Like their ACC Coastal division rival, the Virginia Cavaliers, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets enter 2014 with their head coach on the hot seat. Paul Johnson will be coaching for his job this year, but don’t expect his approach to change much. The triple-option isn’t going anywhere, but Johnson will have to replace a few key playmakers this season.
While many people consider the triple-option offense to be a gimmick, it undeniably gives the Yellow Jackets a chance to win every game they play. It forces defenses to adapt to their style and, in some cases, completely change what they do. Unfortunately, their division rivals are the most prepared teams in the country for the triple-option. But with the way rosters turnover from year to year, that doesn’t always matter.
Georgia Tech also has some playmakers returning. Starting quarterback Vad Lee may have decided to transfer, but that doesn’t hurt the Yellow Jackets as much as it would other teams. Justin Thomas, the presumed starter now that Lee is gone, may actually be a better fit for the triple-option. And when Thomas gets the opportunity to throw the ball, he will do so with the help of a decent group of receivers, including Darren Waller, DeAndre Smelter and Micheal Summers.
Why Georgia Tech could end up in last place
The Yellow Jackets are losing one of the best defensive lineman in the country this season, with Jeremiah Attaochu off to the NFL. But that was just the beginning of the bad news for the defensive line this offseason. Justin Akins and Kevin Robbins Jr. decided to transfer. Anthony Williams was dismissed from the team. And most recently, Jabari Hunt-Days was ruled ineligible. If nothing else, the Yellow Jackets could have serious issues with depth.
While the triple-option offense seems weird in the era of no-huddle, air-it-out style passing attacks, by running it Georgia Tech is using the oldest strategy in football. They run the ball, control the clock and keep turnovers to a minimum, while relying on their defense to make a few stops. Their offense is tricky for opposing teams to handle, but it isn’t designed to win shootouts. If the Yellow Jackets’ defense can’t hold up its end of the bargain, it could be another mediocre season for Georgia Tech. And with Georgia Tech’s increasingly edgy fanbase, mediocre may not be good enough for Johnson to keep his job.
Even in this unpredictable division, Georgia Tech is probably the most difficult team to pick. It’s almost easy to imagine them winning the division just based on the fact that it takes a disciplined defense to stop the triple-option, and “disciplined” is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Coastal division. Most likely, though, the Yellow Jackets will have another disappointing season, finishing in the bottom half of the division. They will win a game or two that they shouldn’t, of course, but they will also lose a couple of games that they should win. The hits their defensive line has taken could be too much to overcome, and the Yellow Jackets will most likely find themselves looking for a new head coach shortly after the season concludes.
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Dan Kelley covers college football for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DKelley1973.