Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Head Coach: Paul Johnson
2015 Record: 3-9
2015 Bowl: N/A
2016 Returning Starters: 7 Offense, 5 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +65000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +3000
Regular Season over/under: over 6.5 (+100), under 6.5 (-120)
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Justin Thomas and the Georgia Yellow Jackets fell off last season and managed just three wins, and it is tough to just give all that blame to Thomas necessarily. The senior QB struggled last season due to a lack of passing options, and injuries also played a role for Georgia Tech.
The OL suffered some major blows in the spring when OG Chris Griffin was medically disqualified after having spent a year rehabbing his ACL. The other G, Gary Brown, quit the team. The OL was cycled through in spring trying to find answers, but it still appears to be pretty unresolved (even if it did function marginally better by the end of spring).
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Qua Searcy went down in Week 3 last year, but he and J.J. Green are the top two backs of a pretty loaded backfield. Ike Willis was the leading ball carrier, but he has fallen in the depth chart due to the upcoming talent. At WR, Ricky Jeune led the team with 24 catches for 520 yards, and he will have Brad Stewart and Harland Howell competing for playing time with one another and forming a strong WR rotation for the Yellow Jackets. Howell and Stewart will eventually start alongside one another, and there are three other top recruits that will factor in.
Pass rushing was a major weakness for Georgia Tech last season, and the Yellow Jackets also struggled to force turnovers, finishing with a -7 margin on the season. Georgia Tech had just 14 sacks last season and only nine of those came from the DL. Georgia Tech was especially vulnerable to short pass attacks, though overall pass coverage was still good for No. 35 in the nation, allowing 202.9 yards per game.
And that is just it: Georgia Tech’s defense was good enough to know it can be better. The Yellow Jackets allowed 25.8 points per game last season but gave up 34 points or more four times, all four of which were losses to conference foes (Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and Miami).
Georgia Tech does lose Adam Gotsis, its top defensive lineman last season—but the line does return three starters, and it has plenty of depth to boot. MLB Brant Mitchell is a big playmaker who will be entering his sophomore season, and returning LB P.J. Davis has been Georgia Tech’s leading tackler the last two seasons.
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In the secondary Georgia Tech has S A.J. Gray, who will get more playing time this season after having to play with four seniors last year. Gray had a good freshman season and should eventually be the leader of the group. At CB, Lance Austin and Step Durham will line opposite, with youngsters Lamont Simmons, Meiko Dotson and Dorian Walker all vying for playing time.
Kicker Harrison Butker and punter Ryan Rodwell both return but each disappointed last season. Butker has plenty of field goal range and is a top kickoff specialist, but Rodwell is not a very good punter. Returns have yet to be decided.
Georgia Tech opens the season Sept. 3 against Boston College and takes on Mercer and Vanderbilt in Weeks 2 and 3. Conference play begins with the ACC’s finest in Clemson on Sept. 22.
Georgia Tech really suffered an anomalous losing season last year after its stellar 2014 campaign. The Yellow Jackets somehow knocked off Florida State for its only ACC win, by virtue of returning a blocked field goal kick, but the season was otherwise mostly a disaster.
Thomas is a good QB and should not really be judged on the basis of what happened last year, and reasonably he and the Yellow Jackets should return to bowl play this season barring injuries or other unforeseen disasters.
Prediction: 7 wins
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