5 things that could go wrong for Tech: Most involve talent

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu: Is he a playmaker? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu: Is he a playmaker? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

To reiterate: I think Georgia Tech’s going to be OK this season. Not great, but OK. That said …

Tech is coming off a 6-7 season. With such a team — and Georgia is also such a team — there can be no givens. I’ve picked the Jackets to go 8-4, and with NCAA winds swirling around Miami and North Carolina it’s possible Tech could rise to second in the ACC Coastal Division. (Can’t see anybody catching Virginia Tech, though.) Things could, as things sometimes do, also go wrong. Such things include:

1. Nesbitt could prove irreplaceable. The new quarterback is redshirt junior Tevin Washington. The backup is redshirt freshman Synjyn Days. The people’s choice is freshman Vad Lee. They’re following a truly tough act.

Starting quarterback is the most important position on any team, and his value increases exponentially in Paul Johnson’s stylized offense. Johnson’s quarterback has to make choices — as opposed to simply handing the ball off — on every snap. The quarterback in the spread option also gets hit a lot, and even the indomitable Nesbitt wound up getting hurt. It was encouraging that the Jackets gained 512 yards against Georgia with Washington at quarterback, but that game might have been a red (and black) herring.

2. These B-backs could turn out to be C-minuses. Johnson believes he could deploy Wolf Blitzer at B-back and have the man gain 1,000 yards. (Although Wolf Blitzer would seem a better candidate for outside linebacker in the 3-4.) That’s the nature of this system and the faith Johnson has in his creation.

The past two feature backs have been Jonathan Dwyer and Allen, and both were NFL draftees. Preston Lyons entered camp as the No. 1 B-back, but has been supplanted by David Sims, who once was a quarterback. Sims isn’t as husky as Dwyer or Allen, which could be reason for concern: B-backs get hit a lot, too.

3. The defense could suffer more Groh-ing pains. Defensive coordinator Al Groh made a remarkable admission after Tech lost to North Carolina State 45-28 last September: His men simply hadn’t made many plays. (He counted three.) Then he said: “There’s no supermarket we can go down to and buy new players.”

This Tech defense will have had ample time to absorb Groh’s 3-4 scheme, which was new to the Flats last season, but the question lingers: Are there any playmakers in the house? If so, who? Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu has that potential, and inside backer Julian Burnett does, too. And maybe end Izaan Cross. The secondary, however, is all new.

4. The Jackets could lose an early game they shouldn’t. Let’s go on record as saying Tech won’t lose to Western Carolina on Thursday night. But next week brings a dicey road assignment: Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro. That’s the kind of game that could make the Blue Raiders’ season — and imperil Tech’s.

Middle Tennessee lost to Tech 42-14 last season, but that game was here, and Nesbitt was healthy. The Blue Raiders finished 6-7 last season, same as Tech, and will have already faced a team from a BCS league — even if it is only Purdue — by the time the Jackets arrive. And let’s recall what happened when Tech traveled in Week 2 game last season: It lost to Kansas, which would finish 3-9.

5. The talent gap could prove too great even for Johnson to override. Some keen-eyed Jackets-watchers insist this is the least gifted Tech team since the inglorious days of Bill Lewis. As good a coach as Johnson is — and he’s very good — he can’t outflank everybody all the time. Last season proved as much.

We on the periphery tend to overrate recruiting rankings, but the cold truth is that the playmakers Johnson inherited from Chan Gailey — Nesbitt, Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett — are gone, and suitable replacements have yet to emerge. Preseason all-conference lists aren’t the most reliable indicators, either; still, it’s worth noting that Tech placed only guard Omoregie Uzzi on the 25-man all-ACC team. If Tech is to have its bounce-back season, much coaching-up must be done.

By Mark Bradley

127 comments Add your comment

J.J.M.

August 31st, 2011
12:07 pm

Mark Bradley

August 31st, 2011
12:08 pm

Kudos once more, J.J.M.

GeorgiaDawg91

August 31st, 2011
12:13 pm

Though they may not be as talented Paul Johnson did wonders for Navy because he is tough minded and his teams usually play the same way. They will still be a team to not take lightly

sidslid

August 31st, 2011
12:14 pm

I would like Middle Tennessee if it was their opener. Teams with time to prepare for the option can beat it (see Iowa).

