2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-3 (t-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Tevin Washington* (987 yards)
Passing: Tevin Washington* (1,652 yards)
Receiving: Stephen Hill (820 yards)
Tackles: Julian Burnett (120)
Sacks: Jeremiah Attaochu (6)
Interceptions: Three players (3)
1. Tevin Washington is still the guy: Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson gave backup quarterbacks Synjyn Days and Vad Lee plenty of opportunities to challenge Washington during spring practice. Washington was the Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher and passer last season and makes pretty good decisions running Johnson’s triple-option spread offense. But Days is a more electrifying runner and Lee is a more polished passer. Neither one proved to be a better quarterback than Washington in the spring.
2. Offensive line is good: The Yellow Jackets bring back four starting offensive linemen, and it might be the deepest and most talented group in Johnson’s tenure at Tech. The only loss was Phil Smith, a two-year starter at right tackle who was dismissed from the team after being suspended twice for violations of team rules. He plans to transfer to Central Florida.
3. Shotgun: Johnson experimented with pistol and shotgun formations during the spring, which would add a new wrinkle to his triple-option spread offense. Days and Lee were really good running plays out of the formations, which will give opponents something else to think about this coming season.
1. Who’s going to catch the ball? It’s a good thing Tech doesn’t throw the football very much. The Yellow Jackets lost top receivers Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton, who combined for 45 catches and 1,083 yards. They were the only Tech receivers to catch a pass last season (running backs accounted for the rest of the team’s receptions). There wasn’t a receiver who really stepped up in the spring, but Tech’s coaches like the potential of Jeff Green and Darren Waller.
2. Special teams: The Yellow Jackets were so bad on special teams last season that Johnson hired David Walkosky as his team’s new special-teams coordinator. Walkosky, a former Canadian Football League assistant, is the first full-time special-teams coach Johnson has had at Tech. The Yellow Jackets struggled on field goals, punting and kickoff returns last season. Kicker Justin Moore remains a work in progress.
3. Defensive line: The Yellow Jackets are about to embark on their third season in defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. To this point, they haven’t had the kind of nose tackle a team really needs to flourish in a 3-4 alignment. Worse, end Jason Peters and tackle Logan Walls both departed. Tackles Shawn Green and T.J. Barnes showed improvement in the spring. Barnes, a 6-foot-7, 347-pound senior, has dropped 40 pounds, and coaches want him to lose about 15 more.