NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Georgia Tech Prospects

T.J. Barnes is Viewed as the Best Georgia Tech Prospect Available, But Who Else Is on the Board?

T.J. Barnes is Viewed as the Best Georgia Tech Prospect Available, But Who Else Is on the Board?

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Since Paul Johnson took over, it seems like the talent coming out of Georgia Tech has certainly diminished a bit. Of course, they’re still churning out some elite receivers, but with a diminished recruiting pipeline and a gimmick offense, you’re starting to see a reduced pool of NFL-caliber players at Tech. This year in particular, there’s no one even within sniffing distance of the NFL Draft’s first two days, though former ‘Jackets could still provide some late-round value just the same.

T.J. Barnes, DT, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)

Barnes’s size (6’6″ 369 pounds) is both a blessing and a curse, providing him with the power to manhandle opposing linemen, while also inspiring some fear he’s a health problem waiting to happen. Surprisingly, however, Barnes and his large frame can still put up a 5.19 40-yard dash time (mildly astounding, actually), which also leaves scouts to wonder how fast he could be if he just trimmed down 20 pounds or so. The weight issue won’t stop him from getting drafted at all, but the second he’s selected, you can bet that’ll be the first item addressed with his new employer. If he can get that under control, he’ll certainly be able to easily earn and keep a pro roster spot.

Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

First-team All-ACC this past year, Uzzi should’ve been able to parlay that into a late-round selection. That is, until he underwent knee surgery in January and was not invited to the NFL Draft Scouting Combine. For large offensive linemen like Uzzi (6’3″ and 305 pounds), that type of procedure automatically raises red flags for scouts — fair or not — and it’s the primary reason he’s fallen off draft boards. For teams willing to take a flyer on him as a free agent though, they’ll get a strong guard with a quick first move off the snap and plenty of run-blocking ability.

Rod Sweeting, CB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

In many drafts, Sweeting would probably have what it takes to hear his name called on day three, but when the defensive selection pool is this deep, it’s not sure-thing for him. He’s certainly got the speed to make it as a pro (4.39 40-yard dash time), but his lack of size (5’11” and 189 pounds) is cause for concern against the growing number of larger, physical receivers in the NFL. He did do very well in the lead-up to the East-West Shrine Game, which helps his case, but his selection will likely come down to two things: does a team want to emphasize coverage over turnovers? And are they willing to overlook his lack of size? If a team’s okay with both, then he’ll be picked. If not, he won’t. Plain and simple.

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Top 10 ACC Football Games of 2012

Could Jamison Crowder and the Blue Devils Claim the Top Spot For Duke's Impressive Win Over UNC?

Could Jamison Crowder and the Blue Devils Claim the Top Spot For Duke’s Impressive Win Over UNC?

In a season full of parity, it’s understandable that the ACC had so many memorable contests to choose from when compiling this list. So many last-second scores, one-possession ball games and overtime battles, it was truly difficult to decipher which really were the “best” the league had to offer. Nonetheless, we make an attempt below, nodding to the 10 contests that — more than any others the ACC gave us this season — really gave us a reason to remember them. Agree or disagree with our picks? Share away in the comments.

Top 10 Games of 2012

10. Syracuse 37, USF 36: Down 20 points at the half, this was supposed to be the tombstone in another disappointing Syracuse season. And yet, as they did all year, this Orange squad refused to quit, and battled all the way back in the second half. Down five with just seconds on the clock, Ryan Nassib delivered a gutsy touchdown pass to Alec Lemon on fourth-and-goal, sealing the win and adding to his reputation as a master of the comeback.

9. Syracuse 31, Missouri 27: We promise this is the last you hear about Syracuse on this list. Once again facing a late deficit — this time 27-24 — Nassib and Lemon would complete their furious comeback with a wide-open 17-yard touchdown pass. The strike, with just 20 seconds remaining, would end up being the game-winner, sending ‘Cuse bowling for the second time in three seasons.

8. Florida State 28, Virginia Tech 22: From sloppy, to boring, to inexplicable and then miraculous, this game truly ran the gambit of emotions for players and fans. What should have been a quick win over a lackluster Hokies squad would turn into a struggle for FSU; one they were certainly lucky to come away with. Even now, the final few minutes rush by like a blur: Devonta Freeman‘s idiotic safety, EJ Manuel‘s easy 39-yard TD pass, and then Logan Thomas‘s ultimate hero-turned-goat act. Just another Thursday night ACC showdown.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Five

Florida State’s EJ Manuel Led the Seminoles’ Late Charge Past Clemson on Saturday, Cementing Their Place Atop These Rankings

This weekend was a big one for the ACC, despite the fact that not all of its teams were in action. With all eyes on Tallahassee to still if Florida State could deliver on the weighty expectations bestowed upon them this season, the ‘Noles did not disappoint. After a big FSU victory, the conference now has a legitimate title contender and potential Heisman winner — something it hasn’t seen in a decade. Expect great things this season.

1. Florida State Seminoles (4-0) (LW: 1): About midway through the first half of Saturday’s game, I was wondering if Florida State would disappoint once again, as they were struggling to really stop the Clemson offense, and could not necessarily break through with their own attack either. But then the second half happened, and we all witnessed an impressive onslaught the likes of which may be a recurring theme for the Seminoles. This team is a bona fide national championship contender, and EJ Manuel could very well be setting up for a surprise Heisman run.

2. Clemson Tigers (3-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers fought valiantly, though in the end, there were just too many weapons on the Seminoles offense, and not enough answers from the Clemson D. Sure, the loss may sting now, but based on Tajh Boyd‘s players-only meeting on Monday, it already looks like they’re focused and ready to continue what should be a very successful campaign. As has been the case these past two years, only the defense can truly hold them back.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1) (LW: 4): Needing a big rebound win, the Hokies shut out Bowling Green on Saturday, and appear to be back in control of their season. Unfortunately, however, their offense is still only marginal at best. Even against an inferior team, VPI still managed just 150 yards in the air, and committed nine penalties. If not for Logan Thomas remembering how to run the football, the unit would have been stagnant all day. They just can’t rely on him to do absolutely everything.

4. NC State Wolfpack (3-1) (LW: 5): For all the talk of their “disappointing” start, the Wolfpack are still 3-1, and very much alive in the ACC title race. With the team’s defense seemingly coming on as of late, and their offense establishing an unexpected degree of balance between run and pass, State could actually recapture its darkhorse role and make a midseason run.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 4: Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech RB Orwin Smith is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 4

No one enjoys piling on when things go wrong. But nonetheless, we’ve got to call out the ACC players who were counter-productive in helping their teams grab a victory this weekend. On the bright side for them, they can always get off this list next week. And for their sake, let’s hope they do.

ACC Goat of the Week, Week 4: Orwin Smith, RB/Georgia Tech

Oh, Orwin Smith. This was dumb. Hate to be so harsh about a college kid, but how else do you describe a self-safety? Georgia Tech was beaten by Miami on Saturday, sure. But more accurately, that team was defeated by their own mental mistakes — most notably this one, which tacked two points on the board for the ‘Canes. Aside from the egregious gaffe in the return game, Smith also continued what’s been a virtually unspectacular rushing campaign, tallying just seven carries for 22 yards (and one score). If Georgia Tech wants to win games, it must rely on a consistent rushing attack. That was not the case here, especially for Smith, who came into the year as a standout senior leader for the team. He’ll have to pick up his game going forward.

Honorable Mention:

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech

Clemson Defense (49 points allowed, 667 total offensive yards against)

Michael Rocco, QB/Virginia (13/26 passing, 126 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT)

Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (21/31 passing, 228 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble lost)

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ACC Football Preview 2012: Preseason Offensive Unit Rankings

Even Without Sammy Watkins for Two Games, Clemson Should Have the ACC’s Top Offense

We’re literally one day (and some hours) away from the start of the 2012 season, so obviously, we’re rolling out tons of arbitrarily ranked lists to peruse before kickoff. The focus of this list? Every ACC offense. Along with the ranked list, we’ll provide some background to legitimize said arbitrary ranking. Don’t agree with us? Voice your opinion in the comment section.

