GEORGIA TECH

 

QUARTERBACK - Reggie Ball. 2005 stats: 182-379, 2165 yards, 11 TDs, 12 INTs. Returning starter.

Reggie Ball is one of those rare four-year starters who has gotten statistically worse every year. Each year, he never threw for more touchdowns than interceptions, and his completion percentage has dropped from 52% as a freshman to 49.7% as a sophomore to 48% as a junior last year. That last number was accomplished even with the presence of All-American wide reciever Calvin Johnson as a target. Still, Ball can be dangerous, as he's a mobile QB who's more and more adept at avoiding the pass rush. After being sacked 26 times in both his freshman and sophomore year, he was only sacked 8 times as a junior. His rushing totals aren't all that impressive for a so-called mobile QB -- career high is 384 net rushing yards as a freshman -- but until the Irish defense proves otherwise, we're still susceptible to quarterbacks who present the pass/run option. Depth: Backup Taylor Bennett started in Ball's place for the UConn game last year and appears to be the top challenger for the 2nd team job. Throwing for five touchdowns in the spring game certainly didn't hurt his cause. Redshirt freshman Jonathan Garner was a Top 20 QB coming out of high school but pushing Ball out of the starting job by the first game of the season will be very tough.

 

RUNNING BACK - Tashard Choice. 2005 stats: 117 attempts, 513 yards, 6 TDs. New starter.

The transfer from Oklahoma, Tashard Choice was Tech's 2nd leading rusher last year and now gets the starting job to himself. He's a big back who is just as likely to try and run over a defender as around him. He also started against Miami last year, who at the time was the #1 defense in the country, and pounded out 84 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. He'll be a solid first test for the new Irish linebackers. Depth: Complementing Choice's size is the speed of junior Rashuan Grant, who also can be dangerous receiving out of the backfield. A solid change of pace back with the more physical Choice. Loyall Gause and highly touted freshman Jamaal Evans round out the running back depth chart. Starting fullback Mike Cox didn't run the ball last year, but was a very solid blocker and a decent receiving target with 13 receptions for 72 yards.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Calvin Johnson. 54 receptions, 888 yards, 6 TDs. Returning starter.
James Johnson. 14 receptions, 185 yards, 2 TDs. New starter.

The big name here is Calvin Johnson (right), perhaps the best wide receiver in college football. Johnson is big, strong, has fantastic hands, and he's particulary dangerous on long pass plays to the corner of the endzone. He has been nicked up a bit in the past, but should be healthy for the first game of the season. James Johnson was the team's third leading receiver last year and has the chance to benefit from all of the attention given to Calvin, but James missed the entire spring with injury. Depth: Xavier McGuire has plenty of size at 6-4, 215 pounds and senior Chris Dunlap has a chance to step up from being a special teams standout. Another one-time ND verbal commit, Martin Fierson, snagged three touchdown passes in the GT spring game so he just might be ready for a solid year as well.

 

TIGHT END

 George Cooper.
8 receptions, 92 yards, 1 TD. Returning starter.

George Cooper moved into the starting lineup halfway through last season and had his best two performances in Tech's final two games. More of a receiving tight end than a blocking one, Cooper is still pretty big at 6-5, 260 pounds. If he continues to earn the trust of Reggie Ball, he could be a threat in the passing game. Depth: Likely splitting time with Cooper will be senior Michael Matthews. Having moved from defensive end to fullback to tight end, Matthews is more of a blocker and is usually brought in for two-tight end sets.

OFFENSIVE LINE


LT - Andrew Gardner. Returning starter.
LG - Matt Rhodes. Returning starter.
C - Kevin Tuminello. Returning starter.
RG - Nate McManus. Returning starter.
RT - Mansfield Wrotto. New starter.

Last year the Tech line led the ACC in fewest sacks allowed with 10. Andrew Gardner started every game at left tackle and was named a 1st Team Freshman All-America. Coming into his redshirt sophomore year, he should be a very capable left tackle. Matt Rhodes will be entering his third year as a starter while Kevin Tuminello returns for his second year as a full time starter. Also in his second year as a starter is Nate McManus, who can also spell Tuminello at center if need be. Calling Mansfield Wrotto (right) a new starter is a bit of a misnomer as he's actually a three year starter at defensive tackle who has been switched to right tackle for his final year. Big and strong, Wrotto might also be used at guard if tackle doesn't work out. Depth: The backups are generally untested sophomores, with Jacob Lonowski a top sub at either tackle or guard.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE - Adamm Oliver. 41 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 PBU 1 FR, 1 FF. Returning starter.
DT - Joe Anoai. 26 tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL. Returning starter.
DT - Darryl Richard. (#53 DT) missed year with ACL injury. New starter.
DE - Darrell Robertson. 15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 INT. New starter.

