Every year, fans are excited to see how their team looks and who will be starting. This season is a particularly important one for head coach Geoff Collins and the Yellow Jackets as they search for a confidence booster and Collins tries to show fans that he is capable of building a quality team in Atlanta. Here are the position grades for the team this upcoming season and what coach Collins is working with.
Quarterback: The quarterback position is in promising hands with Jeff Sims at the helm. Last season, he became the first true freshman to start a season opener since Reggie Ball in 2004, and what an impression he has made on the coaching staff and fans alike. Earning ACC Freshman of the Week honors three times last season, Sims became a fan favorite and something that got me excited about the future of the quarterback position at Georgia Tech. There are still some mistakes to be fixed to go along with growing pains, but Sims has established himself for the starting quarterback role for the Yellow Jackets for years to come.
Running Backs: The Yellow Jackets are absolutely loaded with talent at the running back spot. Jahmyr Gibbs is one of the best young backs in the ACC, having amassed 492 rushing yards last season while only playing in seven games. The duo of Jordan Mason and Jamious Griffin behind him is as deadly as it comes, with both backs vying for the backup role. All three running backs will split time this season, but one thing is for sure: they will look impressive no matter who touches it.
Wide Receivers: The receiving core for the Yellow Jackets took a big hit in the offseason as Jalen Camp left for the NFL, and four-star incoming recruit Bryce Gowdy (RIP) tragically passed away. With their top receiver from last season gone, the Yellow Jackets will rely on Malachi Carter as their primary receiver to go along with the running back trio of Gibbs, Mason, and Griffin, who combined for 35 catches last season. Tight ends Dylan Deveney and Dylan Leonard were almost nonexistent for the Yellow Jackets last fall, and it doesn’t seem like that will change this season. Adonicas Sanders and freshman James BlackStrain could step up big time for the Yellow Jackets in this area but must prove themselves before I am sold on them.
Offensive Line: The offensive line for the Yellow Jackets last season did an exceptional job, being able to lead the Yellow Jackets to the fifth-most rushing yards in the ACC. Ryan Johnson and Devin Cochran both return for the Yellow Jackets, which means that they will have a good sense of leadership. Incoming freshman Jordan Williams is expected to start at one of the tackle spots when the season begins. This could be a much-improved group, or this could be a stagnant group due to lack of depth, but there shouldn’t be too many concerns at this point.
Defensive Line: The area that needs to be improved for Georgia Tech coming into this season is their defensive line. The Yellow Jackets ranked 12th in the ACC last season in sacks, 12th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 14th in points allowed per game. The line just simply could not do its job las season, but it should be better this season with all the additions made in the offseason such as three-star recruit Joshua Robinson and transfer Kevin Harris from Alabama and the return of last season’s team sack leader Jordan Domineck.
Linebackers: After the departure of David Curry to the NFL, the Yellow Jackets are running thin at the linebacker spot, with Quez Jackson looking to play captain in this group. Jackson had a good season last year, but depth worries me at this position. Graduate transfer Ayinde Eley is a plus, as he comes from Maryland, where he earned honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team in 2019 with the Terrapins. Coach Collins likes to run a 4-2-5 nickel defense, so having the linebackers be able to make stops are crucial, especially in the run game.
Secondary: This group could see the biggest improvement of any other on the team in 2021. Both starting safeties from last season, Juanyeh Thomas and Tariq Carpenter, are returning as veteran leaders for the defense. After allowing the second-most passing yards in the ACC last season, there is nowhere to go but up for the Yellow Jackets secondary. The combination of young cornerbacks Tre Swilling Jr, Zamari Walton, and Wesley Walker could work out and turn the Yellow Jackets secondary into something that is acceptable.
Special Teams: With All-ACC and fan-favorite punter Pressley Harvin leaving for the NFL, the Yellow Jackets will call on Austin Kent to replace him this season. Kent only punted three times last season, but that was because he mainly served as the Yellow Jackets kickoff leader. In 65 kickoffs last season, he managed to get a touchback on 11. Graduate transfer Brent Cimaglia will be Georgia Tech’s kicker this season, and his numbers from Tennesse are on par with Gavin Stewart’s numbers last season. However, if he plays like he did for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2019, making 85% of his field goal attempts, the Yellow Jackets could have a surprisingly good special teams unit, especially with one of the best kickoff and punt returners in the ACC, Jahmyr Gibbs, returning.
Overall team grade: C+