And another season begins... the draft never ends, the players just change... Sat. 09/01/2007 - Georgia Tech at Notre Dame - 12:30 pm PST NBC Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech came so close to winning the ACC championship last year, and now it's even better despite losing Calvin Johnson and offensive coordinator Patrick Nix. The Outlook - Four of the final five games are at home, and the one road date is at Duke. Boston College and Virginia Tech have to come to Atlanta, so if the Yellow Jackets can survive road dates at Virginia, Maryland and Miami, they should be in for a huge ACC year. Notre Dame is going to need time to jell, so going to South Bend for the season-opener might not be that bad. Georgia has to make the trip to Tech this year. The goal this year... Win the ACC title. The defense will be fantastic with nine starters returning to a group that finished 27th in the nation in both total and scoring D. Four starters return to the offensive line, the running backs, led by Tashard Choice, are excellent, and the kicking should be solid led by All-America caliber punter Durant Brooks. It also helps to get Virginia Tech in Atlanta. A Preseason Heisman Candidate, RB Tashard Choice, 6-1 205, Georgia Tech - last season, while NFL scouts drooled over the freakish athleticism of Calvin Johnson, Choice quietly led the ACC in rushing (1,473 yards). Regarded their best offensive player, Choice is prepared to become the headline act of the Yellow Jacket offense. Flashing power and quickness to the hole, the one-time Oklahoma Sooner led the ACC in rushing surpassing 100 yards on the ground in nine of his last ten games. He finished his season with 12 touchdowns and a solid five yards per carry. While not a blazer, he has a good burst when he gets an opening. LOT Andrew Gardner, Jr. 6-6 298, Georgia Tech - Gardner is the star up front starting his third year in a row at left tackle. A good run blocker, his real worth is in pass protection where he's able to use his athleticism to handle most speed rushers... an All-star candidate in 2007 after receiving honorable mention all-ACC honors last fall and freshman all-America accolades the previous year… Has started 26 straight games… Has good athletic ability and continues to add strength... He should be even better this year… and on the other side of the ball... Philip Wheeler, ILB - Wheeler is one of the most athletic linebackers in America and has a penchant for making the big play. He finished fourth in the ACC in sacks (9) and tackles for loss (14.5) last season. Regarded as the best defensive player, Wheeler is extremely athletic and is a perfect fit for Coach Jon Tenuta, who asks his linebackers to blitz often and create havoc all over the field. Even after shifting inside before the start of last season, he still led Tech in sacks and tackles for loss to go along with 89 stops. He's a hard-hitting disruptive force who's as good in pass coverage as he is at getting into the backfield. Athleticism, speed and tackling have never been a problem, and now with his experience inside and out, always being in the right position won't be, either A 3-4 candidate - DE Adamm Oliver, 6-4 270 - Oliver is the best player up front... at 270 pounds, he's tremendous against the run with the strength to play tackle if needed. While he's strong enough to hold his own against most tackles, he also has the burst of an end able to get into the backfield on a regular basis. His 70 tackles were good for fourth on the team to go along with 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. While he's not always flashy, he got the recognition last season earning Second Team All-ACC honors… The safeties will be fantastic. Senior Djay Jones was out this spring with a shoulder problem, but is expected to be back to shine at free safety where he led the team with four interceptions. While big enough to be a steady tackler, the 6-1, 200-pounder is more suited to playing in space where he can use his good speed to roam. Senior Jamal Lewis will man the strong safety spot again after finishing second on the team with 74 tackles with three interceptions and 6.5 tackles for loss. The All-ACC star began his career at corner before finding a home at safety. Notre Dame – can the Irish go 0-8 to start the season – it’s possible... The Outlook - the Domers are green on both sides of the ball, especially on the lines, and they’ll be facing some of the better QB’s in college ball back-to-back-to-back… With an improved Anthony Morelli at Penn State, along with Chad Henne at Michigan, Curtis Painter at Purdue, Ben Olson at UCLA, Matt Ryan at Boston College, and John David Booty at USC, expect that secondary to get lit up – just like last year – I bet they’re happy Drew Stanton graduated…. they have to have this game… But when your best offensive player is TE John Carlson, see above pic #89, you’ve got some rebuilding to do… Although he was a Mackey Award finalist last year - Carlson had Quinn throwing to him - was he really that good? At 6-6 and around 260 pounds, he has tremendous size and surprising quickness for a player of his size averaging 13.4 yards per catch last season on 47 grabs with four touchdowns despite missing time late with a knee injury... The D will switch to a 3-4 under new coordinator Corwin Brown, so that means more pressure will likely have to come from the linebackers, specifically this guy: ILB Maurice Crum, 6-0 230 - Crum is the defense’s most productive player and a rising superstar… he led the team with 100 tackles to go along with four sacks and ten tackles for loss last season… Able to play inside or out, he found a home in the middle using his speed to make plays all over the field while also growing into a strong pass rusher. DE Trevor Laws is the only starter to return to the d-line, but he's a good one. 6-1, 295-pound senior is a tackle who'll play end in the new 3-4 scheme, and he appears ready to blow up and become a defensive superstar. He's already good, with 63 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year with 9.5 tackles for loss, and now he'll be even more of a pass rusher. Watch List: Needing to become a star early on is 6-5, 340-pound redshirt freshman OG/NT Chris Stewart, the huge body the defenses desperately needs on the nose. The problem, besides his lack of experience, is his health, after having problems staying in one piece this spring... the prep All-American will compete for playing time at offensive guard this year as well .... The secondary should be a little bit better, and it has a star to build around in seemingly 10th year player 6-0, 210-pound senior SS Tom Zbikowski. Extremely fast to begin with, he went from being a bulky boxer to a lean, mean, pure defensive back, and the new frame appeared to pay off big this spring. A huge hitter and an intimidating force, making 79 tackles last year and 220 in his career, he should be all over the field even more, now that he's even quicker, and he needs to be better against the pass after breaking up just two passes and failing to come up with an interception. The D’s fast riser is FS David Bruton, 6-2 207 - Primarily used on special teams in his first two seasons in South Bend, Bruton finished a strong spring with a brilliant performance in the Blue-Gold game. He returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, recorded four tackles and was named defensive MVP. He'll give the Irish more speed in the secondary than they've had in recent seasons.