ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The 2013 Season Could Be Quarterback Vad Lee's Year, Especially if Spring Goes Well

The 2013 Season Could Be Quarterback Vad Lee’s Year, Especially if This Spring Goes Well

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Spring Practice Start Date: March 25

Spring Game Date: April 19

Has the triple-option worked for Georgia Tech? Or better question: has Paul Johnson worked for Georgia Tech? After a year in which the Yellow Jackets finished just 6-6 during the regular season, this may just be the last shot for Johnson. With a miniscule recruiting class walking in the door, it won’t be easy. But responding to concern from fans, I’d assume this team must win at least eight games for him to truly feel safe come the offseason. Is that doable, though? This spring sets us on the right track to knowing a bit more.

Following a season where the ‘Wreck scored nearly 34 points per game, it’s hard to believe they had any issues at all on the offensive side of the ball. However, they also failed to score more than 21 five separate times, and (again) without a viable passing game in 2012, the team was an open target for opponents willing to stack the box against the run. Some of that may be due more to graduating QB Tevin Washington than the offense itself, but it’s likely we’ll see a transition period for this season as well. While Vad Lee and Synjyn Days both saw snaps at the quarterback position, it’s questionable which player (if either) can handle the full-time job. Like last year, there’s potential Johnson trots out two separate starters (both Lee and Days), though from a stability standpoint, one wold assume they’d have to choose eventually. The Yellow Jackets averaged just 129 passing yards per game last season (119th in the FBS); a true waste of talent when you’re fielding strong passers like Lee, or quality receivers like Jeff Greene. The team returns plenty of players who were involved in last year’s offense (they had 17 unique rushers and 14 unique receivers), so the pieces should be in place to hit the ground running this spring and find a more efficient way to use everyone’s talents.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech's Up-and-Down Season Leaves Everyone in Search of a True Verdict; Positive or Negative?

Georgia Tech’s Up-and-Down Season Leaves Everyone in Search of a True Verdict; Positive or Negative?

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

W-L: 7-7 (5-3)

Postseason: 21-7 Hyundai Sun Bowl win over USC

Top Offensive Performer: Tevin Washington, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Jeremiah Attaochu, LB

It’s hard to get a handle on just what happened during Georgia Tech’s roller coaster season. After starting the year with a close loss to then-no. 16 Virginia Tech, hopes were high in Atlanta. But soon after, the wheels came off and three straight losses would land them at a very disappointing 2-4 record. Three in-conference wins in a row and two postseason bans would catapult them into the ACC Championship Game somehow, but not before they were embarrassed by rival Georgia. Though they lost the ACC title game to Florida State, they’d aptly put up a fight, before ending the odd season with a dominating win over USC (preseason no. 1 team in the country). Have you followed all that so far?

Georgia Tech’s offense performed mostly as advertised in 2012; running the ball using Paul Johnson’s triple-option, while throwing it sparingly. The group’s 33.6 points per game (33rd in the FBS) were similar to last season (34.3), but admittedly, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 2012 season preview I wrote up for Georgia Tech, I emphasized that although their run-first offense certainly worked, there was a ceiling applied unless the team learned how to pass with efficiency. Not surprisingly after losing star receiver Stephen Hill to the NFL Draft last year, the passing numbers did go down (by 14 yards per game). It should also be noted that departing senior QB Tevin Washington — while a natural for the triple-option — is hardly a “passer” by any FBS standards. In his four years at Tech, he’s managed just 21 touchdown passes and 50.7-percent completions. His passing yardage diminished by 400 yards despite playing in one additional game this season, though it would be remiss to leave out his reduced playing time, too. Running the ball, however, was truly his forte. The senior ran for 20 scores this year, giving him 38 on his career. He was always more comfortable advancing the ball on the ground, which is what made him (and the Tech offense) overly consistent during his career, too.

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Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

When we last left our teams, there appeared to be hope on the horizon. Though the 2012 season was a difficult one, the bowls showed some real glimmers of great things to come, as the ACC racked up its first winning postseason record in seven years. Beyond some long-awaited hope for greater success, 2013 also brings some change to these rankings. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will now actually be participating in the conference, after two seasons appearing in the power rankings despite not doing so. And Louisville, our newest pals set to join in 2014, will also be joining the party — meaning 15 teams will be listed for the remainder of this calendar year (and slightly beyond into bowl season 2014). Cheer up! It’s less than 230 days ’till kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last Year: 2): Tajh Boyd‘s back, and the defense is improving steadily. So even without DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, this team will still be fine in 2013. In year two under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, expect an even more aggressive front-seven as the coach works on improving linebacker play in particular. That secondary will still get burned, but be certain they’ve also learned some lessons from last year, too.

