DeAndre Smelter's development is important to Georgia Tech

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It might seem counterintuitive, but for Georgia Tech's triple-option offense to be at its best, the passing attack has to be productive to provide some semblance of balance.

Coach Paul Johnson's best team at Tech came in 2009, when the Yellow Jackets were 10-3 and featured future Denver Broncos first-round pick Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver.

Tech struggled last season, finishing 7-7, and the leading receiver was Jeff Greene, who had just 18 receptions. In a mutual parting of the ways, Greene left the team in December and eventually walked-on at Ohio State, where he is sitting out this season.

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The hope was that junior Darren Waller (6-feet-5, 225 pounds), who had eight receptions last season, would emerge as Tech's go-to receiver this fall. But Waller, whose great grandfather was legendary jazz man Fats Waller, was suspended for the opening game and hasn't caught a pass.

The wide receiver who has come on is another junior, DeAndre Smelter (6-3, 220). Not much was expected of Smelter because this is his first season playing football since he was a senior in high school in 2010. He had spent the past three seasons playing baseball for the Yellow Jackets, where he was an outfielder and a pitcher. But a shoulder injury curtailed his baseball career and he decided to try his hand at football again.

Smelter is an intriguing prospect. He has good size and speed and is an excellent athlete. The first two catches of his college career went for TDs last week in a rout of Duke. He finished with three catches for 47 yards against the Blue Devils.

The first TD catch may have been the most impressive, as he was going against All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell. Cockrell was in press coverage, but Smelter shook him off, ran a slant and scored.

"I think DeAndre Smelter has a ton of ability," Johnson told reporters before the season. "The more he plays football, the better he's going to be."

Tech has a big ACC Coastal Division game Saturday at home against North Carolina. Four teams appear to have a shot at the division title: Georgia Tech, UNC, Miami and Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech will know where it stands in the division by early October: Its next three games are UNC, Virginia Tech and at Miami. The better Smelter performs, the better off the Yellow Jackets will be.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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