Opponent: Western Carolina Catamounts Time: Thursday, September 1st @ 7:30 pm Location: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, Atlanta, GA
In 1979 Paul Johnson became a Western Carolina alumni. In 2011 he will lead a Georgia Tech squad against his Alma Mater in what many will describe as a tune-up game. The Catamounts out of Cullowhee, North Carolina are a member of the Southern Conference in the FCS Subdivision. Even within their own ranks the Catamounts have not been a very good team. Head Coach Dennis Wagner carries a 7-27 record into his 4th season this year and were just 2-10 in 2010.
As expected, no Catamount player has any eye-popping stats. Starting QB Zach Brindise only completed 55.4% of his passes last year with only 7 TDs to 9 picks. Junior running back Michael Johnson ran for 677 yards and 5 TDs a year ago. Torez Jones had 7 picks for the Purple and Gold but was a senior last year. One guy to keep an eye on is the small statured Nate Harris. At 5'7" and 165 pounds he might be hard to find but he lead the team last year in all-purpose yards with 342 rushing yards, 47 receiving yards, and 642 kick return yards. Star WR Deja Alexander is another offensive player to watch during the game. The Catamounts lost their top 2 tacklers from 2010. Rock Williams was the 3rd leading tackler last year with 66 tackles and will likely be their leader on defense in 2011.
This sets up well though for a young Jacket team. Tevin Washington got to start the second half of the 2010 season after an injury to Josh Nesbitt. He has shown considerable growth in practice and looks to display his improvement when the lights come on Thursday night. David Sims has made the move from QB to B-Back and has shown such promise that Coach Johnson has tabbed him as the starter for Thursday. Tyler Melton will get the start, but true freshman Jeff Greene will also likely see significant time opposite of Stephen Hill at the wide receiver position. A slew of injuries has created some movemont along the line who self-proclaims themselves the "Goon Squad." This is one of only 6 offensive lines in the country to not have a senior starter. From recent practices Jacket fans can expect a bit more of a balanced offense with a slight increase in the frequency of passes thrown.
The defense is very excited to show their improvement in year two of Al Groh's 3-4 defense. All 3 starting defensive lineman return as well as 3 out of 4 starting linebackers with Daniel Drummond as the newcomer, switching over from the B-Back position. The entire secondary is replaced but many of the players had significant playing time last year. Rod Sweeting and Louis Young will anchor the corner spots. Isaiah Johnson and Jemea Thomas will round out the safety position. For a defense that has been much maligned over the past couple years they hope to return to an attacking, turnover-producing defense that they know they can be.