Photo by John Nakano

The annual spring game for the Jacket football team kicks off today at 7 PM at Bobby Dodd Stadium. It looks there will be rain for the third straight year, but the weather won’t damper the spirits of the football team and the thousands of people who make their way over to the stadium that night. Coming off arguably the best season in the last 25 years, expectations and attention are at an all-time high as Tech has been one of the stories off the college football offseason. Generally, Tech is not given much media attention, especially national media attention. However, this spring has been different due to their 11 win season where they took down two SEC “powerhouses” and finishing ranked as high as No. 7 in the country.

With the return of junior quarterback Justin Thomas, the country expects Tech to do big things next year and show that last season was not just a flash in the pan. Johnson has raved about Thomas all spring and noted his value to the team, saying that if he could only keep one player off last year’s team, it’d be Thomas. With Thomas leading the charge, the offense isn’t expected to have much of a drop off from last year, despite losing ten players who were big contributors. Johnson and the team have always had a “next man up’ philosophy and last year similar questions were asked about replacing players when former running back Robbie Godhigh had graduated.

The offense will have six new starters this season and four of the positions are up in the air. The spring game will show how far some players have come and to see who the frontrunners are to win the positions. Junior A-back Dennis Andrews and wide receiver Michael Summers are the two players that have locked down their starting positions. Summers started many games in 2013, but did not get as many touches this year with the rise of former standout Darren Waller, who is expected to be picked in the NFL draft. Andrews played a big role in last year’s key games and he will be counted on to carry the ball and be the team’s best blocking A-back. On the offensive line, Tech will have to replace All-American Shaq Mason. They do return the rest of their line and the most likely candidates to replace Mason will be sophomore and redshirt freshman Shamire Devine and Gary Brown.

The biggest improvement on Tech’s football team should come from its defense. Last year the defense was extraordinarily young and still helped Tech win 11 games with several huge plays throughout the course of the season. Many turnovers were forced by Tech’s defense, but in games where they forced none, they lost. The mindset on defense was bend, but not break as Tech gave up many yards per play, but found a way to keep teams from scoring touchdowns at key moments.

This fall, Tech’s defense has a chance to be special. They’re going from a young defensive line to a veteran defensive line with many players who have star potential. If everything goes according to plan fifth year Jabari Hunt has the chance to take Tech to the next level. Hunt has been academically ineligible the last year, but has been a member of the scout team at defensive tackle. A duo of Hunt and senior Adam Gotsis in the middle of the defensive line would be one of the very best in the country. When you combine them with sophomore defensive end Keshun Freeman and redshirt juniors Pat Gamble, Rod Rook-Chungong and Francis Kallon the Tech defensive line has the depth and talent that could be the difference between a good season and a championship season.

Players to keep an eye out for in the Spring game are redshirt freshman running backs C.J. Leggett, Qua Searcy and Clinton Lynch along with redshirt sophomore wide receivers Antonio Messick and Ricky Jeune. On defense, transfer defensive end Kenderius Whitehead makes his much awaited debut. Once the spring game takes place, the players will have the rest of the semester off, but many players will be working hard all summer to accomplish their goals of making next season better than the previous one.