College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins: March 25
Spring game: April 19
2012 record: 7-7 overall, 5-3 ACC
Returning starters: 15 (seven offense, eight defense)
The Least You Should Know about Georgia Tech This Spring
-- New defensive coordinator Ted Roof will move Tech to a 4-3. This is a change from the 3-4 defense that Al Groh struggled to install for three years before his midseason dismissal in 2012. Roof, a former Georgia Tech linebacker and defensive assistant from 1998-2001, most recently served as defensive coordinator at Penn State under Bill O'Brien and was defensive coordinator on Auburn's 2010-11 national championship team. The Yellow Jackets return eight starters on defense from 2012, and the early reviews on Roof have been positive.
"He is a hard-nosed, get-after-you coach," junior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said of Roof. "He's wanting things done right. They're going to be simple, but he wants them done right and he wants them done with 110 percent. He's going to be a great coach, I feel like."
The defense improved last season after Groh's dismissal, but there were still plenty of issues down the stretch. Only one team in the ACC allowed more plays of 10-plus yards and there were six games where the defense allowed more than 40 points. If Roof's simplified 4-3 scheme limits the explosion plays, Georgia Tech could be relying on its defense more than usual.
-- Jeremiah Attaochu will move to defensive end. When the 3-4 defense was at its best, outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu was blowing by blockers and causing havoc in the offensive backfield. The transition to the 4-3 will be eased by Attaochu's move to weakside defensive end, where he will likely be asked to do the exact same thing. The senior linebacker-turned-defensive end led Georgia Tech in tackles for loss in 2011 and 2012, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention both seasons. With NFL scouts looking for more DE/OLB hybrids, Attaochu has a great opportunity to boost his stock with another productive year. With 24 starts and 36 games under his belt, Attaochu is the most experienced, and arguably most important, player in the defensive transition.
-- Paul Johnson will be hands-on with the quarterbacks. Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has served as the team's offensive coordinator since he arrived in Atlanta, but this spring he will also serve as the quarterbacks coach. Brian Bohannon, an offensive assistant under Johnson for 17 seasons, recently accepted the job as Kennesaw State's first-ever head football coach. Instead of rushing into a new hire, Johnson will coach the quarterbacks while former team captain Steven Sylvester will coach the B-backs. If there is any year for Georgia Tech to have Johnson hands-on in spring practice it is when Vad Lee prepares to take over for three-year starter Tevin Washington. Lee has shown flashes of promise in scrimmages and brief game appearances, but this fall the redshirt sophomore will likely take over on a full-time basis. Working with Johnson this spring could help Lee understand nuances like how and why certain plays are called during a game.
-- Help is needed at wide receiver. This is not a joke, I promise. Johnson calls pass plays if he believes they can work, and Lee has shown flashes that suggest he could be a more effective passer than his predecessor -- Washington's career completion percentage was 50.4. Unfortunately the Yellow Jackets are lacking in proven wide receivers. Junior Darren Waller is the only starter returning after two graduations and leading receiver Jeff Greene transferred. In fact, only three scholarship wide receivers are available for spring practice: Waller, junior Corey Dennis and redshirt freshman Micheal Summers. Sophomore Anthony Autry and Travin Henry will miss all of spring recovering from knee injuries. Waller, Dennis, and Summers will battle to earn valuable reps in Johnson's run-focused offense. If they can establish a good rapport with Lee this spring we might see more passes from Georgia Tech in 2013.