At first glance, it seems like Georgia Tech just came unraveled within less than a week: The Jackets were exposed in several areas in their 24-14 loss to Iowa in the FedEx Orange Bowl, and three days later they lost their top wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, to the NFL draft, and their defensive coordinator, Dave Wommack, to a coaching change. There are still decisions, though, that have to be made that will further determine just how many pieces coach Paul Johnson will have to put back together in 2010.
Who Johnson hires as his next defensive coordinator will be one of them. Might it be former Virginia coach Al Groh? That would make two extremely smart Xs and Os coach on the sideline together (Virginia's defense was not the problem in 2009.) Georgia Tech's inconsistent defense was impossible to ignore this year, but the Jackets were able to win the majority of time in spite of it. Wommack pointed to injuries on numerous occasions, and he had three new starters on the defensive line, but Johnson obviously expected more the past two seasons. Georgia Tech ranked No. 56 in the country in scoring defense this year (24.79), and was 93rd in the country in tackles for loss. The Jackets ranked in the lower half of the ACC in every major statistical defensive category. But for Johnson to make a change after an 11-3 season shows his standard is high -- very high.
And of course, everyone is still awaiting the decisions of a few key juniors, namely defensive end Derrick Morgan and B-back Jonathan Dwyer. Many have already pegged Morgan as out the door, but he hasn't made it official yet. If the Jackets lose their leading rusher, their leading receiver, their top defender, AND start 2010 with a new defensive coordinator, it should be considered a transition year for Georgia Tech. It would for any other team. The Yellow Jackets -- who were ranked No. 13 in the final Associated Press poll -- will have to earn their way back into the top 10 and will enter 2010 with something to prove.
But that's nothing new for Johnson.
Don't forget that it was only two seasons ago that Georgia Tech finished with nine wins and defeated Georgia on the road in an entirely new system, with two new coordinators and a new head coach, and a roster that was well-under the 85 scholarship limit. The ACC media picked Georgia Tech to finish fourth in the division in 2008 and it seemed as if everyone questioned whether or not Johnson's spread option would work at the BCS level.
Well, it worked, and so far under Johnson Georgia Tech has been named co-champs of the Coastal Division and ACC champs. Just ask Clemson how impressive that quick start is.
Johnson has made a pretty good living proving his doubters wrong, and regardless of who else decides to leave, the fact that he thrives on that is one thing about Georgia Tech that won't change in 2010.