ACC: Julian Burnett

Opening camp: Georgia Tech

August, 1, 2012
As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Andrea Adelson and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. Next up to open camp …

School: Georgia Tech

Start date: Friday

Predicted finish at media days: Second in the Coastal Division

Biggest storyline: Year 3 under Al Groh. Could this finally be the year the defense gets off the field? Georgia Tech was No. 83 in the country last year in third-down defense and No. 60 in scoring defense. The Jackets should see some significant progress, considering it is the third year in Groh’s 3-4 scheme and the players are familiar with the playbook and what Groh expects of them. Georgia Tech will be missing its leading tackler in Julian Burnett, but Jeremiah Attaochu is one of the better linebackers in the ACC. The secondary is also an experienced group, but Georgia Tech has to replace two of three starters up front. The defense has some questions on its depth chart, but expectations are still higher for Groh’s group.

Biggest position battle: Defensive end. Izaan Cross is a three-year starter, but that’s about all that is certain right now. Emmanuel Dieke and Euclid Cummings were both dead-even on the depth chart following spring practices. Cummings had a good spring, and Dieke is a good pass-rusher at 6-foot-6, 270 pounds. Both will likely end up playing a lot. A fourth player, Chris Crenshaw, will also be pushing for playing time.

Who needs to step up: The receivers. None of them have ever caught a pass in a game, and Georgia Tech needs to improve its passing efficiency this fall. Jeff Greene and Darren Waller are two sophomores who played sparingly last year and should have increased roles. Chris Jackson, a former transfer from Alabama, will also see his first playing time. Jeremy Moore, who has battled injuries throughout his career, should also get more meaningful snaps this year.

Opening camp

One good reason: Georgia Tech

July, 6, 2012

We’re taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

Georgia Tech will win the ACC: Coach Paul Johnson. He’s smug. He’s smart. He can make you feel an inch big. But he’s also a helluva coach, whether you like his offense or not (I like it). Johnson is the kind of guy you should take to Vegas with you -- he knows when to gamble, and you certainly don’t want to bet against him. Especially on, say, fourth-and-1. Say what you will about his recruiting classes (they’re average), but right now Georgia Tech has one of the best offensive lines the program has seen since Johnson was hired. It’s kinda sorta important for a team that runs the ball as much as the Jackets do. Over the past four years, Georgia Tech’s spread option offense has led the nation in rushing yards per game. During that span, the program has finished no less than fourth in any given year in rushing offense. Johnson has already been named the ACC’s Coach of the Year twice. He’s 33-19 in four years at Georgia Tech. His spread option offense has worked and will continue to work at the BCS level.

Why it won’t: Because it lacks a championship-caliber defense. Expectations are higher for Georgia Tech’s defense in Year 3 under coordinator Al Groh, but they are also tempered a bit because the Jackets have only one starter returning on the defensive line. Senior defensive end Izaan Cross returns for his fourth season as a starter, but in the 3-4 scheme, he’s going to need some help up front. Georgia Tech needs to find a true nose tackle, and T.J. Barnes so far is the leading candidate. Georgia Tech’s defense will also miss injured senior linebacker Julian Burnett, who led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons and finished fifth in the ACC last year with 120. He suffered a neck injury in the Sun Bowl that could end his career. The Jackets’ defense has been average under Groh, and it’s going to need to be better than that this year if Georgia Tech wants to unseat the Hokies as Coastal Division champs. Right now, the biggest difference between those two teams is Virginia Tech’s loaded defense.

More in this series

Friday mailblog

June, 1, 2012
Sometimes I get questions. Other times, my mailbag is there for you to vent ...

Christopher Cothran in Jupiter, FL writes: Heather, You need to tell these guys to stop talking about the Big XII - II and get them to focus on winning football games. If the ACC "Football" Schools, FSU, Clemson, VT, Miami, and GT start winning games, or at least being competitive, we will be a respected conference. I think that the ACC has a rich history, and a foundation that can be built upon. Thank you for the continued coverage of the ACC here at ESPN. CGCClemson Class of '00

HD: Couldn't agree more, CC. We wouldn't even be having these conversations if the ACC wasn't 2-13 in its BCS bowl and it was a factor in the national title race.

Mike in State College, PA writes: Heather, the series is called "Most Important Game," not "Most Difficult Game." Therefore, having time to prepare, being home or away, that stuff doesn't matter. It's the game that is most important to win in order to accomplish the team goals. Therefore, Virginia Tech's should be Georgia Tech. In order to win the Coastal, they are going to have to beat Georgia Tech. It is difficult to envision a scenario where VT loses to GT and still wins the Coastal. However, they could easily lose to FSU or Clemson, since they are out of division opponents, and still win the Coastal. Therefore, Virginia Tech's most important game is Georgia Tech. More realistically, their most important game is the ACC championship game. We all know they will be there. They always are.