Killiangsu

August 31st, 2011
12:16 pm

Mark,

Do you ever have anything positive to say about the Jackets? I suppose it’s really hard for you to do so when you spend all your time hummping the legs of the UGA faithfull. Do us all a favor and leave the insights on Tech football to someone that has actually watched a Tech game this decade. I also wanted to knwo where we could get the UGA SEC Championship T-Shirts for pre-order, they may still have some laying around from 2008/2009 season….Oh Wait….

HJW

August 31st, 2011
12:16 pm

[MTSU's week 1 opponent] does not exist

Hit REAL Hard

August 31st, 2011
12:16 pm

How about 5 things that could go right for Tech?

Mark Bradley

August 31st, 2011
12:17 pm

Er, did I not pick Tech to go 8-4?

roger staubach

August 31st, 2011
12:20 pm

The talent level of GT vs USNA is fairly par, i’d give a slight edge to GT, but the mindset is astronomically different in favor of the Academy.

Dr. Sigmund Football

August 31st, 2011
12:20 pm

How about you give up “stylized offense,” as a New Year’s resolution. Gives you all season to steel yourself. Or, take a babystep and give it up for Lent. Not much football news then anyway.

PerimeterCenterJacket

August 31st, 2011
12:20 pm

I guess we’ll see if you’re right about the talent. Not all Jacket watchers agree with that assessment. O-line, for example, is getting a little more beef (if less experienced beef) and that all new secondary is composed of what many Jackets insiders say is better talent. I’m certainly not going to argue that Nesbitt, Allen, and – from ‘09 – Morgan, Thomas and Burnett are not yet deemed “replaced” by observers, BUT I’m of the opinion we just can’t know who’s really getting plugged in at those spots until the first ACC games are over. Also confounding the public assessment is the closing of all practices save for a couple of scrimmages. I used to go to practices at Rose Bowl fields to see the youngbucks myself…but now we just have very little idea who’s gonna be able to do what.

I’m cautiously optimistic that 8-4 is a solid, middle-of-the-road prediction of what this season holds.

GO JACKETS! In about 27 hours I’ll be on The Flats for a much needed tailgate party!

Hankie Aron

August 31st, 2011
12:23 pm

It’s bad when Middle Tenn on the road is trap game, then again UGA should have hammered the vaunted Central Florida football team last year but our guys vacation had already started.

Hankie Aron

August 31st, 2011
12:26 pm

For both GT and UGA- the teams could just as well win 9 games or lose 7. It’s an odd time for fans

PerimeterCenterJacket

August 31st, 2011
12:28 pm

Yeah, traveling to MTSU just seems like a very interesting choice, but I think it’s a function of how many more desirable teams were scheduled to come to BDS this season. Personally, I plan to party in Nashville and then catch the game out in Murfreesboro…should be fun. You know the MTSUers will be amped. But yeah…Tech needs to hammer them in that one. Same goes for Kansas at home in The Dodd.

spider

August 31st, 2011
12:29 pm

i dont know how much time i have left on this earth but i hope before i die i will be able too figure out why it is such a big deal to be 1st on these blogs.

Stinger2

August 31st, 2011
12:32 pm

Mark: Not trying to be picky but I don`t think Nesbitt got hurt because he was hit running the ball. As I recall, he was hurt making a tacket after throwing an interception.

Just Asking

August 31st, 2011
12:35 pm

MB Did you pick which games the Jackets would win and loose as you did with UGA? If so I didn’t see it. Just asking.

K

August 31st, 2011
12:36 pm

Don’t count this team out.
Speaking of the “What ifs,” What if Tech wins them all?
We’ve been doubted before. With Paul Johnson, I would not bet against him.

Ramblin Man

August 31st, 2011
12:39 pm

Mark I agree to a point. GT may not have many preseason favorites as far as talent goes, but how many did GT have in 08,seriously cause I don’t know. It will be a wait and see since a lot of new players will hit the field this year and yes Sims will take a lot of hits but with Perkins and Lyons right with him I am not to worried about the BB slot.

JASon

August 31st, 2011
12:39 pm

“As good a coach as Johnson is — and he’s very good”

I question this. Yeah, he’s so good he’s gotten blown out of two bowl games. I would argue his success has come mostly due to the uniqueness of his system. Hence the 6-7.

