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

editor

April 2nd, 2010
2:16 pm

somebody show that moron “UGAY” how to properly use the CAPS button.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:16 pm

Clearly you’re threatened by us or you would not keep posting. Also, get a thesaurus and find another word besides psychotic.

Which Tech game did you go to?

And sorry Lumberg but I’m currently diddling your wife.

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:18 pm

As an ACC supporter and someone who roots for GT, I’m really concerned they will never win a big bowl game, any decent defense with that much time to prepare with competent coaching should be able to shut that offense down, and their defense hasn’t the ability to keep them in games when the option game isn’t clicking

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
2:18 pm

LOSING TO KENTUCKY IS EMBARRASSING, TRUST ME….GETTING BLOWNOUT BY TENN IS EMBARRASSING TRUST ME…..LOSING TO LSU ON A CELEB PENALTY IS EMBARRASSING TRUST ME….

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
2:19 pm

GETTING BLOWN OUT TO BAMA ON NATIONAL TV WHILE TALKING ABOUT YOUR BLACKOUT ALL WEEK IS EMBARRASSING, TRUST ME

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:19 pm

UGAY – you are pathetic, trust me.

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:20 pm

I went to the Clemson-GT game. I had no idea how pathetic tech people were until that experience. At least you’ve convinced yourself of otherwise. Chalk that up as a moral victory, I guess.

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:23 pm

losing to a big 10 team is pathetic, trust me. getting blown out in the Peach Bowl is pathetic, trust me. getting run over by the Shreveport champs is pathetic, trust me.

Where exactly are you going with this? Does your mom know you’re on her computer? Better clear the youporn.com cookies before she gets home from her shift at Waffle House.

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:23 pm

Two years ago when FSU played at Tech, FSU fans were much louder than the Techies, and it was picked up on the TV as well. GT just isn’t a football school.

Brick Tamlin

April 2nd, 2010
2:23 pm

I love triple option. I love Coach Manboobs. I love tech.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:24 pm

Ummm, Ellsbury, I think it was an actual victory against Climpsun. Two times last year acutally, if my memory serves…

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:26 pm

NationWideNole, you’re nuts if you think that. But for arguement’s sake, let’s assume it was. What did it get FSU? Please remind me.

GT Fan

April 2nd, 2010
2:27 pm

The case has been assigned to a detective and is under investigation, Athens police spokeswoman Hilda Sorrow said Thursday. No charges have been filed.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the Bulldogs’ practice Thursday night that he is aware of the police report.

“Right now, it’s speculation,” Richt said. “We don’t know anything for sure. But I’m aware of the report, and I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen from here, really. I don’t want to over- or under-react at this point.”

Richt said he was informed of the matter as he was walking onto the practice field late Thursday afternoon.

“I … haven’t had a chance to really talk to anybody about it,” he said.

The police report states that the UGA student and his wife were taking a taxi van home around 2 a.m. Sunday when the driver stopped to pick up four males in downtown Athens — “all of whom were UGA football players, according to [the male victim].”

He told police that the four men cursed and threatened him and his wife and that one of the four “slapped or punched” both him and his wife in the back of their heads, according to the report.

No players were identified in the police report, which said the “victims state that the taxi driver claimed to not know any of the suspects’ identities.” The report did not indicate why the husband thought the men were football players.

Police are investigating the case for possible charges of simple battery and making terroristic threats.

GT Fan

April 2nd, 2010
2:28 pm

Typical Thug Ugag players

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:29 pm

Dan – please stay on subject – where did i claim that tech lost to Clemson? I just said tech people are pathetic. Your contention was that tech people are more attractive and more fun that georgia people. I simply refuted this most erroneous claim. Nice try though. I’ve found most techies just change the subject when they are caught in lies. Thanks for proving me correct.

UGA is GT's father.

