Hello again, Canes fam. We’re back with another opponent Q&A to get a view other this week’s opponent from behind enemy lines.
Joining us for this week to talk about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is Josh Brundage of our SBNation sister-site From The Rumble Seat. Before we get to Josh’s answers about Tech, here’s my end of the Q&A over on FTRS
Now, let’s see what Josh had to say about Tech, their offense, and tomorrow’s game:
Q1. GT was pretty bad in 2016 but has started very well in 2017. What's changed?
[editorial: Full disclosure, I meant to say 2015, not 2016 in my question but I messed up. I’m leaving Josh’s answer as is, to the question I actually asked, not the question I MEANT to ask]
Josh Brundage: First, Tech won 9 games in 2016, the same amount Miami did, and I don’t know of a single Tech fan who considers last year a bad season. We even beat 3 SEC East teams. Not much has changed, and that’s been a good thing. TaQuon Marshall stepped in for 3 year starter Justin Thomas at QB, and the transition has been seamless. I still don’t know how Tech lost the opening game to Tennessee – they kicked their tail the entire game and just missed a couple field goals and had a bad turnover at the end that would’ve sealed the win. A single-point, 2OT loss to open the season is the only thing keeping Tech from being ranked probably in the 12-14 range right now.
Q2. Star B Back Dedrick Mills was dismissed from the program just days before the season. How has GT filled that void?
Brundage: This caused more concern going into this season than anything, but the 2 B-backs who have stepped up to fill his shoes have been more than capable, minus some turnover issues. Kirvonte Benson is the starter, and he’s 5-9, 211 pounds and runs like a bowling ball. His low center of gravity lets him pop through traffic up the middle where there was seemingly no way to do so.
Spelling him will be true freshman Jerry Howard, who all of our writers are very high on if you ready our site at all. He almost won the starting job in his first year on campus. He averages 5.7 ypc and is one of the fastest players on the team.
Q3. GT's new QB is TaQuon Marshall. Apart from his name, I don't know anything about him. What's he good at? Where does he struggle? How is he playing?
Brundage: In short, he’s been a wizard at running this offense his first year seeing playing time. Where many inexperienced QBs will try to do too much and make bad decisions, we really haven’t seen that from him this year. He’s not the breakaway, open-field threat that Justin Thomas was, but he’s still got plenty of speed. He’s a little bigger than Thomas, and so you’ll see much more midline and veer follow plays from him between the tackles.
Per usual for a flexbone QB, he sometimes struggles in the passing game. He’s made some gorgeous throws in this young season, and the talent is still there, but he tends to overthrow his deep balls. However, he averages a 57.6% completion rate and is interception-free, which we’ll take all day in this offense.
Q4. GT's identity is in Paul Johnson's ball control option offense. Pretend Johnson leaves or retires: do you want to see GT stay with that scheme or change it, in a perfect world?
Brundage: This is the most polarizing question you can ask over on FTRS haha. I for one would love to see us continue to hire from his tree and maintain our identity as the funky flexbone school. The offense helps overcome the recruiting restrictions Tech has academically and lets us compete at the highest level most years. He’s given us a national identity and given us 3 ACC Championship game appearances and 2 NY6/BCS bowl births in his time here…. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Miami hasn’t been to even one of those things during Paul Johnson’s tenure while running an offense that’s supposedly easier to recruit to *smiley face*
[editorial: oh so it’s like THAT Brundage? Ok. Let’s go then.]
Q5. Talk about GT's defense. What are the strengths and weaknesses?
Brundage: For the first time in almost a decade, it seems that the Yellow Jackets have a pass rush. I’m even reticent to type that because I’m scared talking about it will somehow make it go away. Tech has a very good and experienced secondary that’s gotten hung out to dry the last couple season by a lack of a pass rush. If the D-line can maintain the pressure they’ve shown this year, then the pass defense will remain a definite strength.
The weakness, which doesn’t bode well against the Hurricanes, would have to be run stuffing. Even on standard downs, it’s something the defense has struggled with this season…. So that’s a concern for Saturday
Q6. For GT to win on Saturday, which players have to have big games?
Brundage: I think the pressure is on our A-backs this week, specifically in perimeter blocking against Miami’s talented linebackers. The leading A-back block is what springs most big plays on the perimeter, so look for Qua Searcy, J.J. Green, and Clinton Lynch laying down some blocks on the perimeter to spring their trailing fellow A-back with the ball.
Q7. Mark Richt has had vs GT in his coaching career between FSU, Georgia, and Miami, including a 7-2 record in the last 9 years vs the Yellow Jackets. What have Richt-coached teams done to give GT trouble in the past?
Brundage: His time at FSU and CPJ’s time at Tech didn’t overlap, but a lot of it is just general talent advantage. Georgia has been top-10 in recruiting regardless of who’s coaching since forever, but even our losses to them were almost entirely single score games. Richt is a good coach who won more close games against Tech than he lost – I don’t think there’s a particular scheme or anything that gave him an advantage outside of his recruiting rankings.
Q8. Prediction time: how do you see the game playing out, with a final score?
Brundage: I think this game is a bad matchup for Miami timing and injury-wise. It seems like Tech’s strengths and Miami’s weaknesses work in our favor more than vice versa. I think Miami takes some early momentum and probably jumps ahead 1 or 2 scores. But I think Tech’s health and extra week of rest will come into play in the second half with Tech winning a close one late, 31-28.
Thanks to Josh for joining us in the opponent Q&A this week. You can read his work, and the work of other talented writers, over at From The Rumble Seat