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Yellow Jackets ready for T-Day
Spring game brings plenty of anticipation
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Georgia Tech's Izaan Cross, from Flowery Branch, is in the running for a starting job on the defensive line this season. - photo by For The Times

T-Day game

Georgia Tech

When: 11:30 a.m. today

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium

Admission: Free

Georgia Tech set the bar mighty high last year with the ACC championship and trip to the Orange Bowl.

Now, the Yellow Jackets have to try and reload, adjust to a new 3-4 defense and keep a fan base happy that is getting used to winning.

Today, the Yellow Jackets go through the motions of the T-Day game at 11:30 a.m. with two main goals in mind: Energize the fan base about the upcoming season and avoid any serious injuries that could carry over to the summer.

Georgia Tech certainly has plenty of questions to answer about the 2010 product. Losing running back Jonathan Dwyer, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive lineman Derrick Morgan only amplifies the voids the team faces, but that’s part of the business with college football.

Here’s the five biggest things for fans to follow with today’s scrimmage and heading into next season.

1). It’s going to be hard for the Yellow Jackets to replace Dwyer (1,395 yards, 14 TDs last season) in the running game, but it’s necessary to have a solid threat at running back in their triple option offense. Luckily, Georgia Tech has a pair of backs in A-back, Roddy Jones, and B-back, Anthony Allen who can shoulder the load.

Neither is going to be expected to run for kind of yardage Dwyer did last year, since junior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt will be able to shoulder some of the load with the ball in his hands. During the T-Day outing, expect the Yellow Jackets to sprint out about 6-8 running backs to carry the ball.

2). As mentioned, Georgia Tech is solid with Nesbitt in the driver’s seat as the starting quarterback, but depth could be a concern with former Flowery Branch High standout Jaybo Shaw announcing his decision to transfer to Georgia Southern earlier this year.

It seems like Tevin Washington has a leg up in the race for the No. 2 spot: He came on strong last year as a viable option behind Shaw. Also watch for David Sims and Jordan Luallen in the race for the backup QB job.

3). Who can fill the shoes that Thomas (46 catches, 1,146 yards and 8 TDs last season) left empty with his jump to the NFL?

He was a threat to score every time he touched the ball last season, even though he might have only been thrown to a handful of times during the game.

The wide receiver position isn’t the first thing that stands out in the triple-option — a glorified version of a Wing-T — it’s a great weapon to have on standby: You can’t run a keep, pitch or dive on every play. It seems like Stephen Hill is Georgia Tech’s best threat at wide receiver. After that, the dropoff is pretty steep.

4). How much will the offense evolve this season under Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson? He’s indicated that he’s tried to simplify their spread-option playbook earlier in his tenure while assembling a group of players fit to run such a scheme.

Well, the time is now. That would lead one to believe that the playbook should be a little more expanded at this stage and Johnson’s third year in the program. The majority of the players on campus now were brought in by Johnson. It’s clear, he’s put a premium on big, fast running backs and quarterbacks that are able to run, throw or take a big hit while carrying out a pitch play.

With steady offensive line play, most objective prognosticators believe that the Yellow Jackets will be deep enough on offense to challenge for another ACC title.

5). The Yellow Jackets are putting the pieces in place to run a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Al Groh — formerly the head coach at the University of Virginia.

The past few years, defensive line has been a strength for the Yellow Jackets with players like Morgan, Vance Walker, Michael Johnson and Darryl Richard plugging the line. With some depth at linebacker, the Yellow Jackets are going to run a defense based on three down linemen, which could bode well for some former local players.

After playing in all 14 games last season and recording 25 tackles, Dawson County graduate Logan Walls is a candidate to start on the line. Also, Flowery Branch graduate Izaan Cross is drawing praise from Johnson, and could also emerge as a starter on the defensive line.

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