2018 Georgia Tech projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
The ACC will have its share of talented signal callers in 2018. There’s Malik Rosier at Miami, Josh Jackson at Virginia Tech and a whole host of options at FSU and Clemson. But Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall is the man you should focus on, according to the Hour Glass analytics which rank him as the best returning quarterback in the conference.
Last season Marshall rushed for 1,146 yards and threw for another 927, while totaling 27 touchdowns. He could stand to improve his accuracy, as noted by his 37% completion percentage in 2017. But expect improvement all around on the Yellow Jacket offense, as Marshall - a rising senior - is joined by a veteran cast in Paul Johnson’s option offense. B-back Kirvonte Benson was excellent alongside Marshall last season, as he also went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Benson should improve on his 1,053 yards and six scores from 2017, especially if Qua Searcy, Clinton Lynch and Nathan Cottrell are improved at the A-back spot.
The receiver position is in dire need of a playmaker to emerge, and that could hinder Marshall’s ability to threaten defenses with an aerial attack this fall. Leading receiver from last season, Ricky Jeune, is gone after being the only pass catcher to catch more than five passes on the year. He averaged 21.8 yards per catch and scored six times. No doubt he will be missed.
On defense there are more questions than answers. For instance, the defensive line will have to replace its best player from a season ago in Antonio Simmons. Anree Saint-Amour is the best returning player and is primed to fill that role. Around him they’ll the likes of Desmond Branch, Antwan Owens and others to step up, including some of the youngsters. Linebacker is in good hands with the return of leading tackler from 2017 Victor Alexander, plus Brant Mitchell and Bruce Jordan-Swilling. AJ Gray is the only sure bet returning in the secondary, though Jalen Johnson has experience is and is primed to be solid. However, it’ll be unproven guys after those two.
All in all, the defense is likely to take a step back this season, after allowing in the neighborhood of 26 points per game in 2017. It would help if the Jackets could establish a pass rush while the secondary develops, or have the secondary surprise while a pass rush develops. Either way, both components are shaky at best entering the season. The bet here is that the offense will take a step with so many faces returning.
Three other things going for GT, though. One, a quarterback can elevate a team. If Marshall backs his Hour Glass QB stamp then that would mean the Jackets scored more than the 28 they averaged last season. Next, their style always helps to knock a few teams on the schedule off their game. And lastly, the non-conference schedule is sure to hand the Jackets three wins. On the flip side, though, in-conference they go on the road for four pivotal games against Pittsburg, Louisville, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
HG analytics pick: 8-4, 3rd in ACC Coastal
My pick: 8-4, 3rd in ACC Coastal
2017 Georgia Tech projections @ 3-9; actual finish was 5-6 (83 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 50th – Outside our Realistic College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Paul Johnson on HG Scale: 50th (Johnson Stamp at -5) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Georgia Tech quarterback play rated 8th in the country in our Power Five Rankings. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Georgia Tech has a stamp of 21.1.