As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.
Spring Practice Start Date: March 25
Spring Game Date:
Has the triple-option worked for Georgia Tech? Or better question: has Paul Johnson worked for Georgia Tech? After a year in which the Yellow Jackets finished just 6-6 during the regular season, this may just be the last shot for Johnson. With a miniscule recruiting class walking in the door, it won’t be easy. But responding to concern from fans, I’d assume this team must win at least eight games for him to truly feel safe come the offseason. Is that doable, though? This spring sets us on the right track to knowing a bit more.
Following a season where the ‘Wreck scored nearly 34 points per game, it’s hard to believe they had any issues at all on the offensive side of the ball. However, they also failed to score more than 21 five separate times, and (again) without a viable passing game in 2012, the team was an open target for opponents willing to stack the box against the run. Some of that may be due more to graduating QB Tevin Washington than the offense itself, but it’s likely we’ll see a transition period for this season as well. While Vad Lee and Synjyn Days both saw snaps at the quarterback position, it’s questionable which player (if either) can handle the full-time job. Like last year, there’s potential Johnson trots out two separate starters (both Lee and Days), though from a stability standpoint, one wold assume they’d have to choose eventually. The Yellow Jackets averaged just 129 passing yards per game last season (119th in the FBS); a true waste of talent when you’re fielding strong passers like Lee, or quality receivers like Jeff Greene. The team returns plenty of players who were involved in last year’s offense (they had 17 unique rushers and 14 unique receivers), so the pieces should be in place to hit the ground running this spring and find a more efficient way to use everyone’s talents.
Defensively, 2012 was an abject disaster for Georgia Tech, allowing over 28 points per game and giving up 40 or more six separate times. To fix the problem, they’ve brought in Ted Roof, who spent the last two seasons as Penn State‘s D-coordinator (and held this same job with Tech from 1999 through 2001). With eight starters back, Roof’s duties appear easier, but given the state of things for most of last season, it’s tough to really look at that as a positive. Sure, one could say they “improved” over the second half of last season, but look at the disastrous first half we’re comparing that to. And even that “improved” part of the season featured a 2-2 record overall, and two opponents that put up 42 or more points. The other two? An FSU team that severely underestimated them in the ACC Championship Game and a USC team playing without its starting quarterback in the Sun Bowl. Trust me, there’s plenty of work still to be done, though Roof hasn’t hinted how we’ll go about that just yet. Based on his time at PSU, expect this group to rely on strong linebacker play and an emphasis on rushing the passer. With several inexperienced young arms in the ACC next season, a veteran defense (like this one) will be handed a golden opportunity to really apply pressure and force mistakes.
Now, Georgia Tech did make the ACC title game last year, so don’t get me wrong, but the 2012 version of this team was still supremely underwhelming (and had plenty of help winning that division). To view last year as a success would be foolish, but I think Paul Johnson understands that. His strategy to use Lee as much as he did last year could pay huge dividends in terms of ramping up the offensive attack this spring, and Roof’s familiarity with the program only gives him an easier road on the opposite side of the ball as well. In a wide-open Coastal division, Tech will be positioned well, and this spring is likely to set that tone early.