Can Georgia Tech repeat as ACC champs?

This time last year I sat in Paul Johnson’s office and my inquiring mind wanted to know: After one season in the ACC, what would be the over/under on how many times Johnson would be asked whether or not the league had caught up with his offense? The question was asked every year when he was at Navy, so it was bound to come up here.

Johnson smiled because he already had his answer ready. “Yeah, we’ve been running this offense 26 years but THIS will be the year that people catch on.” It was pretty big hit at ACC media days in July.

As it turned out, most of the teams Georgia Tech played may have THOUGHT they knew what was coming, but they had a hard time stopping it. The Yellow Jackets were second in the nation in rushing (295.43 ypg), 15th in scoring offense (33.79 ppg) and won their first outright ACC championship since 1990. Now there were some disappointments along the way. The Yellow Jacket defense struggled against Georgia and lost to the state rival the week before the ACC championship game. And the Orange Bowl performance against Iowa was certainly nothing to write home about.

But there weren’t a lot of people who predicted that in only two seasons Johnson would deliver a conference championship and a berth in a BCS bowl.

“This time a year ago the program was light years from where it was when we got here,” said Johnson. “We took a step forward last season. Now we have to see if we can take another step forward.”

A year ago the question of the day was whether or not opposing  defenses had learned the nuances of Johnson’s option offense. This season the major question will be whether or not Georgia Tech will move forward or take a step back after the loss of four great football players: RB Jonathan Dwyer and WR Demaryrius Thomas on offense and defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett on defense.

“We are going to miss those guys because they were really good players but it’s our job as coaches to recruit and develop players to fill those holes,” said Johnson. “And now players who have been waiting their turn get their opportunity. We’ll see if they take advantage of it.”

Truth be told, the Georgia Tech offense is going to be good again. Josh Nesbitt returns for his senior season at quarterback and, if he stays healthy, will run for over 1,000 yards again. Johnson has to find a backup he can trust because Nesbitt will miss a series now and then simply because of the pounding he takes.  In the early going David Sims looks like he could be that guy. Anthony Allen played the “A” back last season to Dwyer’s “B” back. Allen is a really a “B” back, said Johnson, but he wasn’t going to beat out Dwyer and he was just too good to stand on the sidelines waiting.

Thomas averaged 25.1 yards per catch and will be missed but everyone at Tech expects Stephen Hill (22.8 average on six catches) to step right in and make big plays against defenses who are (rightfully) obsessed with the running game.

It’s the defense where Georgia Tech has a chance to take a quantum leap beyond where it has been the past two seasons. The Yellow Jackets were 56th nationally in scoring defense last season (24.79 ppg) and, more importantly, lacked any real identity.

That is about to change.

In convincing Al Groh, the former Virginia and New York Jets head coach, to join the Georgia Tech staff as a defensive coordinator, Johnson has potentially done for the defense what he did for the offense when he came as head coach.

“Just like our offense, I wanted our defense to have a clear system and a clear personality that everyone understood,” Johnson said. “Al Groh knows defense and he knows exactly what he wants to do. And he will be able to teach it to our players.”

Groh teaches the 3-4 defense, which is a staple in the NFL and is starting to gain popularity in college football. Nick Saban used it to win a national championship at Alabama in 2009. Clemson’s Kevin Steele is getting good results in the ACC. Georgia hired Todd Grantham from the Dallas Cowboys to install the 3-4.

The system puts a premium on large, fast linebackers, which are easier to find in recruiting than the dominating defensive linemen. The learning curve can be steep, but once players get it, they usually like it.

“We always tell our players and the people we recruit that there are a lot of ways to be successful in football and to win games,” said Groh. “But this way works. We’ve proven it.”

If Georgia Tech can improve on defense then the Jackets won’t be faced with the weekly dilemma of having to simply outscore people to win.

“When you can get some stops it takes some pressure off of the offense,” said Johnson. “And I’ll think we’ll do that.”

Georgia Tech will need to play better on defense because the ACC Coastal is going to be better in 2010. Miami looks like it may be finally ready to turn the corner under Randy Shannon. North Carolina returns a ton of people on defense and just needs to improve on offense. Virginia Tech will still be Virginia Tech but this season the Hokies return two 1,000-yard rushers instead of one.

