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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

After winning nine games and beating Georgia on the road in Paul Johnson's first season, it would seem on the surface that Georgia Tech should be getting as much attention as Virginia Tech in the offseason and preseason. After all, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were technically Coastal Division co-champions in 2008.

The Jackets don't deserve it, though -- at least not yet.

That's because the difference is up front.

What separates Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech right now (in addition to the Hokies' 20-17 win last year in Blacksburg) is their offensive and defensive lines. Even though the Jackets had the No. 4 rushing offense in the country last year, they didn't have the best offensive line.

Progress was slow in that area this spring, as senior guard Cord Howard missed most of the spring, starting center Dan Voss missed all of the spring after shoulder surgery, and Nick Claytor, who started at tackle last year after David Brown went down with an injury, missed all of spring and had back surgery. And they've got to replace three of four starters on the defensive line. Derrick Morgan, though, is extremely talented and was overshadowed by his senior teammates last year.

In Blacksburg, the offensive line should finally be a strength, and the coaching staff seems excited about having more athletic players up front, many who were former tight ends. Defensive end is probably Bud Foster's biggest question mark heading into the summer, as there's just not a lot of depth there. What the Hokies don't have this year is Dustin Keys, and they needed him last year for the game-winning 21-yard field goal against Georgia Tech. (Well, they needed Keys and two costly 15-yard penalties on that drive.)

Both of these teams will be contending for the Coastal Division title again, but if Georgia Tech is going to improve upon last season, it's going to have to make significant strides this summer in the trenches -- something Virginia Tech began to do this spring.