With All-ACC senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt returning to lead the triple-option attack, the offense should be primed for another high scoring season.
While the return of an experienced quarterback and five other offensive players is reassuring, Tech will have to find new playmakers to step up at B-back and wide receiver. Tech lost All-ACC performers Jonathan Dwyer and Demaryius Thomas to the NFL. While these losses may seem too hard to overcome, redshirt senior B-back Anthony Allen and sophomore receiver Stephen Hill have the potential to fill these holes. B-back is a more natural position for the 230 pound Allen because of his ability to use his size to gain yardage. Allen was second on the team last year with 618 rushing yards. Similarly, the 6-foot-5-inch Hill possesses tremendous size and speed and should take over as Tech’s go-to receiver. Hill was second on the team last year with 84 receiving yards.
Compared to the offense, the defense has more questions to answer. In several games last year, Tech’s offense was forced into shootouts because the defense gave up so many points. In an effort to turn things around, Johnson hired former Virginia Head Coach Al Groh. Groh brings his new 3-4 defensive scheme to Tech, which means there will be one more linebacker and one less lineman in the front seven. Groh is fortunate that Tech has valuable experience and size at linebacker since the linebackers will now hold more responsibility in stopping the run game and rushing the quarterback. Tech returns eight defensive starters, including senior linebacker Brad Jefferson and in addition will have redshirt sophomore safety Cooper Taylor back from a medical condition.
Tech has won their last three opening day games and hopes to continue the streak with this season’s home opener.
South Carolina State
The South Carolina State Bulldogs are coming off a very successful season in which they won the MEAC title and nearly defeated FCS power Appalachian State in the first round of the playoffs. While the Bulldogs are missing some key players from last season’s team, they still return 14 total starters and Head Coach Oliver Pough’s team is poised to repeat as MEAC champions.
South Carolina State is led by a proven senior quarterback in 6-foot-1-inch, 260 pound. Malcolm Long. Long is the preseason MEAC Offensive Player of the Year, having scored 25 total touchdowns and thrown for 2488 yards last season.
In addition, the Bulldogs are fortunate to return a very talented and experienced offensive line. Four of the Bulldogs’ five starting offensive linemen are predicted to be All-MEAC performers. However, the Bulldogs have to face the loss of their star running back, MEAC all-time leading rusher Will Ford and top two receivers from last season.
The Bulldog’s defense was very successful last season as they managed to hold opponents to under 16 points per game. The strength of their defense was a front seven that gave up only 1179 rushing yards, which was best in the conference. With five of these starters returning, the Bulldogs should again excel against the run. Their fifth-ranked pass defense also excelled, intercepting a league-leading 18 passes.
South Carolina State is a program looking to finally advance far into the FCS playoffs, and a competitive game against Tech would be a good start.