HD: Don't you have a new coach to worry about up there in HV? Yes, I agree that the Georgia Tech game is going to be of the utmost importance to the Hokies, but in the ACC, you can usually get away with losing a game and still play for the ACC title. Heck, sometimes you can even lose THREE games and still get there. The deeper into the schedule, the more important and meaningful the games are, and for the Hokies, that game at Clemson will help determine their place in the standings, even though it's not a divisional game. If the season opener determined the winner, why play the rest of the schedule? It might turn out that way, but it's far too early in the season to crown anybody Coastal king.

McKinley in Atlanta, Georgia writes: Hey, Heather! I'm a huge Jackets fan, and I know our defense has been down for the past few years compared to when we had guys like Wimbush and Daryl Smith in there in the pre-Paul Johnson era. Do you think we'll be able to get the D back on track this year to allow us to take that next step?

HD: I think it all depends on how the guys up front fare, McKinley. They've got to replace two of three starters. I think Georgia Tech fans should EXPECT more from the defense in Al Groh's third season, as they've got seven starters back. The linebackers will miss Julian Burnett, who led the team in tackling last year, but they've still got several athletic guys who can make plays. The DBs should also be much better.
Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and receiver Josh Gehres will miss the remainder of spring practices because of knee injuries.

"He had an MCL tear, slight meniscus tear," coach Jimbo Fisher said of Jernigan, who injured his knee Saturday. "He'll be out for about 4-6 weeks and he'll be fine. He'll miss the rest of spring practice, but he's fine. It's relieving. After I saw it on film, I didn't feel as bad. It was a deal where someone fell from behind."

Gehres slightly tore his MCL. The junior missed most of last season with a knee injury, playing in just two games and catching zero passes.

Jernigan played in all 13 games last season as a true freshman, recording 30 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Nearly five hours north, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson told reporters that linebacker Julian Burnett will likely miss the upcoming season with a neck injury. Mark Schlabach has the details here.

Q&A: GT safety Isaiah Johnson

March, 26, 2012
Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson will be a returning starter in a veteran secondary for the Jackets this spring. Last year, he was the team's second-leading tackler with 78, had three tackles for loss, one sack and three interceptions. He also had two fumble recoveries. I spoke with Johnson to get his take on the defense and the program heading into spring practices, which begin today. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What do you think is going to be the biggest strength for the defense this year?

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Johnson
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireGeorgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson said he's ready to take on a new defensive system despite missing spring workouts.
Isaiah Johnson: I would say the team bond. This is our third year under coach [Al] Groh’s defense. We’re getting used to it, we’re getting used to each other’s abilities, what our strengths are, and just coming together as a unit and getting tight, making more plays.

How do you expect your role to change, if at all?

IJ: I feel my role will change in that I need to become more vocal as far as my leadership off the field, pushing my players so we can have a better bondage and build the fire up. Louis Young, so far, he’s the one doing it. He’s the one coming in, stepping up, taking on that role. I’m also along with him trying to build that fire so we can stay amped.

What do you feel like you guys were missing in the second half of the season last year?

IJ: Let me think about this a second. Focus. I would say focus. We lost our focus a little bit. In the first half we did good. In the second half we were just losing it. That’s one thing, like I was saying with Louis and how he’s keeping everybody amped. We didn’t have that. We didn’t have that one to keep everybody amped. Actually, Julian Burnett, he was the one getting everybody amped but we didn’t have any other ones to build that fire. We became more lax and we weren’t pushing ourselves.

Do you feel like the defense made the strides you wanted to last year?

IJ: I feel like we improved from the past season, but there’s always a need for improvement and I feel like we shouldn’t be satisfied with our performance from last year. We made plays, but there’s always the need for improvement. We just can’t be proud of ourselves for having a winning season. Coming into this season, we need to do better, so no, I’m not proud of last season’s performance.

Overall, what do you think the expectations should be for Georgia Tech as far as the Coastal Division race? What do you think you guys are capable of this year?

IJ: We’re capable of winning the division. I see us taking over the division and just coming back, strapping up our helmets and laying people out. We’re going to have a lot of headhunters this season. We’re just ready to play. Even after this past game against Utah, we weren’t ready to stop even though that was a bad outcome. We’re ready.

Coastal Division spring previews

February, 14, 2012

Spring practice start date: Feb. 22
Spring game: March 31

What to watch:
  • The defense in the second season under coordinator Jim Knowles. The Blue Devils should be more comfortable in the 4-2-5 alignment that uses three safeties, but they lost their top safety, Matt Daniels. Will the comfort level of the rest of the defense help compensate for the departure of the team’s top defensive playmaker? More players have a better understanding of the system and philosophy.
  • The health of the team. For Duke to stand a chance at reaching a bowl game, it must have its top players healthy. Guys like defensive end Kenny Anunike, linebacker Kelby Brown and safety Lee Butler have all proved they can make plays, but how quickly will they regain their form?
  • The running game. The offensive line should be deeper, more athletic and more competitive than in past years, and the running game should follow suit. Two of the highest-rated recruits in Duke’s 2012 class were running backs, but will the Blue Devils have to wait until summer camp to see a difference?

