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

UGAY in the Papa Johns Bowl

April 2nd, 2010
2:58 pm

EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT TECHIES BEING NERDS. YES, I AGREE, THEY CAN BE DORKS, BUT HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO ATHENS? OMG THOSE ARE THE BIGGEST F*GS IVE EVER SEEN. THEY WEAR PINK OR RED PANTS, RED SUSPENDERS, CURLY ASS CLOWN HAIR, TEVA FLIP FLOPS, PINK POLO SHIRTS. THOSE LITTLE DBAGS ARE A HOT ASS MESS IF YOU ASK ME.

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
2:59 pm

Fair enough, Nole. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

NationWideNole

April 2nd, 2010
3:03 pm

Dan I didn’t know that about Alabama’s fight song and I looked up the UGA’s and I didn’t see anything about the jackets there, but I’m surprised about Alabama’s fight song

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
3:05 pm

They typically yell “to hell w/ Georgia Tech” at the end of it.

db

April 2nd, 2010
3:07 pm

Dog fans – get off our blog and go find a fire hydrant. I hate Ga fans. They’re always making irrelevant noise – whether win or lose – they just won’t shut up.

Talk to us when you have more than one NC. Get a life.

Tech Again

April 2nd, 2010
3:09 pm

Tech’s got way too much talent for anyone in the ACC to match up. Look for another easy ACC title and BCS bowl game!! Georgia—lucky to win 8 games and likely heading for Shreveport, again. Dawg fans—better book that motel 6–remember it sold out quick last time!!! I better be making South Beach plans again—that’s where the Jackets will be going.

BrokeBackJacket

April 2nd, 2010
3:16 pm

Simple answer…probably not…but on the other hand…it’s possible…and slightly above average college football team could win the weak acc!

A few FACTS for the delusional acc/tech fans that really think the acc is relevant in the world of MAJOR college football:

1. All time record SEC/acc head to head..SEC leads 255-123-10

2. All bowl record by conference: 1. SEC..196-153

5. acc..82-87

BCS bowl records: SEC 13-5 (.772)
acc 2-11 (.167) By far the worst among BCS conferences

All time bowl record SEC/acc head to head..SEC leads 35-14

tech’s bowl record last 10 years..3-7

tech’s last MAJOR bowl win….53 years ago! And counting!

UGA vs tech series record: Pre 1963 tech led the series 27-26!
Since then (When tech powers to be at the time..mainly Bubby Dudd..decided tech was bigger than the sec and made by far the STUPIDEST decision EVER in big time college college football and left the conference to become a “powerful independant”..UGA leads the series 34-12!

Now ya’ll can get back to your argument as to whether tech can or can’t win the acc chumpionship again…AKA the “Prettiest hog in the pen contest”!

Yes….GT once had a proud and glorious history in college football…..Most of you here may have read about it……you sure as hell did not witness it!

30-24!
8 of 9…and counting!!!

Dan

April 2nd, 2010
3:30 pm

If only ACC teams could play BCS games against SEC teams, we’d probably win if this past year was any indication.

Dawgrulz

April 2nd, 2010
3:35 pm

DB, this is not a GT Blog, it is a College Football blog that addresses GT. TB also wrote about Clemson in the previous blog but that does not make it a “Clemson” blog either. If the AJC depended on GT fans only to read it they would shut down because the advertisers pulled out from lack of interest. UGA has owned GT since 1970, one NC or not. I do not have the record but know UGA has won about 70% of the games.

wesleywhatwhat

April 2nd, 2010
3:44 pm

CPJ is 4-2 against the sec while at georgia tech. does that make GT the two year champs of the sec?

prob not, but i wouldn’t mind GT playing more sec teams…

BrokeBackJacket

April 2nd, 2010
3:57 pm

Despite all the issues the Jackets have at least they don’t have the serious problems that the Dawgs do. Just count the number of pathetic pup posts on this Tech blog and you get the picture, loud and clear.

dawg4life

April 2nd, 2010
4:06 pm

B-dubs- explain to me how GT had a better season when UGA thumped them??? It wasn’t even pretty. 30-24, and a COMPLETELY shut down option offense,and a COMPLETELY over matched defense. Nobody cares what your record was. You play in the ACC which is the 5th or sixth best conference in D-I football. The WAC has more talent than the ACC…. Sucka

Daniel

April 2nd, 2010
4:10 pm

wesley – no, it does not. Tech never beat the SEC champion during that period. Does that make sense to you? Should I simplify it further?

Idiot.

ROAD KILLERS

April 2nd, 2010
4:43 pm

GA TECH ACC CHAMPS AGAIN, READ IT AND WEEP CLEMPSUN, VA POLYDENTURE TECH, MIAMI, UNC, FSU, WAKE….ALSO GEAUX TO HELL lsu

NESBITT FOR HESIMAN

Al Akhbar Farid Musheik Ali

April 2nd, 2010
4:47 pm

Excited to see the season begin again and watch our yellow buzzers beat Duke and the rest of the ACC!!! Go Jacks!

GT

April 2nd, 2010
5:07 pm

Johnson seems amused again this spring. Happen every spring, no one thinks they can win and pow he is a winner. Half the fun is no one thinks he can do it again and the other half is he always does.

AlabamaRamblinwreck

April 2nd, 2010
5:10 pm

Well, yes, GT can win the ACC again, but we will have to win 3 out of 4 against VT, Miami, UNC, and Clemson. This won’t be easy, because 3 of those 4 are on the road. With PJ, all is possible.

Not Disappointed!

April 2nd, 2010
5:36 pm

It’s going to be a great year for the Jackets on the Flats! Ramblin Wreck!

4 ncs are better than 1

April 2nd, 2010
5:37 pm

UGA fans hate GT because despite having high standards, GT has four times as many national championships as UGA in football. GT does not cut corners in order to win like UGA does. GT doesn’t sign players with questionable grades or character issues. You will never see a final exam at GT with questions like “How many points is a three pointer worth” or “How many halfs are in a BB game”. You will never hear statements at GT like the one in the Jan Kemp trial, “If we can just teach him (UGA football players) to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office instead of being a garbage man”. You WILL hear things like CALCULUS, TRADITION, and NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS! UGA fans you boast and brag about how big your stadium is, playing in the mighty SEC, etc. One thing you NEVER brag about is how many NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS you have! That is what it’s all about! UGA fans you know that your program has started to slip (and it hasn’t been that good anyway) Richt is just a few more tanning bed visits shy of frying his brain completely while the great Coach Paul Johnson has GT headed back to where they belong, among the elite of the nation. UGA will never pass GT as the greatest football program in the state of georgia! Shouldn’t a great program have NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS? How many are listed on your stadium?????? WHY IS THIS??????? HOW CAN THIS BE????????

4 jacks

April 2nd, 2010
5:37 pm

GT will win 10 games in 2010. It will be between GT and VT. People just don’t get it, Paul Johnson is a WINNER, and although we could use the Morgan’s back on defense, how could the defense be worse than last year. I mean honsestly. GT is getting some good character and talented kids, and CPJ knows how to win against more talented teams, he has proven this. Maybe, but I doubt it, that after this year, people will realize we have one of the best head football coaches in America. I just hope some of the teams we play think like their fans. To overlook or doubt GT and CPJ as a player in the conference is just dumb. Give em Hell TECH!!!

bman

April 2nd, 2010
5:40 pm

damngooddawg, you are the reason i hate Ga fans. wait till next year and we will win a national title like we did last year and the year before last. well next year is next year? isn’t that what the Cubs fans say? It is been over a hundred years for them, that is not a group i would want to be in for sure.

LOL

April 2nd, 2010
5:43 pm

UGAY, why are you so obesessed with homosexuality? Is it because your campus is located in midtown?

AND TYPING IN ALL CAPS JUST MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE AN EVEN BIGGER RETARD!

LOL

April 2nd, 2010
5:45 pm

db, it is the ‘Mr College Football’ blog, not the Tech blog genius. The feeling is mutual, we hate you too!

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:30 pm

dawg: Idaho State, Louisina Layfayette, Vandy, KY, MSU. Who are you kidding. Your in conference games are pathetic and your out of conference games are pathetic, just as your school, team, fans and city are. You lose to UF, AUB, GT and one crappy school and go 8-4 for another underachieving year. THWG! I guess last years real schedule taught you rednecks something. You don’t like losing 5 games, so you schedule patsies. Panzies that you are.

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:35 pm

Idaho State: You really must be kidding right? LMFAO!

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:36 pm

Louisiana Layfwho? LMFAO!

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:36 pm

Vandy? Now, that’s a tough one there!

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:37 pm

Woops, forgot to mention the almighty powerhouse in KY Jelly! Getting much tougher!

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:37 pm

MSU: Ok, now this is a joke, but at least you play in Starkville. Enjoy the view.

Ramble On:

April 2nd, 2010
6:39 pm

UF: LOSS, GT, LOSS, AUB, LOSS, SC, LOSS = 8-4, but who knows, you may still win the NC like every year!

Tech fans have a life...dawgs lick both ends to get balanced

April 2nd, 2010
7:00 pm

Enter your comments here

Tech fans have a life...dawgs lick both ends to get balanced

April 2nd, 2010
7:03 pm

At least the North campus will be sanitized…former athletes will perform community service picking up your fans garbage that they carelessly leave everywhere they go.

RAMBLE ON!!!