The Yellow Jackets will sport a formidible defensive line in the Irish season opener with a good mix of talent, depth, and potential. Darrell Robertson assumes a full-time starting spot at defensive end after being a backup last year. He did start four games last year when the starter Eric Henderson was out with injury so he does have some decent experience. It's likely that he'll be Tech's best pass rusher. At the other end position, Adamm Oliver brings plenty of experience with 11 career starts at both defensive end positions and at 265 pounds is a solid run stopper. The tackle positions remind me of ND's tackles as both rely more on speed and quickness than size. The 280 pound Joe Anoai (pictured) is the line's veteran with 23 career starts and also has the flexibility to play defensive end, where he started one game as a sophomore. He's a pre-season All-ACC player who will be tough inside. Pairing up with him will be Darryl Richard, a redshirt sophomore who missed all last year with a knee injury after a very strong freshman campaign. Back and healthy, big things are expected from him. Depth: The Yellow Jackets have a solid 2-deep on the line starting with sophomore Michael Johnson. He has been injured a bit this fall, but he's the next big thing for Tech at defensive end and will be another quality pass rusher when he's healthy. Vance Walker, Elris Anyaibe, and David Brown round out a dependable defensive tackle rotation with a good amount of potential.

 

LINEBACKERS

SLB - KaMichael Hall. (#21 - OLB) 64 tackles, 4 sacks, 14 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.
MLB - Philip Wheeler. 64 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 TFL, 4 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF. Returning starter.
WLB - Gary Guyton. 19 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 PBU. New starter.

The Yellow Jackets will field a very talented linebacker corp that should contend for the best unit in the conference. Preseason All-ACC 1st teamer and Butkus Award nominee KaMichael Hall (right) is the big name and will entering his third year starting at the strongside linebacker position. Hall led the team in tackles for loss last season and is dangerous at rushing the passer, as he does often in the blitz happy Tech defense. Philip Wheeler is another excellent linebacker that pulled in four interceptions last season as a new starter. Considered perhaps the best athlete on the team, Wheeler was moved from the weak-side linebacker position to the middle where expectations on him are sky high. Gary Guyton is the lone new starter with only one career start to his name. Even though he's at the weakside position, Guyton is the biggest Tech linebacker at 6-2, 230 pounds. Depth: There really is no experienced linebacker depth on the Georgia Tech team. Of the four likely candidates to back up the starters, junior Travis Chambers, sophomore Matt Braham, freshman Shane Bowen, and sophomore Taalib Tucker, only Chambers has played a snap at linebacker thus far. And even then he only has 10 career tackles.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB - Kenny Scott. (#24 - CB) 56 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF. Returning starter.
CB - Pat Clark. WR in 2005. New starter.
SS - Jamal Lewis. 13 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU. New starter.
FS - Djay Jones. 11 tackles. New starter.

Kenny Scott (right) is the only returnign starter on the revamped Tech secondary and brings plenty of experience and the benefit of having to cover Calvin Johnson in practice everyday. At 6-2, he's a very tall cornerback and will be assigned to cover the best WR on the other team. Pat Clark assumes the starting spot at the other corner position after playing as a wide receiver in 2005. He did have the advantage of working at corner during spring ball so he's not completely new to the position. Still, it might take some time to get used to starting. At safety, Jamal Lewis assumes a starting spot after moving from cornerback. He started as the Tech nickel back for a game last year and did fill in for Kenny Scott when he went down with an injury. Free safety Djay Jones is similarly inexperienced and will need to show he can handle a starting gig. Depth: Battling Pat Clark for one of the starting cornerback spots is Jahi Word-Daniels and either one could start against Notre Dame. Word-Daniels hasn't played yet, but has the athleticism to turn into a good corner. Tony Clark played both corner and safety in the spring and the sophomore might turn up at either position if the starters aren't getting the job done.