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Summer Scheming ‘23: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Jackets head south to Miami to face a familiar foe in the Hurricanes. Miami shouldn’t drop a game to rebuilding Georgia Tech at home.

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will face off on Saturday, October 7th at Hard Rock Stadium. The ‘Canes will be coming off of their idle week heading into the ACC schedule Miami holds a 14-13 lead over GT all-time, with a two game winning streak over the Jackets on the line. The U and Ga. Tech have played every season since 2004, except for during the 2020 COVID season.

Ga. Tech head coach Brent Key returns after finishing 4-4 as the interim head coach following Geoff Collins’ mid-season firing. The 44-year-old Key played offensive line at Tech from 1997-2000 Under George O’Leary. Key then served as a GA at Tech, before coaching stops at UCF, Alabama, and Georgia Tech. It’s miraculous that this is only Key’s fifth coaching stop in his 22 years on the sideline.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+, the Jackets are the 67th overall team in FBS heading into the 2023 season. GT is ranked 89th on offense and 53rd on defense.

Summer Scheming SWOT Analysis

This year’s Summer Scheming will look different than in years past by featuring a SWOT Analysis on each opponent the Hurricanes will face in the 2023 season. SWOT in this iteration will stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Traditions* (not Threats). We’ll discuss one cool tradition from each of the football programs on the ‘23 schedule.

Strengths: WR, Safety

Nate McCollum transferred to UNC, but Christian Leary (Alabama) and Dominick Blaylock (UGA) have transferred in to provide some deep threat ability on the outside for whichever QB takes over behind center at Tech in ‘23. Leary was a four-star out of high school and ran a 10.5 in the 100 meters at Edgewater HS in Orlando.

Blaylock, the son of former NBA guard Mookie Blaylock, averaged 17.2 yards per catch in 2019 and 15.1 YPC a year ago.

LaMiles Brooks is one of the shining stars on the GT defense that returns from the Collins Era. The six-foot-two, 192 pound safety from Jacksonville Trinity Christian is an expected playmaker at the centerfield position of the Jackets defense.

Weaknesses: S&C, overall talent, O-Line

It’s not good to lack in elite level talent, and have a below average strength and conditioning coordinator. Lew Caralla moved on to UNC-Charlotte, and Key went with former USF S&C Coordinator A.J. Artis. Under Artis the Bulls were notoriously slow and suffered through a slew of injuries that would make Aaron Feld blush.

If I was working with three-stars and cast-offs from other programs, I would have found a true developer of lower tier players into NFL prospects; think: Conor Hughes (Army West Point) or Joey Guarascio (FAU).

Brent Key’s old position group was a huge weakness before he became head coach. If the O-Line doesn’t improve, this is another blown hire by the GT brass. They were weak on pass pro, typically a poor run blocking team, and always seemed to suffer the ill-timed false start in a key moment of a pivotal drive.

Opportunities: QB, transfers, Key

Pyron and King give the Jackets a fighting chance at hitting a deep ball and and winning a few ball games. Pyron was injured at the end of 2022 and King was shaky for Jimbo Fisher last year. King threw seven TD’s with six INT’s while Pyron averaged 6.9 yards per attempt as a replacement for Jeff Sims.

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Tech is going to ride on the transfers like Leary, Blaylock, Braelen Oliver and Andre White. Oliver started 10 games at linebacker for Minnesota last year while White, also a linebacker, was a spot starter for Texas A&M.

Traditions: Ramblin’ Wreck

With cheerleaders lining its running boards and football players running up behind the Wreck’s rumble seat, the gleaming old gold-and-white 1930 Model A Ford Sport Coupe races forward, leading Georgia Tech’s football team onto Grant Field as it has, without fail, for every home game since its debut in September 1961.

That quote comes from the Georgia Tech athletics site in an article called, “A RAMBLE THROUGH WRECK HISTORY.”

If you haven’t had a chance to see The Ramblin’ Wreck in person, it’s worth it. The entire parade at GT heading into the stadium is an awesome experience. Enjoy the video above all about the Wreck.

“The Ramblin’ Wreck is truly a living icon of the institute,” Damus says. “Reck Club is making sure that we can carry the Wreck onwards and keep it in the best condition to serve the institute for years to come.”

Scheme Remix

The offense and defense will look ‘similar but different’ under Key than they did in ‘22. There are co-coordinators on both sides of the ball and the spring game would be the more useful tool all around. That’s especially true with new WR’s, a new QB in the mix, and new LB’ers.

Thus I’m going to break down what the offense did by QB in the first half. And my evaluation of the defense and what might work vs. their look will be included.

Zach Pyron

Above- GT opened with jet sweep, similar play call to Miami’s opener in their spring game. While Miami’s went for an explosive, GT’s was cut down to just a few yards. The defense looked like they were playing faster than under Geoff Collins. Definitely looked more explosive in their movements and finishes (pursuit and tackle, PBU, etc).

