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July 5, 2011
Battle for the state
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2010 Record: 6-7, 4-4
Q&A with Kelly Quinlan of JacketsOnline.com
A - "Ultimately Jones and Smith suffered from a combination of poor blocking from the offensive tackles and wide receivers last year and poor decision making at the quarterback position. Their numbers should go up a little bit this season, but my pick for the breakout player for 2011 will be redshirt freshman Charles Perkins. Perkins should end up as the starting B-back and he has the big play ability of Jonathan Dwyer, but is more competitive than Dwyer or Allen which is a good combination for that position."
A - "Washington is a game manager and he won't necessarily make a big play by himself, but he will keep the team in the game. Days on the other hand is a big play guy who is hard to tackle and has great speed. I expect Days to end up with the starting job going into the season or by the mid-point in the year. I think if Washington goes into the first game as the number one quarterback, they will rotate them some. Washington is also coming off knee surgery so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from that."
Q - Who has the potential to become the playmakers on defense and can Georgia Tech do a better job pressuring the quarterback than it did a season ago?
A - "The big name to watch is Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu has only been playing football for a few years, but he has quickly become a force on Tech's defense. He had a great bowl game against Air Force, which was his first career start. He is very fast and very competitive. A lot of coaches around the country feel like he is their best defender and pass rusher. Defensive Coordinator Al Groh put in more blitz packages this spring and as the team becomes more comfortable with his defense he will gamble more to put pressure on the quarterback."
Q - How does Georgia Tech go about replacing its secondary from last year?
A - "Losing all four starters looks bad on paper, but talent wise the Jackets have stepped up significantly. Sophomore Isaiah Johnson got a taste of starting last year and he has really blossomed into a strong starter and leader in the secondary. The other safety is a converted corner named Rashaad Reid. Reid is a senior and has started games at both corner and safety at Georgia Tech and he is very steady. Sophomore Fred Holton will push both of them for playing time and he is big hitter/headhunter type back there who can make plays. Those three will rotation at the safety position sharing snaps. At corner, Rod Sweeting has been Tech's number three corner for two years and the junior has a lot of talent, but has struggled being consistent. He is a better tackler and faster than either Mario Butler or Dominique Reese, the 2010 starters, so he should be an improvement. Louis Young, the other starting corner, was very highly recruited out of high school and he played significant snaps as a true freshman last year in a backup role. He is the most physical of their corners. Ryan Ayers, another highly recruited player from the 2010 class, and senior Michael Peterson will battle for the backup job at corner in the fall."
Q - Is Stephen Hill ready to take that next step? How good can he become.
A - "Hill still seems to struggle catching the ball in traffic. A big key to Tech's early success under Paul Johnson was the play of Demaryius Thomas, a big physical receiver who would go up and get the ball. The Tech coaches hoped Hill would be that type of player, but he struggles with the mental side of the game and in the spring he didn't look like he made huge strides in that area. Hill has tremendous talent, but he still looks like a basketball player in a football uniform and he is still having trouble keeping on weight. Until he can concentrate better and become more aggressive at wide receiver, he won't be the player the Tech coaches and Tech fans hoped he would be."
Q - Prediction time. What does the future hold for the Yellow Jackets in 2011?
A - "It is hard to say where the Jackets will end up in 2011. For the first time since Coach Johnson arrived in Atlanta, his defense looks like it will be shouldering the load for the first part of the season as they break in a new starting B-back, center and likely a new starting quarterback. Tech's schedule has four games they should easily win including the first three, but after that, things get murky. The UGA game is always a crap shoot, Clemson has a ton of question marks, Maryland should be better, N.C. State is a question mark and Tech struggles in Charlottesville against Virginia winning only one time (2009) in the last two decades. The heart of their ACC schedule sees them hosting North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Those two teams are the favorites in the Coast Division in the ACC. Miami with their new coach is very much a question mark, so it is hard to say how many games the Yellow Jackets will win. If they get the offense together early on, they should be able to compete for the division, but that is a big if. My guess right now is they win seven to nine games, a slight improvement over 2010. Nine wins could be enough with all the parity in the ACC to win the Coastal."