Georgia Tech Football To Kick Off 2008 Season Thursday Night Against Jacksonville State

Aug. 25, 2008

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The Paul Johnson Era Begins Thursday Night
Paul Johnson was hired as Georgia Tech’s head coach in December, but his tenure begins in earnest Thursday night, August 28th, when the Yellow Jackets kick off the 2008 season against Jacksonville State in Bobby Dodd Stadium (7:30/no TV/ESPN360).

The Yellow Jackets return just eight starters from a team that finished 7-6 and played in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl — their 11th consecutive bowl appearance — a year ago. Among the returning starters are senior offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, a first team All-ACC selection last season and an Outland Trophy candidate this year, and senior defensive tackle Vance Walker, a first team All-ACC pick and third team All-American in 2007.

Sophomore Josh Nesbitt, who was impressive in limited duty last season, takes over as quarterback of Tech’s spread offense. Sophomore Jonathan Dwyer lines up behind Nesbitt as the B-back.

Jacksonville State, 6-5 last season, is the consensus choice to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship this season. The Gamecocks, a football championship subdivision team (formerly I-AA), return 12 starters and three starting specialists. The season opener for both teams will be the first meeting ever between the Yellow Jackets and Gamecocks.

Today’s Tip-Off
Paul Johnson was successful in his first game at both previous head-coaching stops. On August 30, 1997, his Georgia Southern team defeated Valdosta State, 45-26, in his first career game as head coach. In his first game at Navy, on August 31, 2002, the Midshipmen clobbered SMU, 38-7, on the road.
– College football kicks off around the country on August 28th with 14 games. Other ACC teams in action on the 28th: Charleston Southern at Miami; Wake Forest at Baylor; and NC State at South Carolina.
– As many as 14 Yellow Jackets could make their first career start on August 28th.

Yellow Jackets Youngest Squad In ACC
Of the 110 players on the Georgia Tech roster, 75 are either freshmen or sophomores. That gives the Yellow Jackets more freshmen and sophomores than any team in the ACC. Virginia and Virginia Tech, with 72 each, are tied for second, followed by North Carolina (68), Duke (66), Boston College (64) and Maryland (64). The least amount of freshmen and sophomores is 52 at Florida State. Out of the 44 Yellow Jackets on the two-deep depth chart, 26 are freshmen or sophomores — 15 sophomores, eight redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.

True Freshmen Will Be Counted On
There are 26 true freshmen, including 21 scholarship players, on the Yellow Jacket roster. Look for anywhere from two to eight of them to play in the opener against Jacksonville State.

Practically assured of playing are wide receiver Tyler Melton, who may start, and safety Cooper Taylor. Jaybo Shaw is the back-up to starting sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt.

Three true freshmen A-backs could see action: Embry Peeples, Jon Lockhart and Marcus Wright. Other possibilities: B-back Richard Watson and cornerback Kamaron Riley.

Defensive Front Four One Of The Nation’s Best
While Georgia Tech has plenty of youth and not much depth across the board, those descriptions do not apply to the defensive line. The Yellow Jacket front four, which includes three seniors and one experienced sophomore, is considered by many the best group in the ACC.

Senior tackle Vance Walker is a preseason All-American (Sports Illustrated). Senior end Michael Johnson is preseason All-ACC and is considered a potential high NFL draft pick. Senior tackle Darryl Richard owns 22 career tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Derrick Morgan has been impressive in the preseason and could turn out to be as good as his highly-touted teammates.

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