Neither Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, Roddy Jones nor Jason Peters wore the rings from their 2009 ACC championship at the conference’s recent media days.
Perhaps it was a reminder that it’s a new season, with a new title to chase.
The defense starts when the players begin practicing Aug. 5. The season-opener is Sept. 4 by against S.C. State at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
As do most, the team has many areas to work on. Tech must work on learning the 3-4 defense put in by new coordinator Al Groh. Anthony Allen must work on learning the B-back position. There will be competition to win first-team spots at several of the positions on offense and most of the positions on defense.
Johnson seems more curious than concerned about what kind of team he will end the month with.
“I think we will be competitive,” he said in Greensboro.
Despite losing four standouts to the NFL, the team returns 15 starters, including quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, the most important returnee of them all.
Under Nesbitt’s leadership, Tech’s offense led the ACC in several categories last season, including rushing offense (295.4 yards per game) and total offense (422.1ypg). With go-to wideout Demaryius Thomas now in the NFL, But Johnson wants to see Nesbitt improve his passing accuracy (46.3 percent) and decision-making. However, he doesn’t expect the senior to do it by himself. He wants to see the line, led by preseason All-ACC center SeanBedford, to give Nesbitt more time. And he wants to see the receivers, led by returning starter Tyler Melton, to do a better job down the field.
“The guys around him need to help him,” Johnson said. “He’s very capable of being a good thrower.”
While Nesbitt and the offense motor along in the heat at Rose Bowl field, most of the fans’ attention will be focused on Groh and the defense.
Johnson downplays emphasizing systems on defense, preferring to say that the systems change throughout the game, and that defense is about beating the guy in front of you.
But he hired Groh because he said he understands how to make improvements when opponents find a weakness, something that Tech had trouble with last season giving up 360.3 yards in 26 minutes, 11 seconds per game last season. And Johnson hired two other coaches, defensive line coach AndyMcCollum and inside linebackers coach Joe Speed, for the same reason.
Perhaps the new system will help offset the loss of defensive end Derrick Morgan, who took the 12.5 sacks he had last season to theNFL’s Tennessee Titans.Citing Groh’s experience on Super Bowl teams, senior Dominique Reese said the players have quickly bought into, and understand, what he’s trying to do with the defense.
Many players have changed positions on the defense. With several highly rated freshmen coming in — defensive lineman Denzel McCoy, safety/cornerback Ryan Ayers and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, to name a few — to compete at most positions on that side of the ball, it will be interesting to see who lines up for the season-opener.
Georgia Tech preseason
Season opener: Sept. 4 vs. S.C. State (1 p.m.)