It will not be an easy path for Georgia Tech as three out of the first five games (Kansas, North Carolina, Wake Forest) are on the road. There are also road games to Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia.

“I just tell the guys that with all of those players leaving nobody believes they can win anything,” Johnson said. “But it’s up to us to prove that they are wrong. Nobody gives you anything. If we’re willing to work hard enough, we’ll be just fine.”

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271 comments Add your comment

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
11:42 am

im excited about tech because now uga can really put a winning streak together as long as pj is there and uga will have more blow outs against them ..will look like uga playing Georgia Southern out there.

RambleOn84

April 2nd, 2010
11:42 am

Johnson goes to the Orange Bowl (and yes, loses to a top 10 team) with recruiting classes rated in the 40s and 50s…

Richt goes to the Toilet Maintenance Bowl in Shreveport (and, as UGA fans are quick to point out, beat juggernaut Texas A&M) with annual top 10 recruiting classes…

Who should be worried about their team again?

Wreck

April 2nd, 2010
11:42 am

Miami and UNC are both trendy picks. The media pines for Miami’s glory days, and Butch Davis just has to be close, why he once coached at Miami!! Yawn.

These blogs are a testament to just how stupid *some* UGA fans are. CPJ removes all doubt this year.

Jim Bob Cooter

April 2nd, 2010
11:45 am

WHOOOO!!!!!!!!!! UGA IS GONNA BEAT THEM NERDS AGAIN…TECH IS FULL OF MINORITIES THAT I DON’T LIKE…I ALMOST GOT INTO UGA

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
11:50 am

besuades, their is now way that tech can beet the dawgs in athens this yeer, and thats all that maters. techies ofense is a joke.all you need is 4 line mans that will go to the nfl won day, and you beat them! and since 90% of uga players go to the nfl, uga will beet tech evry year. 2008 was an aninomaly. eeven a blind squirrel can find its nuts.

BobinBuford

April 2nd, 2010
11:52 am

Shouldn’t all you UGA fans be more concerned with all the police reports coming in about your football players beating up people in taxis??

Good thing CMR has that defense lawyer on speed dial.

atl xman – I believe you were saying all the same things last year. Try something new.

GT Wiz

April 2nd, 2010
11:52 am

T3: Quite being a homer, and wake up. While it would be great if we went 12-0, there is just too many holes to fill for us to make a run at it. All our “tough” games are on the road as well. Likely scenario, 8-4 or 9-3 season.

F-105 Thunderchief

April 2nd, 2010
11:53 am

They will be just fine. Johnson gets his teams ready and they perform. Always have, always will. May not win the ACC, but if they did, it wouldn’t surprise me.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
11:55 am

uga has had more proven qb sitting the bench than tech will ever have starting. since tech is recruiting 1 star high school running backs to play qb for that high school offense look for techs offense to drop in production.

GT Wiz

April 2nd, 2010
11:57 am

ATL XMAN: Quit smoking that stuff. You are one of many delusional UGA fans.

Fernando-go back to your own country

April 2nd, 2010
11:57 am

fernando-dont even start with the blue carpet crap….UGAY plays in the papa johns bowl and independence bowl from here on out. When UGAY plays someone besides Texas A@M, you can talk about Tech. Oh yeah, are you sure you dont watch soccer instead of football, Im just saying.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
11:58 am

i said tech would lose to UGA and they did..also said tech would lose to Iowa and they did..though va tech should of won the acc but the acc is so weak that any team from the acc could have won it last year..just happen to be tech..whoopie….tech still has less talent than most acc teams and just about all the sec teams…

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
11:58 am

plus our qbs culd drink you’re qbs under the table any day of th week. if uga has less than 20 arrests this yeer, look to see uga in the sec championchip.

Anybody that can play

April 2nd, 2010
12:02 pm

Surely not. FSU or MIAMI or VPI. Anybody that can return the ACC to credibility, PLEASE. Wake Forest, Clemson, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, give me a break I beg you. LSU 45 North Carolina 10. Another AZZ whopping to get the ACC off to a rip roaring start. What a Joke.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:02 pm

how am i the delusional one? uga beats tech 8 out of 9 years and tech fans like you think tech is all that..its too funny. uga is a top 7 to 5 program in college football..tech might be 30…

texas am would whoop ga tech..they match up perfect with that high school team

Joe Spell

April 2nd, 2010
12:04 pm

Great to see how worried the Dawg fans are now! Must be tough on them now that Tech has passed them in football too!

