Tech’s next test: No. 20 N.C. State

In its ACC opener Saturday, Georgia Tech didn’t respond to the challenge that Miami presented. The Hurricanes played a physical style, the Yellow Jackets backed down and the result was an easy win for Miami.

“We want to be aggressive, and we weren’t aggressive enough on offense on Saturday afternoon,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said.

The next step of Tech’s 18-game journey through the ACC will offer the Jackets the opportunity to address their shortcomings against Miami, but at the same time will demand even more from the Jackets. Wednesday, Tech will go on the road to play No. 20 N.C. State, the preseason favorite to win the ACC. If the Jackets’ effort and level of play aren’t considerably better, the Wolfpack could run the Jackets out of PNC Arena (formerly the RBC Center).

“They can hurt you in a lot of different ways,” Gregory said. “We’re going to have to play extremely well for 40 minutes.”

A 6 ½-minute lapse was enough to sink Tech against Miami. …

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Paul Johnson Q&A

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s fifth season played out hardly as anyone could have predicted, with two overtime losses in the first four games, the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, an appearance in the ACC title game after a 2-4 start and a bowl-game win over preseason No. 1 USC.

The Yellow Jackets head into the offseason with the momentum of the bowl win, their first after seven consecutive bowl defeats, and Monday’s news that outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu will return for his senior season. Johnson spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the season past and the offseason to come.

Q: You ran some four-wide stuff out of the shotgun at the Sun Bowl.

A: We’ve done it before. We do it every time we get in the (shotgun) pretty much most of the time.

Q: I imagine you might do more of that?

A: We’re going to look to expand some of that with (quarterbacks) Vad (Lee) and Justin (Thomas).

Q: How is Justin’s arm?

A: I think he’s good, but …

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Report: Kelly leaving Tech for FSU

Georgia Tech’s search for a defensive coordinator took a left turn Monday. Interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly, who was a candidate for the job after a strong finish this season, was hired by Florida State to coach linebackers, according to Rivals.com. Spokesmen for both schools could not confirm the move.

Kelly was receiving serious consideration for Tech’s coordinator position, which he took over six games into the past season after the firing of coordinator Al Groh. Coach Paul Johnson said Friday that he thought he would reach a conclusion in the next couple of weeks after he had met with candidates.

It is a considerable loss for Tech. Johnson planned to retain Kelly, one of the staff’s top coaches and recruiters, even if he weren’t made the full-time coordinator. The move makes something of a prophet of Johnson.

“This time of year, I’ve learned through the years you never know what’s going to happen,” Johnson said Friday. “You’re one phone call …

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UPDATED: Attaochu to return for senior season

Updated, 4;30 p.m. – Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu will stay in school for his senior season. He made the announcement Monday afternoon.

“There’s still things that have to be done,” Attaochu said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to come back and be a leader on this team.”

Attaochu had drawn attention to his situation by entering his name to the NFL draft advisory board in December and not offering indication of his intentions until Monday. Attaochu said the board advised him that he had the potential to be drafted.

He called it a pretty difficult decision, one that he arrived on Saturday after talking it over with his family back home in Washington, D.C. The opportunities to develop as a player and teammate and continue towards his degree were certainties that outweighed the lure of being able to start his NFL career a year ahead of schedule and the uncertainty of not knowing who Tech’s next defensive coordinator will be.

“It was …

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Attaochu to make stay-or-go announcement

Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu will announce his plans for the upcoming season at about 3:30 p.m. Monday.

A junior, Attaochu submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory board to get an evaluation of his potential in the draft. Attaochu was sixth on the team in tackles with 69, but had 12 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, both bests on the team.

Friday, coach Paul Johnson said that “I have no reason to believe that he’s not coming back. I haven’t heard affirmatively one way or the other unless he just hasn’t decided.”

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

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Wheels turning for Tech coordinator hiring

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson expects to have a defensive coordinator hired before national signing day Feb. 6. Johnson said he has already begun speaking with candidates about the opening created with the midseason firing of coordinator Al Groh.

“I should know what I’m going to do here in the next couple of weeks when I get through” meeting with candidates, Johnson said. “I just want to be real thorough with it. I’m not going to rush into something and then regret it.”