2. Louisville Cardinals (LY: NR): After the show Teddy Bridgewater put on during the Sugar Bowl this year, the Cardinals are an extremely hot commodity, and are likely to start strong in their final season of Big East football. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Charlie Strong and his team respond to having a target on their backs from week one, when they’ll likely be handed a top-10 ranking to start the year.

3. Florida State Seminoles (LY: 1): They’re losing a lot on the defensive side of the football, along with QB and senior leader, EJ Manuel. But like those old, Bobby Bowden-coached teams of teams of the 90s, this ‘Noles squad has already reloaded. The offense may take a few to warm up, but the defense will still be very much their strength heading into next season.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LY: 5): After sitting out two straight years of postseason berths, the ‘Canes are really hoping they’re given a break from the NCAA in terms of leniency. With a ton of young talent eager to get a shot at a conference title, and arguably the best QB/RB tandem in the ACC in Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, Miami could very well be out for blood come opening kickoff this fall.

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Hyundai Sun Bowl Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. USC Trojans

Georgia Tech Must Throw the Ball Effectively If They Have Any Shot Against USC

Georgia Tech Must Throw the Ball Effectively If They Have Any Shot Against USC

Neither of these teams should be here. USC, the top team in the nation by many preseason measures, was not supposed to lose any games — let alone five. Georgia Tech, left for dead at 3-5, had no business getting to the ACC title game, let alone playing the Trojans in a New Year’s Eve bowl game. And yet, here we are, pitting two flawed teams against one another in a battle to see who ends 2012 more disappointed than the other.

Bowl Game: Hyundai Sun Bowl

Location: El Paso, Tex.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-7) vs. USC Trojans (7-5)

Last Meeting: USC over Georgia Tech, 23-6 (1973)

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Georgia Tech (previous bowl game: 30-27 loss vs. Utah in 2012 Hyundai Sun Bowl)

We all saw the script for Georgia Tech’s success play out during the ACC Championship Game against Florida State: Pass the ball with some sort of effectiveness, and continue running their triple-option. The issue then, as it will be again against USC, is figuring out who should be delivering those passes. Tech had three different quarterbacks (Tevin Washington, Synjyn Days and Vad Lee) throw the ball against FSU, and while they had 118 yards through the air, they also completed just five of 16 attempts with two interceptions. Ideally, they should be able to establish a bit more consistency against a USC defense that ranked just 71st in the FBS against the pass, and bump that completion percentage up to somewhere around 50 percent. From a defensive standpoint, recent injuries to key Trojans have flipped the script a bit for the Yellow Jackets. Quarterback Matt Barkley is out following his injury against UCLA back in November, and based on recent reports, it appears star receiver Marquise Lee is also out of commission. Suddenly, Georgia Tech’s focus is now stopping the running game, which could very well carry the load for USC. Neither Silas Redd nor Curtis McNeal have seen all that many carries this season (just 263 between them), so they’ll basically be coming at this game with fresh legs. The Wreck’s run defense was middle-of-the-road this year (47th nationally), but benefited from their offense’s own ball-control style. Teams ran the ball on them just 450 times all year, and still managed to rack up 4.27 yards per carry. If USC dictates the pace, it’s something to watch out for.

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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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Georgia Tech Football: Quarterback Controversy on the Flats?

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How Safe Is Tevin Washington's Job at Georgia Tech?

A quarterback competition may be brewing in Georgia Tech‘s spring football practices this year. You may ask yourself “who cares about a quarterback competition at Tech?  The QB doesn’t throw, just like the RBs at Boise State don’t run.” If this is how you view quarterbacks at Georgia Tech, then you are severely mistaken about the importance of the position in its spread option offense. The entire offense revolves around the quarterback, and a QB competition at Tech is worth taking a look at.

Tevin Washington started every game at QB for the Yellow Jackets last season and is returning for his senior season. Washington led Tech to a respectable, if not spectacular, 8-5 record last year and managed to achieve a QB rating of 155.4. At first glance you may wonder why there is any controversy at all over who the starting quarterback will be. However, the upcoming season figures to be a statement year for Head Coach Paul Johnson, and there are quality options at quarterback beside Washington.

Overall, Coach Johnson has experienced great success since arriving at Georgia Tech.  He has beaten arch-rival Georgia once, won an ACC Championship, and has been a consistent competitor amongst the ACC’s best football programs. However, most of Johnson’s success came during his first two years in Atlanta when many of his offensive stars were holdovers from the Chan Gailey era. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the Tech faithful, who are anxious to see if Johnson can replicate the success he had with former starting QB Joshua Nesbitt. So while Johnson and Washington have both performed admirably overall, there is still a lot for both parties to prove. Continue reading