When you’re facing 3rd-and-long, and don’t have three and four wide receiver sets in your playbook, it’s going to be hard – in theory - to move the football. Still, as spread offenses have become the new normal, Johnson has stuck to what works. Collectively, the Yellow Jackets averaged a hair less than 300 yards per game on the ground (299.3), sixth most in college football. In this offense, there are two primary running backs., the A-back and the B-back. B-back Zach Laskey ran for 481 yards and seven touchdowns on 84 carries in 2013 and should be counted even more in his senior campaign. At A-back, a stable of players such as Broderick Snoddy (6.3 ypc), B.J. Bostic (5.4), and Charles Perkins (8.8 ypc) will all be threats to turn the corner.
The transfer of quarterback Vad Lee will opened the door for either Justin Thomas or Tim Byerly to step in and claim the starting job. Neither player has much experience, but both are athletic enough to handle the responsibility of directing this complicated offense. It’s also possible that due to the inexperience under center that the offense could add a no-huddle component to keep tired opposing defenses trapped on the field. Through the air, this team only attempted 203 passes, but wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller provide some veteran experience when the offense elects to take shots down the field.
Georgia Tech ranked fourth in the ACC last season in total defense (360.2 ypg) and scoring defense (22.8 ppg), but significant losses will have the coaching staff looking for answers. Of the three levels of the defense, the area that should worry Yellow Jacket fans the most is the defensive line. The top four ends from last year’s team are all gone, as is defensive tackle Euclid Cummings. The linebacking corps isn’t much better, as the only real playmaker is Quayshawn Nealy (selected as a preseason second-team All-ACC by Phil Steele). Given that inexperience, the secondary may be the most reliable part of the defense. Injuries plagued the top of the defensive backfield in 2013, but overall there are a lot of unknowns from top to bottom.
“I don’t know how often we will use it. We’ve worked on the no-huddle in the two-minute drill since I’ve been here. With a young quarterback, it may help that I can help call plays and they won’t have to check as much, but they’re still going to have to know what’s going on.” – Johnson
“I feel like the quarterbacks will be fine. I have a lot of confidence in them. Thomas played some last year. Tim had a really good spring. He’s a tough, physical kid. I feel really good about both those kids.” – Johnson
Historical Outlook: The Tar Heels haven’t beaten Johnson and the Jackets since his first year in Atlanta. During that span, there have been some particularly nasty beatings doled out, including an embarrassing affair in 2012 when the Ramblin’ Wreck hung 68 points on Larry Fedora’s defense in Chapel Hill. Things don’t look better for UNC over the long haul as Georgia Tech holds an 28-18-3 series advantage.
Notable Matchups: Getting Clemson as one of its two ACC Atlantic Division opponents is less than ideal, but the Yellow Jackets’ nonconference schedule is incredibly soft. The first three opponents are Wofford, Tulane (on the road) and Georgia Southern, so by the time Georgia Tech starts its ACC schedule, a 3-0 start should be on the books.