We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. This week we’re chatting with Josh Brundage, a member over at From the Rumble Seat, SBN’s Georgia Tech blog. We talk about the Yellow Jackets’ transition from Paul Johnson’s triple option and moving into the 21st century, who might start at quarterback for Tech, and of course robots.
TN: So, the Geoff Collins era. Instead of a smooth transition from Paul Johnson’s triple option, it seems Collins had the Yellow Jackets quit cold turkey in favor of the spread offense, which appears to have primarily led to a rough season in 2019. Tech fell all the way to 3-9 and the bottom of the Coastal from 7-6 and second place the year before. Is that an accurate assessment of what caused Tech’s 2019 season, or was it due to something else? Do you agree with Collins’ strategy?
FTRS (From the Rumble Seat): Yeah the offensive transition was definitely rough. We were the 3rd-worst offense in FBS according to S&P last year, which is going to make it difficult to win games. Tech football in 2019 felt like a lot of square-peg-round-hole play calling since our O-line struggled so much with pass blocking and then our QBs struggled to hit open receivers even when they weren’t running for their lives. Our defense wasn’t bad though!
I think it’s too early to make a call on Collins’ strategy, but I do wish he would stop blaming last year’s struggles on Paul Johnson and the previous regime. Like you said, 2018 Tech won 7 games, and they definitely wouldn’t have lost to The Citadel. I think Collins is a good change of pace for Tech and is breathing some fresh life into the program, but his coach-speak and meme-ery are going to get old if it doesn’t start translating into wins pretty quick. We return almost every starter from last year, so I’m hoping that results in improvement this season.
TN: Georgia Southern ran the flexbone until 2014 when they moved to the Sunbelt conference. Willie Fritz took over and they ran a shotgun option system and went 9-3. Do you think that type of transition would have been possible, and was Fritz a consideration for Tech before hiring Collins?
FTRS: I think it would’ve been – the personnel certainly would’ve fit. I was hoping our AD would take a serious look at Scott Satterfield, who runs something similar to that, but oh well. To my knowledge Fritz was not in consideration for the position.
Tech did incorporate some option elements into Collins’ “spread, pro style” offense last year, but it wasn’t a massive part of the system or anything.
TN: Tell the truth - how much do you miss the triple option and its six-possession games?
FTRS: The answer to this varies wildly by the Tech fan you speak with, but I miss it immensely. The flexbone is what made me fall in love with college football in 2008 when Johnson was hired. It was unique, gave us a national brand, and was ours. I still think there’s nothing more exciting in football than a QB keeping the ball on a triple, turning the corner, and there being only one defender there to take him and the pitch man. You could feel the stadium inhale and start to rise from their seats in that split second. I still watch the Academies when I can to get my flexbone fix.
TN: As of the date of asking this question, Collins has not named a starting quarterback. Vying for the job are 2019’s starter James Graham, talented freshman and near-Seminole Jeff Sims, and Jordan Yates and Tucker Gleason. Two questions - who do you think will start, and who do you think should start? Are they the same person?
FTRS: Collins has played this close to the vest, and we have no idea who will be trotting out there for the first series on Saturday. It sounds like Gleason has been tearing it up in in camp, and if he has actually beat everyone else out, I’ll be excited to watch him. I think both Sims and Yates have higher upsides that Gleason, but I would be excited to watch either of the 3. Without having any insight into camp or any of those 3 having any meaningful time on the field last season, I really can’t say who should start.
Graham took over the starting role last season and made some brilliant plays, but just did not seem like a good fit in the offense… he was recruited as a flexbone QB, and he looked like one last year. His passes were mostly prayers, and I would be shocked if we see him back at QB this season.
TN: How is Tech’s defense looking this year? Can you give us two names to watch out for? How about offense (besides quarterback)?
FTRS: Collins is a defensive coach, and the defense looked like it improved under him last year. We return basically everyone there, so we should be pretty solid on that side of the ball. On defense, our secondary is probably the strongest group of the entire team. Keep an eye out for Juanyeh Thomas and Tariq Carpenter. They’re both ball hawks and have really taken to Collin’s scheme.
On offense, RB Jordan Mason will play on Sundays in the future and runs like a shopping cart full of hammers flying down a hill. Also WR Ahmarean Brown tied Calvin Johnson’s record for most TDs as a freshman… so that’s pretty good too.
TN: Georgia Tech is a prestigious engineering school. How come you haven’t yet engineered better players? Do you guys not realize cyborgs aren’t against the rules?
FTRS: We have a nuclear reactor on campus and figured that wouldn’t be a good combination with cyborgs running around. We’ve seen action movies.
TN: Fair enough, I think you’re right that would be in the best interest of everyone. Still, we’re curious what it would look like. Can you draw us a picture of said cyborg GTech player? We need a refill of nightmare fuel.
FTRS: I’m sorry to disappoint, but I’ve got nothing for you here haha. But! Here’s an excellent gif of Paul Johnson:
TN: I suppose that’s pretty much the same thing. What does GT feel is a realistic ceiling for their program? Can they compete buy-in wise with regional brethren?
FTRS: Honestly, no. Tech doesn’t have the budget to compete with the Clemsons and Bamas that surround us. Pair that with the academic restrictions, and it’s just not an even playing field. With this in mind, I think it’s all the more impressive that Johnson won as much as he did, and that’s with an AD who didn’t like him and actively hamstrung him for several years.
Tech’s realistic ceiling is probably averaging 8ish wins, and putting it together and making a NY6 bowl every couple of years, which all of us would be ecstatic with.
TN: FSU fans would like to play Georgia Tech every year because of Atlanta. Do GT fans feel the same? Check Yes or No lol.
FTRS: Yes, we would love to play FSU during the regular season all the time. The last 3 times were fantastic. Here’s how 2008 ended. And highlights from 2009. And then of course we all love to remember 2015.
TN: No, no I don’t think we do haha. It has been a long five years since FSU and the Ramblin’ Wreck have faced off, but I also seem to recall a certain 2014 conference title game. On one hand it’s criminal that two schools so close to each other don’t play often, but on the other hand the stunning kick six off a blocked field goal was not very nice. In fact, in the last 10 games between the two teams going back to 1999, they’ve been decided by a total of just 53 total points. The highest point differential being just 11 in 2001. Why do you think that is, and what do you think will be the final score on Saturday?
FTRS: I don’t know, but I’m feeling confident we’re in for another close game on Saturday. Neither of are teams are in particularly good shape this season and lack high expectations, so who knows what will happen. I would say this week will be slightly less dramatic than the 2015 iteration with FSU winning an ugly, high-turnover game somewhere in the 24-17 range.