To repeat as ACC champions and break through with a BCS Bowl victory, the Yellow Jackets know they must get stingier. That's why coach Paul Johnson invited Al Groh to take over the defense.
Defenders spent the spring learning Groh's 3-4 scheme. Any determination on how well they grasped it will have to wait.
But defensive end Jason Peters, who seized a starting job, said Tech laid the foundation for an improved defense.
"It's given us a great base for what we're going to build on for the summertime," Peters told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution."I think we got a lot of good things that happened for us. Guys adjusted; guys made the switch. It's really all due to our coaches. They kept us in the mind-set; they were trying to change the culture of the defense."
The offense looked crisp even without Heisman candidate Joshua Nesbitt, who sat out while recovering from minor ankle surgery. Backs Anthony Allen, Lucas Cox, Roddy Jones, Marcus Wright and Embry Peeples, along with 6-4 wideout Stephen Hill, give Tech an abundance of weapons. The offensive line must replace three starters but appears deeper than in coach Paul Johnson's first two seasons.
In the weather-shortened T-Day game, backup quarterback Tevin Washington led the White past the Gold 27-7. Washington's strong play alleviated any concern about the No. 2 job.
Fans are wondering mainly about the defense, which lost its biggest playmaker in end Derrick Morgan.
"It's really a hard-nosed defense," Peters said. "A lot of people say the 3-4 might be more of a ‘read and react' defense. But it's really about throwing that knockout punch every play, every time you put your hand on the ground."NOTES, QUOTES
--In the battle to back up QB Joshua Nesbitt, Tevin Washington beat out David Sims and Jordan Luallen. Sims showed promise, but Washington locked up the job by leading his team to four touchdowns in the T-Day game. Washington said he wants to push Nesbitt in fall camp. "I don't think anybody comes to college to be a backup," Washington told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
--LBs Brad Jefferson and Anthony Egbuniwe impressed in the T-Day game, but overall it was a spotty defensive effort. Tech needs playmakers to emerge on defense to replace DE Derrick Morgan and S Morgan Burnett, who left early for the NFL. If that doesn't happen, the Yellow Jackets will have to win shootouts like they did last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We still have a lot of things to work on to be sure, but I saw some positive things out there. The best news is that no one got (seriously) injured." -- Coach Paul Johnson after the weather-shortened T-Day game.
DE Jason Peters -- The redshirt sophomore, a key backup in 2009, seized a starting spot by making disruptive plays all spring. The 6-4, 273-pounder picked up Al Groh's 3-4 scheme quickly and was in the backfield repeatedly.
QB Tevin Washington -- Washington secured the backup spot to Joshua Nesbitt by leading his team to four touchdowns in the T-Day game. The shifty redshirt sophomore ran for three scores and threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Hill.
B-back Anthony Allen -- The powerful senior made a smooth transition from A-back. In the T-Day game, he led all rushers with 91 yards on 15 carries. Allen could put up numbers comparable to those posted by Jonathan Dwyer, who left early for the NFL.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: With Heisman candidate Joshua Nesbitt returning at quarterback, the Yellow Jackets will contend for another ACC title. Nesbitt leads an option attack that will again be explosive, and the new-look defense under Al Groh should be improved. Look for runner Anthony Allen and wideout Stephen Hill to emerge as stars: they replace Jonathan Dwyer and Demaryius Thomas, two of four juniors who left for the NFL.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Joshua Nesbitt sat out the spring while recovering from minor ankle surgery, but there's no question about what he can do. The rising senior ran for 18 touchdowns and threw for 10 more last year, accounting for more than 2,700 yards. The backfield is deep and fast. Wideout Stephen Hill steps in to replace Demaryius Thomas as the downfield threat. The biggest question is on the offensive line, where Tech returns just two starters.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Yellow Jackets seemed to adjust well to Al Groh's 3-4 scheme, but that doesn't mean it will be easy to replace DE Derrick Morgan, a first-round NFL pick who led the ACC in sacks. DE Jason Peters and DT Logan Walls should be mainstays up front, and LB Brad Jefferson is poised for a monster year. The secondary is experienced, but a playmaker needs to emerge now that S Morgan Burnett is in the NFL. Corners Jerrard Tarrant and Mario Butler each had two picks last season.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: This has been a problem area in coach Paul Johnson's two seasons, but Tech is in good shape heading into 2010. The Jackets return all their key specialists, led by punt returner Jerrard Tarrant (two TDs) and kick returner Orwin Smith (24.0 yards per return). K Scott Blair (14 of 20 on field goals) probably wishes he could face Clemson every game. He nailed seven field goals against the Tigers, and seven against everyone else. Blair delivered only one touchback. Chandler Anderson had seven punts of at least 50 yards.
LB Kyle Jackson continues to deal with a severe foot injury that prevented him from participating in contact drills this spring. "I'm getting back in shape," he said. "Basically, I'm doing our summer workout. I'm still getting back to where I can cut and play Division I linebacker." Still, Jackson vowed to be 100 percent by August camp.
WR Stephen Hill, a 6-4 sophomore, has bulked up to 205 pounds and is becoming an intimidating presence to cornerbacks. With three catches for 105 yards and a score in the T-Day game, Hill served notice he aims to fill the shoes of NFL first-round pick Demaryius Thomas.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010