Although spring football practice is on hold due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 and the current global pandemic, the Georgia football rosters are still set for the fall. Coming off a 12-2 season, the Bulldogs head into the 2020 season with high expectations. Bulldawg Illustrated is analyzing each opponent in a twelve part series that will continue for the next several weeks.
Yesterday, we focused on the Kentucky Wildcats, and now we’ll move onto the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is set to begin their second season under head coach Geoff Collins with hopes of building off his inaugural year in Atlanta. There were several low points, including a pair of 45-point losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia in November. Regardless, the Jackets were able to knock off Miami and NC State, and played a close game to eventual ACC Coastal champion Virginia. Either way, let’s explore the biggest storylines surround the Georgia Tech program heading into 2020.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Head Coach: Geoff Collins
2019 Record: 3-9, 2-6 ACC
1) Finding an identity on offense
After switching from Paul Johnson’s option system to Dave Patenaude’s spread, the team’s offensive woes went as expected in 2019. The Yellow Jackets finished No. 124 ranked nationally in scoring (16.7 points per game) and No. 127 in total offense. The transition has been rough for the Yellow Jackets, but things should start to clear up for them heading into the 2020 season after getting adjusted to the new system.
The next phase of the transition for Georgia Tech is for them to find a new offensive identity in 2020. Last season, the new personnel tried predicting what could work with their inherited players, but it turned into more time teaching and relearning techniques. It seemed like schemes were always changing in 2019, but that shouldn’t be the case next fall.
With the experience and production the offense should have returning with an entire year under their belt, the Yellow Jackets should function more as a unit.
2) Questions at quarterback
The quarterback competition should be interesting to watch heading into the fall as James Graham had an inconsistent 2020 season. Graham completed 87 of 193 passes for 1,164 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The probability of backups like Jordan Yates, Jeff Sims, or Tucker Gleason challenging him for the starting position is very likely.
That means for as right now, the starting quarterback position hasn’t been filled, and might not be before the start of the season. Even then, the question might not be solved yet because Dave Patenaude will likely rotate guys in and out. That won’t be the best situation because not having a stable starter for an offense that is just a year into learning a new system could prove to be costly.
Plus, Graham is really the only returning guy at the position who has any experience. Yates only threw twelve passes last season, and Gleason and Sims are only freshman. It will be interesting to watch as Georgia Tech, like every other team in the country, will have to adjust to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Their situation at quarterback is very similar to Georgia’s.
3) Receivers stepping up
Georgia Tech does not have many talented receivers returning other than rising sophomore Ahmarean Brown. Last season, Brown led the team in receiving with 21 receptions for 396 yards and seven touchdowns. Heading into 2020, there needs to be more production outside of Brown.
This means that guys like Jalen Camp, Malachi Carter, Adonicas Sanders and Marquez Ezzard come into play. Georgia Tech has a decent running game returning, but the receivers need to step up and make plays to balance the offense out. Of course, this is a batch of youngsters that were recruited for the triple-option, but after a year the numbers should start to match on the stat charts. That being said, the receivers play will be based on what their quarterback can do, as well.
Collins believes he has stockpiled an arsenal full of receivers, but it’s just a matter of if they come to play or not. It will be interesting to see if the receivers can run the right routes, and see if the ball can even get to them. If that happens, it will be interesting to see what happens after that.
4) The record at the end of the year won’t reflect this team’s growth
To explain better, Georgia Tech’s schedule is very tough next season. And the record at the end of the year won’t reflect the team’s growth, it’s how they handle and perform under pressure is what will define them. The Yellow Jackets open up with Clemson for the second year in a row. Then, the final nine games include North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Duke, Notre Dame, Miami and Georgia. November will be tough enough as it starts with Duke.
Even if the team is showing progress, this schedule of opponents does not fair well for Georgia Tech this early in the *new* Collins’ era. This means that the Yellow Jackets could possibly be looking at another losing season, and potentially another year without a bowl berth.
With that in mind, this upcoming season has to motivate these players to compete anyway, and want to improve. If they can do that, there might be light at the end of the tunnel in terms of losing consistently.
5) Emergence of Antonneous Clayton on defense
This upcoming year should be exciting for Florida transfer Antonneous Clayton. Clayton has the mechanics and build to lead the defense this upcoming fall. Collins and beat writers have hyped him up to be something special, and this is his year to shine after sitting out in 2019. Collins recruited him while he was the defensive coordinator at Florida, and knows he has potentital.
While in Gainesville, Clayton played in 17 games totaling only 11 tackles. In 2016, he suffered a season-ending injury and that plagued him for the next two years. The sky is the limit for Clayton and the Yellow Jackets’ defense next fall. Georgia Tech’s opponents averaged 32.4 points per game against them last season, and they gave up a total of 389 points.
Early Prediction: Georgia 51-6