2019 season: 3-9, 2-6 in the ACC (7th in the Coastal Division)
Head coach: Geoff Collins (2nd season)
Transitioning from one head coach to another is oftentimes difficult, and for Georgia Tech, it is no different. With second-year head coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets are still in the beginning of a multi-year process of matching personnel with a new coaching philosophy, one that will phase out the program's “flexbone” triple-option scheme it ran under long-time head coach Paul Johnson. Last year, the Georgia Tech offense threw the ball over twice as much as it did in 2018 while significantly cutting down on its option plays, a gut-wrenching change since the Yellow Jackets' top quarterbacks have been trained in the running game and their offensive line is considerably undersized. Never scoring more than 30 in a single afternoon, Georgia Tech suffered brutal losses to Temple and FCS visitor Citadel in September to go along with nearly uncontested matchups against powerhouse Clemson and rival Georgia.
James Graham, who took over as starting quarterback midway through the season, threw for just over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 45.1 percent of his pass attempts. The team finished last in completion percentage, contributing to the seventh-lowest scoring offense of any FBS team. One of the main struggles for the offense was putting extended drives together, as the Yellow Jackets punted after three plays on four out of every 10 possessions.
Graham, however, found his place in the offense late in the season against N.C. State, totaling over 100 yards through both the air and the ground and contributing four total touchdowns. As Graham and the passing game developed, wideout Ahmarean Brown transformed into a touchdown machine, grabbing seven of his 21 total catches for scores. If Graham can demonstrate leadership like he did in last year's N.C. State game throughout this season, the Georgia Tech offense has the potential to be dangerous this season.
Another bright spot on the offensive end comes out of the backfield. Junior running back Jordan Mason topped 100 yards three times last year en route to 899 total rushing yards and seven scores, including a 20-carry, 141-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Yellow Jackets' October win against a stingy Miami defense. As a centerpiece in a run-heavy offense, Mason looks to star as an experienced rusher.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tre Swilling, Charlie Thomas, Tariq Carpenter and Juanyeh Thomas lead a solid secondary. Though the group didn’t force many turnovers, they mostly kept opponents’ passing games at bay, surrendering just over 200 air yards per contest. Georgia Tech held Duke’s Quentin Harris to a modest 176 yards on 11-of-20 passing, and picked off Clemson’s perennial Heisman contender Trevor Lawrence twice. Where the team struggled mightily was stopping opposing rushers, as the Yellow Jackets allowed the 12th-most rushing yards by an FBS team and gave up a huge portion of first downs and touchdowns via the run. Led by sixth-year senior linebacker David Curry, this defensive group still has work to do to ensure opponents aren’t able to slice through for easy gains like last year.
An important step in improving the unit, especially the defensive line, comes with getting former Florida Gator Antonneous Clayton on the field after he sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. The former five-star recruit and powerful edge rusher hopes to break out for Georgia Tech after sitting on the sideline during much of his career in Gainesville, Fla.
After an abysmal season in which opponents outperformed them in nearly every statistical category, the Yellow Jackets will continue phasing out of the option offense and will serve as one of the weaker opponents Duke and the rest of the ACC will face. The best for this program is still waiting in the distant future.
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