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Georgia Tech is Hoping for Harmony

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The Yellow Jackets need balance, and not necessarily the type of symmetry that immediately comes to mind with this team.

"What he is going to have on his side is what they have done defensively by bringing in Ted Roof. I think that is going to be a big help to the offense. People don’t realize how important the defense is to the offense and vice-versa."
~Joe Burns

As Georgia Tech prepares for the start of the season, and a fourth potential trip to the ACC Championship Game, all eyes are once again on an offense that could be one of the nation's best. A year after totaling a BCS Conference-high 4,357 rushing yards and 48 rushing touchdowns, good for tops in the game, expectations for Paul Johnson's famed triple-option attack are even higher this fall.

The Yellow Jackets return eleven of their top 13 rushers from 2012, quarterback Vad Lee included. The now-sophomore turned heads in his highly-anticipated freshman debut and, reports are that, his decisions are now much more crisp and fluid. When watching Lee, his natural athleticism stands out. The 6'1'', 215-pound North Carolina-native earned four varsity letters in high school, compiling over 5,000 passing yards, just under 2,000 rushing yards and over 1,000 receiving yards, while scoring 85 total touchdowns and winning a state championship, where he was named game MVP, along the way. 

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A year ago Lee played in a rotation with veteran signal caller Tevin Washington, taking on a larger offensive role as the season progressed. His dynamic playmaking ability was on full display in Georgia Tech's offensive outburst against North Carolina, a 68-50 victory with a final score better suited for the Dean Dome than Kenan Stadium. 

Even if the quarterback is the catalyst for a team sometimes fragmented by pundits and fans, it will take an all-inclusive effort to overthrow pre-season favorite Miami in the ACC Coastal Division. The Yellow Jackets need balance, and not necessarily the type of symmetry that immediately comes to mind.

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Some of Lee's biggest help may actually come from a place most wouldn't normally expect. 

"What he is going to have on his side is what they have done defensively by bringing in Ted Roof. I think that is going to be a big help to the offense," explained former Georgia Tech All-ACC running back Joe Burns. "People don’t realize how important the defense is to the offense and vice-versa."

With a switch back to the 4-3 defensive scheme being implemented, the hope is that Georgia Tech will be a more cohesive, consistent football team moving forward. The change will undoubtedly be put to the test early as the Yellow Jackets face division foes in their first five FBS games. Georgia Tech will play division contenders North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive weeks from late September to early October. Each of those three teams were picked to finish ahead of the Yellow Jackets by league media.   

While Georgia Tech's offense will certainly have to produce in those high-profile pairings, strong defensive performances could be the key to making sure potential offensive opportunities are maximized completely.

"I ran a similar type of offense in high school and what gave us a chance to be successful was having a defense that compliments you. And I think that will be the determining factor," Burns continued. "Georgia Tech put up a lot of numbers in most of their games, but the problem was the defense gave up more points. People automatically say it is the offense, but, you look at it, they had a pretty productive season last year. I'm just excited to see them go to more of a four-man front and see if that change can help the defense and, overall, help the entire team."

Despite playing in the ACC Championship Game, Georgia Tech is entering the start of this season with a chip on their shoulder. The Yellow Jackets lost a heartbreaker in week one last year, 20-17 in overtime to rival Virginia Tech. Three games later they dropped a second overtime game, this one to Miami, where they finished by allowing 23 unanswered points. Humbling home losses to both Middle Tennessee and BYU and a season-ending drubbing at Georgia all stung.  

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Rejuvenation came in the postseason by way of a 21-7 victory over Southern Cal. That win, along with the emergence of Lee and the hiring of Roof, serves as moldable momentum for the challenging weeks ahead. 

"The goal is to play together as a team and become one. I think that is important. We are an offensive team, we are a defensive team and we are coming together as a unit to make the entire team more successful. Even back when I was at Georgia Tech, when the defense gave up a lot of points, it wasn’t just our defense. It was all of us. It was, 'what can we do as an offense to make the defense look good' and that was outscore our opponent. They need to come together and make each other look good as an offense and a defense. If they do that for each other, at the end of the game they will find themselves where they want to be."

The road to glory isn't a single-file line. As Georgia Tech looks for a return trip to Charlotte, they will look to get there together.   

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports