Our analysis on the starters, top backups, history and trends for Georgia Tech hitting Death Valley on Oct. 6…
2011 Record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC, third in the Coastal)
2012 Georgia Tech Schedule
Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech (Monday)
Sept. 8 PRESBYTERIAN
Sept. 15 VIRGINIA
Sept. 22 MIAMI
Sept. 29 MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Oct. 6 at Clemson
Oct. 13 Bye
Oct. 20 BOSTON COLLEGE
Oct. 27 BYU
Nov. 3 at Maryland
Nov. 10 at UNC
Nov. 17 DUKE
Nov. 24 at Georgia
Coach: Paul Johnson (79-48 career record, 22-11 against ACC [4-1 vs. Clemson], fifth year at Georgia Tech).
Offense (2011 ranks): Spread option (Total offense: 18th/Rush offense: 2nd/Pass offense: 112th)
Defense (2011 ranks): 3-4 (Total defense: 44th/Rush defense: 66th/Pass defense: 28th).
2011 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 54th/Kickoff returns – 108th/Punt returns – 61st/Punt return yardage defense – 39th/Kick return yardage defense – 59th.
2011 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 44th/Fewest penalties – 11th/First downs – 54th/First downs allowed – 32nd/Third down efficiency – 2nd/Red zone efficiency – 11th/Red zone defense – 65th/Time of possession – 22nd.
Outgoing starters: 9
2012 Starters (2011 stats)
Returning Offense (7)
QB: Tevin Washington (Senior, 1,652 passing yards/49.3% cmp/11 TD-8 INT/986 rushing yards/14 TD)
RB: A-back - Orwin Smith (Senior, 615 rushing yards/11 TD/306 rec. yards/1 TD); B-back – David Sims (Junior, 698 rushing yards/14 TD)
O-line: LT Ray Beno (Junior, 6-2 290/11 starts); LG Will Jackson (Junior, 6-3 285/21 starts); C Jay Finch (Junior, 6-3 283/15 starts); RG Omoregie Uzzi (Senior, 6-3 300/24 starts, had offseason surgery and sat out the spring)/Shaq Mason (Sophomore, 6-1 295/1 start)
New Projected Starters (4)
RB: A-back – Robert Godhigh (Junior)/B.J. Bostic (Sophomore, 127 rushing yards)
WR: Darren Waller (Sophomore, 6-5 220)/Chris Jackson (Senior, 6-1 205); Jeff Greene (Sophomore, 6-4 200)/Jeremy Moore (Junior, 6-3 180)
O-line: RT Tyler Kidney (Junior, 6-2 262/6 starts)
Outlook: After a bit of a QB-competition this spring, senior Tevin Washington still sits atop the depth chart after leading the Yellow Jackets and finishing in the top-five in the ACC in rushing yards (986). The issue is his accuracy – two seasons with significant playing time with a sub-50 completion percentage. Redshirt freshman quarterback Vad Lee showed off his arm in the spring game, 9-for-17 on pass attempts for two touchdown passes and 120 passing yards, which could leave Lee a viable option if Washington struggles.
A-back Orwin Smith and B-back David Sims complete the trio of GT leading rushers back, and there should be a solid rotation of backs behind them in the mix to keep the run-centered among the nation’s best.
At receiver, unproven is an understatement with not a single 2011 catch between those competing for starting spots. Johnson identified Darren Waller and Jeff Greene as top candidates to take over for NFL-bound Stephen Hill, both 6-4 or taller.
The Yellow Jackets could very well feature a starting five on the o-line all with significant starting experience, but both guards Will Jackson and Omoregie Uzzi sat out this spring with injuries.
Returning Defense (6)
D-line: DE Izaan Cross (Senior, 1 TFL/32 tackles).
LB: SLB Jeremiah Attaochu (Junior, 59 tackles/6 sacks/11.5 TFL); WLB Quayshawn Nealy (Sophomore, 3 TFL/52 tackles)
DB: CB Rod Sweeting (Senior, 3 INT/10 PBU/56 tackles); CB Louis Young (Junior, 52 tackles/5 PBUs); FS Isaiah Johnson (Junior, 78 tackles/3 INT)
New Projected Starters (5)
D-line: NT T.J. Barnes (Senior, 11 tackles); DE Euclid Cummings (Senior, 22 tackles/2 TFL)/Emmanuel Dieke (Junior, 20 tackles/2 sacks)
LB: ILB Jabari Hunt-Days (Redshirt freshman); ILB Brandon Watts (Junior, 15 tackles/3 sacks)/Daniel Drummond (Junior, 44 tackles)
DB: ROV Jemea Thomas (Junior, 50 tackles/3 INT/6 PBUs).