Want more lists? Be sure to check out the defensive and coaching rankings set to be posted later on today!

ACC Offensive Unit Rankings (Preseason)

1. Clemson Tigers: Clemson has lost very little on offense, after putting up nearly 34 points per game last year. If they manage to pick up the pace even further this year, and survive the first two games without Sammy Watkins, it should be a wild ride.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels: Installing the spread for an already-potent attack, new head coach Larry Fedora is excited about the possibilities. QB Bryn Renner should excel, and it will be interesting to watch how star halfback Giovani Bernard defines his role in the new formation, too.

3. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The ‘Wreck will once again sport their lethal triple-option, with more capable backs than I can ever recall. A-back Orwin Smith should shoulder a good deal of the load, along with QB Tevin Washington, en route to another season averaging over 300 yards per game on the ground.

4. Florida State Seminoles: Beyond QB EJ Manuel, it’s still uncertain who the primary weapons will be for the ‘Noles, but collectively, there’s just too much talent available for them to fail. With an easier schedule, they should be able to surpass last year’s average of 30 points per game with little difficulty.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Much of Georgia Tech’s Success in 2012 Will Rely on Tevin Washington’s Progress as a Passer

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2011 W-L: 8-5 (5-3)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (33-19; four seasons)

Returning Starters: 13 (7 Offense, 6 Defense)

Through six games, the 2011 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were an absolutely terrifying opponent. They won their first six, mostly in resounding fashion, and climbed all the way up to the number-13 ranking in the country. They throttled Kansas so badly that they even made a t-shirt just to commemorate the occasion. But by their fifth win to start the year, you knew something was up. On October 1, they only beat a then-mediocre NC State team by 10. The next week, they battled a terrible Maryland team to a 21-16 victory — a crime for a team that had come into that contest averaging about 48 points per game. And we’re all pretty familiar with what came next. Bye weeks started giving teams ample time to prepare for the triple-option, and Tech started losing. After starting so hot, they’d drop five of their final seven and that hot start and the t-shirts were just a distant memory.

On offense, everything for Paul Johnson’s team is simple: just run the triple-option. Every play. With little variation. Oh, they had a star receiver in Stephen Hill, but unfortunately, they rarely threw to him — which ended up becoming the team’s biggest issue. When looking back at Paul Johnson’s most successful Tech teams (specifically the ’09 ACC Championship squad), you see teams that are lethal running the ball, while competent passing when called upon. That element of surprise keeps defenses off-balance and it’s how the triple-option works most effectively. Unfortunately, that’s not how current starter Tevin Washington runs the triple-option.

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #16, Omoregie Uzzi

Georgia Tech’s Omoregie Uzzi is #16 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 16, Omoregie Uzzi, G/Georgia Tech

Being an offensive lineman at Georgia Tech is no easy task. Yet, despite the difficulties involved with blocking for the triple option, Omoregie Uzzi has managed to arrive at his senior year for the Wreck. On the watchlist for both the Outland and Lombardi trophies this season, Uzzi is the leader of an impressive group tasked with opening up space for a dynamic, run-first attack. His 24 career starts on the line are tied for 10th in the conference, and at this point, he’s established a national reputation as a physical, imposing force in the running game.

In 13 games last year, Tech only allowed 13 sacks. Now, while part of that is due to the lower number of dropbacks, the other half of that equation goes to celebrate how well-rounded a group the team has on their hands. If Uzzi wants to fully live up to the hype and deliver the “number one rushing game in the nation,” as fellow guard Will Jackson boasted this summer, he must be fully committed to the cause. A-back Orwin Smith doesn’t open up those running lanes by himself, so Uzzi must continue to use his immense size to make up for a lack of real quickness.

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