Georgia Tech is the first of three ACC teams with new head coaches that the Tigers face in 2019.
Heading up I-85 to face the defending national champs on the road to start the season isn’t the most ideal situation for a new head coach. Especially if that new head coach is facing a complete rebuild. On August 29 that’s exactly the situation Geoff Collins will find himself in.
After taking over for Paul Johnson, Collins inherits a roster full of players who were recruited to run the option. He will now attempt to fit some square pegs into round holes, seeing as he prefers to run a more balanced, traditional offense.
First thing they’ll need to do is settle on a quarterback. Junior Lucas Johnson looks to be that guy early on. The 6’3 215 lb dual threat has really good wheels and can also make some plays in the passing game. His accuracy on the mid range throws has been good. The two option QBs Tobias Oliver and James Graham will still have a role, but what that role will be is yet to be decided.
Seeing as this was one of nation’s best when it came to running the ball in the Paul Johnson era, running back isn’t much of a concern. Sophomore Jordan Mason returns after rushing for 659 yards, the most among running backs on the team in 2018. He also scored seven touchdowns. Junior Jerry Howard is also back after rushing for 564 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Up front, there’s some questions about the offensive line. Losing OG Parker Braun to transfer was a blow and there’s a lot of shuffling to be done before the opening kickoff. There’s very little, if any depth, but the group is athletic.
The wideouts will be a work in progress. Paul Johnson didn’t put much emphasis on the position in recent years and it shows. They brought in Tyler Davis, a grad transfer from UConn which should help, but there’s very little production returning from last year’s team. Senior Jalen Camp had 11 catches last year and is the team’s leading pass catcher that returns in 2019.
On the defensive side, the Jackets must replace seven starters, including the top three tacklers. Pressuring the quarterback was something rarely seen from the inconsistent 2018 Tech defense, but it’s something new coordinator Andrew Thacker will make one of the top priorities. Who it’s going to be applying that pressure is anyone’s guess, but he’ll have all of August to figure it out.
The team only had 17 sacks in 2018, and 13 came from guys who are no longer on the team. Former Florida Gator Antonneous Clayton, a very talented DE, will be in the mix, but after that the pass rush will be another area with a ton of questions.
Collins was known to have some fairly good defensive units at Temple, and if they can get enough guys in the right positions, and hold up through the season, this unit might be ok. Having to face the dynamic Clemson offense in the opener should give them a very good gauge on exactly where they stand.
Clemson has opened as an early 33.5 point favorite in this one. Taking into account the talent discrepancy between these two teams currently, and the complete overhaul taking place on offense for the Tech, that number seems about right. Collins was a great hire for the Yellow Jackets, but asking him to compete with Clemson in game one is a big ask. It is the opener however, and there are a lot of unknowns with Tech. Until they step onto that field, it’s all just conjecture.