2006 ACC Football Season Preview: Georgia Tech

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Tech Yellow Jackets

13 Returning Starters (8 Offense, 5 Defense)

Key Players: QB Reggie Ball, WR Calvin Johnson, TB Tashard Choice, DT Joe
Anoai, LB KaMichael Hall, CB Kenny Scott

Overall View

Georgia Tech is a talented football team that could go anywhere from 6-6 to
10-2 this season. They seem to knock off a highly rated team every season, but
they also manage to lose games they shouldn’t, such as the 2003 loss at the
hands of the Duke Blue Devils by the score of 41-17. With Notre Dame, Virginia
Tech, Miami and Georgia on their schedule this year, they have a chance to
continue their tradition.

Offensive Strength

Generally when naming an offensive strength, I go with an entire position. In
fact, I always do that. But not today. Georgia Tech’s offensive strength is
wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who is simply the best wide receiver in the ACC,
and probably college football. He caught 54 passes for 888 yards and six
touchdowns as a true sophomore last season. 2006 will probably be his last
season of college football.

Johnson is at his best on the deep ball, where he can either burn the DB or
just outjump him to make the catch. There isn’t a wide receiver in the nation
who can consistently cover him one on one. If anyone wants to stop Johnson this
year, they will have to stop Georgia Tech’s quarterback, which leads us to the
next category.

Offensive Weakness

Despite being a senior and having started since his true freshman season,
Reggie Ball is the instrument that keeps the Georgia Tech offense from reaching
its potential. Ball showed ability as a freshman, leading GT to a win over
Auburn. His 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions that year weren’t considered a
big deal, because he was going to get better. Well, he’s a senior now, and he
hasn’t gotten better. If anything, he’s gotten worse.

Ball has 37 career touchdown passes and 41 interceptions. He has thrown more
interceptions than touchdowns in each of his three seasons. His completion
percentage has gone down from one year to the next since his freshman season. He
has completed 49.8% of his passes for his career, a poor number. He is a
turnover machine. He also is small, measuring in at 5-11, 195.

If Georgia Tech wants to operate at maximum efficiency on offense this year,
their senior quarterback needs to start playing like a senior should.

Defensive Strength

Georgia Tech has perhaps the most underrated corps of linebackers in the
nation. KaMichael Hall is one of the top backers in the ACC, and Philip Wheeler
is good as well. Hall had 14 tackles for loss last season, while Wheeler had
four interceptions and four sacks.

Wheeler will move to middle linebacker this season, and Gary Guyton will move
to Wheeler’s old spot. Despite the changes, this group should be one of the
best in the ACC.

Defensive Weakness

Georgia Tech’s secondary is always their defensive weakness. Generally it’s
because of defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta’s aggressive blitzing strategy,
which leaves his cornerbacks and safeties on an island with wide receivers. We
saw this in 2004, when Bryan Randall hit Josh Morgan for a long touchdown pass
against the cornerback blitz.

This year, not only will Georgia Tech likely still employ the same aggressive
tendencies, but they must do it with just one returning starter in the defensive
backfield, cornerback Kenny Scott. Starting strong safety candidate Joe Gatson
is out for the season. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn will have a lot of
success in the season opener against the Jackets.

Key Game

On September 21, Georgia Tech hosts UVA, a team that has owned the Yellow
Jackets in recent years. They have to get over the hump against the Hoos this
year. This is expected to be GT’s best team of the Chan Gailey era, and this
UVA team is thought to be Al Groh’s weakest since his first season. If Georgia
Tech can’t beat them this year, when will they?

GT 2006 Football Schedule
GT 2006 Roster
GT 2006 Depth Chart
(PDF; from official GT site)

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