Spring practice start date: March 26
Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition. There’s no question that Tevin Washington is the undisputed starter heading into the spring, but coach Paul Johnson has said he expects backups Vad Lee and Synjyn Days to push Washington. Finding the No. 2 will be a priority this offseason, but will either play well enough to unseat Washington?
  • The status of LB Julian Burnett. He has been the Jackets’ leading tackler, but he also has a medical condition or injury that Johnson won’t comment on publicly. Johnson has said he’ll leave it up to Burnett, but signs are pointing toward his inability to play.
  • The defensive progress. Some Georgia Tech fans were expecting more in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and Johnson is also among those hoping to see more progress this offseason. Groh has to replace two of three starters on the defensive line.

Spring practice start date: March 3
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • The offensive overhaul. The coordinator is the same; it’s the players who will change. How do you replace eight starters on offense? How will the young players contribute and where? The Canes need to replace their leading rusher from a year ago, Lamar Miller, and their starting quarterback, Jacory Harris.
  • The quarterback competition. Is Stephen Morris ready to take over the offense, or will Ryan Williams, Gray Crow or Preston Dewey win the job from him? Morris is the most experienced quarterback in the system, but Williams probably would have pushed Harris for the starting job last year if he didn’t have to sit out for a season per NCAA transfer rules.
  • The new leader on defense. Miami will lose five starters on defense, but none of them had quite the leadership impact as linebacker Sean Spence. Who will be the new coach on the field for the Canes, not to mention compensate for the loss of Spence’s playmaking abilities?

Spring practice start date: March 14
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Buying in. It shouldn’t take much longer than spring practice to know whether the Tar Heels have bought in to first-year coach Larry Fedora, his staff and the changes they plan to make. Fedora has said he’s changing just about everything within the program, including offensive and defensive schemes.
  • How the defense will look in the new scheme with new faces. UNC will switch to a 4-2-5 scheme, which will allow it to have multiple fronts and looks and go from four down linemen to three without subs. The Heels will need more defensive backs and more hybrid players who can play linebacker/safety and linebacker/defensive end. Will they find them this spring?
  • An exciting offense. As good as the offensive line was last season, it should be even better this season with four starters returning and untapped potential at center. And if quarterback Bryn Renner had a 3,000-yard, record-setting season with bone spurs in his ankle, how much better can he be after his surgery?

Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Kicking competitions. They’re all gone -- the placekicker, punter and kickoff specialist. When you lose all three of them, it’s a question mark. The Hoos have some options but no answers.
  • Defensive replacements. Virginia has to replace seven starters on defense, including veterans like defensive end Cam Johnson and cornerback Chase Minnifield. Two of the three starting linebackers return, but the secondary is filled with guys who played sparingly or redshirted last year.
  • The next go-to receiver. Virginia has several young, talented receivers, but which one of them will emerge as the go-to player for quarterback Michael Rocco? Kris Burd leaves the biggest shoes to fill on the offense.

Spring practice start date: March 28
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Life without David Wilson. Virginia Tech begins the spring in search of its next great running back, as Wilson left early for the NFL draft, and his backup, Josh Oglesby, has graduated. True freshman J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Michael Holmes will be the top two options, as Tony Gregory will be out to recover from surgery on his knee.
  • New-look offensive line. Adding to the offensive uncertainty is the fact that Virginia Tech must replace four starters on the offensive line. All four were redshirt seniors, and there are likely to be growing pains while trying to compensate for the loss of their leadership and knowledge.
  • Secondary replacements. The Hokies will be challenged to find replacements for Jayron Hosley and Eddie Whitley in the secondary. Whitley had played cornerback, rover, outside linebacker and free safety during his career. Hosley, who led the nation in interceptions in 2010, decided to leave early for the NFL draft.

Season wrap: Georgia Tech

December, 7, 2011

Record: 8-4, 5-3 ACC

Overview: Georgia Tech was one of the ACC’s biggest surprises in the first half of the season, as the Jackets zipped off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 1966 and looked like one of the top teams in the country. It was a quick, impressive turnaround after a 6-7 finish in 2010, as Georgia Tech was ranked No. 13 in the country and bowl eligible by Oct. 8. The Yellow Jackets averaged almost 52 points in their first five wins and Paul Johnson’s offense seemed unstoppable under quarterback Tevin Washington, who had an inconsistent offseason. It looked like Georgia Tech and Clemson were headed for a battle of unbeatens, but the Yellow Jackets were tripped up in back-to-back road losses to Virginia and Miami. Georgia Tech couldn’t put back-to-back wins together again, and lost four of its last six games, including to rival Georgia.

