"Georgia Tech is a middle of the pack team, stuck in mediocrity."
"Chan Gailey just can't quite get it done."
I'm sure every Georgia Tech football fan can recognize these statements. We're still hearing them this year after Tech won nine games and the ACC's Coastal Division. Preseason fan expectations were met, however the team knew what it was capable of and didn't get all they wanted, losing by only 3 points in the ACC Championship, the Gator Bowl, and to rival UGA on Thanksgiving weekend. They also stumbled in the season opener by 4 points to Notre Dame. The season was the best so far of Coach Gailey's tenure. Sure, the word "almost" best describes last season, however, don't expect a similar year.
A friend, who is a Dawg, said during a conversation the other day,
"Georgia Tech will be in a rebuilding year…"
Ok, I have to admit that the other statements above which we Tech fans are used to hearing I'm ok with. I like to see my favorite team in the underdog situation to begin the year, and I'm happy we are there once again. However, this statement about rebuilding really put me off. When people in our great state of Georgia make blank statements and assume things just because they have this "Bulldog superiority" attitude, I like to stand my ground. I must say I did spare him all my thoughts because I don't want the rival fans knowing what's going on in Atlanta. Let's just say it will be a difficult trip to Atlanta from Athens this year for many people. It won't be easy, as it hasn't for them for a few years now, but the outcome of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate may change.
Now, back to the "rebuilding" comment. If a team who returns 8 of 11 starters on a top-tier defense in the NCAA, I wasn't aware that would be rebuilding. And people, that number 8 doesn't include possibly our best defensive player in Michael Johnson, who will definitely be out there most of the time. If a team returns 7 of 11 starters on offense in the NCAA, it might be able to be called rebuilding if the skill positions are wiped out. But, let me address this and explain why there is so much excitement at Tech with their new offense.
Quarterback - Reggie Ball out. Taylor Bennett in. I won't get in to how bad Ball was, we all know. I still wish him the best. I also won't get in to how we kept Bennett on the bench, as I am a full-trusting supporter of Chan Gailey. However, there is no need to call this quarterback change a rebuilding move as Bennett is for real. Taylor passed for over 60% in limited time last year, including a start against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl where he threw for over 300 yards. If that game didn't take you back to the days of Ralph Friedgen and George Godsey, then something might be wrong with you. If you attended spring practice then you, like me, are thoroughly impressed with the QB play of Taylor Bennett and anxiously awaiting the 2007 season.
The running back position, along with the offensive line situation is far from hurting at Georgia Tech. Tarshard Choice, the ACC's leading rusher last year, returns for his senior. Depth is no issue, as his backups RaShaun Grant and Jamaal Evans have proven themselves already in flashes last year, not to mention two top recruits coming in this fall. NFL 4th round draft pick Mansfield Wrotto is the only offensive lineman not returning from a line ranked #2 in the conference last year by some. If you've seen his replacement, A.J. Smith, play at right tackle this spring or seen how big he's gotten (6'8" 300+ lbs.) then you know those shoes are probably more than filled. And last, but certainly not least, we return one of the nation's top fullbacks in "The Bull," Mike Cox. We all know what he can do.
Possibly the biggest question for Tech going into the spring was the receiving corps. Let me tell you if you still haven't heard. The questions are answered, folks. Sure, we just lost the best receiver in the game after painfully watching the lack of getting him the ball. Calvin Johnson may be gone, but with the combined play of James Johnson, Demaryius "Bebe" Thomas, Greg Smith, Correy Earls, and the ACCURACY and vision of Taylor Bennett, Tech will see much production. Also remember the running game and how good it should be. This will take much pressure off the passing game. Tight ends are being replaced this year, but spring practice showed a few guys who can all block and catch. Colin Peek should be the number one guy there and the potential for him is very high. I expect to see another in the fold of Matvay, Foschi, and Heller this year.
Now, the real reason why confidence is high in this offense: New Offensive Coordinator John Bond. We all know about him now but if you didn't see the spring scrimmages, expect to see more than you expect in the fall! We're going to see passes over the middle, to tight ends, and to running backs. Those were things lacking the last five years as you all are aware.
So with all of that now off my chest, I'll say this. We are not a rebuilding team. In fact, for the first time in a long time, despite the tough schedule, I expect to see a 10+ win season this year and be in the thick of the ACC race. I guarantee that Gailey and the team are thinking about more than me. So, would you all please anxiously wait with me and get excited this year because there is something brewing in downtown Atlanta, something very special ready to shock the South and the rest of the nation.
Hey Irish, HERE COME THE JACKETS!