Well, it is that time of year again. Now that the season is over, we have a chance to look back at just how each position on the Yellow Jackets football team performed and whether or not they met, exceeded or fell below their expectations coming into the season.
Today, we will start with the offensive players, which will be followed by looking at the defense tomorrow, and then the coaching/special teams on Thursday.
So, let's jump right into the performances.
Well, where to begin on this one? I guess we'll start with the man who was in charge of the offense for the majority of the 2011 campaign in Tevin Washington.
Before we get into it, I think it's important to look at the fact that expectations for QBs were mixed coming into the season. Pretty much all you heard going into the season was "We want Vad Lee!"
And I'll admit, I was curious to see what the freshman QB could bring to the table. But ultimately, the commander of the offense this season was Washington (to the chagrin of some).
In the end, I would say he at worst met the expectations people had for him. I doubt any of us expected him to be the hard runner that Nesbitt was, and I doubt many of us expected him to be a stellar passer, and in those regards, I would say he fell in line. We expected progress from the four games he started in 2010, and that is what we got. Tevin was more or less a mixed bag. He had some great moments...and he had some less-than-stellar moments.
Now, I'm not a coach, nor would I claim to know nearly as much as them in regards to how players are performing. But to me, the biggest issues were mental for Tevin this year. It seemed that when the going got tough, the tough didn't get going unfortunately.
TW's biggest issues came when he was being pressured, which granted, affects many QBs, but he did not show the kind of poise a QB needs at times. He ended up being an effective enough runner, but, and maybe it's just me, when it was third and short, and you KNEW the QB isolation play was coming, I wasn't ever sure that we would pick it up like I was when Nesbitt was playing.
At the end of the day, there is room to grow for the entire position. TW will come back as a senior next year, hopefully learning from his performance this year. And if not, Redshirt Sophomore Synjyn Days and Redshirt Freshman Vad Lee will be there chomping at the bit.
Position Grade: B
We all know the importance of the B-Back in CPJ's spread option system. Following what would be a typical fullback type of player in a Pro-Style offense, the B-Back has long been the "feature" back of Paul Johnson's offense. In fact, dating back to his days at Navy, only oncec in his entire time coaching at the FBS level did his B-Backs not combine to gain at least 1,000 yards rushing.
And that is probably what makes this year's production at B-Back most disappointing. Combined, the top three B-Backs on the roster (David Sims, Preston Lyons and Charles Perkins) only rushed for 996 yards and nine TDs. Compare that to Jon Dwyer, who by himself in 2008 had 1,395 rushing yards and 12 TDs.
In '08, the B-Backs combined for over 1,600 rushing yards. In 2009, Dwyer rushed once again for 1,395 yards and 14 TDs that season. In 2010, in what we all considered a down year for the Jackets, Ant Allen was still able to get over 1,300 yards by himself (granted, TDs were down that season)
Now, I understand that Dwyer and Allen were both special talents (regardless of what role, both have spots on NFL rosters). But, the optimism when David Sims made a meteoric rise through the depth charts was certainly high for me. And again, CPJ has been running this system at the FBS level for 10 years, and only once did his B-Backs not combine for 1,000 yards.
So, maybe it's just me, but the level of play for the B-Backs just did not get it done to me. You could certainly see the potential burst from Sims from time to time, but it just never seemed like it clicked. The big plays from that position that GT fans became so accustomed to over the past three years just were not there.
Now, just like QBs, there is fortunately room to grow for the Jackets B-Backs. Longtime GT player Preston Lyons graduates this year, but Sims will still only be a junior. After that, Charles Perkins, who I personally feel has the most potential of the entire group, will only be a sophomore next season.
Overall Grade: C
The A-Backs were certainly a nice surprise to me this season. For the past few seasons, I had always considered the A-Backs more of our speedster, big play backs, and they certainly didn't disappoint me this season. For me, the increased production from the A-Backs is part of the reason the Jackets were able to achieve the level of success they did this year.
