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Georgia Tech Football: The Yellow Jackets will win at least eight games per year until Paul Johnson retires

This will happen because the team will finally have an average (at least) defense

Miami v Georgia Tech Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Days to Kickoff: 99 Days

Welcome to everybody’s favorite week (plus an extra day) of the year: Opinions Week! This is the week where our writers give us some of the hottest #taeks that we can think of. I’m honored to be able to start this week off with an opinion that I am very confident in: Georgia Tech will win no less that eight games a year for the rest of Paul Johnson’s career.

The Offense isn’t the problem (normally)

Many people have been critical of Paul Johnson’s spread offense since he came to the Flats. It’s been viewed as out-dated and people have said it will never work in the league. Well I’m here to tell you that the offense is not the reason Tech isn’t winning football games.

Georgia Tech Offensive PPG since 2008

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
24.2 (63) 33.5 (14) 24.8 (71) 31.9 (28) 31.6 (40) 29.1 (59) 37.8 (12) 25.6 (79) 27.7 (66) 27.2 (69)

While there have certainly been years where the offense has not been up to snuff (see 2010 and 2015), it has normally not been the team’s issue. Please do not misconstrue this as me saying that this offense is perfect and no changes need to be made because that is not what I’m saying at all.

It’s no secret that the offensive line has been a steaming hot pile of garbage since Shaq Mason graduated. A large part of that is due to offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who came in with Johnson.

With Sewak running the offensive line, the Yellow Jackets have seen a pretty concerning lack of development in offensive linemen. Sure, there have been some good players (i.e. Shaq Mason, Omoregie Uzzi, Sean Bedford, and a few others), but very often, the linemen don’t tend to do very well.

This was never more noticeable than in the dreaded 2015 season. Coming into 2015, hopes were very high. The Yellow Jackets had just won the Orange Bowl, in large part, because of a very solid offensive line led by Mason. With Mason being the only player leaving, nobody expected much of a drop-off. Everybody was wrong.

That solid offensive line completely fell apart, which left Justin Thomas running for his life most of the games.

Even now, with a completely new offensive line, the Yellow Jackets still have not been able to get close to that. TaQuon Marshall was in a very similar position to Thomas in 2015, where he was running for his life for most of the game which caused poor passing decisions.

In spite of all of these offensive line issues, Tech still had every opportunity to be the ACC Coastal representative last year. What held them back? Well...

What has kept Tech from doing this in the past?

The Defense

It was the defense. Looking at last year alone, if you dig into the stats a little bit, you will see plain as day that the Tech defense was not even as good as it’s 26.5 ppg allowed would lead some to believe.

Due to the nature of Georgia Tech’s offense, opponent drives are limited, which is why defensive points per game always tends to be a little bit lower.

That being said, I want to focus on two other areas of the defense: red-zone defense and two-minute defense.

I knew that Tech’s red-zone defense was bad last year before researching for this article. What I didn’t know is that Tech was dead last in the entire country. Opponents scored on 36 of 37 trips to the red zone. Y’all...that’s bad. Like really bad.

What was the one trip where the opponent didn’t score?

That’s right. It was a bone-headed move by Justin Fuente. Instead of trying to get the touchdown, he could have easily sent his kicker up to bring the Hokies within one point. This was a lapse in judgement, but it’s the sole reason Tech’s red-zone defense wasn’t 37-for-37 in giving up scores.

While the red-zone defense was atrocious, the timing of it was the real gut-wrencher. Five times last year, the Georgia Tech defense allowed half/game-ending drives to result in a score. It was almost six as UNC missed a 52-yard field goal that would have added them to this list.

It was so bad that no one felt comfortable having a lead with two minutes left in the half/game. While that is bad, what makes it even worse is the average starting field position of those drives: the opponent’s 24-yard line. So not only did teams have to move down the field quickly in order to score, they had to go down three-quarters of the field to do so. And Tech’s defense normally folded.

So how’s all that going to change?

Ted Roof’s defense was maddeningly conservative. Because of that, teams were able to pick it apart without worries of much fight-back from the defense.

With Nate Woody coming over from Appalachian State, we are going to start to see a giant philosophy shift. Sure, switching over from a nickel base to a 3-4 is one way to look at it, but what I am referring to is the aggressiveness that Woody is going to be bringing to the table, which resulted in 26 turnovers forced and 39 sacks for App State last season. To compare, Georgia Tech forced 10 turnovers and had 17 sacks.

It is certainly a welcome change.

Recruiting

Recruiting is another thing that people have taken issue with under Paul Johnson. Personally, I don’t think that recruiting is quite as bad off as others do. Below I’ve compiled our recruiting rankings (courtesy of Rivals) in a bit of a different way. The way I determined the ranking was ranking by average star rating.

Data collected via Rivals.com

What this takes out of the picture is how many recruits teams are bringing in and focuses entirely on the level of recruits being brought in. Now I’m not here to say that recruiting is just fine the way it is, and Georgia Tech shouldn’t change it. That’s a load of bull. I am here to say that I think these issues are a lot easier to fix than they appear.

Todd Stansbury has already shown to be more focused on expanding recruiting efforts by hiring a more staff to assist Johnson in recruiting. The rebranding/banishment of Russell is also sure to help recruiting. Bringing in updated uniforms and equipment will give Tech one more thing that they can show off to prospective recruits.

One last thing that will help Georgia Tech in recruiting is expanding its recruiting efforts outside the state of Georgia. In hiring Jerome Riase as their new defensive line coach, the Yellow Jackets hired someone who has experience recruiting in Ohio and the surrounding area. Having a dedicated coach out there will give Tech the opportunity to draw in more talent that the staff might not have otherwise known about.

Conclusion

So...what does this all mean for the Yellow Jackets?

Honestly, I think we’re almost there. It will probably take a year for the defense to really be where it needs to be, but after last year, it can’t possibly get any worse. I believe the aggressive style itself will produce better results.

But what about the other elephant in the room? Ah yes, the offensive line. Honestly, we need improvement here. I would like to think that means a coaching change, but that does not seem likely at this point. We’ve got some solid young talent in Parker Braun and Kenny Cooper (assuming he’s healthy by the fall), as well as some serious potential in Ole Miss transfer Jack DeFoor, though he’s still learning the offense.

Taking a look at last year, Georgia Tech almost won eight games (adding Tennessee, Miami, and Virginia) and represented the ACC Coastal. The effects of changing those losses to wins withstanding, an adequate defense in all of those two-minute scenarios gives us those lost wins.

Fast-forward a year with Woody’s new defense, and I think that will be enough to get us over that hump.

What do y’all think? Can the Yellow Jackets win at least 8 games per year the rest of CPJ’s career? If not, how do they get there?