As we draw to a close of this 100 Days to Kickoff, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve pretty much previewed this year’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets as much as we can. Now all that’s left is for us to talk about why this season is different. We start this last series by looking at the “Changing of the Guard,” a common occurrence in college football, and why it will play a major role this year.
Days to Kickoff: 7 Days
College football is an ever-changing game by design. Players come to college for anywhere from three to five years, and then they leave. It’s the nature of the game. It’s a constant struggle of rebuilding and reloading. Some teams, such as Alabama, have mastered this. Others, well, not so much.
Georgia Tech is in an interesting position this year: a position to show that the changing of the guard that took place in 2015 was a fluke. Though I’m certain all of us have tried to block that horrible season (with the exception of the Miracle at Techwood) from our minds, there’s no denying that it happened; and quite honestly, we weren’t prepared for it.
Coming out of the miracle 2014 season, things were looking great. Justin Thomas was coming into his second full season at quarterback, and despite not having much experience around him, a lot of people (myself included) expected a similar on-the-field result (maybe a bit of a step back). What we got, though, was a showing of the inexperience that Tech had. We lost starters at virtually every skill position on offense, our best offensive lineman, and a couple key players on defense. Needless to say, the Yellow Jackets experienced some growing pains that even continued into the 2016 season.
Heading into 2017, the Yellow Jackets are in a bit of similar situation. Gone are the days of Justin Thomas, who was easily the best quarterback to have played under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Gone are the days of handing the ball off to Dedrick Mills. We lost a couple pieces from the defense, so naturally, it seems like we could be heading to another rendition of the 2015 season. But to quote Al Borland from everybody’s favorite, “Home Improvement,”...
That’s right, this year is not going to be a repeat of 2015. Why? Well, let’s find out:
The loss of Justin Thomas
Losing a quarterback like Justin Thomas is never easy. Like I stated earlier, Thomas is easily the best quarterback to have played under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Thankfully though, we’ve got four really good, yet diverse, options to replace him.
Paul Johnson is never one to exaggerate. If he has an opinion about something, he’s going to tell you what it is straight to your face. Often times, we try to find the hidden meaning in what he says, but I’ve found that more often than not, you’re better off taking what he says at face value, so I’d like to pull this particular quote out:
I think we’ve got four guys at that position that I can call a game for right now.
I don’t think Paul Johnson has ever been that confident with a quarterback situation before when trying to break in a new starter. Granted, it seems like no one has really separated themselves noticeably from the others, but at the same time, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If Paul Johnson is comfortable with any of the quarterbacks we have right now, then I think we’re going to be fine there.
The Offensive Skill Positions
I think this is the area that Tech really struggled with the most during that 2015 season. Simply put, we had no experience there. With that happening, there were going to be mistakes made.
This year, however, we actually bring back a lot of experience. The only really noticeable name that is missing is Dedrick Mills.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Dedrick Mills is gone and now we don’t have a B-back, we’re going to be [Foghat]ing horrible. While I agree that Mills truly could have been something special for us, he was also only a freshman who came in last season.
So far up to this point, we’ve actually seen another B-back candidate get some pretty high praise from Coach Johnson in the form of Jerry Howard. Now I’m not saying that Howard is going to go out and do exactly what Mills did last year. What I am saying is that he has the chance to be a solid B-back; and with a lot of returning talent at the other skill positions, having to replace Mills can be made up for by leaning on the other skill positions.
Change is never something that is easy. As a matter of fact, it’s often quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it’s just a part of life. Just like that, it’s also a part of college football. Players come and go. While it’s bittersweet to see some of the great ones move on, it’s also great to see the new ones come in. And to be quite honest, I’m truly excited to see the ones we’ve got coming this year.