GoJackets.com Preview: GT vs. JSU

Jacksonville State heads to Atlanta coming off an impressive 8-3 2008 campaign that included a loss in their first game at Georgia Tech. Expectations may even be higher this season for the Gamecocks as they will be led by senior quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. They begin the season ranked number 19 in the FCS.

Perrilloux isn't starting off his season too strong, however. The star quarterback is suspended for the season opener in Atlanta, leaving Jacksonville State head coach Jack Crowe to start a sophomore at the position in Marques Ivory. Crowe is confident in Ivory though, and was pleased with his team's preseason camp. Former Yellow Jacket wide receiver/A-back Greg Smith transferred to Jacksonville State and has stepped up to be the Gamecocks' top receiver. Smith will be one of the offensive captains in his return to face his former team.

Georgia Tech enters its second season under head coach Paul Johnson with higher expectations than the first. Tech is ranked 15th in both the Coaches' and AP polls. Everyone around the program expects the team to run the offense more efficiently this season. But, the target is on their backs. Many around the nation believe that Tech will be easier to stop this season because teams have been exposed to it. It seems to me that would be a pretty silly assumption, especially if you look at Coach Johnson's history. Not to mention, the Yellow Jackets are light years ahead with a year under their belt. Combining spring practice and preseason camp with last year's experience, the players are way ahead with their assignments and knowledge of the playbook. Blocking should only improve as well.

Breakdown:

Georgia Tech Offense – There are three big things I expect to see from Georgia Tech this season, especially in the first game against what should be a weaker opponent. Those are better passing efficiency, more rushing yards per game, and less fumbling. I, for one, am excited to see Josh Nesbitt run the offense in his second year this season. Josh has made strides this offseason in his passing game and has the drive to lead this team to many wins and a championship. His health will have a great effect on the season and in games. This Saturday, I expect to see much of the basic plays we're used to seeing. Toss sweeps, triple-options, and wide receiver screens should be occurring often against Jacksonville State. There shouldn't be much need to get complicated and show many new plays. Look for B-back Jonathan Dwyer, A-back Anthony Allen, and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to make big contributions along with Nesbitt against the Gamecock defense. A-back Roddy Jones is a game-time decision because he has only now started practicing with full contact.

Impact Player – QB #9 Josh Nesbitt

Jacksonville State Offense – As stated earlier, sophomore Marques Ivory will be handling the quarterback duties. Head Coach Jack Crowe is pleased with Ivory's game-managing abilities, especially for his age. Many wide receivers and running backs should be getting in on the action on Saturday to help out Ivory. Senior wide receivers Greg Smith, John Houston Whiddon, and James Wilkerson will lead the receiving corps. Junior wideout Laray Williams and sophomore James Shaw are others to look out for. Running the ball will be either sophomores Brandon George and Calvin Middleton, or junior Drec Lindley. A glance at last season's stats might tell you that Jacksonville State tends to lean towards the passing game. This should give Yellow Jackets fans plenty of opportunity to get a feel for Tech's deep secondary.

Impact Player – WR #1 Greg Smith

Georgia Tech Defense – Much has been made this past offseason about the loss of the three senior defensive linemen who are now in the NFL. Sure, no one ever wants to lose three NFL caliber players, but all that does is open up some healthy competition. Derrick Morgan should see more double teams at end this year and may have been the best lineman last year as a sophomore. Robert Hall has a clear hold on the other spot and don't be surprised to see him shine on Saturday and in 2009 as a whole. The linebackers are healthy and ready to go and improvement should be seen there with Brad Jefferson and Sedric Griffin leading the way. The secondary should be the most important part of the defense against JSU's offense. Tech has depth there and it will be interesting to watch the players rotating around the positions getting their shots to cover former teammate Greg Smith.

Impact Player – FS #22 Cooper Taylor

Jacksonville State Defense – Led by two FCS All-Americans in defensive back Carnell Clark and linebacker Alexander Henderson, JSU boasts some talent on defense. Expect to hear their numbers (26 and 45 respectively) called a few times during the game. However, what Jacksonville State doesn't excel at is stopping the run. Facing what may be the best rushing offense in the NCAA on Saturday should prove to be a major task for the Gamecocks.

Impact Player – LB #45 Alexander Henderson


Summary
It's just the start of the season, but hopefully this game will serve as a sort of warm-up game to get in gear for conference play beginning the following Thursday. I think the Yellow Jackets have a great shot this season at a 10-win season and an ACC Championship. They are driven to do so and the coaching staff is exceptional. Coach Johnson knows how to win and proves so year after year. After getting pounded in their bowl game last year, I hope they don't take any games lightly. The number one thing that stands out to me in which will determine the Jackets reaching their goals will be the health of Josh Nesbitt. If he stays healthy, Georgia Tech fans will be happy.


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