Ed. Note: Apologies for tardiness. The plan was for this to be posted yesterday.
Georgia Tech will be replacing 6 offensive starters this fall, four of which are the quarterback and three on the offensive line. That alone would suggest an uphill battle for offensive progress. In addition, they lost starting A-Back and unlikely offensive MVP Robert Godhigh, as well as the veteran starting B-Back David Sims. Altogether, that's the three leading rushers from last year, combining for over 2,100 (55%) of 3,891 rushing yards. Sims and Godhigh also combined to receive for 542 (32%) of 1,695 yards gained through the air.
The other "major" attrition from the roster this fall is the loss of true freshman BB Travis Custis. Custis struggled to qualify out of high school due to circumstances outside of his control, and ultimately ended up needing to transfer to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before he can have an opportunity to play FBS-level football. Custis was thought to be a major acquisition for Georgia Tech who had high potential as a B-Back.
Along with adding TCU offensive lineman Eason Fromayan via transfer, the Jackets added a lot of offensive weapons in the 2014 recruiting class, including (but not limited to) QB Matthew Jordan, BB C.J. Leggett, AB Myles Autry, WR Qua Searcy, and six offensive linemen. A few of the group of 7 new offensive linemen are likely to see some playing time this fall in replacing the three departed starters. In addition, with the B-Back position running short on depth, there is a chance that Leggett could get some playing time as a true freshman. The other individual who could play as a true freshman is Myles Autry, who will likely need his play style refined in order to become an elite A-Back, but had electric playmaking and kick/punt return abilities in high school. It would be tough to keep some of his abilities off the field for Coach Johnson.
Projected Depth Chart
|Position||First String||Second String|
Justin Thomas (R-So)
Timmy Byerly (R-Jr)
|Matthew Jordan (Fr)|
|BB||Zach Laskey (Sr)||
Matt Connors (R-Sr)
Donovan Wilson (R-Fr)
Deon Hill (R-Sr)
Tony Zenon (R-Sr)
Dennis Andrews (R-So)
|"Big" AB||Synjyn Days (R-Sr)||
Charles Perkins (R-Sr)
Broderick Snoddy (R-Jr)
Anthony Autry (R-So)
Michael Summers (R-So)
|Ricky Jeune (R-Fr)
Antonio Messick (R-Fr)
|WR||DeAndre Smelter (Sr)||
Darren Waller (Sr)
Qua Searcy (Fr)
|OT||Bryan Chamberlain (R-Jr)||
Nick Brigham (R-So)
Trey Klock (Fr)
|OG||Trey Braun (R-Jr)||Shamire DeVine (R-Fr)|
|C||Freddie Burden (R-So)||Thomas O'Reilly (R-Jr)|
|OG||Shaquille Mason (Sr)||Nick Brigham (R-So)|
|OT||Chris Griffin (R-Fr)||
Errin Joe (R-Jr)
Jake Stickler (Fr)
With six starters departed, some new faces will be seeing a lot of time this fall. Luckily, plenty of those faces have plenty of experience at their disposal. In particular, seniors Zach Laskey and Deon Hill will start in place of departed B-Back David Sims and departed A-Back Robert Godhigh, respectively. Additionally, junior OL Trey Braun will fill the slot vacated by the departed Will Jackson. After that, there are some younger players that will start to fill the spotlight. Most noticeably, redshirt sohpomore Justin Thomas is the projected starter at quarterback, although there's a small chance that redshirt junior Tim Byerly ends up starting either due to injury or plain old performance. Redshirt freshman Chris Griffin should start at offensive tackle opposite Bryan Chamberlain, replacing the departed Ray Beno. In addition redshirt sophomore Freddie Burden is in line to start at center.
The other notable movement on this depth chart is at wide receiver, where former starter Darren Waller is likely to be playing off the bench. His starter spot is likely to be filled by either Micheal Summers or Anthony Autry (although Autry is suspended for two games to start the season). Waller is extremely athletic and has produced well at times for Georgia Tech, but also reminds Yellow Jacket fans of Stephen Hill at times with his hands' reliability (or lack thereof).
The offense is in flux this year as it looks to replace six starters. It is yet to be seen how the replacement starters will perform relative to their predecessors, but the hopes are high early on for the bunch. Part of the optimism is due to some of the replacements being seasoned vets who are just now having the opportunity to start. More of it is due to the potential that some of the younger players emit. As for how this year's offense will perform relative to last year's, time will have to tell. A new quarterback is never comforting from that standpoint, but one that buys into the system more than Vad Lee did (and is better at running the option) may mean that the drop off is smaller than one would think. That said, by the principles of uncertainty, things might turn out worse than before. Generally though, I would expect that Coach Johnson has this unit firing at least as well as last year, if not better, due to the types of improvements that were made (QB buy-in and OL health). If this unit plays as well as it's capable of, Georgia Tech should win 9-10 games. If it struggles to find an identity -- it could be a long year on the Flats.
What are your expectations for the offense this year? Will the lost starters prove too much to overcome, or will the new crop out-perform the old one?