Opting to stay makes receiver a hit in offense

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ATLANTA --- Demaryius Thomas wondered if he should start looking for another school.

After all, what receiver wants to play for a team that's going to the "spread option?" He knew that was just a fancy way of saying Georgia Tech's playbook would be changing to run, run -- and run some more.

"At first, I was worried," Thomas said. "When I heard who was coming, I was thinking about leaving."

Now, he couldn't be happier with the offense brought in by the Yellow Jackets' first-year coach, Paul Johnson.

While Thomas doesn't get a ton of balls thrown his way, he's sure making the most of the chances he does get. And No. 21 Georgia Tech is off to its best start since 1990, cracking the national rankings for the first time this season and grabbing the lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division.

The Yellow Jackets (6-1, 3-1 ACC) face a crucial game today, playing host to one of the hottest teams in the country. Virginia (4-3, 2-1) has bounced back from a dismal start, winning three in a row after losing three of its first four games.

While Georgia Tech will surely run more than it throws -- the stat sheet shows 348 rushing attempts, compared with only 83 passes -- the Cavaliers would be well advised to keep an eye on Thomas, the best receiver in these parts since Calvin Johnson.

The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Thomas, only a sophomore, was on the receiving end of all nine passes the Yellow Jackets completed against Duke, accounting for 230 yards in the second-best day in school history. Last week, Thomas got behind the secondary to haul in a 24-yard touchdown pass with less than 51/2 minutes remaining to give Georgia Tech a 21-17 victory at Clemson.

"I tried it, and I liked it," he said of Johnson's offense. "You're going to be one-on-one most times they throw the ball to you. And most times, you're going to be wide open because (the defense) is biting on the play action."

In an offense centered on quarterback Josh Nesbitt, running back Jonathan Dwyer and two wingbacks, Thomas has still managed to shine. With just 22 catches, he ranks second in the ACC in receiving yards with 69.2 per game.

Georgia Tech is averaging more than 248 yards on the ground, far ahead of anyone else in the ACC.

TODAY'S GAME


Virginia at Georgia Tech


WHEN/TV: 3:30/ESPNU


WHERE: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta


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