April 2nd, 2010
2:30 pm

Sure tech can win the very weak ACC. They just can’t beat good teams!!! The Iowa Hawkeyes beat the nerds with a qb coming back from an injury, hahahahahhahaha! What does that tell you? I know tech fans will say this is a new season coming up, but who cares, they are not and will never be a good team! GT is a lame excuse for a college, they pretend like they are on the intellectual level of a IVY league school but soon realize they are just terrible at life. UGA IS EMBARRASED TO SHARE THE SAME STATE AS THE NERDS! PLEASE GT NERDS, COME UP WITH AN INVENTION AND GEOGRAPHICALLY REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE STATE OF GEORGIA!

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:30 pm

GT Fan – not sure you want to go there, i.e. Reuben Houston, Joey Hamilton, Jarrard Tarrant, etc.

HugoStiglitz

April 2nd, 2010
2:32 pm

UGA fans should quit talking smack until their sports programs are relevant again. Here is a good stat for you. In the three major sports recently (football, basketball, and baseball so far) UGA is 31-37. GT is 56-19 over the same span. Maybe you guys should look into firing your athletic director. Oh wait. You just gave him a big raise.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:33 pm

I said our guys were, Ellsbury. Please stay on subject. Again, it’s not our fault UGA women can’t keep their hands off of us.

And you have refuted nothing.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:33 pm

Tarrant didn’t do anything wrong, Daniel. But you knew that didn’t you?

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:34 pm

I don’t think I need to remind you but FSU lost, you should remember that for a long time because it was the first time GT has ever beaten FSU. Cherish that W because now that we competent coaching we will not lose to GT again! As long as we are remembering things please remind me what were the score of your last two bowl games

P.S. I was sitting in the student section at GT and the whole row in front of me wore calculus shirts LMAO

Otto

April 2nd, 2010
2:34 pm

lol at having to go to mixers to meet girls

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:35 pm

haha, alright, whatever helps you sleep at night. I haven’t met a techie yet that wouldn’t piss their pants if an attractive girl even looked at him. By the way, what are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at LARP practice?

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:37 pm

right, but he was accused initially – just like the supposed Georgia football players have been recently.

I notice you didn’t comment on Reuben and Joey “Gullah” Hamilton. Can I get your thoughts on those two shining beacons of humanity?

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:38 pm

Ellsbury you have seen the way the techies were staring at the beautiful big-breasted woman that came out to support FSU.

wesleywhatwhat

April 2nd, 2010
2:39 pm

coach johnson is 20-7 at georgia tech (after that same team went 16-11 in the 2 years before he arrived)

mark richt is 18-8 over that same time span (20-6 the 2 years before).

u tell me who is sliding down and who is trending up?

to reiterate an earlier point, the winner of the georgia tech/virginia tech game should win the acc championship, just like the last THREE years. playing the game in vicksburg doesn’t help but i still like our chances.

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:39 pm

HUGO – convenient that you left out tech’s record against Georgia in the “Big 3″ sports. Care to elaborate?

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:39 pm

Right, Daniel. I didn’t because they were wrong.

SEC Observer

April 2nd, 2010
2:40 pm

Does anyone know if the Dawgs have gone more than 90 days in the last 4 years without a football player getting in to any kind of trouble?

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:41 pm

I thought you said you rooted for Tech NationWideNole.

Also, continue to talk about our bowl games. I guess if you can’t beat the team, talk about another team that can.

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:41 pm

Nole – how about when they do that queer little Budweiser bob song? Or did you get a chance to see that pathetic little “anti-georgia” ritual? They do it before every game. EVERY GAME. Regardless of who they’re playing.

Obsess much?

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

Dan – kinda like how you nerds latch onto Florida?

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

Right Ellsbury. My wife was DZ at UGA and I think she finds me just fine.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:43 pm

I don’t talk about UF. I’m pretty open about how UGA has beaten us this decade. Read my earlier postings.

I actually think you’d find me reasonable in most circumstances.

