Georgia Tech Football: Top 5 Storylines of 2013
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets enter with pretty good expectations...again.
Under coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech has constantly been a contender in the ACC Coastal Division. Last year, despite a mediocre 7-7 campaign, the Yellow Jackets captured their third divisional crown in five years and look to defend it with an experienced offense, vastly upgraded defensive coaching and two new conference foes that will look to crack the triple-option code.
So what do we have to look forward to this season from one of the more confounding programs in the conference?
Let's take a look.
The Battle of the Techs
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We all know the significance of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game.
These two teams have dominated the Coastal Division. In fact, no other team from the division has won the crown except the Hokies and the Yellow Jackets.
Last season, Georgia Tech suffered a heartbreaking loss in Blacksburg to open the season. Despite defensive coordinator Bud Foster having an entire summer to game-plan against the option offense, Georgia Tech took the three-point lead with a go-ahead touchdown with just 44 seconds showing on the clock.
Poor defense, once again, allowed Virginia Tech to march down the field for a game-tying field goal and a victory over the Yellow Jackets.
This time around, Georgia Tech get the Hokies at home. If the defense can improve as much as fans hope, they might be able to contain the elusive but inconsistent quarterback Logan Thomas and get some revenge.
If they do, the Yellow Jackets should have the inside track toward a divisional crown once more.
Good Old-Fashioned Mismatch
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Georgia Tech knows that having to deal with that bully in their home state, the Georgia Bulldogs, is the only way to get the respect they desperately deserve.
Despite the success over the past five seasons, Georgia Tech has stumbled at key points, especially in games where they are supposed to win.
Against UGA, though, almost no one takes the Yellow Jackets to win, and it has shown in the results. Last year's 42-10 beating shows the gap increasing, not narrowing.
Since winning 45-42 in 2008 over the Bulldogs, Georgia has outscored the Yellow Jackets by increasing margins of six, eight, 14 and now 32 over the past four years.
Couple that troubling trend with the macho, obsessive culture of the SEC, and Georgia Tech needs a win to earn respect and break away from their reputation of mediocrity.
Could a year of improved defense tutelage with a former SEC assistant coach be enough to turn the tide back to the Yellow Jackets?
In Paul We Trust?
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Paul Johnson was on his way to having a statue in front of the stadium when he first took over the program.
Although many wondered if Navy's triple option could be successful in a power BCS conference, Johnson put his doubters to shame. Superior talent and great scheming has meant a big upgrade in expectations and performance from predecessor Chan Gailey.
However, that early start has stagnated since. In the past three seasons, Georgia Tech is 21-19, 14-10 in the ACC.
When the Yellow Jackets pick up an important win, they seemingly blow it in the following weeks. Last year it was Middle Tennessee State, in 2011 it was Virginia and in 2010 it was Kansas.
The bowl record has also stayed tremendously poor.
Georgia Tech fans want more, and Johnson knows it.
As well as the option reinvigorated the program, have we reached the peak of its effectiveness?
He's Going the Distance
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We all know that Georgia Tech's offense is not about the passing game, but it cannot be successful without the threat of it.
Recruiting wide receivers can be a difficult task, and head coach Paul Johnson has a specific type. He wants big, strong players who are not afraid to block and be physical.
Considering the prima donna nature of the position, that is not always an easy task.
JuMichael Ramos looked to be the answer but made a last-minute decision to join the Wolfpack of North Carolina State over Georgia Tech.
With the departures of Jeff Greene and Jeremy Moore, that means the wide receiver corps is young, inexperienced and subpar.
Georgia Tech has plenty of experience in the option game. Even with the departure of quarterback Tevin Washington, the Yellow Jackets have Vad Lee and veteran players to run the schemes. The A and B backs both can be explosive contributors.
We just need to know what to expect from the vertical game. Only 11 of last year's receptions are by players currently on the roster.
Who will step up and be the passing threat?
The Roof Is on Fire
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Georgia Tech's biggest problems over the past three years has not really been the option offense but the porous defense.
Johnson thought he had solved the problem by bringing in former Virginia coach Al Groh to run the defense after he was canned. Instead, the Yellow Jackets never really took to the 3-4 and had trouble taking offenses off of the field.
Not since 2008 has Georgia Tech's scoring defense been better than 64th in the country.
Groh was canned in the middle of the season last year and another former ACC head coach, Ted Roof, was asked to try to fix the million-dollar problem with the Yellow Jackets.
Roof, the former Duke coach, has a pretty horrible record as head coach at 6-45, but his work as a defensive coordinator is better.
Last year at Penn State, Roof maintained a difficult situation following the Jerry Sandusky fallout and still produced a defense ranked in the top 25 in nearly every statistical category.
He was also the coordinator for Auburn's BCS championship but followed that up with one of the worst defenses ever the following season.
To help Roof is former assistant Mike Pelton on the defensive line, a key to Georgia Tech's woes over the years.
If Pelton can produce and help ease the transition to a 4-3, Georgia Tech might finally be able to make some noise in 2013.