BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 9-5; ACC: 7-1
Lost Gator Bowl vs. West Virginia 38-35
LOCATION: Atlanta, Georgia
STADIUM: Bobby Dodd (55,000)
HEAD COACH: Chan Gailey
OVERALL: 61-38 (8 seasons)
AT GEORGIA TECH: 37-27 (5 seasons)
After winning seven games for four straight seasons under Chan Gailey, the Rambling Wreck broke through with nine wins in 2006 and the best may be yet to come. Tech has been amazingly consistent, making a bowl in ten straight seasons, while avoiding a losing record in ACC play in the last 12 years. However, they have not had too many high notes either, going six straight seasons finishing out of the polls. Only once in the last ten years did they go into their bowl ranked (meaning a tougher opponent) and win the game (1998 #12 Georgia Tech defeated Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl).
WHEN THE RAMBLING WRECK HAS THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: John Bond (1st Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Calvin Johnson, Reggie Ball, Mansfield Wrotto
No Calvin Johnson…no problem, all right that might be going too far, but this unit should be better this year. I am not a member of the bash Reggie Ball club, however it was improbable that the four-year starter saw his completion percentage decrease every season. Taking over is southpaw Taylor Bennett, who gave Techies a little tease with an excellent Gator Bowl. Also returning is James Johnson at receiver, while redshirt freshman Demaryius Thomas is more likely to fill CJ’s shoes. Crisper QB play and a diversified attack could equal a more productive passing game. Nonetheless, their bread and butter this season will be tailback Tashard Choice, a strong runner who for one reason or another goes unnoticed. Choice has the size and speed, which allowed him to lead the ACC in rushing as a junior. The line returns four starters (113 combined starts), which should benefit both attacks.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Tashard Choice (SR), 2) Demaryius Thomas (FR), 3) Andrew Gardner (JR), 4) James Johnson (JR), 5) Mike Cox (SR), 6) Nathan McManus (SR), 7) Matthew Rhodes (SR), 8) Kevin Tuminello (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: John Tenuta (6th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: KaMichael Hall, Kenny Scott, Joe Anoai
The Tech defenders have often gone unnoticed with John Tenuta the star of the Yellow Jackets defense thanks to his exotic blitz packages. Speedy linebacker Phillip Wheeler is an ideal playmaker, nearly impossible to block when coming on a blitz. The key will be production from a troika of ends: Adamm Oliver, Darryl Robertson and Michael Johnson. If they can bring pressure on their own, that makes every one else that much tougher to account for. If not, it will put more of the onus on the defensive backfield, which is experienced but must replace their top cover corner from a year ago (Kenny Scott). Avery Roberson, Pat Clark and Jahi Word-Daniels all saw time opposite Scott and they need at least two, if not all three to be more consistent this season.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Michael Johnson (JR), 2) Phillip Wheeler (SR), 3) Darryl Robertson (SR), 4) Darryl Richard (JR), 5) Adamm Oliver (SR), 6) Durant Brooks (SR), 7) Jamal Lewis (SR), 8) Avery Roberson (SR), 9) Lloyd Jones (SR)
Four of their first seven games come away from home: @ Notre Dame, @ Virginia, @ Maryland and @ Miami. None are ranked, but all are supposed to finish with winning records, making all four contests winnable games that they could lose if that makes any sense. In the last two seasons, they have three wins against ranked teams on the road, so they are more than capable. With three wins in those four contests, the Jackets would be set up with their home game against the Coastal favorites, Virginia Tech, to make a second straight ACC Championship game or at least put destiny in their own hands.
The Jackets have some of the best backups in the ACC, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where they return 19 of 22 players from their two-deep. If everyone can find a role and contribute it will make the Jackets that much tougher. At defensive end, senior starters Adamm Oliver and Darryl Robertson both return, however junior Michael Johnson may be the most talented player on the team. How that will shake out, who knows, but the potential is there for a devastating rotation. Similar question marks arise in the secondary, as five players return with starting experience. If Tenuta finds the right combinations and maximizes their talent, Tech can repeat as ACC Costal Champs.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Chan Gailey, who was a NFL head coach with the Dallas Cowboys, has a chance to elevate the program this season. The Jackets have had their moments, however are a middling program, unable to emerge as a top tier team. I am not sure how realistic that is, but with Miami in a bit of down swing, the opportunity is there. They failed to fully take advantage of it last season, but could crash the BCS party in 2007. If not now, then when?
Check back tomorrow to see who is #20 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown