Rebuilding the Wreck: How Georgia Tech Will Replace 4 NFL Draft Picks
ACC Champion, Georgia Tech, is finding it hard to convince people they can repeat.
The Jackets return the league's top senior QB in Joshua Nesbitt, bring back 15 other returning starters, and have the back to back league Coach of the Year in Paul Johnson calling the shots.
But, their losses to the NFL included their top two play makers on both sides of the ball. Can the Ramblin' Wreck be salvaged and overcome such damage?
LOST: RB Jonathan Dwyer—6th Round Pittsburg Steelers
Johnathan Dwyer—2008 ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore—was the engine that drove the Ramblin' Wreck to a combined 20-7 record the last two seasons.
Replacing 27 TD's and 2790 yards in rushing over the past two seasons as the "B-Back" in Paul Johnson's offense will be a tough task.
The Repair: Anthony Allen
Anthony Allen is a big, fast, and capable replacement for the loss of Dwyer.
His size (6', 231 pounds) is a perfect fit for the B-Back position and his production on the field has already been proven at the collegiate level.
With 26 TDs and over 1700 yards on his resume, Allen will be an instant success in the work-horse position for the Yellow Jackets option-based system.
Along with Josh Nesbitt, this Duo should not lose any ground on the gains made by Dwyer and company the past two years.
LOST: S Morgan Burnett—3rd Round Green Bay Packers
A true "ball-hawk" safety, Morgan Burnett's individual talent will be irreplaceable for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Since starting as a true freshman, Burnett racked up 14 interceptions and 227 tackles.
His rare blend of speed, size, and skill gave the Jackets a solid veteran presence in the secondary that will be tough to match.
The Repair: Upperclassmen Depth
How do you replace a loss like Burnett?
You don't. You just try to cover it with a mix of experience, wisdom, and reorganization.
Seniors Mario Edwards, Dominique Reese, Juniors Rashaad Reid and Jerrard Tarrant (pictured above) have been shuffled, remixed, and reassigned in the secondary based on their strengths.
Tarrant, who last season played defensive back, will likely replace Burnett's hole at Safety. A dynamic player with the ball in his hands—2 Punt Return TDs, 1 Int Return TD, and 1 Fumble Recovery TD—Tarrant will have a chance to play football's equivalent of center field for the Jackets.
Another year of maturity, a new set of defensive coaches, and an asserted effort to get the best players in the best position to make plays, should help the Wreck's secondary take their play up another gear.
LOST: Demaryius Thomas—1st Round Denver Broncos
For the second time in the past three seasons, a Georgia Tech wide receiver was the highest player taken from his position in the NFL draft.
Accounting for over 65 percent of the team's aerial attack over the past two seasons, Demaryius Thomas became an instant star in Paul Johnson's system.
With 11 TDs and countless safeties being taken out of the box, Bay Bay Thomas was at times an unstoppable force for the Yellow Jackets.
How can the Jackets possibly overcome the loss of such dominant presence next season?
The Repair: Steven Hill and Co.
At 6"4", 200 pounds, with a 38" vertical and sub 4.5 speed, Georgia Tech has another weapon being refined for the top level of the NFL draft.
Last Season and in limited duty as a true freshman, Hill caught six passes for 137 yards and a touchdown—nearly 23 yards a catch.
In the rain-shorted spring scrimmage game, Hill wowed onlookers, catching everything thrown his way— including a 70 touchdown bomb.
While replacing Thomas' production will not come from any one single source, a combination of Hill and his receiving comrades—most now with three years in Paul Johnson's system—should give Nesbitt a more ready group of wide-outs in 2010.
LOST: DE Derrick Morgan—1st Round Tennessee Titans
One of the greatest pass rushers to dawn the White and Gold, Derrick Morgan always gave the fans at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field something to cheer about.
With an unrelenting motor and a thirst for QB's blood, Morgan lit up opposing offensive linemen for 18 career sacks and 112 tackles.
Described as one of the safest picks in the draft, Morgan's unique combination of talent and game fundamentals make his loss on Georgia Tech's defensive line devastating.
The Repair: Al Groh's 3-4 Defense
I'm sure several ACC fans are already laughing at the mention of Al Groh and his defense at Georgia Tech.
The fact of the matter is, Georgia Tech's defense had no where to go but up (behind UVA at 53rd in FBS).
Combine that, with Al Groh being able to focus 100 percent of his energy on what he knows best and it might just have the recipe for success.
In addition, the Jackets have a wealth of tweener sized linemen and linebackers perfect for standing up and running to the ball in this style defense.
It's easy to have a short memory, but it wasn't long ago that Al Groh was ACC Head Coach of the Year—2002 and 2007.. With his addition, Tech will have the last three ACC Head Coach of the Year award recipients on thier staff—Paul Johnson 2008 and 2009.
Replacing DC Dave Wommack, Al Groh brings in an NFL pedigree and a wealth of ACC experience to the Jackets; and perhaps a revamped, solid defense to match the machine-like offense Paul Johnson has built.
The Conclusion: Ramblin' Wreck Rollin' On
While it seems unlikely the Yellow Jackets can overcome such losses of talent, many signs point to Georgia Tech continuing their annual climb into the top teams of college football.
Paul Johnson came to Georgia Tech to build a system. A system designed to crank up and roll through whatever speed bumps might be in its way.
Losses of great talent to the NFL appear to be just another obstacle that Paul Johnson has to prove he can conquer.
With a senior All-ACC QB, reloaded talent at his skill positions, and a revamped defense, it's clear that he has no intentions of excusing 2010 as a "rebuilding year."
Georgia Tech's Ramblin' Wreck is working hard to be ready and fire on all cylinders throughout the 2010 season.