NEWPORT WALES - OCTOBER 02: Stewart Cink of the USA (R) celebrates with Matt Kuchar on the 14th green during the rescheduled Morning Fourball Matches during the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on October 2 2010 in Newport Wales. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
It was a year of highs and lows for Yellow Jackets sports, but former Tech players in just about every major sport had great years.
2009 was a year marked with great successes by many of Georgia Tech’s teams. 2010, on the other hand, was a bit of a down year.
5. Tech Golfers
The first storyline in our countdown doesn’t involve current student-athletes, but rather former ones. In just about every major professional sport you can find a former Yellow Jacket continuing to make headlines. Mark Teixeira, Chris Bosh and Calvin Johnson are just a few examples among countless others. But a certain group really grabbed the spotlight this year with some remarkable achievements.
What group am I talking about? Former Tech golfers, including Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, and Troy Matteson. Cink and Kuchar played in the Ryder Cup together, along with Georgia's Bubba Watson. Kuchar held a lead in the FedEx Cup points standings going into the final weekend, and ended up finishing second behind Jim Furyk.
4. First Football Losing Season in 14 Years
The 2010 year saw the Georgia Tech football team lose 8 times, the most in a calendar year since 1994. Four of the key players on the ACC Championship team left early for the draft, but most fans believed that backups would be able to take over and fill their shoes.
With just about all of the key matchups coming on the road, it would have been hard to imagine this edition of the Jackets being able to match the magic of the previous year. But very few foresaw Tech having its first losing record in 14 years.
The triple option offense managed to compile 323 yards per game on the ground to lead the nation, but only managed 26 points per game. It wasn’t just the losses themselves that were surprising, but the way they came. The Jackets turned the ball over in the red zone in seemingly every game, committed many ill-timed penalties, and continued to struggle with special team issues.
The Jackets did manage to continue the fourth-longest bowl streak in the nation, but had a losing season for the first time since President Clinton was in office. That is definitely worthy of making out countdown.
3. Hewitt’s Hot Seat
Basketball coach Paul Hewitt managed to ease the minds of at least a few doubters by taking an otherwise underperforming Jackets squad to a competitive ACC Championship Game and winning an NCAA Tournament game, but any good will generated by those wins is long gone now.
Losing to the Kennesaw St. Owls, Charlotte, and the Georgia Bulldogs (again) before ACC play has even begun has set this up to be one of the most disappointing Jackets seasons ever.
2. Top Draft Picks
Georgia Tech saw great success across the board in producing top talent for the professional leagues. The school produced four first round draft picks: forward Derrick Favors, defensive end Derrick Morgan, pitcher Deck McGuire, and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was the first receiver taken in the draft.
Only one other school, Kentucky, finished with more first round draft picks in the major sports with five, and Oklahoma also had four. In addition, only three schools had a player drafted in the first round in three or more drafts, the others being Clemson and Texas.
You could argue that the count of first-rounders should also include outfielder Jake Skole who was drafted by the Texas Rangers with the 15th pick. The Blessed Trinity star had already accepted a football scholarship from Georgia Tech and planned to play both sports.
Tech produced four first-round picks in 2007 as well.
Looking ahead, it would be hard to predict any first round picks in the NFL draft. With a strong finish to the season, guard Iman Shumpert could jump up and make some noise and pitcher Mark Pope could potentially be a high pick as well.
1. Orange Bowl
The story of the year was definitely Tech’s appearance in the Orange Bowl. Yes, I know it was part of the 2010 season, but it happened five days into the new year so I am going to count it.
The Jackets ended up losing 24-14 to 10th ranked Iowa, but it was a three-point game until late in the fourth quarter. It was the coldest Orange Bowl on record, but still a fun experience for Tech fans even with the loss.
The game was Tech’s first ever BCS appearance, and that is definitely worthy of the top story of the year.
The stories that were close but didn’t make the cut: the end of Joshua Nesbitt’s career, men’s basketball reaching the ACC Championship and winning a tournament game, another stellar season followed by another early playoff loss for the baseball team, the football team extended its bowl streak to 14 years, and the renovation plans for Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Continued successes from the volleyball, women’s basketball, and softball teams also were strong stories from the calendar year.