2019 College Football Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

(Photo: Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech Football 2010)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Head Coach: Geoff Collins

2018 Record: 7-6, 5-3 Conference

Bowl: 10-34 Loss to Minnesota at Quick Lane Bowl

O/U 4 wins (O +130, U -160)

Make 4 Team Playoff: +90000

Geoff Collins takes over as a first-year coach at Georgia Tech and deciding which of his holdovers from Paul Johnson’s tenure best suit his style might be his first task. Collins made that pretty apparent by juggling several of those players positions, even moving some from offense to defense (and vice-versa). It will be a new-look team with old faces. “Neat.”

At Temple Collins was known to do this, but he seems to have been hell-bent on getting extreme with it in spring, moving 20 players back and forth between offense and defense, leaving many confused in his wake. Accordingly, the Yellow Jackets are a mysterious bunch, but mostly in a bad way with NCAA Football oddsmakers giving the team an over/under of just four wins coming off a seven-win 2018.

Offense

Collins plans to install an “NFL Style, spread-based attack,” and if anything can be gleaned from his time at Temple, that will mean a lot of pass plays. Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude will be in charge of deciding which players have the existing skillsets to transition the fastest. Nathan Cottrell moves from running back to wide receiver, for starters. He had 46 carries last season, but he is now a slot receiver. Tight end is wide open.

Also wide open, is the quarterback position, and Lucas Johnson appears to be the frontrunner. He missed last season due to a foot injury, but he was a great passer in the high school ranks. Tobias Oliver looked good in limited play last year. James Graham redshirted last year, but he is a great athlete. Collins also has four others in the mix that really cannot be fully counted out either. As of early August, this still loomed as a decision to be made.

Running back is perhaps the only real source of strength. KirVonte Benson returns after rushing for 1,053 yards in 2017 and sitting out last year with an ACL injury. Jordan Mason rushed for 6.1 yards-per-carry last year with seven TD rushes. Jerry Howard was good for 5.3 and five TDs. The offensive line has some experience, but with all the position jostling and a new style of blocking as well, it will have its own adjustments to be made, starting with mastering the “shotgun stance” of blocking.

Defense

Collins’ defenses at Mississippi State and Florida were notorious for a lot of blitzing and chaos. It resulted in mass sacks and plentiful turnovers, but without an experienced linebacking group and a DL that lacks experience in its own ways, it is dubious Collins can just jump into his past success in year one.

The secondary, at least, is strong. Junior safety Tariq Carpenter returns after logging 55 tackles and two interceptions last year. Tre Swilling returns at CB after picking up 24 tackles and six pass breakups last year. Kaleb Oliver and Christian Campbell were backups a year ago but impressed Collins in the spring. Juanyeh Thomas will see more time at safety after excelling in kick returns last year. Up front, however, Antwan Owens is the only one with any experience really.

Georgia Tech really starts over on the defensive line, and it was rotating two OL every day during the spring searching for answers. Jahaziel Lee should be back starting at center, and Brad Morgan and Connor Hansen have some promise. Linebacker lacks depth, but it does return David Curry who had 47 tackles last year, and sophomore Quez Jackson should improve on a fair freshman campaign.

Special Teams

Placekicker Wesley Wells returns after making all nine of his FGA last season. Pressley Harvin III averaged 41.3 yards per punt. Thomas is the star of the special teams, as the punt and kick returner. He might be priming himself for a role like this in the NFL if he builds even more on last season’s dominance in that area.

Final Word

This team will not lack excitement, but it also will be among the worst in the Conference, as contradictory as that might seem. Georgia Tech has a lot to adapt to with Collins, and his strange positional demands might test even its best players. Collins will firmly take hold of this program and get on the recruiting trail, but remaking a team into his mold using existing parts will hardly be easy. Even as daunting as the task is, the Yellow Jackets are not out of Bowl contention and the team has some talent. The quarterback position just makes one cringe with no real proven performers and an offense that will have plenty of pass plays, even in year one.

Prediction: 4 wins

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