Johnson told 790 the Zone Thursday that he had three or four candidates that he was committed to talking with before making a decision. Interim coordinator Charles Kelly, who replaced Groh, is a candidate. Tech’s defense finished strongly under Kelly, shutting out Florida State in the second half of the ACC Championship game loss and then holding USC to a touchdown in the Yellow Jackets’ 21-7 Sun Bowl win. Johnson told 790 that he spoke Thursday with Kelly about the position.

“I thought he …

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3 Tech-Miami thoughts, quotes

1. Bad game. The offense got impatient as Miami’s lead kept growing. The defense lost track of guys and Miami guard Shane Larkin was too much to handle off the dribble. Georgia Tech hadn’t played anyone nearly this good since the Illinois game and I think it showed.

As Daniel Miller put it, “We just haven’t played bigs like this all season.”

2. That said, it’s one game. Robert Carter, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden were all playing their first ACC game. Miami is a pretty good team. Carter and Miller were out for the final 6:36 of the first half when the Hurricanes began to put the game away.

It’s not exactly how you want the ACC season to start, but I think it’s a little early for final verdicts.

3. I don’t think Solomon Poole is going to be seeing a lot of meaningful time soon. He did lead the final charge, when the lead was cut from 23 to 13.

Said Brian Gregory, “You’ve got to give him another three, four weeks before he gets accustomed to …

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UPDATE: Tech drops ACC opener to Miami

UPDATED, 7:30 p.m. Georgia Tech sought confirmation of its strong nonconference start. It received, instead, a kick in the pants.

In their ACC opener, the Yellow Jackets were outclassed by Miami, absorbing a 62-49 defeat Saturday at McCamish Pavilion. Tech lost patience on offense, was broken down on defense and had no answer for the hot shooting of guard Rion Brown.

“I think you’ve just got to look in the mirror and say, ‘At this particular point, on Jan. 5, they’re a better team than we are,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said.

Tech (10-3 overall, 0-1 ACC) was unable to build on the promise it showed in the first 12 games, mostly against a weak schedule, and saw its six-game winning streak come to a finish. Miami, a rugged bunch heavy with seniors, led for the final 25 minutes of the game, at one point breaking away for a 23-point edge.

Before a crowd of 7,614, Tech held Miami (10-3, 1-0) to a reasonable 41.5 shooting percentage, but had trouble producing at the other …

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Jackets start ACC play vs. Miami

Georgia Tech freshmen Robert Carter, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden have played a combined 827 minutes of college basketball. That being the case, Tech coach Brian Gregory said, guard Mfon Udofia informed them Thursday that they were no longer freshmen.

“You’ve played enough minutes, now you know what this is about,” Gregory said, quoting Udofia. “And it’s only going to get tougher.”

The last part is dead-on. Despite their 12 games at the college level, the celebrated freshmen will play their first minutes of ACC league play Saturday, when Tech opens the conference schedule at home against Miami.

Said Gregory, “The only way to learn is to go through it. There’s no question that experience is the best teacher.”

The Yellow Jackets will need to be braced for a stern test. Miami is 9-3 after playing one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country, highlighted by a win over Michigan State. Tech is 10-2 and has won six in a row, but has compiled …

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Tech defense by the numbers

Georgia Tech’s statistics from the first six games compared to the final eight games. A few words of comment below.

TOTAL DEFENSE

431.0                     331.3

RUSHING YARDS, YARDS PER RUSH

163.3, 4.5             129.9, 4.1

PASSING YARDS, YARDS PER ATTEMPT

267.7, 7.2             201.4, 7.2

PASSING EFFICIENCY

128.3                     132.0

YARDS PER PLAY

5.8                          5.6

POINTS

30.2                        26.9

POINTS PER POSSESSION

2.26                        2.24

THIRD DOWN EFFICIENCY

47.8                        34.1

POINTS PER RED-ZONE POSSESSION

4.5                          5.2

SACKS PER GAME

1.7                          2.3

TAKEAWAYS PER GAME

1.8                          1.8

BIG PLAYS (20-plus yards from scrimmage) PER …

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