Justin Thomas should be one of the 10 best players in college football, and he’s not just a really good player: He’s a really good player at a position of massive importance for any team in general but Georgia Tech in specific. He’s the guy who runs Paul Johnson’s offense, and Thomas showed in Year 1 as a starting quarterback that he runs it better than anyone since Joshua Nesbitt.
In Year 1 under Thomas, Tech’s offense led the nation in rushing and third-down conversions. Ergo, Year 2 should be even better — should it not?
Here’s where I cast a bit of cold water — not to be confused with the water falling from the sky on Tech’s spring game Friday night — on the enthusiasm of Jacket backers. Even with Thomas, I’d be surprised if Tech’s offense is nearly as good in 2015.
Nearly everyone else who touched the ball on offense in 2014 is gone, including the splendid receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller and the irresistible B-backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. The man projected as the new B-back — C.J. Leggett — tore his ACL this week and will be lost for the season.
In desperation, the Jackets turned to Marcus Allen, a redshirt junior now on his third collegiate position, to play B-back Friday, and he did well enough, gaining 77 yards. But that was on a rainy night in April. After quarterback, B-back is the most important position in Johnson’s offense, and the pounding of Laskey/Days was what ultimately undid Georgia in Athens and Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl.
At the end of last season, Tech was one of the half-dozen best teams in college football. I’m not sure it can be quite that good again. I’m not sure a defense that lived off takeaways can bear up if those takeaways don’t come, and turnover margin tends not to be a constant between seasons. I’m not sure a schedule that includes Florida State and Notre Dame will lend itself to 10 wins.
I picked Tech No. 18 in my early-bird January rankings, and some among you believed that was way too low. But if you’ll check Phil Steele’s prediction on ESPN Insider of the preseason Associated Press Top 25, you’ll note that the Jackets, whom he foresees being No. 17, will play four teams — Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame and Clemson — slotted ahead of them. That’s a much tougher regular-season schedule than in 2014.
I also note that, in the long and distinguished history of Tech football, it has managed consecutive 10-win seasons only once — in 1951 and ’52 under the sainted Bobby Dodd.
From myajc: Expectations are high for Tech. Too high?