ACC

2010 NCAA Football Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 11-3, 7-1
Bowl Game: Orange Bowl (L 14-24 vs. Iowa)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): 13, 13
Conference finish: ACC Champions
Offensive rank: 26
Defensive rank: 54

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Jonathan Dwyer, 1,395 yards, 14 TD; Josh Nesbitt, 1,037 yards, 18 TD; Anthony Allen, 618 yards, 6 TD
Passing: Josh Nesbitt, 1,701 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT
Receiving: Demaryius Thomas, 1,154 yards, 8 TD
Tackles: Brad Jefferson, 95 total tackles; Morgan Burnett, 85 total tackles
Sacks: Derrick Morgan, 12.5 sacks (12 solo, 1 assisted)
Interceptions: Morgan Burnett, 4 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 18 @ North Carolina: The Yellow Jackets' first conference game of the season is a big one. The Coastal Division is the stronger of the two ACC divisions with Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina all vying for the right to play in the ACC Championship Game at the end of the season. This is an early test for Josh Nesbitt, Anthony Allen and the triple option offense against one of the nation's better defenses.

November 4 @ Virginia Tech: The ACC Championship rematch with Clemson a couple of weeks prior is also big, but this matchup with the Hokies could ultimately decide who represents the Coastal Division in December. This is around the time when we start looking at head-to-head tie breakers and the Yellow Jackets would love to grab a win here.

November 13 vs. Miami: This is one hell of a two week stretch. Not only are the Yellow Jackets taking on two of the game's better teams, they're taking on two of the better teams in their own division who could stand between them and another trip to the ACC Championship. Georgia Tech's offense embarrassed Miami in 2008, but the 'Canes figured it out last season, holding Tech to less than 100 yards rushing and keeping them out of the end zone until the second half. This will also be a big game for the Tech defense as they take on Jacory Harris and what promises to be an improved Miami offense.

November 27 @ Georgia: Rivalry weekend will see the Yellow Jackets head to Athens this year. The Yellow Jackets should be bowl eligible by this point, but there's nothing better than going into the conference championship and/or the bowl season fresh off a victory over your in-state rivals. A six point loss last season gave the Jackets their second loss of the season.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)

AP: N/A

Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Jonathan Dwyer, RB; Demaryius Thomas, WR; Cord Howard, G; Derrick Morgan, DE; Sedric Griffin, LB; Morgan Burnett, S

Key Returning Players

Josh Nesbitt, QB; Anthony Allen, RB; Roddy Jones, RB; Sean Bedford, C; Brad Jefferson, LB; Mario Butler, CB; Dominique Reese, S; Cooper Taylor, S

Offensive Overview

Josh Nesbitt did not participate in spring practice this year, but word has it that he was healthy enough to go. Chalk it up to precautionary reasons that kept him sidelined this spring, and who could blame him or the Jackets? Jaybo Shaw, Nesbitt's backup a year ago, transferred to Georgia Southern this offseason, leaving Tevin Washington as Nesbitt's primary backup. Washington was solid this spring, but has played in only one game at the collegiate level, and that came in mop up duty against Jacksonville State in the first week. Keeping Nesbitt healthy is important.

The offensive line, a unit replacing three starters, will be challenged to keep defenders away from Nesbitt this season, but it's inevitable that he'll take his fair share of bumps and bruises as one of the offense's primary ball carriers. Georgia Tech's triple option offense has taken them to new heights under Paul Johnson. Jonathan Dwyer opted for early entry into the NFL Draft, but Anthony Allen, Roddy Jones and Embry People are poised to take over where Dwyer left off. Allen will take over Dwyer's B-Back position and will see a lot of runs to the inside, with Roddy Jones likely to get a bulk of the carries to the outside.

Demaryius Thomas caught 46 passes last season. The second leading receiver was Embry People with 8 receptions. Stephen Hill came in third with six receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown, and is expected to blossom into the next big thing in the passing game.

Defensive Overview

Virginia is transitioning away from Al Groh's 3-4 defense in favor of the 4-3 variety, while Groh brings his 3-4 defense to Atlanta. There are a few holes to fill with the early departures of Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett, but overall Georgia Tech returns eight starters from a year ago. Of course, with the new defense a lot of players will find themselves in new roles in 2010. Anthony Egbuniwe finds himself at outside linebacker after playing the defensive end position opposite Morgan last season, while Jason Peters moves from the tackle position to end. Filling the nose tackle position in the 3-4 defense has proven problematic. T.J. Barnes, Logan Walls and Ben Anderson will compete this fall for the position.

Peters and Izaan Cross are the presumed starters at the end positions and will have some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of getting pressure on the quarterback. Morgan's 12.5 sacks last season ranked 8th in the nation. Brad Jefferson, last year's leading tackler, will assume one of the inside linebacker positions and is a key player in stopping the run. Fans can also look forward to the return of Cooper Taylor to the safety position. Taylor sat out the 2009 season with a heart disorder and returns to the team in 2010. He was one of the standout players in 2008, finishing second on the team with 69 tackles. Cornerback Mario Butler is also a key player in the secondary who should be in for a good season.

Special Teams Overview

Scott Blair returns to assume kicking duties. Blair was 45 for 46 in extra points and hit 14 of his 20 field goal attempts last season. Chandler Anderson also returns after averaging 42.3 yards per punt last season on just 37 attempts. Orwin Smith and Jerrard Tarrant, last season's leading kick and punt returners, respectively, also return for the 2010 season.

Head Coach: Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson's triple option offense has served him well. Since taking over at Navy in 2002, Johnson has fielded a top four rushing offense in every season including four years with the nation's top rushing attack (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007). What's more, he's led his team to a bowl game the past seven seasons (he did not coach Navy in 2007 Poinsettia Bowl after accepting the position at Georgia Tech), and led the Ramblin' Wreck to their third ACC Championship and first BCS bowl appearance.

He continues his tenure at Georgia Tech in his third year as head coach of the program looking to repeat as ACC Champions, but he's got a helluva road ahead of him with Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina looking to dethrone the Yellow Jackets.

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Josh Nesbitt, QB; Anthony Allen, RB; Lucas Cox, FB; Sean Bedford, C; Brad Jefferson, LB; Anthony Egbuniwe, LB; Mario Butler, CB; Scott Blair, K

Season Prediction

4th ACC Coastal

Tech fans won't like the fourth place prediction, and few, if any, would agree with it. Georgia Tech won the Coastal last season and finished tied for the division lead with Virginia Tech in 2008, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. Virginia Tech has been a consistent force in the division, while Miami and North Carolina have been rebuilding and seem poised to shift the balance of power one of their ways. The Yellow Jackets could find themselves victim to a very deep division.

Tech is replacing two key players on both sides of the ball (RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryius Thomas on offense; DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett on defense), but have some promising replacements lined up. Much of Georgia Tech's success will depend on whether players step up to fill the roles of the departed players. Will Anthony Allen run the ball as effectively to the inside as Dwyer? Will Stephen Hill emerge as a viable threat in the passing game the way Thomas was? Will the defense put pressure on quarterbacks like Morgan? And who will step into that ball-hawking role vacated by Burnett? - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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