Georgia Tech had the No. 3 rushing offense in the country, but it wasn’t enough to get back into the ACC race. Despite Washington’s success in the passing game early, the Yellow Jackets weren’t as productive as they needed to be down the stretch, and the triple option stuttered against Virginia and Miami. The defense was also average in the second season under coordinator Al Groh, and it allowed at least 30 points in each of its last two losses. Statistically, though, the defense improved its national ranking in every category.

The Yellow Jackets were able to derail Clemson’s perfect season, though, with a 31-17 upset of the then-ranked No. 5 Tigers. With only 10 scholarship seniors on the roster, it was a young team and that showed at times. Georgia Tech had 18 turnovers that resulted in 52 points for opponents, but the Jackets actually scored more (56 points) off their opponents’ mistakes. Georgia Tech was picked by the media to finish fourth in the Coastal Division this year, but the Jackets tied Virginia for a second-place finish.

Offensive MVP: RB Orwin Smith. He averages 10.3 yards per carry and 23.5 yards per reception. Smith has 11 rushing touchdowns on just 60 carries. He has more than 1,200 all-purpose yards. Against Kansas, he broke a school-record with the longest rush from scrimmage (95 yards) and he rushed and received for more than 100 yards.

Defensive MVP: LB Julian Burnett. His 113 tackles this season rank fifth in the ACC, 32nd nationally and he has 44 more tackles than any of his teammates. Burnett has produced five double-digit tackle games, he leads the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and he has forced and recovered fumbles.

Turning point: The road losses to Virginia and Miami. Georgia Tech wasn’t out of the Coastal Division race until it lost to Virginia Tech, but these back-to-back losses brought Georgia Tech’s momentum to a screeching halt. Georgia Tech combined for six turnovers in those two games, and the offense was stifled.

What’s next: Georgia Tech will face Utah in the Hyundai Sun Bowl and will try to snap a six-game losing streak in bowl games. The Jackets will face the No. 7 rushing defense in the country, and once again, arguments will surface about whether Johnson’s offense is less effective when opponents have more than a week to prepare for it.

ACSMA announces all-conference team

November, 28, 2011
The 2011 All-ACC football team, as voted on by 45 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, was released on Monday. A first-team vote was worth two points and second-team vote one. Unanimous selections are marked with an asterisk. Disclaimer: I did not vote for this team. The only all-conference team I participate in is the one I compile for, which hasn't been released yet. Here is the team as voted on by the members of ACSMA:



QB-Tajh Boyd, Clemson (71)

RB-David Wilson, Virginia Tech (90)*

RB-Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (66)

WR-Sammy Watkins, Clemson (86)

WR-Chris Givens, Wake Forest (69)

OT-Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (86)

OT-Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (46)

OG-Austin Pasztor, Virginia (49)

OG-Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (45)

C-Dalton Freeman, Clemson (44)

TE-Dwayne Allen, Clemson (78)

K-Dustin Hopkins, Florida State (75)

Spec.- T.J. Graham, NC State (45)


DE-Andre Branch, Clemson (79)

DE-Quinton Coples, North Carolina (64)

DT-Joe Vellano, Maryland (68)

DT-Matt Conrath, Virginia (55)

LB-Luke Kuechly, Boston College (90)*

LB-Sean Spence, Miami (82)

LB-Zach Brown, North Carolina (48)

CB-David Amerson, NC State (86)

CB-Chase Minnifield, Virginia (47)

S-Matt Daniels, Duke (80)

S-Josh Bush, Wake Forest (41)

P-Shawn Powell, Florida State (85)



QB-Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (49)

WR-Dwight Jones, North Carolina (58)

WR-Conner Vernon, Duke (34)

RB-Lamar Miller, Miami (62)

RB-Andre Ellington, Clemson (26)

OT-Oday Aboushi, Virginia (43)

OT-James Hurst, North Carolina (30)

OG-Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (35)

OG-Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (31)

OG-Joe Looney, Wake Forest (31)

C-Tyler Horn, Miami (32)

TE-George Bryan, NC State (29)

K-Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson (37)

Spec.-Sammy Watkins, Clemson (33)


DE-Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (51)

DE-James Gayle, Virginia Tech (25)

DT-Brandon Thompson, Clemson (43)

DT-Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest (30)

LB-Terrell Manning, NC State (44)

LB-Julian Burnett, Georgia Tech (34)

LB-Steve Greer, Virginia (23)

CB-Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (36)

CB-Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (34)

S-Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech (33)

S-Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (23)

P-Alex King, Duke (22)

ACC power rankings: Week 14

November, 28, 2011
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

The regular season is over, and there are only two teams who still have a chance to make a statement this week, as Clemson and Virginia Tech will face each other in Saturday's ACC championship game. Clemson had the upper hand earlier this season in a 23-3 win over the Hokies, but much has changed since then. Including who is No. 1 ...

1. Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) – With their convincing win over rival Virginia on Saturday, the Hokies clinched the Coastal Division title and they also earned 11 wins during the regular season for only the second time in school history. The Hokies are ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS standings heading into the championship game, and they’ve come a long way since their 23-3 loss to Clemson during the regular season.

2. Clemson (9-3, 6-2 ACC; LW: No. 2) – The Tigers dropped to No. 20 in the BCS standings following their third straight loss to rival South Carolina this past weekend. Clemson has faltered down the stretch, losing three of their final four games, but this is the second time in three years the Tigers have won the Atlantic Division.

3. Virginia (8-4, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 3) – The Cavaliers were outplayed in every phase of the game against Virginia Tech, but this season should still be considered a success under coach Mike London. The Hoos are bowl bound for the first time since 2007, and they beat both Florida State and Miami during a four-game winning streak.

4. Florida State (8-4, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 4) – Does this eight-win season feel more like a six-win season to anyone else? The Noles have been flat offensively in recent weeks, and they lost the games that mattered most this season. FSU is likely bound for Champs Sports Bowl, but will the Noles remember to take their offense with them?

5. Georgia Tech (8-4, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 5) – The 6-0 start to this season was too good to be true, as Georgia Tech went 1-2 against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia. Georgia’s defense smothered the Jackets, who were held to 79 rushing yards in the second half. Quarterback Tevin Washington threw two interceptions and linebacker Julian Burnett said the team is “tired of being the little brothers in the state.”

6. Wake Forest (6-6, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 6) – The Deacs played like they had their bowl eligibility all wrapped up, and Vanderbilt played like it was their Super Bowl in a 41-7 win. The Commodores became bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, and the Deacs allowed 481 yards of total offense.

7. NC State (7-5, 4-4 ACC; LW: No. 7) – Unbelievable. NC state was trailing 41-14 with six minutes left in the third quarter and came back to beat Maryland 56-41. It was the second-biggest comeback in ACC history, and the Wolfpack became bowl eligible with the win. It was a remarkable way to finish the season.

8. Miami (6-6, 3-5 ACC; LW: No. 8) – Ugh. The senior class closed its chapter with a home loss to a woeful Boston College team, and quarterback Jacory Harris threw a forgettable four picks. It was a disappointing finish for the recruiting class of 2008, which never lived up to the hype it entered with, but a new contract extension for coach Al Golden assured fans recruiting will continue under his watch.

9. North Carolina (7-5, 3-5 ACC; LW: No. 9) – The Tar Heels continue to be a more physical team than rival Duke, and it showed up front on Saturday, as the offensive line paved the way for 508 total yards. UNC beat Duke for the eighth straight year and is one win away from matching its eight-win ceiling under former coach Butch Davis.

10. Boston College (4-8, 3-5 ACC; LW: No. 10) – It was an impressive effort in the win over Miami, and the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for winning three of their last five after starting the season 1-6. There is no bowl game, but there is some positive momentum to build off of heading into the offseason. The question is whether any staff or personnel changes will be made.

11. Duke (3-9, 1-7 ACC; LW: No. 11) – It’s an all-too-familiar storyline for the Blue Devils, who finished the season with seven straight losses. The defense remains a question heading into the offseason, and recruiting must improve if Duke is going to take the next step under coach David Cutcliffe.

12. Maryland (2-10, 1-7 ACC; LW: No. 12) – The Terps tanked under first-year coach Randy Edsall. From a nine-win season to a two-win season that was capped off by Saturday’s meltdown at NC State, it should be a relief to everyone that the season is over in College Park. Edsall is locked into a lucrative contract, but it will be interesting to see how much turnover there is on the roster and if any staff changes are made.

Midseason report: Georgia Tech

October, 11, 2011

Record: 6-0, 3-0 ACC

This team has come a long way in a short amount of time. Heading into this season, there was some uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position and how long Tevin Washington would hold onto the starting job. Since summer camp, not only has Washington proven to be effective, but he has also shown he’s a better passer than his predecessor, Joshua Nesbitt. A manageable nonconference schedule helped inflate the Yellow Jackets’ September statistics, and they’ve been humbled by league defenses, but Georgia Tech continues to find a way to win and enters the midpoint of the season at 6-0 for the first time since 1966. They’re in sole possession of first place in the Coastal Division, undefeated at home, and one of the first teams in the country to become bowl-eligible. Georgia Tech, which was picked by the media to finish in fourth place in the Coastal Division, has far exceeded expectations. Unlike in years past, there’s not really one superstar on this team. Instead, it’s been a group effort that Washington has highlighted. Coach Paul Johnson has said repeatedly there is still plenty of work to do, and the defense has been average at best in the second season under coordinator Al Groh. The toughest tests still lie ahead with Clemson, Virginia Tech and Georgia.

