We're in the first few days of August, and that can mean only one thing: Football is officially right around the corner. As the leaves start to turn and the weather starts to become a little more mild, pads are being put on, and teams are starting to hit the ground running.
For the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 2012 offers a great deal of hope. Coming off a rebuilding effort in 2011 with an 8-5 record, the Jackets look poised to once again challenge for the ACC Crown. But what are the key details heading into the 2012 season for the Jackets? Where do the Jackets stand in their quest for another ACC Championship?
Over the next few weeks heading into the season opener against Virginia Tech, we'll take a look at some of the biggest questions, reasons for hope and overall outlooks on each position for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
So let's get things started by looking at five burning questions the Jackets must address in the 2012 season.
This seems to be one of the major questions facing the Jackets heading into every season: Can the Quarterbacks effectively manage Coach Paul Johnson's offense?
2011 saw a very up and down season at the Quarterback position, as incumbent starter Tevin Washington blazed to a quick start in the first six games, passing for 1052 yards and a 10/2 TD/INT ratio, and adding another six scores on the ground. However, Tevin's numbers severely dropped off in the second half of the season, as the competition ramped up towards the end.
The burning question facing Tevin Washington (and every other GT QB) is: How efficient can the QBs be? The running game for the Jackets will almost always seemingly take care of itself; however, if the QBs cannot give efficient performances—making correct reads and solid passes—the offense will struggle against tougher opponents.
At the end of the day, all of the pressure is on Washington to perform at a high level. As a redshirt senior, he has had four years to be fully immersed in the triple option/spread option offense of Paul Johnson, and MUST perform at a high level from the beginning with an extremely tough game against VT to start the season.
And with redshirt freshman Vad Lee, redshirt sophomore Synjyn Days and incoming four-star freshman Justin Thomas all nipping at his heels, the pressure to succeed will be at an all-time high.
This is a critical year for the Georgia Tech defense. Entering into their third full year in Coach Al Groh's 3-4 base defense, the Jackets have great potential for a breakout season. The burning question, as it has been in all four years of Paul Johnson's tenure, is: Can the defense help carry the offense?
At the end of the day, there are going to be football games where Paul Johnson's offense is going to sputter. As great as he is at managing this offense; and as talented as the offense is in this upcoming season, it cannot always carry the team.
This is where the defense must step up. Not since 2000 has the Georgia Tech defense ranked within the Top 25 in overall defense.
The 2012 Georgia Tech defense has all the potential to once again reach that level. With four of five starters returning in the backfield and 8 of 11 starters returning in total, there will be depth all around and the question will be looming more than ever.
As a Georgia Tech fan, please stop me if you've heard this before: Special teams has once again cost Georgia Tech football a win. Over the past two seasons—where the Jackets are only 14-12—games against Miami and Utah in 2011 and against Air Force, UGA, Virginia Tech and Kansas were all greatly affected by negative special teams plays.
Anything from missed field goals, to missed extra points, to muffed punts to terrible kick coverage all plagued the Jackets over the past two years.
And throughout it all, Paul Johnson remained adamant that he would not hire a special teams coach—a stance quite common amongst many college football head coaches.
And then . . . something changed. Paul Johnson hired Dave Walkosky, the special teams coach from Toledo, where seven of his units ranked in the Top 15 in the NCAA, and topped the MAC year in and year out.
So, with that being said, the only question to be asked is: Will the special teams improve?
Arguably six games from the past two years would have turned out differently had GT special teams been just a bit better. With Coach Walkosky at the helm, many GT fans are hoping that special teams will finally be a strength instead of a liability.
If you are a Georgia Tech fan, there is a decent chance that over the past four years, you may have heard the names Stephen Hill and Demaryius Thomas. Both were wideouts who starred in Paul Johnson's ground based offense, and both are currently playing in the NFL.
And both were incredibly important for the offense.
To demonstrate how vital, you simply have to look at one stat from the previous season. In 2011, Stephen Hill was one of only two wideouts to catch passes, and Tyler Melton only had 17 catches for a little more than 200 yards.
In 2012, Georgia Tech returns a grand total of zero wide receivers who caught passes in 2011. So, that of course makes the burning question obvious: Who is going to step up?
Size is certainly not an issue for GT WRs. From the group of WRs favored to win one of the two open starting spots (Jeremy Moore, Jeff Greene, Michael Summers, Anthony Autry and Chris Jackson), none are below six feet tall.
While size certainly isn't a surefire way to determine success for wideouts, GT's TO offense provides many one-on-one opportunities for tall, athletic receivers to beat corners. The hope for the Jackets is that one of these athletic receivers breaks through before the season begins.
Paul Johnson loves the underdog mentality. In 2008, when bringing his unique offense to the ACC, everyone claimed it wouldn't succeed. Six months later, the Jackets had won nine games, beaten rival UGA and tied for first place in the ACC coastal division.
In 2009, the Jackets once again came in as underdogs. Everyone claimed that after seeing it the previous season, there was no way it would continue to be successful.
...Six months later, the Jackets were riding high, with their first ACC Championship since expansion and their first BCS bowl bid in over 30 years.
However, in 2010, the mentality seemingly changed. In 2010 the Jackets started the season ranked in the Top 15, and finished with a terrible 6-7 record.
2011 showed the Jackets once again starting to pick up the underdog mentality, starting with a 6-0 record, and pulling off a major upset against Top 10 team Clemson.
So, the burning question for 2012 is: Can the Jackets beat the odds once again?
At the ACC Media Day, the Jackets were projected to finish second in the coastal, the same as 2009. Once again, this team has incredible depth, and playmakers all over the field. And if they can put it all together, the Jackets can once again exceed the media's expectations.
So there it is. My five burning questions heading into the Jackets 2012 football season. Please let me know in the comments what you think about these questions, and just how you think the Jackets will do.
Be on the lookout for the five reasons for optimism for the 2012 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the next few days.