Nov 10, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner (2) (not pictured) fumbles as Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets safety Isaiah Johnson (1) and defensive end Anthony Williams (56) and defensive back Jemea Thomas (14) dive for the ball in the second quarter at Kenan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Music City Bowl Preview: Breaking Down Georgia Tech’s Secondary

This is the ninth in our series of previews for this year’s Music City Bowl

Not to be a Negative Nellie, but sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. With all the good things that the Georgia Tech football team accomplished and showed this year, the defensive secondary wasn’t one of them.

The Jackets finished 86th in the nation in pass defense, and it wasn’t even a case of them improving as the season went on. After games played in August/September they were ranked 22nd in the nation, and from there it just slid downhill in a hurry, with the ranking for games played in October falling to 92nd, and then down to 108th for games played in November.

Part of it can be chalked up to injuries (Jamal Golden and Isaiah Johnson both lost during the season), and part of it to experience, having a mix of two sophomores and two seniors starting most of the games, and a handful of sophomores and freshmen on the bench. The rest can probably be attributed to learning the schemes and playbook for a new defensive coordinator.

One of the biggest problems for this group was getting opposing offenses off of the field once they were put into a 3rd and 10+ yards to go situation. The Jackets ranked 115th in the nation in this category, allowing a whopping 370 yards to opponents who were sitting on 3rd and long, including one play of 69 yards.

They also gave up 552 yards and two touchdowns to opponents when the Yellow Jackets were leading by more than 15 points. Not exactly the best way to hold a lead.

There isn’t going to be any secret to help Tech’s secondary against Ole Miss…just play better. They’ll have to match up with receivers who are bigger, and who have a very mobile quarterback that knows how to improvise while throwing to them. Jemea Thomas, the senior leader of the secondary, needs to have one of his best games and really help raise the level of play in his teammates.

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Louis Young (SR) – CB: Young has been a three-year starter, and has a lot of game experience. He’s solid, dependable, but not a gamebreaker. He’s going to have to pick his game up a notch against the Rebels.

Jemea Thomas (RS SR) – S: Thomas was moved from CB to S in the game against BYU out of necessity. He’s a versatile DB who has great ball skills and exceptional closing speed. He’s going to need to be able to give a lot of support to the CBs.

Demond Smith (RS SO) – S: With the injuries to Jamal Golden and Isaiah Johnson, Smith was pressed into service. He’s been serviceable, and improving steadily. One thing that can be said about Smith is, when he makes a hit, the receiver knows it.

D.J. White (SO) – CB: White is a young corner who will probably be a star in the coming years, but for now he’s still learning. He’s got eight career starts under his belt, and none as big as the upcoming bowl game.

RESERVES:

Lynn Griffin (RS FR) – CB/S, Domonique Noble (RS SO), Chris Milton (RS SO), Coray Carlson (RS JR) – S

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