Ok, so obviously I know that Georgia Tech is the Yellow Jackets, and not the Bees, but if this year’s version of Georgia Tech is anywhere near as good as last year then opponents will be having “Cage-like” reactions for weeks leading up to the game. Georgia Tech flew under the radar for most of the season last year, but came on really strong late beating two good SEC teams and Clemson and coming within a field goal of knocking Florida State out of the playoff and stealing the conference crown in the process.
Even with the loss of All-American RG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech might have the best offensive line in the conference, at least from a run blocking perspective. Trey Braun and Bryan Chamberlain have 41 combined career starts on the left side of the line, and Freddie Burden started every game at center last year for the Yellow Jackets. Burden has worked out at guard some this spring thanks to a thumb injury making it difficult to snap the football. Georgia Tech also has two right tackles with starting experience in Errin Joe and Chris Griffin.
That group will be blocking for the top running quarterback in the conference and a triple option savant in Justin Thomas. My brother actually played tee-ball and AAU basketball with Justin when they were younger, and yeah, he’s been a good athlete his whole life. Thomas only passed for 1,719 yards, but his TD-to-INT ratio was 18:6 and he did top 1,000 yards on the ground with eight rushing touchdowns.
Thomas will have to find new players to pass, pitch and hand the ball to though. Broderick Snoddy is the most experienced returning rusher that isn’t a quarterback. Snoddy turned 28 carriers into 283 yards and three touchdowns last year. That isn’t a sustainable yards per attempt statistic, but it is encouraging nonetheless.
Michael Summers is the leading returning receiver after catching seven balls for 45 yards last season. I know this isn’t really a passing team, but that’s still pretty low for a leading returning season. In other words, don’t really expect Georgia Tech to open up the offense more in 2015.
Georgia Tech’s defense was mediocre last season, but with seven returning starters and several returning role players shouldn’t be any worse this season. Adam Gotsis is a solid force at defensive tackle. Gotsis had 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season. Jabari Hunt-Days could make up a solid duo with Gotsis if he can meet eligibility requirement. Hunt-Days missed all of 2014 because of eligibility issues. KeShun Freeman is the top returning defensive end and sack artist, with 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2014.
Four out of five starters return in the secondary, which potentially means the defensive backfield could shift from a relative weakness to a relative strength. The Jackets’ secondary gave up way too many passing yards, but they did make some big plays themselves. D.J. White and Jamal Golden had four interceptions apiece last year and four other returning defensive backs had at least one.
P.J. Davis headlines the least experienced unit of this defense at linebacker, but considering that Georgia Tech typically only has two linebackers on the field at one time, Davis has enough experience and proven production to cover himself and whoever starts beside him. Davis had 100.5 tackles last year, 8.5 of which were for a loss. He also had four sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. Tyler Marcordes should step into a starting role this year after 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks as a backup last season.
Prediction: 11-2 ACC Champion
That’s right I’m taking the Yellow Jackets to win the conference in 2015. The Rambling Wreck came up just short last year, but with an experienced quarterback, strong offensive line and improving defense they have everything they need to get back to the conference title game this year. The schedule isn’t doing them any favors though with Notre Dame and Georgia in the non-conference, and Clemson and Florida State on the cross-division conference schedule. All in all, I see them splitting Notre Dame and Georgia and potentially dropping one of the two cross-division games, but running the table in division play. Should they get back to the ACC championship game, there is a pretty good chance they would get a rematch with Clemson or Florida State making the conference championship game a revenge game for someone.
Credit Cover Photo to AP Photo/David Goldman
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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Sam Pouncey