With Gold overtaking White 30-20 in this year’s Georgia Tech spring game, we needed more details on the team, rankings, and more. We caught up with Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech expert and sports writer for the AJC, to learn more. He gave us all the details on who we can expect as this year’s QB, his question marks in the o-line and who we’re likely to see as this year’s star performers. Check out more from Sugiura on Twitter @ksugiuraajc.
Overall, how do you believe the offense will compare to the 2018 version?
My guess is that it won’t be as productive as it was in 2018. Georgia Tech is undergoing a significant shift in scheme from the option offense run by former coach Paul Johnson to the spread of offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. Players were recruited for that scheme and, on top of that, the numbers are a little out of whack given that the former offense used three running backs and two receivers on each play and the new scheme might use one running back, three receivers and a tight end. Beyond the change, Tech lost arguably the best player on the team (guard Parker Braun) to grad transfer, its two-year starting quarterback (TaQuon Marshall) has graduated, as has three-year starting wide receiver Brad Stewart. There are talented pieces back, but the adjustment and the losses make it hard to project that the offense can match the standards set by Johnson’s offenses.
What do you expect from the QB position in 2019?
Lucas Johnson was expected to be the No. 2 quarterback last season behind Marshall but missed the season with a foot injury in the preseason. He was considered to have a strong shot at the job this year, though, because he was thought to be the best passer in the group. Johnson took most of the snaps in the spring with the “A” offense and figures to remain the favorite to win the starting job this fall. Backups include Tobias Oliver, James Graham and incoming freshman Jordan Yates. Given the newness of the scheme, it won’t be a surprise for any of them to see playing time behind Johnson.
Patenaude strives for 50/50 balance in run/pass ratio, but isn’t beholden to it and plays to strengths. Given the number of solid running backs on the team and also the strong running games of the quarterbacks on the roster (including Johnson), it won’t be a surprise if the run/pass ratio leans more to the run.
How do you see the workload at RB being distributed?
Georgia Tech is deep at running back. Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard carried the ball a combined 215 times last season and are back. Christian Malloy showed promise in limited opportunities as he redshirted. Dontae Smith also performed well in the spring. And the roster will take on three running backs in the freshman class, including four-star prospect Jamious Griffin. Patenaude will try to rotate backs as much as possible, but there’s only so many carries to go around. It could go a lot of ways, but Mason and Griffin seem like the most likely candidates to get heavier workloads.
How does the offensive line compare to the 2018 group?
It’s difficult to make a comparison because the schemes and techniques are so different. The Yellow Jackets will bring back a lot of experience, notably offensive tackle Zach Quinney and guard Kenny Cooper (who played the past two seasons at a high level). Jared Southers came to Georgia Tech from Vanderbilt as a grad transfer and looked good in the spring. Jack DeFoor, who transferred last year from Ole Miss, looks like an answer at tackle, with Scott Morgan likely at center. In some ways, the new scheme is not as physically demanding as the old scheme, but it’s new and requires different skills than the last one. Also, there’s not a lot of depth here. There’s many question marks past the first five.
What do you think the distribution will be to the WR/TE's?
Tyler Davis arrived in January as a grad-transfer tight end from Connecticut and looked very much like he’ll be a valuable and important player for the Yellow Jackets. Jalen Camp and Malachi Carter figure to be starters at wide receiver. Camp is a returning starter who is good in the air and has a lot of strength. Carter came on last season as a freshman and performed well this spring. Behind them are players such as Adonicas Sanders and Stephen Dolphus. One player who could see a lot of action is early-enrollee freshman Ahmarean Brown at slot receiver. He was impressive in the spring and has speed, quickness and hands. Marquez Ezzard is a transfer from Miami who is hoping to receive a hardship waiver to play immediately. He could certainly get in the picture, also.
For our dynasty owners, who are some young players that stand out as future breakout performers?
Jamious Griffin at running back, Ahmarean Brown and Marquez Ezzard at wide receiver and Dylan Deveney at tight end. He likely won’t play this year, but Jordan Yates at quarterback has a chance to be a starter in 2020 and certainly in 2021.