PerimeterCenterJacket

August 31st, 2011
12:41 pm

Just Asking, I believe he did. But it brings up a good point that 8-4 could be a great number if it’s a season of redemption and there are wins against Kansas and one or more of our rivals (VT, CU, GU). But 8-4 could be a really bad number if there’s a loss to a team we should beat (KU, WCU, MTSU, Duke, UVA) and no win against any of the rivals (they all play us in our house this season, so it’d seem even worse to drop those games.) I think the best thing Tech can do to increase perception and fan support is be sure to beat GU and one of either CU or VT. We can lose to Miami, UNC and maybe NCSU, in my opinion, and still have happier fans if we beat GU and somebody else our fans hate. Of course, winning bowls also helps hugely in years like this one since they can say “And this team is so YOUNG, too!” to get people pumped. /rabbittrail

DScottGT91

August 31st, 2011
12:42 pm

Very rational analysis by MB. All those inexperienced O-Lineman make me nervous.

Still, I”ll be pulling hard Thursday night.

GO JACKETS!!

Snellville Jacket

August 31st, 2011
12:42 pm

“Some keen-eyed Jacket-watchers insist this is the least gifted Tech team since the inglorious days of Bill Lewis.”

Mark, talent wasn’t the problem for Bill Lewis – it was coaching. The team quit on him after he blew the FSU game in 1992. Unlike then, we now have a coach who can maximize the talent he has!

????

August 31st, 2011
12:43 pm

K,

with fish fry? That tub of goo will NEVER win big again at GT. The gimmick is up!

2010 Season Re-Cap

August 31st, 2011
12:43 pm

The last game Virginia Tech played, the Hokies were embarrassed 40-12.

????

August 31st, 2011
12:45 pm

PCJ,

who is GU? Ya’ll playing Georgetown this year?

TC

August 31st, 2011
12:46 pm

Is Paul Johnson a poor recruiter?

Cosmo

August 31st, 2011
12:46 pm

sidslid- Having watched this team for all the games, I’ll offer the opinion that it is more than the other team having time to prepare, rather it was GT being out of rhythm in what had been a relatively new offense to many of the GT players. I’m hoping that the newest recruits will have grown up in similar systems and the upperclassmen will have been in it long enough that their execution of the offense will be more second nature than it has in the past. Unfortunately when that has happened in the past the other team gets a lead and despite getting their legs (and heads) back in the game and running the offense effectively they cannot catch up because the defense had trouble stopping folks. Defense, not offense is the key to success this season. CPJ will have them score points. Groh needs stops.

2010 Season Re-Cap

August 31st, 2011
12:47 pm

JASon, 14-7 is not a blow out to a team that barely lost to Oklahoma.

GIVE ME A BREAK

August 31st, 2011
12:48 pm

I like tech’s talent. Washington is going to be good. Instead of taking the hits, he’ll cause the D to miss. Very optimistic about these guys. Sims is going to be a beast. ” GO JACKETS “

Delbert D.

August 31st, 2011
12:50 pm

I gotta hand it to you, Mark. Wolf Blitzer is a great football name.

techfan

August 31st, 2011
12:51 pm

I think #1 is the biggest worry. I’m still not really convinced we are in good shape at QB. Hopefully with last years experience and hard work this off season Tevin will take it up a level. The good news is that we are fairly deep at the position.

I’m really not buying that MTSU can beat us. We were not even playing that well against them last year and still beat them pretty handily. As for talent, we have about the same level of talent we have always had. Nothing really new in that area.

Herschel Talker

August 31st, 2011
1:02 pm

MB:

One thing that will go right for Tech this year is playing a Georgia team coached by Mark Richt.
Paul Johnson will out coach him and hopefully that will be the demise of Richt’s tenure at Georgia. Good riddance.

HT

JH

August 31st, 2011
1:04 pm

too much nesbitt crap. he couldn’t throw. washington and the guys here now can. your way too bullish on uga(no surprise there) and bearish on tech. yes 8 wins is bearish. We went 9-3 in cpj’s first year and nesbitts first year. TW has 5 games under his belt. You naysayer bashers will be in for quite a surprise. An improved defense will lead tech to a 10 win season. Funny how people don’t mention that half the acc has new qb’s playing this year.

PerimeterCenterJacket

August 31st, 2011
1:05 pm

????, oh did I switch some letters or something? Sorry, I believe I was half-heartedly trying to refer to “the other state school.” I dunno, sometimes it gets mixed up…all I really care about is Tech football!

