quirky isn’t going to cut it. After all, Chan Gailey got the team to the ACC title game two years ago and it wasn’t enough to keep him around after a disappointing 2007.

There will have to be a bit of an adjustment, but to Johnson’s credit, he’s not asking for any sort of a grace period. He doesn’t have all square pegs for the round holes, but he doesn’t have the exact players he needs quite yet. Even so, he has far more talent to play around with than he ever had in Annapolis.

With change occurring just about everywhere, the expectations for the upcoming season are going to have to be a bit modest. Throw in September games at Boston College and Virginia Tech, and the Jackets could be out of the ACC title hunt before the leaves start turning colors.  More than anything else, Johnson wants to establish his system in 2008, with an eye toward bigger and better results in 2009. In the meantime, no one will want to deal with the Yellow Jackets and this offense. It can’t be properly prepared for, and there could be a few interesting upsets to kick-start the new era.

What to look for on offense: Unpredictability. Yes, Johnson is installing an offense similar to the ones he ran at Navy and Georgia Southern, but it won’t be your father’s triple-option. The first-year coach promises a power-based playbook that’ll use elements of the wishbone, the I-formation, the veer, and the run-and-shoot. Basically, the coach wants to create as many one-on-one matchups as possible, opening up the field for the passing game as well as the running attack.

What to look for on defense: Less blitzing. The cornerstone of the Tech defense for years under Tenuta won’t be scrapped, but it will be reduced. Under new coordinator Dave Wommack, the ends will play wider, the back seven will sell out far less, and all of the linemen will be given more room to make plays. Translation?  Wommack recognizes the Jackets’ strength is in the trenches, and wants to capitalize on their abilities as much as possible.

The team will be much better if the offense collectively digests the new system sooner rather than later. It’s a matter of when, not if, the triple-option begins to crank out yards under Johnson’s tutelage. Although the Yellow Jackets have a steep learning curve to navigate in Year One, if they prove to be quick studies, the rest of the ACC might take a year or two before figuring out how to defend these guys.

The Schedule
: Welcome to the show, Paul Johnson. How's this for a road slate? At Boston College, at Virginia Tech (and those come by mid-September), at Clemson, at North Carolina and at Georgia. The word you're looking for is yeeeeeesh. Oh yeah, and then there are ACC home dates against Virginia, Florida State and Miami just to keep the Yellow Jackets honest. Non-conference games against Jacksonville State and Gardner-Webb will help matters, but playing Mississippi State after back-to-back games against the Eagles and Hokies could be a trap.

Best Offensive Player: Senior LT Andrew Gardner. Gardner has come a long way since being a lightly-recruited high school player. Georgia Tech took a chance five years ago on a player who has grown physically and intellectually into one of the country’s most complete tackles. A safe bet to be back on the All-ACC First Team, he’ll be the leader of a line that’s breaking in a bunch of new players and adjusting to a completely different blocking scheme.   

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Vance Walker. DE Michael Johnson will likely be a top ten draft pick, but Walker won’t be far behind. What do you call an interior lineman who defends the run as well as he gets after the passer? A millionaire. Walker delivered a breakthrough season as a junior, making 45 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. With so much talent around him to deflect attention, expect more of the same this fall.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Josh Nesbitt. While it’s unfair to expect so much of a second-year player, the new offense won’t get out of the gate if the quarterback doesn’t do a competent job. Nesbitt clearly has the athletic ability to excel in the option, but needs to prove he can make the right reads and protect the ball. Behind him is a redshirt freshman walk-on, leaving little margin for error.

The season will be a success if ... Tech ends the season with a firm grasp on the new offensive and defensive systems and a quarterback of the future. A bowl game would be nice, but this is an obvious rebuilding season on the Flats, so wins and losses won’t be the only measurements of success for the Yellow Jackets. With so much change in the air and so many underclassmen playing key roles, this year is more about setting the table for the future under the new regime.

Key game: Nov. 29 at Georgia. Maybe bowl eligibility hinges on the outcome. Maybe not.  In the bigger picture, however, Johnson realizes how important this game is to the program, the fans, and the fate of his staff if the recent trend can’t be reversed. Tech has lost seven straight in the series, one of the glaring reasons Chan Gailey lost his job. 

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Georgia Tech 90 for 771 yards – Opponents 76 for 653 yards
- Sacks: Georgia Tech 47 for 302 yards – Opponents 22 for 166 yards
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 10 of 13 (77%) – Georgia Tech 7 of 17 (41%) Top Stories