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Georgia Tech Football: Way-too-Early Look at 2016 - The Offense

Today, we look at the offense as a whole.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season

I think we can all agree that the offense was pretty rough last season. And there were plenty of reasons for that, such as injuries, inexperience, bad luck and just plain-old poor execution. Whatever it was, the offense just wasn't good this season.

While this was not the worst-scoring offense Tech has had since Paul Johnson came to Tech, it is the worst since 2010 (the year Josh Nesbitt got hurt and Tevin Washington replaced him). They averaged just 29.2 points per game, good for 63rd in the country, which is less than stellar.

Rushing the ball, the team averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a team, while rushing for 3,074 yards (256.2 yards/game) and 30 touchdowns. A part of the reason that Tech's offense wasn't that great at running the ball was that Tech had just one player finish with more than 500 rushing yards: true freshman B-back Marcus Marshall (86 carries, 654 yards, four touchdowns).

Justin Thomas's rushing numbers being down were another reason the offense took a hit this season. After being a 1,000-yard rusher last season, Justin Thomas had at team-high 145 carries for 488 yards (3.4 yards/carry)and six touchdowns.

Passing the ball wasn't much better. Thomas completed 75-of-180 passes (41.7 percent) for 1,345 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with his top target being Ricky Jeune (24 catches, 520 yards, four touchdowns).

A lot of Tech's problems came from blocking, well the lack thereof. Tech returned four starting offensive linemen from a team that won an Orange Bowl, but looked utterly lost at times in both run and pass blocking. There wasn't much push up front, which didn't allow for much in the rushing game.

Any time Tech tried to pass it, the line couldn't block for more than about two or three seconds before someone was in Justin Thomas's face. And because they couldn't pass block, defenses were able to sell out completely on the run and that's how the offense sucked this season.

Who's Gone?

Since Tech had a fairly young roster this season, that means that they didn't really lose a whole lot. In fact, I believe Tech's biggest loss came right at the beginning of the season when they lost back-up quarterback Tim Byerly. Byerly doesn't have the explosive capabilities that Justin Thomas, but I'm confident that we would have been nearly as good if not just as good with Byerly at quarterback both last year and this year. He's a guy who knew the system about as well as one can and he played as hard as he could, even though he knew he wasn't the starter. He was also severely missed this season as Justin Thomas couldn't seem to stay healthy all season long.

After Byerly, Tech's biggest losses come on the offensive line. Even though the offensive line wasn't that great, they are still losing three starters off of the offensive live in Bryan Chamberlain, Trey Braun and Errin Joe. None of them were perfect, but each had moments that were very good and loads of experience that will be sorely missed next season.

Tech also happened to lose a good bit of experience at A-back and wide receiver with the losses of Broderick Snoddy and Micheal Summers. Just as it was with the offensive linemen, neither of these guys was perfect, but both had moments where they shined and brought valuable experience to the table.

Who's New?

Here's a list of all of the new recruits on offense in this class:

Name Position Height/Weight High School
Jaylend Ratliffe QB 6-2, 200 lbs. Scotland (Laurinburg, N.C.)
Jay Jones QB/ATH 6-1, 190 lbs. McAdory (McCalla, Ala.)
Xavier Gantt AB 5-9, 165 lbs. Buford (Buford, Ga.)
Dedrick Mills BB 5-11, 196 lbs. Ware County (Waycross, Ga.)
Jair Andeson WR 6-1, 185 lbs. Northview (Duluth, Ga.)
Jalen Camp WR 6-2, 210 lbs. South Forsyth (Cumming, Ga.)
Steve Dolphus WR 6-5, 200 lbs. Westside (Macon, Ga.)
Parker Braun OG 6-3, 275 lbs. Hallsville (Hallsville, Texas)
Kenny Cooper OG 6-3, 275 lbs. Sonoraville (Calhoun, Ga.)

And here's the list of guys who redshirted or transferred in this past season:

Name Position Height/Weight High School/Previous School
Christian Campbell QB 6-2, 195 lbs. Ponchatoula (Ponchatoula, La.)
J.J. Green AB 5-9, 187 lbs. Georgia
Nate Cottrell AB 5-11, 185 lbs. Knoxville West (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Omahri Jarrett AB 5-10, 165 lbs. New Manchester (Douglasville, Ga.)
KirVonte Benson AB/BB 5-8, 200 lbs. Marietta (Marietta, Ga.)
Quaide Weimerskirch BB 6-0, 220 lbs. Pace (Pace, Fla.)
Harland Howell WR 6-3, 217 lbs. Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.)
Christian Philpott WR 6-3, 215 lbs. North Florida Christian (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Brad Morgan OL 6-5, 272 lbs. Etowah (Woodstock, Ga.)