Above- The back attempted to bounce an inside run play, counter, and got stuffed for a loss on 2nd and 1. While the backs ran hard, especially Dontae Smith, the offensive line still looked unimpressive. Miami needs to be more stout up front against the run in ‘23. Improved DT play, edge setting, and inside linebacker play is a MUST.

Above- the old Rich Rod triple option from the gun. The DE sat on the dive so the Q pulled and threw the bubble that was wide open. Having a mobile QB opens more doors for the offensive coordinator. This is the type of play that could hurt Miami in the past, ‘Canes DC Lance Guidry needs to rep this like triple option and not leave the ‘pitch man’ (bubble guy) uncovered.

Above- Pryon is reading the boundary safety. When he rolls down and the field safety slides into a 1-high look, he’ll pull and throw the glance (5-step slant). Look, 3rd level RPO’s are a cheat code and truly are an unfair advantage for the offense. But if you’re running 1-high your CB needs to cheat himself in and cut off the glance.

Above- The deep fade isn’t Pyron’s strength. As we’ll see, it’s more of Haynes King’s strength and King scores quicker because of his explosive play on a fade.

Haynes King

Above- King on the other hand goes out and drops a dime on a back shoulder fade. Great play from the WR. I don’t know if they’ve had WR’s making that kind of play on the ball the last 2-3 years. Something to watch out for re the Miami cornerbacks and how weak they were versus the deep ball in ‘22.

Above- I would love to know the changes Key made from Collins in their tackling drill work. This is one hell of a finish here with hips and re-acceleration. The nickel dominates the re-accel and comes up with a big stick.

Miami runners have been an easy ‘down on first contact’ type for a couple of years now. Things that Don Chaney was supposed to fix but he’s suffered through multiple injuries.

Above- 2nd and goal and a dropped touchdown from a tight end. GT has suffered through mental errors since Paul Johnson was forced into retirement because the Tech brass wanted to miss bowl games or something.

Above- Damn near perfect spot for this ball. I HATE the red zone fade but damn if the dude is going to jump out of the gym might as well put it up there to him.

Above- This is the Trajan Bandy vs. Notre Dame pick 6 throw. You cannot throw a slide route over the inside shoulder and late. This ball has to be to the outside shoulder and as the first read. TAKE THAT ONE TO THE HOUSE.

Zach Gibson

Zach Gibson played in six games in ‘22, throwing one TD with two INT’s. He was the third QB to get reps in the spring game. He had one nice throw and one nice run but looked like a career backup. As a former Akron player, that makes sense at the power 5 level.

Above- At least it was thrown to the outside shoulder. The cornerback is late on the break which could be a point of interest for new Miami OC Shannon Dawson.

Above- I like Smith, dude runs really hard. He just doesn’t have the “it” factor needed to break big plays in the ACC on a regular basis. If you need explosives in order to score TD’s, he won’t be the guy.

Above- The QB is probably leaving on a stretcher in a full contact game. That O-Line is bad-bad. Miami’s DL needs to eat them up for a change. I like anything where the TE leaks and wheels out, that guy is really easy to lose in coverage.

Above- Your QB has to be mobile in this modern era. Stetson Bennett, Cam Newton, Trevor Lawrence, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagavailoa, Joe Burrow... none of those guys look much the same re height, weight, frame- but they can all move enough to extend plays, keep defensive ends honest, and scramble for 1st downs.

Canyonero Keys to Victory

Brent Key might be the biggest opportunity for the Jackets. He was the interim so he’s familiar with the roster, the administration, Georgia recruiting, and the weaknesses of the GT program structure. He took a struggling team and finished 4-4 with a backup QB. He didn’t just beat pushovers either, under Key Tech beat Duke, UNC and Pitt.

But Miami shouldn’t lose to a team with this much of a rebuild on their hands, and this little talent. The ‘Canes have the Blue Chip Ratio to beat everyone on their schedule except for Texas A&M and Clemson.

1- Make them one dimensional. GT’s biggest weakness was their new HC’s position group. Key struggled to build an O-Line and that hasn’t changed overnight. Couldn’t run block, couldn’t pass pro, and were heavily penalized with pre-snap issues. Stuff their run game and force them to drop back on ‘and long’ situations and eat Pyron or King alive.

2- Win the special teams. This was more of a Geoff Collins issue than a Key issue, but the Tech kicking game has been horrid for years. Missed kicks, blocked punts, and without Jahmyr Gibbs- not much of a return game. I’m not sure if folks realized how much Gibbs and Pressley Harvin III, now the Steelers punter, made up for poor preparation.

3- Win the off week. Miami hasn’t won coming off of an off week since beating Duke in 2020 coming off of two off weeks due to COVID. The ‘Canes were 0-3 off idle weeks in 2019, and their other win dates back to Mark Richt’s tenure in 2017. That’s a sign of immaturity, and a lack of focus to lose that many times coming off of a week off. Mario Cristobal was brought to Miami to change that behavior, not perpetuate it.

Prediction: Miami by 10.