Seriously?

August 31st, 2011
1:06 pm

Did someone say that s/he wouldn’t bet against Paul Johnson? Really? He won 6 games last year (with more talent than he’ll have this year). He’s 1-2 against UGA. I’m pretty sure that I could find about 5-6 games to bet against him in this year… But he may benefit from the fact that two schools in his division are in serious trouble with the NCAA.

And why is he such a great coach again? 6-7 PJ = great coach. 6-7 MR = terrible coach on the hot seat. And please don’t mention the season before, because (1) the championship was stripped away due to ineligible players (by the way, your best player); and (2) every single star on that team was recruited by a different coach! For all of you idiots who always say that recruiting doesn’t matter… I think we’re about to see just how much it does matter. I suppose we just have higher standards at UGA for our coaches (I think our entrance standards have actually topped GT’s at this point, as well), which is why a 6-7 season is unacceptable for us, but satisfying for you.

That felt good, I have to admit.

Greg

August 31st, 2011
1:08 pm

I guess you like VT because they don’t have a single ranked team on their schedule. Nice. They will still lose at least 2. Probably to E carolina

Seriously?

August 31st, 2011
1:10 pm

Herschel Talker, are you a Tech fan? If so, you confuse me. You insult Richt as being a bad coach, but then you say that “hopefully that will be the demise of Richt’s tenure at Georgia”. So wait a minute, you think he’s a bad coach, but you want him fired? If you are a fan of GT, I don’t understand that. If you truly think he’s a bad coach, don’t you want him around as long as possible?

You guys sure do lack some fundamental logic skills, don’t you?

Me personally, I want CPJ to stay as long as possible. He speaks so arrogantly that the GT fan base can’t help but love him – even if he just came off of a 6 win season and NCAA violations.

GTBob

August 31st, 2011
1:11 pm

(1)the championship was stripped away due to ineligible players (by the way, your best player)

He still to this day has not been declared ineligible.

ss

August 31st, 2011
1:21 pm

Seriously….UGA admissions have topped Tech????? I don’t think so, see the AJC article from the 25th

SansWorld

August 31st, 2011
1:27 pm

Seriously? – so what is your over/under on the number of wins? If you bet against them on 5-6 games, you saying they will win 7 or 8?

No one wants a 6-7 season and I don’t think anyone is saying that = a great coach, but if it is unacceptable are you saying CPJ be fired at this point?

I doubt that another 6-7 season will get him fired this year. You better buck up and hope for the best out of the team. You nay saying is just sowing seeds discouragement among a young and apparently motivated teams. I wish them the best.

Seriously?

August 31st, 2011
1:27 pm

GTBob – must just be a conspiracy of sorts. The NCAA has always wanted to get after GT!!! That’s the only logical conclusion, right?

Alabama Jack

August 31st, 2011
1:29 pm

You can alway tell a dawg, you just can’t tell them much.

KB

August 31st, 2011
1:33 pm

Before you say “look what he did at Navy”, you should look at who Navy played and beat while he was there. The worst Notre Dame team in last 50 years, otherwise he played some teams close but didn’t beat much of anyone.Service Academy players aren’t going to win week in and week out playing the Tech schedule, they will beat the teams Navy beat or came close to, Duke, Wake, etc. his big bowl victories were over Colorado State, and New Mexico.

1eyedJack

August 31st, 2011
1:33 pm

Didn’t Nesbitt get hurt trying to make a tackle after an interception?

Killed his Heisman campaign. ;)

Seriously?

August 31st, 2011
1:33 pm

Was that really worth posting?

PerimeterCenterJacket

August 31st, 2011
1:34 pm

ss, that article shows that UGA once closed the AT score gap to within 100 points of GT’s incoming frosh average, but that in the last 5 years it’s actually become a bigger gap again (>120 points higher at Tech on avg.)

cattledawg

August 31st, 2011
1:34 pm

Tech wins 9 or 10 against this schedule.

the real Old Gold

August 31st, 2011
1:42 pm

You COULD be wrong. Probably so.

Ezekiel

August 31st, 2011
1:42 pm

The reason why Tech is underrated and there are not many Jackets on the preseason lists is because the team is starting quite a few new players. There will be players emerge just like in the ‘08 season and Tech will surprise quite a few people this season. More GT football talk at: http://GTSportsTalk.com