The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will begin their second spring under head coach Geoff Collins with hopes of building off 2019’s late-season improvements. There were 45-point losses to both Virginia Tech and Georgia in November, but the Jackets defeated Miami and NC State in the second half of the season and had their chances against eventual ACC Coastal champ Virginia.
With Clemson again waiting on the opening Thursday night and UCF coming in two weeks later, Tech needs to be ready to go from the start. For that reason alone, the practices over the next few weeks are extremely important.
5 Storylines to Watch During Georgia Tech’s Spring Practice
1. Offensive cohesion
With the switch from Paul Johnson's option system to Dave Patenaude's more conventional spread, the team's offensive struggles were expected in 2019. The Jackets were last in the ACC and 124th nationally in scoring and passing offense, while finishing 127th in total offense. Georgia Tech should make strides in Year 2, and it starts with limiting turnovers. Georgia Tech's 20 giveaways were tied for 81st in America.
2. James Graham
Of course, much of the offensive development hinges on the play of the sophomore quarterback. Collins decided in late September that he needed to build around Graham and that his young signal-caller would grow regardless of the results. There were some really ugly outings, but Graham is expected to be at the top of the depth chart going into the fall so he must step forward this spring. If he slips, highly regarded true freshman Jeff Sims may be the next option.
3. Offensive line
Due to injuries last year, a lot of players gained experience. Only tackle Jared Southers departs, putting Tech in a good spot up front. Now it's about figuring out who plays where. Center Kenny Cooper was lost for the season in late September, and it is unclear how much he will participate this spring, but he will be welcomed back with open arms when he is healthy. The line will also be bolstered by Tennessee grad transfer Ryan Johnson, who will be participating in spring drills. Another grad transfer, Devin Cochran from Vanderbilt, won't be eligible until the summer semester. With Graham still progressing and Jordan Mason at running back, a solid offensive line will help immeasurably.
4. Creating negative plays on defense
For years we have heard about Georgia Tech wanting to be more aggressive on defense. And we're still waiting. Granted, head coach Geoff Collins did not want to put his anemic offense in bad positions last year, but the numbers don't lie. Last in the ACC in both sacks and tackles for lost yardage. A lot of the front seven projected starters are the same as last year, so 2020 will be about teaching old dogs new tricks. If the Jackets are to implement a more disruptive defensive plan, it must start this spring.
5. Run defense
Though creating pressure is desired, stopping the run has to be priority number one for the defensive staff. The Jackets were last in the ACC in rush defense last season and, as a result, faced more rush attempts (and fewer pass attempts) than any team in the league. Having an offense that can stay on the field will help, but Georgia Tech can't give up 4.8 yards a carry again this year.
— 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)