Georgia Tech was a solid producer of draftable talent from 2004-10, but Tech has had only two players selected in the '11 and '12 drafts, and none in April. Not so coincidentally, the talent left behind when Chan Gailey was fired as coach basically was gone after 2010, so the recent talent drain can be blamed on coach Paul Johnson.
Tech hasn't necessarily suffered on the field -- the Yellow Jackets are 40-26 since Johnson took over before the 2008 season -- but his triple-option offense is a tough sell to a lot of high-caliber skill-position high school players. In addition, Tech has lost 19 games in the past three seasons.
The best NFL prospects on this season's team are defenders, and that defense has a chance to be sturdy. If new QB Vad Lee comes through, Tech could be an eight-win team and be a darkhorse contender for the ACC Coastal Division crown.
Top senior prospects
DE Jeremiah Attaochu: Attaochu (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) was third in the ACC with 10 sacks last season, and he has 19 in his career. This will be his first season at defensive end. He had been an outside linebacker and his lack of bulk is worrisome when it comes to holding up against the run. He probably is best suited to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 base defense at the next level because of his pass-rushing skills. Attaochu, who was born in Nigeria and went to high school in Washington, D.C., has good speed and can go sideline-to-sideline.
SS Isaiah Johnson: He is entering his third season as a starter. Johnson (6-2, 208) led Tech with 87 tackles last season, and he puts his size to good use against the run. He is physical, a solid tackler and can run. Johnson's coverage skills are questionable (five picks and five pass breakups in his career), but he has good instincts and can deliver a blow. He missed spring practice with what Tech termed a "lower-extremity injury."
CB Jemea Thomas: Thomas (5-10, 195) is moving to corner from free safety, where he started all 14 games last season. He has good speed, but his coverage skills will be put to the test this fall. He covered a lot of ground at safety, and there's a chance he could move back there at the next level. He was second on the team with 86 tackles last season, and he added four picks and six pass breakups.
LB Brandon Watts: Watts (6-2, 238) will start at outside linebacker in Tech's new 4-3 scheme, but he also has the ability to play inside. He is a good athlete with good speed, but consistency has been an issue. As athletic as he is, he hasn't made a huge impact. Watts will be starting for the second season in a row. He missed spring practice with an undisclosed injury.
CB Louis Young: Young (6-1, 196) has good size and speed (a legitimate 4.4 in the 40), but he also has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. He will be a three-year starter, but despite all his physical gifts he has only two picks and seven pass breakups. Young has no problems being physical, but he is a sloppy tackler who too often goes for the big hit instead of wrapping up. He is one of three senior starters in the secondary. He is the most talented on paper, but he also has done the least of the trio on the field.
ILB Jabari Hunt-Days: He should thrive in the new 4-3 scheme, as he is made to play middle linebacker. Hunt-Days (6-3, 252) started all 14 games as a redshirt freshman last season and finished third on the team with 84 tackles. While he is best against the run, where he can put his physical nature to good use, he showed average coverage skills last season and had four pass breakups. Becoming a better-rounded 'backer should be his focus this season, but he definitely has all-league potential. He missed spring drills with an undisclosed injury.
WR Darren Waller: Waller is a junior with only eight career catches. He has intriguing size (6-5, 228), though, and can cover a lot of ground with his long strides. Tech should be better throwing the ball this season, and Waller definitely has the potential for a 40-catch season. Then again, given the vagaries of the triple-option offense, he could end up with eight receptions again. As you would expect from a wide receiver in a triple-option offense, Waller is a good blocker.
Three must-see games of 2013
Oct. 5 at Miami: Attaochu will be going against some touted offensive tackles as he tries to get to Miami QB Stephen Morris. Miami RB Duke Johnson can be tough to tackle, putting the onus on Hunt-Days and Watts to play steady football. And Johnson, Thomas and Young will face a deep, talented receiving corps.
Nov. 14 at Clemson: The Tigers should have the best passing attack in the ACC. Can Attaochu make things tough for Clemson QB Tajh Boyd? And can Tech's secondary handle Tigers WR Sammy Watkins?
Nov. 30 vs. Georgia: The Bulldogs have owned this rivalry of late, winning 11 of the past 12. Hunt-Days and Watts will be going against perhaps the nation's best tailback duo in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Attaochu could find it tough sledding to get to Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray, who will test Tech's veteran secondary.