The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head down to Miami Gardens, FL to face the Hurricanes on October 19th. There’s a new era for the Jackets as Geoff Collins, the former head football coach at Temple, takes over in Atlanta. Coach Collins will be running a modern pro style spread attack, not the flexbone triple option Miami fans have come to see over the past 11 seasons. Johnson finished 82-61 with three wins over the ‘Canes in that time period. Now they’ll face more 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) and a 4-2-5 defense.
Geoff Collins is connected to Manny Diaz, as Diaz was set to replace Collins at Temple before Miami came calling. Collins is also a former FIU defensive coordinator under Mario Cristobal and a recruiting guru who landed big classes for both Alabama under Nick Saban and Tech under George O’Leary. Collins new coaching staff has mixed his past with his future as he brought over offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude from Temple (via Coastal Carolina) and defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker also from Temple. Thacker also has connections to UCF and the Atlanta Falcons- much like Collins himself.
Another connection from UCF is Brent Key who was a right hand man to George O’Leary. Key has also worked for Nick Saban, and is Georgia Tech alumni. This staff is a family, very well connected to each other, and that connection is driven by Chief of Staff Vince Sinagra who hired Collins as a G.A. at Fordham, and who shares connections to Dan Quinn the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Lucas Johnson looks like the best fit to take over the quarterback job during the transition from flexbone to spread. Option responsibilities and a dual threat quarterback are still necessary, but the QB has to be someone that can drop pack and make throws. Johnson came to Georgia Tech from Mt. Carmel (CA) High School where he was in a spread offense. Johnson’s six-foot-three, 215 pound frame gives him an NFL sized advantage over Tobias Oliver. As one source from inside the Yellow Jackets has told me, “(Lucas) Johnson definitely has a leg up, but the competition is still open.”
Oliver was a backup quarterback in the triple option under Paul Johnson a year ago. Oliver is six-foot-two, but at 175 pounds isn’t exactly looking like he’ll take the beating ACC defenses can dish out in the pocket. He actually worked at the nickel position on defense at times in the spring. There’s also three-star dual threat QB Jordan Yates. Yates is also slight of build but he has a strong arm for a Yellow Jackets quarterback recruited in the Johnson era.
Running backs Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard looked good in 2018. The wide receivers are another issue as they were signed knowing they would mostly be blockers and now have to work on an extensive amount of routes and passing concepts than ever before. That’s why freshman Ahmarean Brown’s development will be pivotal for the Tech offense.
After not playing a tight end on the field in over a decade, the Jackets had to go out and sign a few. Their biggest pick up was grad transfer Tyler Davis from UConn. Davis has played in 36 games at the FBS level and caught seven touchdowns over his career as a QB and tight end.
The Yellow Jackets defense has changed quite a bit over the past few seasons so at least the players there are used to change. Ted Roof ran a 4-3, Nate Woody ran a 3-4, and Thacker will run a 4-2-5. That defense will be lead by linebacker David Curry who logged 47 tackles a year ago and 10 in this year’s spring game.
In front of Curry is a young defensive line that could see two-way player Jahaziel Lee make an impact. Next to Curry at linebacker is Bruce Jordan-Swilling who had 20 stops a year ago. The back five have been rolling through different positions and sides of the ball but the mainstay is Tre Swilling. Tre Swilling made 24 tackles and picked off a pass in 2018 and has been working at both cornerback and wide receiver in the spring, as the coaching staff wanted to see guys play everywhere and learn more about the game of football.
There are plenty of holes at safety, cornerback, and all along the defensive line that made hiring a defensive minded head coach imperative.
How they matchup against Miami
The Jackets head to Miami to face the ‘Canes after a road trip to Duke and before a bye week. Miami faces the Jackets after a Friday night game against UVA and before an away game against the Pitt Panthers. The Jackets are predicted to finish 89th per the S&P+’s pre-season rankings and are expected to win three or four games. Miami on the other hand is projected to finish 19th and winning nine games on the season.
The ‘Canes will have a solid advantage on defense against Tech’s offense which will try to find a rhythm in the midst of a daunting schedule that includes a week one road trip to Clemson. The Georgia Tech defensive line will be weak, but the Miami offensive line hasn’t been a strong point. The hope for the ‘Canes will be to avoid Tre Swilling’s side of the field while being able to outrun the Yellow Jackets on the edge with Lorenzo Lingard, Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris out of the backfield. Don’t be surprised to see jet sweeps or reverses to speedster receivers like Jeff Thomas, either.
By October 19th, Miami and Georgia Tech will both know their identity. The ‘Canes and Jackets will both have to settle on a quarterback, solidify their offensive line, and figure out the defensive line rotation before the heart of ACC play kicks up. Week 7 is enough time into the season where the dust will have settled on the new regimes and we’ll have a better picture of both Coach Collins and Coach Diaz in their new roles.
Bill Connelly’s Miami team preview gave the ‘Canes an 87% win probability, while ESPN has Miami as an 89% favorite to win the game. Miami should out talent Georgia Tech to a victory no matter who is at quarterback. I mean, lesser Miami teams have done so when GT was in the Paul Johnson era and Miami was floundering through Randy Shannon, Al Golden and at times- Mark Richt.
Prediction: Miami by 20