We’re inching towards the regular season at an excruciatingly slow pace, but were inching our way there. Clemson’s annual Coastal Division rival, Georgia Tech, is now in year two under Coach Geoff Collins. Year one was the rebuild that everyone expected, but victories over Miami and NC State lend optimism to the direction of the program. To learn more, we connected with Josh Brundage of From the Rumble Seat. Enjoy the Q&A!
STS: For the second year in a row, Clemson opens the season on a Thursday against Georgia Tech. Last year, Georgia Tech debuted a new offense and lost 52-14 in Clemson. How much of that gap do you think GT may have closed since then?
FTRS: This is a tough question because the QB situation is still fairly uncertain, despite Collins landing on James Graham as the starter midway through last season. Graham was a flexbone QB previously and still made some highlight reel plays, but also only completed 45% of his passes… which isn’t going to cut it in the new offense. Many fans, and writers at FTRS, are incredibly excited about the potential of Jordan Yates under center, but with the pandemic cutting short spring practices and limiting offseason activities, we don’t have any idea if he’ll be ready to go for this fall. Yates has an incredibly high upside and is one of the highest rated recruits the Yellow Jackets have ever landed, so we’re all very excited about him.
Otherwise, Tech returns almost everyone on offense on the O-line and at the skill positions. In addition, they add Vandy transfer Deven Cochran at tackle to add some experience there, as well as Miami WR transfer Marquez Ezzard. Jordan Mason was an absolute monster at running back last season, and we have several talented receivers on the perimeter, especially Ahmarean Brown, who played a bunch as well – so we’re generally feeling good about everywhere else.
… So maybe we score like 21 non-garbage time points this time? We’ll see.
STS: In year one, Geoff Collins obviously had some player/scheme mismatches he had to work through. In year two, how do you see the offense and scheme evolving?
FTRS: The biggest thing I personally want to see is an identity on offense. Last season, it seemed like the offense looked totally different every week and had no cohesion. It was like the coaches were throwing stuff against the wall to see what stuck. One week we ran a bunch of gun option stuff, sometimes we would throw in RPOs that our QBs would never read correctly, and then one week we randomly lined up in the full house / diamond look for several drives? It was a strange season on that side of the ball.
Everything would presumably work better with more consistent pass blocking, which I know Coach Key has been working on a ton, and we did see some decent improvement there over the course of last season.
This season, still in the midst of a dramatic rebuild, I want to see Collins land on a QB much, much earlier in the season and stick with him. If it’s Yates, let him learn and grow on the field and make mistakes and gain some experience. I also want us to land on some sort of offensive identity around the QB who wins the job, which is something we haven’t seen yet. Tech has a lot of young talent that I’m ready to see utilized in a cohesive manner.
STS: Could you tell us about one or two GT players that could make waves in the ACC that we’ll know about by the end of the year?
FTRS: If you don’t know him yet, our starter at RB, Jordan Mason, is an absolute beast and genuinely a pleasure to watch tote the rock. His highlights against Miami are particularly impressive. He’s coming into his junior year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he declared for the draft early and this is our last year with him. He averaged 5.2 ypc behind a shaky offensive line last season, and we’re all expecting a big 2020 out of him.
On defense, I really enjoy watching our secondary. Both Tariq Carpenter and Kaleb Oliver have some nasty cover skills. They weren’t helped out much by our lack of a pass rush this season, which Georgia Tech has not really had in what feels like a decade, but they forced 5 turnovers between the 2 of them last year, and we’re hoping for more of the same. There’s a lot of talent in our secondary, and they would be even better with a little more help up front.
STS: GT won just three games last year, but they seemed to improve as the year went on. After starting 1-6 with a loss to Citadel they beat Miami in Miami, were very competitive on the road at eventual ACC Coastal champ Virginia, and edged NCSU in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the 2020 schedule is extremely difficult, with non-conference games against UCF, Notre Dame, and Georgia. Is a bowl berth a reasonable goal or does Georgia Tech need another year (or an easier schedule) before that’s a fair expectation?
FTRS: With how weak the Coastal is right now, I certainly think a bowl game is attainable. However, like you said, our non-conference schedule is brutal this year and not helping our cause. Looking at the schedule, I think I can see 6 wins. If they can do that while upsetting someone they shouldn’t, I would certainly call Year 2 a success under Collins, who I’m still blocked by on Twitter. It’s just rough bookending our schedule again with auto-losses to you guys and Georgia with the current state of things.
STS: Let’s end with some optimism. Give me one reason to think ACC football is going to be incredibly fun this year?
FTRS: Can I be hateful here? I’m going to be hateful here. The ACC is going to be fun this year DESPITE Clemson sucking the fun out of the conference for like the 5th year in a row. We used to be the conference of chaos and the ACC Coastal Wheel of Destiny. Now we’re the conference of coughing up whoever Clemson is going to demolish in the title game.
In spite of y’all…
The ACC will be fun because Miami is probably going to be a tire fire again, and when is that not hilarious? There’s literally no excuse for it, but here we are. They lost to us last season on an overtime 4th down spot lol.
The ACC will be fun because Virginia Tech is hemorrhaging starters and just players in general who are trying to get out from whatever the heck is happening in Blacksburg. VT was once the epitome and shining example of consistency in college football, and now no one wants to play there. Hilarious.
The ACC will be fun because Syracuse is going to ruin someone’s season again, as the football gods demand.
And the ACC will be fun because Louisville made probably the best coaching hire in the conference 2 years ago now and very quietly turned their entire program around over the course of last season. I would be scared of Louisville. Their birds have teeth.