Outlook: Georgia Tech replaces two of three starters on the d-line, with 6-7 347 senior T.J. Barnes set to take over in the middle of the 3-4 defense.
The Yellow Jackets will miss 2011 leading tackler Julian Burnett (120 tackles/8.5 TFL), who is out at least this season and may be done with football period due to a neck injury. On the edges, SLB Jeremiah Attaochu and WLB Quayshawn Nealy made instant impacts last season (over 100 tackles and 14.5 TFL) and will man those spots come this fall, but the inside linebacker spots are up for grabs.
GT’s secondary was one of the nation’s best last season (28th in pass defense) with four new starters and return three of the four starters in 2012. Taking over as ‘rover’ is junior Jemea Thomas, who finished second on the team in passes defended last year (9).
Returning Kicker/Punter (2)
P: Sean Poole (Junior, 39.7 yards per punt).
PK: Justin Moore (Junior, 11-of-17 on FGs/7-13 from 30+/Long of 41).
Outlook: Sean Poole ranks among one of the ACC’s top-three returners in yards per punt (39.7). Justin Moore made five-straight field goals to close the regular season, but struggled in the Sun Bowl to close 2011, missing 2-of-4.
Notable Backups (2011 stats)
QB: Synjyn Days (Sophomore, 237 rushing yards/4 TD/198 passing yards/66.7% cmp); Vad Lee (Redshirt freshman)
ACC Position Rankings
Clemson/Georgia Tech recent history: After Clemson got on the board first with a field goal, Georgia Tech scored 24 unanswered into the half. The two traded touchdowns to start the second half, but the Tigers would take advantage of Tevin Washington fumble to draw within two scores and an interception deep in GT territory almost set up another. But miscommunication on first and goal from the Yellow Jackets’ 9-yard line led to a Tajh Boyd interception in the endzone and Georgia Tech proceeded to go 16 plays and over nine minutes on their next drive to close out the 31-17 win.
After three losses in two seasons to Georgia Tech, Dabo Swinney finally got on the scoreboard with a dominating 27-13 win in Death Valley in 2010. Clemson RB Andre Ellington rushed for a (then) career high 166 yards – with three touchdowns (two rushing and one receiving).
Clemson players versus…Georgia Tech: Tajh Boyd struggled in Atlanta, throwing two picks with a touchdown and 295 passing yards (57.5 completion percentage – 23/40).
Sammy Watkins posted one of his stronger games though, with 290 all-purpose yards (159 receiving/124 kick return) and a touchdown.
RB Andre Ellington missed last year’s game with an ankle injury. He accounted for three touchdowns against Georgia Tech with two rushing and one receiving TD and 257 total yards on the game in Memorial Stadium. In his career against the Jackets, Ellington has rushed for 250 yards – returned kicks for 116 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Other notables among the receivers include DeAndre Hopkins (10 catches for 116 yards over two games) and Jaron Brown (five grabs for 65 yards in two games).
Chandler Catanzaro split his field goal attempts last season, making from 34 yards and missing from 40 in the first half last season. He was good for two of his three attempts in Death Valley – hitting from 38 and 21-yards with a miss from 29.
Over the last two years, Malliciah Goodman has had career games with eight tackles in 2011 and nine tackles (one for loss) and a pass breakup in 2010.
Corico Hawkins and Quandon Christian racked up 20 and 16 tackles respectively between the last two games.
Rashard Hall picked a Tevin Washington pass and returned it 26 yards to the GT 9 in the fourth quarter at Bobby Dodd last year.
Trends: The home team has won by two touchdowns the last two seasons – before that, Georgia Tech had won three-straight under Johnson against Dabo Swinney by an average of 4.3 points. The Jackets topped 300 yards rushing in three of the last four games against Clemson, and only lost once when they hit that mark last season (Sun Bowl, 30-27 OT loss to Utah). The Yellow Jackets have finished .500 or better in ACC away games since Johnson took over in 2008.
2011 Georgia Tech Schedule
Sept. 1 WESTERN CAROLINA – W 63-21
Sept. 10 at Middle Tennessee – W 49-21
Sept. 17 KANSAS – W 66-24
Sept. 24 NORTH CAROLINA – 35-28
Oct. 1 at NC State – W 45-35
Oct. 8 MARYLAND – W 21-16
Oct. 15 at Virginia – L 24-21
Oct. 22 at Miami – L 24-7
Oct. 29 CLEMSON – W 31-17
Nov. 10 VIRGINIA TECH – L 37-26
Nov. 19 at Duke – W 38-31
Nov. 26 GEORGIA – L 31-17
Dec. 31 Utah – L 30-27 OT