Offensive MVP: QB Tevin Washington: His efficiency as a passer and his ability to manage the game are a big reason Georgia Tech is 6-0 and No. 4 in the country in total offense. Tech isn't throwing more often this season, but Washington has thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has also added six rushing touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: ILB Julian Burnett: Paul Johnson has talked about the positive leadership Georgia Tech is receiving this year and Burnett is a part of that. Out of three co-captains, he is the only underclassmen voted by his teammates. On the field, Burnett is on pace to lead the Yellow Jackets in tackles for the second straight year. With 58 tackles, he has 28 more than any player on the team. He also has three tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.

Summer summary: Georgia Tech

August, 24, 2011
Consider this series your “while-you-were-out” catch-up on the highlights of summer camp for each school in the ACC. Next up, Georgia Tech:

  • Coach Paul Johnson has squashed any notion of a quarterback competition, as Tevin Washington has earned the right to start. But … Synjyn Days and Vad Lee have been right behind him all month and all three could play. It will be interesting to see how Johnson handles their snaps during the season.
  • The B-Back position -- which produced 1,300-yard rushers in 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- remains up for grabs. It looked like senior Preston Lyons could be the starter, but former quarterback David Sims has also made a case, and most within the program think redshirt freshman Charles Perkins is the most talented. It’s another good position battle that should continue to play out into the season.
  • While senior Tyler Melton and junior Daniel McKayhan have been out with nagging injuries, true freshman Jeff Greene looks like he may actually get the starting nod at wide receiver.
  • Defensively, the jury is still out. The offense had its way with the defense in practice the past week. Julian Burnett, Jeremiah Attaoachu, Louis Young and Izaan Cross are all young, very talented players, but whether Georgia Tech gets a pass rush this year remains to be seen.
Most notable injuries: Safety Fred Holton's torn Achilles will likely sideline him for the year. He was competing for a starting job, but more likely the first DB off the bench. Backup guard J.C. Lanier has a stress fracture and is out four to five more weeks. A-back B.J. Bostic has an undisclosed arm injury that will keep him out four weeks.

Ranking the ACC's linebackers

June, 30, 2011
Another impossible task ...

1. Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He led the nation in tackles (14.1) and solo tackles per game. He is the active career leading tackler in the nation with 13.1 tackes in 26 career starts. He has an FBS best streak of 22 games with at least 10 tackles.

[+] EnlargeSean Spence
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireMiami linebacker Sean Spence had 110 tackles last season.
2. Sean Spence, Miami: He had 110 tackles last season, including 16 for loss. He was the 2008 ACC defensive Rookie of the Year but took a step back in 2009 because of injuries.

3. Kenny Tate, Maryland: He made the move to linebacker this spring under coach Randy Edsall, and will play a hybrid role. He had 100 tackles last year as a safety, more total tackles than any other defensive back in the ACC. He also had 8.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and four pass deflections.

4. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: He led the Hokies in tackles last season with 91. He started all 14 games and led the team in TFLs (15.5), was second with six quarterback sacks and also had four pass breakups and eight quarterback hurries.

5. Nigel Bradham, Florida State: He led FSU last season with 98 tackles, five sacks and 5.5 TFLs. He also had five pass breakups, one forced fumble and blocked one kick.

6. Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest: The pass-rusher moved to outside linebacker when Wake changed to a 3-4 defense last fall. He led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He has 24 career TFLs, the third-highest of any returning ACC defender.

7. Terrell Manning, NC State: He finished last season with 75 tackles, including 10.5 TFLs and 4.5 quarterback sacks. He also had one interception, three pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

8. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College: He earned first-team FWAA freshman All-American honors after averaging 7.2 tackles per game as a rookie (93 total). He was the second-leading freshman tackler in the country last season and ranked ninth overall in the ACC. He also had three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

9. Demetrius Hartsfield, Maryland: He was the Terps’ third-leading tackler last season with 87, including 5.5 TFLs. He also had an interception, two pass deflections and a fumble recovery.

10. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina: He was the leading tackler last season with 74 and has 119 career tackles in 20 starts. Since he joined the starting lineup, UNC opponents have been held to 104.8 rushing yards per game. He also has two interceptions, seven passes defended and four quarterback hurries.

You are going to argue about this. How do I know? Because I'm still arguing with myself over it ...

