GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS Head coach: Paul Johnson Last season: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the ACC; lost 40-28 to Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl. Spring practice: March 24-April 19.
New coach Paul Johnson helped a dormant Navy program achieve respectability. Now he will try to help the Yellow Jackets make the leap from second-tier bowl participants to BCS contenders. How closely will Georgia Tech's offense resemble Navy's triple-option scheme? And how long will it take the Yellow Jackets to adjust to the run-oriented attack? We're about to find out.
Only nine starters return for the first season of the Paul Johnson era.
Richard and Walker give Georgia Tech a defensive tackle tandem perhaps unmatched by any other team in the nation. Richard and Walker combined for 13 sacks and 30 tackles for losses last season.
HELP IS NEEDED
Taylor Bennett's decision to transfer leaves the Yellow Jackets without an experienced quarterback. Georgia Tech also returns only one starter at linebacker and must break in two first-year starters at safety.
KEEP AN EYE ON
QB Calvin Booker: This Auburn transfer – and Atlanta native – went 11 of 21 for 167 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception last year. Is he mobile enough to operate new coach Paul Johnson's scheme? Georgia Tech fans are about to find out.
RB Jonathan Dwyer: As a true freshman last season, Dwyer rushed for 436 yards and nine touchdowns on only 82 carries while backing up Tashard Choice. Now that Choice has moved on to the NFL, Dwyer should thrive in the Yellow Jackets' new offense.
QB Josh Nesbitt: After going 5-for-13 with a touchdown pass and two interceptions while backing up Bennett last year, Nesbitt enters the spring battling Booker for the starting job. Nesbitt rushed for 1,745 yards his final two seasons at Greensboro (Ga.) Greene County High School, which suggests he has the mobility to succeed in Johnson's run-oriented system.
HIS TIME IS NOW
Rivals.com rated Jamaal Evans as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the nation when this former four-star prospect signed with Georgia Tech two years ago. But he hasn't quite lived up to the fanfare thus far with 73 career carries for 342 yards. Now that Choice has departed and Johnson has arrived with a run-oriented offense, perhaps Evans is poised for a breakthrough season.
There are plenty of questions on both sides of the ball. Can Johnson translate his success at Navy into a program in a "Big Six" conference? Who's going to win the quarterback competition? Will the defense continue to blitz as often as it used to now that former defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta has moved on to Notre Dame? Although we won't know the answers to most of these questions until this fall, the next few weeks at least can offer some clues about where the Yellow Jackets are headed.