April 2nd, 2010
7:06 pm

DANGIT TONY STOP TALKING ABOUT THE SEC MR UGA HOMER…

Oh, never mind…. great article.

4 ncs are better than 1

April 2nd, 2010
7:08 pm

Oops, sorry about the above post, I forgot April Fool’s was YESTERDAY.

buzzy bee

April 2nd, 2010
7:08 pm

Hey Dawg fans the game between the bees and dawgs is in Athens this year – 45-42!!!!!!!

Blackout Dawg

April 2nd, 2010
7:32 pm

The real question is can georgie beat Kentucky this year? The answer is no. Not without a good ol fashioned blackout. Thats right, blackout with black helmets and black panties too.

CHAMPS

April 2nd, 2010
7:35 pm

ACC Champs > SEC chumps

remember when the dawgs were relevant? Didnt think so.

GT Fan ...

April 2nd, 2010
8:56 pm

It’s really this simple and mark this down everyone …… GT will either be 14-0 or they won’t!!

GT Fan ...

April 2nd, 2010
8:59 pm

And for all the idiots who think GT has NO SHOT at repeating as ACC Champs are simply just that …….. idiots. They play the games on the field, not in the press, and the last time I checked Paul Johnson is a pre—tty good coach.

cherokee

April 2nd, 2010
9:06 pm

Hey CHAMPS …I remember UGA whipping Tech sorry butt back in November and 8 out of the last 9. Tech equal nerds and losers………………….

4 ncs are better than 1

April 2nd, 2010
9:17 pm

How many NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS do you have dawgs?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

4 ncs are better than 1

April 2nd, 2010
9:20 pm

Wait a minute! I forgot you were robbed that year when you came in second place in your HALF of the conference!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4 ncs are better than 1

April 2nd, 2010
9:27 pm

Tech plays in BCS bowls, dawgs play in SHREVEPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

techengineer

April 2nd, 2010
10:27 pm

I don’t believe the Jackets will win 6 games this year. They have no identity. No O line or D line to speak of.. For that matter no LBs either. It will be a long year for the Jackets unfortunately.

Butts Wagner

April 3rd, 2010
12:11 am

Realistic Tech Fans, if you were offered 9-3 and a Gator Bowl trip now would you take it?

I love this question. Only problem is that the Gator Bowl won’t be hosting an ACC team this year. The equivalent will be the Champs Sports Bowl. But back to the question. It kind of assumes that GT won’t be making the ACC champ game. If there was a 10-3 season with loss in ACC champ game, then I would definitely take that. But 9-3 is a pretty good result if one were being realistic. This is a tough schedule year for GT. Toughest home game is Miami, but there are a lot of hazards on the road. The crazy thing is that GT went 9-3 two years ago when the offense only clicked for about 4 full games. So I want to believe that the sky’s the limit for GT. But being realistic, the D may not be any good this year, and the O may take a step back. Best result would be an offense at 90% of last year’s production and a better D, which might just be a 9-3 year. So if I were betting something, I would take the 9-3 year and go home. With nothing at stake, I dream big and root for something better.

blackprix

April 3rd, 2010
12:13 am

As long as Coach Johnson is here and continues to find ways to get better (hiring Al Groh), GT will consistently be in the Top 25 and better. This man hates losing and wants to win more than some fans do!!

Sugar Hill Dawg

April 3rd, 2010
9:56 am

My daughter’s high school dance group will be performing at the 2011 FedEx Orange Bowl, so my wife and I will be at Joe Robbie/Landshark/??? Stadium in January. I don’t think the Jackets will be there, although I’d love to wear my UGA stuff as they get drilled by some punk team from the Big 10 or Big 12.

4 ncs are better than 1

April 3rd, 2010
10:30 am

Can Tech repeat as CHAMPIONS? Barnhart’s next article will be titled, “Can UGA repeat as has beens?” Oh wait a minute, UGA isn’t a has been, they are a NEVER WAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ATL XMAN

April 3rd, 2010
12:41 pm

hope you enjoy those 4 NC..you guys will never be close another. but uga on the other will win that many in about the next 10 years..uga could win 2 in the next 4 to 5 years. they are soooo much better than tech its not even close. 1 reason tech will never win another NC is because they have noooo div 1a quality players on offense after this years since gailys players are leaving. 2nd..tech is in the acc. other conferences would really have to suck it up in order for a team from teh acc to get in the national title game. the SEC is not going anywhere and most likley the big 12 and 10 along with the pac 10 will be competeing for that 2nd slot leaving the acc champs out in the cold.

Tech Again

April 3rd, 2010
12:47 pm

Shreveport v. South Beach???? I guess I’ll have to go with South Beach, again. But don’t worry dawgs, that PBR in Shreveport is the coldest in the south and those women there are ultra-wild!!!