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
Michael Tureski/Icon SMILuke Kuechly leads a deep group of Boston College linebackers.
1. Boston College: Luke Kuechly is one of the best in the country, but he’s not alone. The Eagles also have Kevin Pierre-Louis, who ranked second nationally among all freshmen in tackles per game last season with 7.15 -- ninth in the ACC. It won’t be easy to replace Mark Herzlich, on or off the field, but Steele Divitto played in 11 games last season, and Nick Clancy and Will Thompson both saw time on the second team.

2. Florida State: The Noles had to replace two starters, including Kendall Smith, the team’s second-leading tackler, last season, and Mister Alexander, but the upcoming talent could be even better. Nigel Bradham led the team with 98 tackles and five pass breakups last season, and Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, Telvin Smith and Vince Williams will also be competing for playing time.

3. Miami: Sean Spence, who has 30 career starts, should be one of the best in the country, and Ramon Buchanon, another senior, also returns. The Canes have five other linebackers with experience in Kelvin Cain, who started seven games, Jordan Futch, who had a great spring and will see the field, Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green and C.J. Holton.

4. North Carolina: Kevin Reddick, who led the Tar Heels with 74 tackles last season, returns for his third season as starter. Zach Brown is also a returning starter with game-changing capabilities, and there is plenty of depth with Dion Guy, Darius Lipford, Ebele Okakpu and Herman Davidson. Junior college transfer Fabby Desir could also have an impact.

5. NC State: Audie Cole and Terrell Manning have combined for 39 career starts, and Cole fared well this spring moving to the middle to replace Nate Irving. With the return of Sterling Lucas, Dwayne Maddox and Colby Jackson, there is plenty of experience, but not quite as much depth as some other programs.

6. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return both starters in Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett. There is no shortage of depth with Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Brandon Watts, Albert Rocker, Malcolm Munroe and Daniel Drummond.

7. Clemson: This group has a lot of potential, especially if true freshmen Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony make an immediate impact. There’s no question they’ll be given a chance, but the Tigers already have a good group with Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard.

8. Virginia Tech: It seems like this rotation has been in flux for a while now. The Hokies’ leading tackler returns in Bruce Taylor, Barquell Rivers had 96 tackles as a starter in 2009 but was injured last season, and there are several young players adding to the competition. Chase Williams, Tariq Edwards, Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler are only a few. Whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will have to earn his spot back over Alonzo Tweedy, Dominique Patterson and Nick Dew.

9. Maryland: The Terps were hit hard here with the losses of Alex Wujciak (381 career tackles) and Adrian Moten (14.5 career sacks). Demetrius Hartsfield returns with 20 career starts, and there are four lettermen returning including Darin Drakeford, Isaiah Ross, David Mackall and Bradley Johnson.

10. Wake Forest: Kyle Wilber’s move to outside linebacker will give this position a boost, as he led the Deacs with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season. His backup is Gelo Orange (22 tackles). The Deacs also have Tristan Dorty, Joey Ehrmann, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Riley Haynes and Justin Jackson.

11. Virginia: Starters LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott both return, but neither has started more than 11 career games. Junior Steve Greer has prior starting experience but played mainly as a reserve last season. Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle and LoVante Battle are also in the mix for playing time.

12. Duke: Kelby Brown is the lone returning starter, but he’s a promising young player who led the nation last season as a freshman in fumbles recovered. He missed spring ball while recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to start with Tyree Glover or Kevin Rojas.

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Miami Hurricanes, ACC, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Vince Williams, Kevin Reddick, Barquell RIvers, Dion Guy, Sterling Lucas, Herman Davidson, Tristan Dorty, Steven Sylvester, Demetrius Hartsfield, David Mackall, Jordan Futch, Adrian Moten, Ramon Buchanon, Terrell Manning, Tariq Edwards, Sean Spence, Malcolm Munroe, Kendall Smith, Nigel Bradham, Darin Drakeford, Alonzo Tweedy, Bruce Taylor, Zach Brown, Gelo Orange, Nate Irving, Dwayne Maddox, Steve Greer, Audie Cole, Nick Clancy, Mark Herzlich, C.J. Holton, Colby Jackson, Alex Wujciak, Will Thompson, Tyree Glover, Luke Kuechly, Shayon Green, Ausar Walcott, Julian Burnett, LaRoy Reynolds, Joey Ehrmann, Jeff Luc, Christian Jones, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Daniel Drummond, Kevin Rojas, Corico Hawkins, Brandon Watts, Nick Dew, LoVante Battle, Quandon Christian, Justin Jackson, Chase Williams, Jonathan Willard, Telvion Clark, Kelvin Cain, Riley Haynes, Darius Lipford, Mister Alexander, Kelby Brown, Jack Tyler, Telvin Smith, Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward, Fabby Desir, Dominique Patterson, 2011 ACC position rankings, 2011 ACC summer position rankings, Bradley Johnson, Steele Divitto, Tyrone Cornelius, Ebele Okakpu, Kyle Wisber, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Albert Rocker, Isiah Ross, Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle

Hope and concern: Georgia Tech

June, 1, 2011
The hope and concern series continues today with Georgia Tech:

Biggest reason for hope: Improved defense

Despite the fact that the Yellow Jackets have to replace six starters on defense, Georgia Tech should be better in the second season under coordinator Al Groh. The defense had the edge on the offense almost all spring, and it was evident the players are more comfortable in the 3-4 scheme and have a better understanding of what Groh expects from them. Six of the top nine tacklers must be replaced, along with all four starters in the secondary, but both starting defensive ends return in Jason Peters and Izaan Cross. Linebacker Julian Burnett was the team’s leading tackler a year ago with 89 stops, and the overhaul in the secondary should be tempered by several players who have seen significant playing time, like cornerback Rashaad Reid, who started 14 games in 2008 and 2009.

Biggest reason for concern: The quarterback position

The fact that Synjyn Days closed the competition on Tevin Washington in the spring game should be a bit unsettling to Georgia Tech fans. Not because Days isn’t capable of running the offense, but because Washington has yet to truly establish himself as the leader of the offense. There’s no question it’s his job to lose, but the problem is, he could actually lose it if he doesn’t make better decisions in summer camp. Of course, the offensive line could do a better job of helping him out, and it should be noted that overall, Washington was the most consistent quarterback this spring.

More in this series:

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 5, 2011

2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense 5

Top returners

WR Stephen Hill, AB Roddy Jones, AB Orwin Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, DE Jason Peters, DT Logan Walls, OLB Steven Sylvester, ILB Julian Burnett, OG Will Jackson, DE Izaan Cross

Key losses

QB Joshua Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, C Sean Bedford, CB Dominique Reese, CB Mario Butler, ILB Brad Jefferson, S Jerrard Tarrant, PK Scott Blair

2011 Schedule

Sept. 1 Western Carolina

Sept. 10 at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 17 Kansas

Sept. 24 North Carolina

Oct. 1 at NC State

Oct. 8 Maryland

Oct. 15 at Virginia

Oct. 22 at Miami

Oct. 29 Clemson

Nov. 5 Open

Nov. 10 Virginia Tech

Nov. 19 at Duke

Nov. 26 Georgia

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Allen (1,316 yards)

Passing:Nesbitt (674 yds)

Receiving: Hill* (291 yds)

Tackles: Burnett (89)

Sacks: Jefferson (4)

Interceptions:Tarrant (3)

Spring answers

1. A new attitude. There were some disgruntled players on the roster last year, but that disenchantment has been replaced by charismatic leaders like Jason Peters and Roddy Jones. The sense of complacency has been replaced by a stronger work ethic, as the players now realize that ACC championships don’t come without offseason dedication.

2. An improved defense. The Jackets aren’t exactly going to pitch shutouts, but despite losing six starters, the defense had a good spring. The entire front seven had the advantage for most of the spring, all three starters return on the defensive line, and the linebackers showed progress. It was obvious the players are more comfortable in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme.

3. A-back is a strength.Georgia Tech has at least six players who can play the position, including Jones, a senior leader, Orwin Smith, a big-play candidate, and Embry Peeples, who may be one of the best receivers on the team. The Jackets are also confident in B.J. Bostic, who impressed Johnson as a true freshman. Those four players combined to run for 1,283 yards last year, and Georgia Tech could get additional yardage from redshirt freshman Tony Zenon, who also had a good spring.

Fall questions

1. Will Tevin Washington keep his job?Washington still has the edge and is the starter heading into summer camp, but there are some lingering questions after his performance in the spring game. He threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles, was sacked three times and completed 10 of 26 passes. Backup Synjyn Days ran for 112 yards and led his team to a 21-7 win. Add to the mix a pair of true freshmen, including highly-touted Vad Lee, and it could make for an interesting August.

2. Will the offensive line be better?It’s not for a lack of experience -- Omoregie Uzzi was a second-team all-conference lineman last year, Phil Smith is a returning starting tackle and sophomore guard Will Jackson has nine career starts. It’s simply that the group didn’t play very well this spring and depth is a question. Jay Finch is expected to take over for Bedford at center, but Uzzi will be the leader of the line.

3. Special teams concerns. It was an area of emphasis for coach Paul Johnson this spring, as it should have been. The Jackets need to solidify their starting kicker and punter, and all three field goal attempts were missed in the spring game, though two were distances of 47 and 49 yards. Kicker Justin Moore, the lone scholarship kicker competing this spring, hasn’t distanced himself from the four walk-ons who played in the spring game. Punter isn’t as much of a concern, where Sean Poole had nine starts last year, but the return games also need improvement.