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:04 pm

but then, i also said uga would beat florida. darn you teeebow. and oklahoma state, but they had an unfair advantage. they had a receiver that werked out with an nfl playur. that maked him like a super receiver or something. they dont cheet, we woulda won. i also thot wed beat lsu. but they cheeted to. everbody in sec cheats against uga cus we so good they have to. if michael adams becomes ncaa president, look for uga to start winnin national championchips.

flagboy?

April 2nd, 2010
12:05 pm

I think tech takes a step back this year because of talent issues. FSU/Miami are on the way back up, but still a year or two away, especially FSU. Best team in the ACC should be VA tech, but if tech can find a way to beat them, or VA tech stumbles, tech could easily be in the championship game again.

RambleOn84

April 2nd, 2010
12:06 pm

For someone who just finally got his GED, “XMAN” sure uses the phrase “high school” a lot…

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:06 pm

84..haha..iowa is not a top 10 team..only when they plays teams like tech..haha..iowa beat the heck out of your offense all day. uga has nothing to worry about when playing tech other than maybe pj ripping the helmet off an offensive linemen of ga tech and throwing at our def linemen…

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:07 pm

actually, uga is probably the #1 team in college football. look at how many 10 win seasons we’ve had in the past 10 years. thats loads better than a national championship or two.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:08 pm

cant help to use “high school” alot when talking about techs offense. it comes hand in hand. like” another loss by ga tech to uga”

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:09 pm

aw heck. i don’t have an ged. i got my bus degree from devry. makin myself 5 digits. much better than any teck degree.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:09 pm

speakin of what comes hand in hand, me and my husband love to watch uga football together.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:14 pm

tech and passing in the same sentence? whatever…tech will never pass uga in football as long as they keep stealing ga southerns players

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:16 pm

i hate tech so much that i ate yellow jackets for breakfast the other day. that didnt work out to well…

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:17 pm

its all about having the better players and tech has 1 or 2 whiel other teams like uga have about 15 -20. no way tech ever wins 12 again as long as pj is there..tech and pj time has passed and they are on the way down.

ATL XMAN

April 2nd, 2010
12:19 pm

i dont hate tech..i just feel sorry for their fans that want a good football team so bad.

LOL

April 2nd, 2010
12:20 pm

Dumb delusional Alabama Jack remains irrelevant and unwanted.

Buckhead Dawg

April 2nd, 2010
12:23 pm

A more important question: If Tech does repeat, does anyone – in the nation – care?

BartBuzz

April 2nd, 2010
12:24 pm

It’s always a compliment to see so many UGA fans join in on the Tech blog. We appreciate your support and loyalty as Jacket haters! There’s nothing like clean old-fashioned hate to get the juices flowing.

To Hell With Georgia!

Go Jackets! ACC Champs once again.

South Georgia Nole

April 2nd, 2010
12:24 pm

Tech won’t repeat. I do not think they will even win their division. A resurgent scUM and a solid Gobbler team should see to that.

GTSteve

April 2nd, 2010
12:28 pm

Atl X boy…don’t I hear the fry timer going off….get back to work

b-dubs

April 2nd, 2010
12:28 pm

SOOOO tired of UGA fans just popping up for no reason. Seriously, go away. You should be happy there is actually a decent rivalry here now. GT had such a better season than UGA last season, so you have to whine and cry every chance you get I guess….

JDM

April 2nd, 2010
12:29 pm

Poor ATL XMAN. Must’ve either completely forgotten the 2008 edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate or is still sore about it. (At least the 3rd quarter, or as I like to call it… The Domination) I love the asinine comments dog fans throw here on the GT section.

UGA: Preseason national champs
GT: Predicted 3-win season by sports illustrated

If GT runs a highschool offense, then UGA looked like a recreation department team on 29 NOV 2008.

