ATLANTA -- When last seen on the field, the Georgia Tech players were running around with the Orange Bowl trophy in their possession. They had completed an 11-3 season with a resounding win over Mississippi State, were ranked seventh in the final AP poll and had plenty of reasons to celebrate.
All that must be forgotten starting Saturday when the clock begins to tick for the 2015 season. But excitement remains high at Georgia Tech, where players reported to campus Friday and will officially begin practice at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Unlike previous years, people outside the program are expecting a lot. The Yellow Jackets were picked to win the ACC’s Coastal Division and make a return trip to the ACC championship game.
And earlier this week, they were ranked 17th in the nation by the Amway coaches poll. It’s the first time Georgia Tech has been ranked in the top 25 since 2010, when it began the season at No. 16 in the Associated Press poll and No. 17 in the coaches poll.
But no one expects more from his team this season than head coach Paul Johnson.
“We have our own set of expectations,” he said. “I think we left (the ACC meetings) a year ago picked to finish fifth in our division. We didn’t pay much attention to that, just like we won’t pay much attention to being picked to finish first.
“I think you’ve got to play the games on the field. We’ve been in the ACC championship game three of the seven years we’ve been here. That’s certainly our goal and what we’re shooting for again this year.”
The Yellow Jackets will work through two weeks of training before classes start Aug. 17. The season begins with a Thursday night game, Sept. 3 against Alcorn State.
But that’s one of the few breathers on the schedule this year. The Yellow Jackets also play No. 8 Florida State, No. 12 Clemson, No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 9 Georgia. Four other teams (Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami and North Carolina) also received votes in the first poll. That means there will be few instances when Georgia Tech can afford to take a week off and expect to win on ability alone.
“I think the biggest thing is just understanding that when you play top teams, like a Florida State, they’re not going to make the simple mistakes,” senior defensive back D.J. White said. “They’re not going to beat themselves, so you can’t beat yourself in order to give yourself a good chance. You really have to be on top of our game and be mentally focused every game. Any one slip-up can mean the difference in the outcome.”
The Yellow Jackets will host their annual fan day at 4 p.m. on Aug. 8 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Fans will be able to meet their favorite players, pose for pictures and get autographs.