There are setbacks, but what happened at Georgia Tech leading into spring practice was unimaginable. Defensive tackle Brandon Adams, a senior-to-be, died of an undisclosed cause on Saturday. Though he was a projected starter after registering 24 tackles in 2018, the impact that his loss will have on the psyche of the Jackets will be even greater.
Despite the heartache running through the Georgia Tech program, spring practice will go on and with it comes change all over the field. Geoff Collins is in as head coach and with him will come a completely new offense. On defense, the philosophy will be similar but the new staff will have their own ideas as well. As a result, there are several points of interest this spring, five of which are highlighted here.
5 Storylines to Watch During Georgia Tech’s Spring Practices
1. The new offensive identity
Under Paul Johnson and his option attack, Georgia Tech was a challenge for defenses around the ACC. However, the change to offensive coordinator David Patenaude's spread system is welcomed by those around the Tech program. The question this spring is do the Jackets have the enough of the right personnel to make Patenaude's offense work in 2019? Most likely, the unit will be a work in progress throughout both the spring and fall, with incremental improvements being the hope.
The new offense will only run properly if Geoff Collins and Patenaude can find the right signal-caller and at the moment there are questions about each of the contenders for the starting job. The most experienced returning quarterback is Tobias Oliver, but his skill set is a better match to what Johnson ran at Tech. Lucas Johnson is the best fit for the new style, but he is coming off a foot injury that wiped out his 2018 season. James Graham was a prized recruit in last year's class, but academic issues ended his first season early. Two freshmen quarterbacks will enroll this summer, but by that time, Collins and Patenaude hope either Johnson or Graham has control of the quarterback position.
3. How will the pass catchers develop?
In some ways during Johnson's tenure, a wide receiver that could block was more important than one that could catch. Now, in a more open offense, the Yellow Jackets need to find more actual receivers. Jalen Camp is the leading returning pass catcher and his 11 grabs was second on the 2018 team behind the 15 of the now departed Brad Stewart. Camp will be a featured performer this spring, but also watch for junior Jair Hawkins-Anderson, son of former NFL receiver Flipper Anderson. Another change from the Johnson years is that Patenaude will implement a tight end and UConn graduate transfer Tyler Davis will probably top the depth chart.
4. Defensive line
Again, the sudden loss of Brandon Adams affects this group so many ways. These are the guys that were closest to the Brentwood, Tennessee, native and they are the ones that will be hurt the most. On the field, this is a crew that is very youthful and Adams was the player that had the most experience among the guys up front. Now the leadership role will fall on end Antwan Owens and tackle Brentavious Glanton, a junior and senior respectively that have combined for 54 total tackles in their time at Georgia Tech. Redshirt freshman tackle T.K. Chimedza will also hope to make strides under the new regime.
5. Creating havoc defensively
Statistics say that Georgia Tech's defense was okay in 2018. They were finished in the middle of the pack in the ACC in terms of defending both the run and pass. When you added that together you got the conference's No. 4 total defense. But the Yellow Jackets were next to last in both sacks and tackles for lost yardage in 2018 despite wanting a more aggressive unit under coordinator Ted Roof. New defensive boss Andrew Thacker also wants to get after the opposition and his issue is that most of the playmakers from last season are gone. Players responsible for 41.5 of the team’s 54 tackles for a loss will not be back in 2019. While the secondary is a little more seasoned, the Jackets also also 13th in the ACC in passes defended. Thacker has to identify defenders that can make impact plays.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
(Top photo courtesy of ramblinwreck.com)