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:44 pm

your wife was an EZ DZ? What’s her name? I probably f&cked her.

HugoStiglitz

April 2nd, 2010
2:45 pm

No Daniel, the UGA games are included in the overall records I gave. If you are happy with having a bad team in each sport but beating GT then good for you, continue being happy. Im perfectly happy losing to UGA but winning the ACC championship in football, almost winning it in basketball, making the NCAA tournament, and having the #2 baseball team in the country. You guys should strive for more then just beating us.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:45 pm

Funny Ellsbury. And if you weren’t a virgin, your comment might bother me.

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:47 pm

I do support GT (Calvin Johnson should have won the Heisman! and I have been there for several games, even when we my Noles aren’t there. I think the campus and stadium are nice, but small. I like the fact you can see the ATL skyline from the stands, but the student body doesn’t understand football passion, or possess beautiful co-eds. Two things FSU excels at. A chapter of my fraternity is at GT and there were many more FSU brothers there partying than people who actually lived there, they were hiding in their rooms until gametime.

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:49 pm

Hugo – don’t lie – i know it burns your ass when tech loses to georgia. you can pretend it doesn’t matter till your blue in the face, but you don’t tear our hedges up every ten years because beating georgia isn’t that big of a deal.

Ellsbury

April 2nd, 2010
2:50 pm

no, seriously, what’s her name? I ran through quite a few of them. Wouldn’t that be hilarious is she was one of them?

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

That whole GT naming UGA in their fight speaks to an inferiority complex, similar to Texas A&M’s feelings towards the Texas Longhorns

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:51 pm

Please, Nole. Couple things.

First, Doak was half empty for several games the past few seasons. That doesn’t exactly reflect a passionate fan-base. Second, you’re right. Tech doesn’t have a ton of hot girls. But we do pretty well with UGA ladies (which is why Ellsbury keeps on commenting). Third, I simply don’t believe you about how many FSU folks were at the frat house.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:52 pm

Ellsbury, you’re a virgin. You can stop pretending now.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:52 pm

And Nole, a lot of schools name a rival in their song. Heck UGA and Bama both mention Tech. Do they also have an inferiority complex?

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
2:53 pm

DAN-YOU ARE A KING D*OUCHE BAG! ALL I WANT IS A SIMPLE ANSWER FROM YOU. DO YOU REALLY THINK UGA IS GOOD?

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
2:54 pm

ELLSBURY- I WENT TO UGA VS ALA GAME WHEN GEORGIA HAD THERE BLACKOUT GAME. I GOT TO ADMIT, GEORGIA LOOKED REAL STRONG HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH F*GGOTS

Stinger

April 2nd, 2010
2:55 pm

Of course we can !!! Consecutive ACC Championships followed by National Championship. PJ can get it done. This team will surprise a few people. Another great thing about this team is PJ doesn’t have to worry about his players attacking men, women, and children in taxi cabs

wesleywhatwhat

April 2nd, 2010
2:56 pm

http://www.iconsportsmedia.com/viewphoto.php?albumId=57575&imageId=2460152&source=&plboxId=&page=3&searchField=&searchstring=&orient=&sort=&sortorder=&numperpage=&imagepos=

trust me, the women are georgia tech are seriously under-rated these days, and have been since i was a student there in the 90s.

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
2:56 pm

UGAY – Georgia didn’t have a good season…but…they still beat Tech! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Hail to Georgia! The defacto A-She-She champions!!!!!!!!!

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
2:57 pm

Dan, you’re right this last year at Doak, the NC state particular it was an embarrassing showing but it was a noon game and the day of Halloween (side note if you ever get the opportunity to spend Halloween in Tally do it! You would be hard pressed to find that many hot women dressing purposely slutty getting hammered) I promise my depiction of the social scene is spot on accurate I was ashamed, and their house was really cool with a downstairs bar that was stocked and manned by a bartender!