Tech does so much with so little, UGA does so little with so much. Now go back to your own blog. Bye bye.

b-dubs

April 2nd, 2010
12:31 pm

@buckhead dawg, no one in the nation cares about UGA right now. They’ve lost the only things worth talking about. No Moreno, no Stafford, no nothing. Just some dog that sits on the sideline and barks sometimes and 3 QBs no one has never heard of going for the starting spot on a sucky offensive team. If UGA won the SEC, I think people would be more upset that a better team didn’t win it.

some sense

April 2nd, 2010
12:33 pm

The intellectual quotient in the state of Georgia would improve dramatically if UGA people stayed off Tech blogs and Tech people stayed off UGA’s.

LOL

April 2nd, 2010
12:33 pm

UGA fans popping up for no reason b-dubs????

30-24

All the reason we need cupcake. It is not whining or crying, it is called rubbing it in! Our worst team in a decade beat your best team in a decade!

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
12:35 pm

It’s so funny to hear UGAY fans so excited about their sorry ass team. They(UGAY)do this crap every year and it’s so funny. Remember when Georgia was ranked preseason #1 two years ago hahahahaha God, what a joke! Remember the blackout game against Ala. ahhahahahha OMG, what a bunch of losers.

Tech

April 2nd, 2010
12:39 pm

Too tough of a schedule especially on the road. I see 7-5 maybe 8-4.

EW

April 2nd, 2010
12:40 pm

As long as GT is in the ACC they have a shot at winning the conference. However, Duke may be the only team in the ACC that doesn’t start out with a ligitimate shot at the conference championship and that’s starting to change. The ACC is by far the confence with the most parity in college football….not to say that’s good…they have just managed to get the most mediocre teams and put them in one conference. It’s basically the equivalent of C-USA…you don’t have to raise your level of play to win the conference you just have to try and not slip us as much as the rest of the teams.

I Hate UGAY

April 2nd, 2010
12:45 pm

There will be no season this year at uga, the school is being closed for budget reasons. Dear faculty and staff of uga: YOU ARE FIRED, GIT OUT.

I Hate UGAY

April 2nd, 2010
12:46 pm

AND DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE BUTTOCKS!

Dawg4Life

April 2nd, 2010
12:50 pm

Anyone who thinks tech will be a good football team this year is completely delusional.
You had your best team last year since 90′ and you still couldn’t beat the Dawgs!
You are going to lose at least 5 games this year….remember, we ‘run this state’

HugoStiglitz

April 2nd, 2010
12:52 pm

Here are my predictions. VT will win the ACC, GT will probably be the second best team in the ACC. I think we will be better then people expect, just like every year. I also think that we will put up tons of yards rushing and tons of points. At some point we will have a bad game though and all the idiots will declare that our offense doesnt work and that everyone has it figured out now. Then the next week we will rush for 400 yds and score 40 points.

I Hate UGAY

April 2nd, 2010
12:57 pm

Dawg4Life – The most you can hope to run is the WM garbage truck that collects my trash twice a week.

UGA player in jail

April 2nd, 2010
1:09 pm

I’s beez puts in dis jails fur no’s reezins. I’s beez ridin in da cabs wen deez wite folks beez ridin der two. I’s dun hits dem wite folks fore I’s even nose it’s. Dem fools be tryin ta reprezent ther colors two me’s and my’s footballs (Go UGA football!!! Go UGA!) playas. Hatas!

Pat McCrotch

April 2nd, 2010
1:13 pm

UGA is the most overrated team in the SEC year in and year out. Their fans are not real fans, they are only fans when UGA is ranked. What’s worse? GT losing to UGA last year under 2nd year coach Paul Johnson, or UGA losing to GT under first year coach Paul Johnson IN ATHENS when they were preseason #1 in the Country? Go sit on a bag of ice you fat a$$es.

LOL

April 2nd, 2010
1:19 pm

Go stab your roommate with a samurai sword you terrorist loving a$$holes!

XpatHeel

April 2nd, 2010
1:22 pm

When L$U puts up 45 on this Heels D, pigs fly.

Oh, and with a week off to prep for PJ’s goofball offense, he’s going to get stuffed too. Just like they did the last time they came to the Hill. We gave away a late 4th qtr. long TD to make Dwyer’s stats look good; otherwise the gnats got zip all day. I’ll admit…when you only see cpj’s system once a year, it takes some time to drill against it…one week is not enough. Look at your schedule beez fans. You get no break this time. The Heels won’t be the only opponent who’ll get an extra week to prep for your junk.