Probably none of the A-Backs had a bigger impact on the season than the Big-O, Orwin Smith. Smith really emerged as a playmaker this season, scoring 11 TDs, rushing for over 600 yards, scoring a solid 11 times and averaging a disgusting 10.3 YPC.
Embry Peeples was even better in that department, averaging just over 11 YPC. And of course, we can't forget about the veteran of the group, Roddy Jones, who, as always, put up a solid number of yards this season
All of this makes me wonder why the ball wasn't given to the A-Backs more this season. I'll talk about this a little bit more when getting to my section on coaching, but it seemed to me that the most dangerous element of our offense just simply wasn't utilized enough in the second half of the season.
Again, I'm no coach. Maybe teams were simply taking away the outside play. But, if you ask me, it more falls on missed reads.
In the end, though, the position as a whole played well and was a bright spot for the offense this season.
Overall Grade: A
Well, if you are looking to raise the ire of the Jacket faithful, all you have to do is ask them about their opinion on this year's wide receivers. I probably won't be as harsh towards the group as some might want or expect, but I can't in good faith say that they played well this season. In many ways, their issues were very similar to the issues that plagued the team as a whole: inconsistency and missed opportunities.
Ultimately at this point, no discussion about our WR corps can be brought up without talking about Stephen Hill. The guy can be an absolute catalyst for the team. He made some catches this season that simply made you wonder when Calvin Johnson rejoined the Yellow Jackets.
And then...he made you wonder what exactly he was doing. For every SportsCenter highlight he may have had, he had two or three perfect passes that he simply dropped. You cannot be an elite receiver at any level if you let the easy ones go. If you are wondering why his numbers are still a bit modest for being an elite receiver, you don't have to look any further.
To be on the positive side, however, Hill's blocking skills compared to last year improved drastically. He was a big reason why the A-Backs had some of the success that they had this year.
This year also sees the end of one of the more unsung players of the team in Tyler Melton. It was rare that his number was called in the passing game, but he was always a very unselfish player, always setting the edge and blocking for his teammates. A big congrats goes out to him for being a starter on this team for the past three years. His departure will open the door for a guy who is potentially the next big thing at WR. And I mean big.
Jeff Greene is a 6'6" WR with all the potential in the world. Assuming he gets better at doing the simple things in this offense (blocking, running routes), he has a great chance to shine. And, he will only be a sophomore next year.
Overall Grade: C
You could probably do an entire article simply analyzing the offensive line from this past season. At times, you simply had to sit there and say,"They are playing WAY above their level."
At other times, you had to say, "Yeah, this is about what I expected."
To put it simply, this is a very young offensive line. Only two juniors got extended playing time on the line (Omeregie Uzzi, Phil Smith), while four to six freshmen and sophomores dominated the majority of the line.
As mentioned, there were times that the line dominated their opponents. Against UNC and elite NFL prospect Quinton Coples, I believe I heard the stat that Uzzi had over 20 knockdowns against an NFL-caliber player.
Against Clemson, the Jackets completely neutralized what is a very good front four of the Tigers.
But then, against VT, the offensive line played poorly, rarely setting the edge and giving up on multiple blocks. Ditto for the UGA game. It isn't a coincidence that when the O-Line played well this past year, the team had its most success.
Again, this can mainly be attributed to youth. Next year, the entire O-Line will return for another season and will undoubtedly be a much more cohesive unit. Assuming that the injury bug avoids that section of the offense, I actually feel rather confidant in saying that the O-Line has a chance to be one of the better offensive lines in the nation next season if it can all come together.
For that reason, the group had a solid season if you ask me.
Overall Grade: B
At the end of the day, I would say for the most part, the offense met or exceeded the expectations of most people. I don't think anyone was really expecting it to entirely return to the form it had in 2009, but I also feel that no one was expecting the debacle that occurred in 2010 to make a return.
So, while it may have been infuriating at times, because you knew that the potential was there, it was ultimately a solid season for an offense that ranked third in rushing yards per game, and 19th in points per game.
Thanks for reading, and as always, let me know your thoughts.