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A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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Spring Storylines: Georgia Tech

So much for the belief that Paul Johnson-coached teams take it to the next level in year three: though his previous stints at Georgia Southern and Navy made this a nice thought, last fall’s disappointing finish at Georgia Tech put a hole in this theory. So what happened to this offense? The running game was a bit more potent, leading the nation in rushing at an average of 323.3 yards per game — about 30 more yards per game than in 2009. It was more about a distinct drop in explosiveness, which may be tied to — of all things — the lack of a deep threat in the passing game. Is the fact that the Yellow Jackets were less effective on offense because of a diminished passing attack stand as the definition of irony? I think I’m trying too hard. On a whole, however, Georgia Tech’s six-win finish stood as one of the larger disappointments of the 2010 F.B.S. season.

Year two in the 3-4. The transition from a 4-3 base defensive set to a 3-4 look led to poorer results on defense, though that should have been expected. The depth chart wasn’t quite built for that immediate change; the same could have been said of rival Georgia, but the Bulldogs were able to offset a bit of the learning curve thanks to a far more talented defensive roster. Unlike Georgia, the Yellow Jackets were unable to turn the 3-4 set into an advantage on passing downs: only 17 sacks, the second-worst output in the A.C.C. and the 96th-worst total in the entire country. The hope is that the defense shows greater familiarity in year two under coordinator Al Groh; though the offense needs to get back in a groove, the Yellow Jackets greatly need an improved effort defensively.

Finding lost explosiveness. The quick-strike offense was still evident, just to a slightly lesser degree than in 2009. In all, Georgia Tech finished 78th nationally in plays of 10 or more yards, 26th nationally in plays of 20 or more yards, 23rd in plays of 30 or more yards and 25th in plays of 40 or more yards. Not terrible by any stretch — just not quite what we saw the year before. So what needs to change? The offense must remain healthy, for starters: several key skill players suffered injuries in 2010, including quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. His replacement, Tevin Washington, played admirably in Nesbitt’s stead down the stretch and should be far more consistent as the full-time starter thanks to this experience. He’ll become the new face of the offense.

Replacing Scott Blair. Georgia Tech’s departed kicker wasn’t asked to try many long field goal tries, but he was extremely consistent from 50 yards and in: he made 15 of his 17 attempts on the year, the third-best percentage in the conference. His likely replacement will be redshirt freshman Justin Moore, who in 2010 became the first specialist to be offered a scholarship during the Johnson era. It’s one thing to be the unquestioned starter, quite another to step onto the field in September and deliver when called upon. There have been plenty of freshmen kickers who have come in and delivered — several in just the last handful of seasons, in fact — but until Moore proves himself on the field, Tech’s field goal game goes from being a strength to a question mark.

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  1. [...] Myerberg looks back at Georgia Tech’s 2010 season and finds that things went downhill in all the places where the Jackets’ best talent [...]

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