For head coach Chan Gailey and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, last year presented the best of seasons and the worst of seasons. The year included a 7-3 victory over Maryland and a 52-10 rout over Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl, a game that saw the Yellow Jackets set the school bowl record for points scored. Yet Georgia Tech struggled with consistency all season long. Despite their impressive wins, the Ramblin’ Wreck also lost 41-17 to Duke in Durham and suffered a 39-3 drubbing against Clemson. It was that sort of erratic play that led many to question the Yellow Jackets’ chances this year in the even more competitive ACC—Georgia Tech is eighth in the preseason poll. Yet the Jackets have many of the tools necessary to turn in their eighth consecutive winning season and become a force again in the ACC. Defensively, the Yellow Jackets return preseason all-Americans James Butler and Eric Henderson. Butler, one of the nation’s top free safeties, was also named to the preseason Thorpe Award watch list. The award is presented annually to the nation’s best college defensive back. Henderson, a defensive end, looks to build upon last season’s first-team all-ACC performance, where he notched an ACC-leading 11 sacks. He is on the Lombardi Award watch list for the nation’s top lineman. On the other side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets are solid at a number of skill positions. Former walk-on P.J. Daniels, who rushed for over 300 yards in the Yellow Jackets’ Humanitarian Bowl rout, returns for his junior season. Daniels rushed for 1,447 yards last year, a school record. Although the Yellow Jackets lose second-team All-ACC wideout Jonathan Smith, Nate Curry, Levon Thomas and Damarius Bilbo look to spearhead a relatively deep wide receiving corps. Additionally, Calvin Johnson, one of the nation’s top recruits last year, figures to add size to the receiving corps with his lanky 6-foot-4 frame. Starting quarterback Reggie Ball returns as well this season, albeit under a microscope. “We do have higher expectations for Reggie [Ball] this year,” Gailey said. “He has some talent, which is obvious, but he has some improving to do. He has the opportunity to be a very good quarterback because he has talent, he knows the game and he's a great competitor.” Most of the Yellow Jackets’ problems will lie on offense, where the team must address significant questions about its offensive line. Three out of five starters return, but the Jackets must replace All-ACC center Hugh Reilly and NFL draft pick Nat Dorsey.
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