Georgia Tech wants to make it back to ACC title game

Georgia Tech wants to avoid more early-season struggles

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ATLANTA — Paul Johnson says a strong start would make it much easier for Georgia Tech to earn a repeat trip to the ACC Championship Game.

Georgia Tech has brought in defensive coordinator Ted Roof (left) to shore up its porous defense. Roof, a former Yellow Jackets linebacker and the Penn State defensive coordinator last year, has installed the 4-3.   FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Georgia Tech has brought in defensive coordinator Ted Roof (left) to shore up its porous defense. Roof, a former Yellow Jackets linebacker and the Penn State defensive coordinator last year, has installed the 4-3.

The Yellow Jackets won only one of their first four Atlantic Coast Conference games last season. They recovered to finish 5-3 in the league before losing to Florida State in the ACC title game in Charlotte, N.C.

A Sun Bowl win over Southern California capped the 7-7 season.

Georgia Tech opens with Elon and then plays four consecutive ACC games against Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami.

By Oct. 5, Johnson will know much more about his team’s chances for a return to Charlotte.

“We can set ourselves up to be in good shape early on or we can dig ourselves a hole like what happened last year,” Johnson said. “The start of the season is really important.”

The Yellow Jackets are switching to a 4-3 defense under new coordinator Ted Roof. Quarterback Vad Lee, who saw significant time in 2012 behind Tevin Washington, is expected to start but could share time with redshirt freshman Justin Thomas.

Lee could develop into a more dangerous passer than Washington, who ran for 20 touchdowns last season in the spread-option offense.

The team has little experience at wide receiver, but Johnson’s offense always emphasizes the run. Georgia Tech finished fourth in the nation in rushing last season but had no player with more than 18 catches.

Running backs Zach Laskey, David Sims and Robert Godhigh return. Each ran for more than 400 yards last season.

The surprise of the preseason has been DeAndre Smelter, who has played baseball at Georgia Tech for three years and decided to give football a try. He may start at wide receiver, a development that says much about the void on the depth chart at the position.

ON THE HOT SEAT

After going 20-7 his first two seasons, head coach Paul Johnson is 20-19 the past three years. While Johnson’s job seems pretty safe, a losing season could turn the fan base against him.

MUST SEE GAME

At Miami, Oct. 5. Though the Yellow Jackets lead the series 10-8, Miami has won the past four contests. Georgia Tech needs to break the spell to contend for the Coastal Division title.

HEISMAN WATCH

Quarterback Vad Lee will have to step up his game in a big way to put his name in the mix. Lee has the ability to put up numbers like Johnny Manziel did at Texas A&M last season, but Lee will have to improve his accuracy (49 percent passing in 2012).

LOCAL PLAYERS

AB B.J. Bostic (Jefferson County), Jr.; LB Brandon Watts (Washington County), Sr.; LB Rusty Scott (Lincoln County), Soph.; OL Michael Muns (Swainsboro), Fr.; DE Chris Crenshaw (Jefferson County), Sr.

B-BACK WATCH

The B-back in the spread option is the running back who lines up behind the quarterback. That’s the spot that produced 1,300-yard rushers Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen. There hasn’t been one dominant rusher in recent seasons as Robert Godhigh and other A-backs – who line up spread out – have shared the carries. Broderick Snoddy could add big-play potential to the position.

2013 SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT TV

Aug. 31 Elon Noon

Sept. 14 at Duke 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Sept. 21 North Carolina TBA

Sept. 26 Virginia Tech 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Oct. 5 at Miami TBA

Oct. 12 at BYU TBA

Oct. 19 Syracuse TBA

Oct. 26 at Virginia TBA

Nov. 2 Pitt TBA

Nov. 14 at Clemson 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Nov. 23 Alabama A&M TBA

Nov. 30 Georgia TBA

– From staff and wire reports

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