There's a lot to be excited about here. There are 18 new players here that couldn't help this offense last year. There's also a ton of talent here.

The most exciting guys to me are Jaylend Ratliffe, Christian Campbell, J.J. Green, KirVonte Benson and Christian Philpott.

Ratliffe is exciting mostly because he is finally able to come onto the campus and be apart of this football team. He's been through a lot since that ATV accident that pushed off his enrollment. He has been fully cleared by doctors, though whether or not he ever plays at Tech is still to be decided. Recent updates to Ratliffe's story show that he probably won't be able to play quarterback at Tech, but he could still make for a strong addition at any of the other skill positions on offense or in the secondary.

With Campbell, we have another player who may not end up staying at quarterback for his full time at Tech. He will certainly get a chance to compete for Justin Thomas's job next season, but Paul Johnson may want to get him on the field sooner, which could prompt a move to A-back or receiver. Regardless, I think Campbell will definitely see the field this season.

J.J. Green will give Georgia Tech a legitimate homerun threat from A-back. The key for him will be blocking. If he can prove effective at blocking, he will certainly be splitting plenty of time with Qua Searcy at the "small" A-back position.

I'm very excited for KirVonte Benson. Benson won't start, but he gives Tech another homerun threat from the B-back position. Since coming to campus, Benson has been getting bigger and stronger, so it should be fun to see what he looks like once he hits the field. He's a guy that could see time at A-back or B-back.

And finally, we have Christian Philpott. Ricky Jeune definitely has one receiver spot locked up, but the other one will likely come down to either Philpott or incumbent starter Brad Stewart. I think it's clear that Philpott has the higher ceiling of the two, but Stewart brings in-game experience. Philpott will have to work hard to unseat Stewart, but it is certainly possible.

Depth Chart Breakdown

Position First String Second String
Quarterback Justin Thomas Matthew Jordan
Christian Campbell
TaQuon Marshall
"Big" A-back Clinton Lynch OR
Mikell Lands-Davis
Lynn Griffin
"Small" A-back Qua Searcy OR
JJ Green
Isiah Willis
TaQuon Marhsall
Omahri Jarrett
Nathan Cottrell
B-back Marcus Marshall OR
Marcus Allen OR
C.J. Leggett
Quaide Weimerskirch
Dedrick Mills
KirVonte Benson
Wide Receiver Ricky Jeune Jalen Johnson
Antonio Messick
Wide Receiver Brad Stewart OR
Christian Philpott
Harland Howell
Left Tackle Trey Klock Eason Fromayan
Left Guard Will Bryan Parker Braun
Jahaziel Lee
Center Freddie Burden Andrew Marshall
Right Guard Shamire Devine Brad Morgan
Jahaziel Lee
Right Tackle Chris Griffin Jake Stickler

I feel like the depth chart is pretty straightforward. There will definitely be plenty of position battles to watch out for, though.

At quarterback, Justin Thomas will obviously be the guy, but the title of his back-up is certainly up for grabs. Matthew Jordan looked pretty solid in limited playing time, but Christian Campbell and TaQuon Marshall will be right there trying to beat him out.

At A-back, I think main four-man rotation will be with the top four listed above. I'm also curious, though, to see what Omahri Jarrett and Nate Cottrell could do there. Both bring fantastic speed that would be very nice.

At B-back, it's Marcus Marshall's job to lose. We have a ton of depth here now, so it should be a fun battle. I think we will roll with three guys here again with Marshall being the speedy guy, Quaide Weimerskirch being the power guy (a la Patrick Skov) and either Marcus Allen or C.J. Leggett being the third guy.

At receiver, I already mostly explained what I thought, and honestly, I think it will come down to blocking abilities. Personally, I'd love to see us do some 3-wide sets and put either Ricky Jeune or Christian Philpott in the slot just to get the match-up nightmare for the defense. It would definitely be fun.

On the offensive line, I believe it's all about getting the best five on the field. I think we'll see plenty of competition here along the offensive line, but barring any injuries or attrition (*knocks on wood*), I think this group will get the first crack at being the starters. I also added in Jahaziel Lee at guard because I think he's a better fit there and could potentially see some time as a reserve this year. I could also see him at center if Tech would do what I wanted them to do and let Freddie Burden play right guard so that we can have Andrew Marshall at center, but I digress.

How's the offense going to look this year? What position battles are you the most excited for? How will the depth chart shake out?