With so much uncertainty and a young team last year, not too much was expected of the Yellow Jackets. They won eight games, but were 14 points away from a 10-win season. With an experienced group returning this year, it’s safe to say more is expected.
Offense: Running backs and a mobile quarterback are the two major aspects that are vital in the Yellow Jackets’ spread-option attack. Luckily for Tech, they bring back a lot of experience there that will help them. Tevin Washington returns at quarterback after rushing for 987 yards on 243 carries and 14 rushing scores. He also threw for 1,652 yards and 11 touchdowns, but none of those came in the last seven games of the season.
Two more of Washington’s backfield mates, slotback Orwin Smith and fullback David Sims return after starting last year as well. Sims was second on the team in rushing with 694 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith was third with 615 yards and 11 scores. What will help the running game is the return of four starters and five of the top six linemen.
One aspect of the offense that will struggle will be the passing game. Star Stephen Hill is off to the NFL, leaving the receiver cupboard barren. That’s if you like your receivers to have receptions, as none of the returning pass catchers have a career reception.
Defense: For the first time in Al Groh’s three years as GT DC, most of the players are his own and fit into his 3-4 scheme. While the defense brings back only six starters, seven of last year’s top nine tacklers return. The secondary is experienced, as three of four starters are upperclassmen. Senior Isiah Johnson was second in tackles with 78, corner Rod Sweeting had 56 and other corner Louis Young 52. Johnson, Sweeting and backup corner Jemea Thomas each had a team-high three interceptions.
Linebacker will be another strength on the 2012 squad, as three players finished in the top 10 last year. Jeremiah Attaochu was third in tackles with 59, Quayshawn Nealy fifth with 52 and Daniel Drummond ninth with 44. Attaochu had a team-high six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
The defensive line will be led by veterans Izaan Cross, T.J. Barnes and Euclid Cummings.
Recruiting: Tech brings in two players, Justin Thomas and Francis Kallon, who were four-star recruits. Thomas comes in as a quarterback, who was timed as fast as 4.21 in the 40-yard dash during a summer camp at Alabama last year. He threw for 1,555 yards and 12 touchdowns, while rushing for 740 yards and seven scores. Kallon, is a totally different story than Thomas, as he comes in with little experience. In fact, 12 schools, including Tech, offered him a scholarship before he even played a game. He played only one season in high school, but still managed 18 tackles for loss, including eight sacks.
Schedule: Unlike last year when the Yellow Jackets got an easier month to start the season, this year’s slate does them no favors. Not only do they start at Virginia Tech, but three of their first four games are conference matchups. One thing that does help Tech is that the Va. Tech game is the only road game of the five games in the month of September. The other two conference games are home games against Virginia and Miami. After Boston College and BYU make it six of seven straight games at home, Tech finishes with three of their last four games on the road, including the season-ending tilt against in-state rival Georgia.