Georgia Tech season preview

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
10:30
AM ET
Today, we're looking at Georgia Tech, which hopes to ride a strong second half -- and surprising appearance in the 2012 ACC championship game -- to bigger things this season.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsLed by coach Paul Johnson and quarterback Vad Lee, Georgia Tech has championship aspirations.
Coach: Paul Johnson (149-65 overall, 40-26 at Georgia Tech)

2012 record: 7-7 (5-3 in ACC)

Key losses: QB Tevin Washington, RB Orwin Smith, WR Jeff Greene, RG Omoregie Uzzi, CB Rod Sweeting, DT T.J. Barnes

Key returnees: RB David Sims, QB Vad Lee, OG Will Jackson, DE Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Jemea Thomas, LB Brandon Watts

Newcomer to watch: Receiver DeAndre Smelter. Three years ago, Smelter was among the elite baseball prospects in the country, with a 95 mph fastball and raves from scouts. But a series of arm injuries derailed his career on the diamond, and now the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior is giving football a whirl. He's impressed during fall camp, and his size makes him an obvious mismatch at receiver -- an area where Georgia Tech needed help.

Biggest games in 2013: Sept. 26 vs. Virginia Tech, Oct. 5 at Miami, Nov. 14 at Clemson, Nov. 30 vs. Georgia

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The defensive line was hardly a strength for Georgia Tech last season, but there is some hope for improvement in 2013. Start with Attaochu's move from outside linebacker to defensive end this spring. He projects as one of the top pass rushers in the league. Tech managed just 28 sacks in 14 games last season, and ranked 70th nationally in yards allowed per rush. If the linemen can improve on those numbers this season, there's ample defensive talent behind them.

Forecast: Two-thirds of Georgia Tech's vaunted triple-option backfield departed, and Washington and Smith took more than 1,300 yards and 25 touchdowns with them, but there is actually a feeling that this year's group might be more dangerous.

Lee is a star in the making. He's an excellent fit in Johnson's offense, and he got enough work last season that the bigger role won't be a shock to the system. At A-back, the depth of talent is impressive, too. Start with Robert Godhigh, who rushed for 429 yards and four scores in 2012, and now projects to take over as a starter. Tony Zenon, Synjyn Days and B.J. Bostic can help, too, while Sims looks to blossom at the B-back position.

If the offense can develop as Johnson hopes, the defense should be stout. A bevy of senior starters return, and Attaochu and Thomas have legitimate NFL potential. As a unit, the defense struggled badly at times last season, but after former coordinator Al Groh was fired midseason, there were signs of marked improvement.

In fact, it's that latter half of 2012 that offers the most hope. Georgia Tech rallied down the stretch to win three of its last four regular-season games, played Florida State close in the ACC title game, and won its first bowl game in seven years. That's the building block for 2013, but Johnson also has perhaps his most talented roster since taking over at Tech in 2008.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.