2016 RECORD: 9-4 overall, 4-4 in the ACC Coastal Division
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: RB Dedrick Mills, A-Back J.J. Green, A-Back Clinton Lynch, WR Ricky Jeune, WR Brad Stewart, RT Andrew Marshall, RDE Keshun Freeman, DE Antonio Simmons, LB Brant Mitchell, LB Terrell Lewis.
As we wrap up our series previewing Georgia's opponents this fall, it's time to turn our attention to Georgia Tech.
For those counting, and we know you do, the Yellow Jackets have won two of the last three games against the Bulldogs. This year's Georgia Tech team will be breaking in a new quarterback, but otherwise returns 16 starters from last year's squad.
To get a better grasp on the Yellow Jackets, it's time to turn to JacketsOnline publisher Kelly Quinlin to break Paul Johnson's squad down.
UGASports.com: What’s your current overall outlook on Georgia Tech for this upcoming season?
Quinlin: "I've been thinking about this for a while and last year I thought 7-9 wins was likely and the schedule this year should keep Tech in that range. Having Tennessee out of the gate in the new Falcons' stadium is a real hard game to gauge and then the Jackets have UGA and trips to Clemson, Miami and Virginia that have been some of the toughest games over the years. Tech has really struggled and played some ugly games in both those places and Tech has only won twice in Charlottesville since 1990, both under Paul Johnson. Mark Richt obviously has a tremendous track record against Tech and the teams who the Jackets struggle with the most are athletic and fast on defense like Miami or Virginia Tech so that is something to keep an eye on. I think Tech will be in the mix for the ACC Coastal race again, but I do not know that nine-plus wins season is a realistic expectation with the schedule and the good teams they have to face. The Jackets have 10 teams that were in bowl games last year and only half of those are in Bobby Dodd Stadium. That is a tough schedule for any team and probably one of the hardest in the ACC."
UGASports.com: Which positions do you think Georgia Tech feels the best about on heading into 2017 and why? What positions do you see as the team's biggest concerns?
Quinlin: "Despite losing a three-year starter in Justin Thomas, the quarterback competition yielded four quarterbacks the staff is comfortable playing. The probable starter, junior Matthew Jordan, injured his foot in the second spring scrimmage and in his absence junior TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshmen Jay Jones and Lucas Johnson both shined. Jones probably has the highest ceiling of the four quarterbacks and he was electric in the spring game. Jones has home run speed, decent size and probably the strongest arm of any quarterback I have seen under Paul Johnson.
"The linebacker position was not impressive in camp. Starters Terrell Lewis and Brant Mitchell looked good and then things fell off especially at weakside linebacker as the Jackets staff try to replace P.J. Davis. Victor Alexander struggled some this spring and incoming freshman Bruce Jordan-Swilling could start at that spot in the fall if Alexander or one of the other linebackers does not step up. The depth was not very impressive either behind the three starters, but Tech signed several talented linebackers including Jordan-Swilling, Jaquan Henderson and T.D. Roof who could play this fall.
UGASports.com: Which position battles were worth watching this spring?
Quinlin: "With around 16 returning starters, quarterback was the biggest one. The other open jobs at left tackle, two defensive tackles and weakside linebacker had limited competition this spring due to numbers. The two defensive tackle spots did not have a lot of drama since Kyle Cerge-Henderson won one of the jobs midseason and Desmond Branch bulked up and moved into the other spot from strongside end."
UGASports.com: Who do you see as Georgia Tech's top players on each side of the ball and why?
Quinlin: "Offensively Dedrick Mills at B-back will be the workhorse for the offense and the coaches expect a big season from the sophomore. The trio of veteran A-backs, J.J. Green, Clinton Lynch and Qua Searcy are the other big play guys along with senior wide receiver Ricky Jeune.
"Defensively Tech has a trio of experienced upperclassmen defensive ends, KeShun Freeman, Antonio Simmons and Anree Saint-Amour from whom they are expecting big things. The production at the defensive end spot has been mediocre the last few seasons and with Pat Gamble in the NFL now, they probably will not have the same type of inside rush this fall. The Jackets also return all five starters in the secondary so that group should be a big plus.
UGASports.com: Which lesser-known players really turned heads during practices and in the spring game?
Quinlin: "Sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Adams lost some bad weight and is around 315-pounds now. He was a beast in the spring for the defense and he worked his way into the top three of the defensive line rotation by the end of the spring.
"On the offensive side, sophomore receiver Jalen Camp may end up being a guy like Demaryius Thomas or Deandre Smelter, guys who became big, almost tight end type receivers. He is pushing Jeune and Brad Stewart for playing time and he is pound for pound the strongest player on the team even though he is only six-foot-three and 215-pounds. Back-up B-back KirVonte Benson turned some heads as well with his elite speed. The whole quarterback situation was encouraging as well, given how well Justin Thomas performed during his career. The staff seems to be excited about the options and potential impact of the young quarterbacks and the veterans mixing together."
Georgia Tech 2017 Schedule