Monday, August 21, 2006

Georgia Tech Roundtable

It's important to know your enemy well, and in the interest of gathering data and extending an olive branch across the blogosphere, I reached out to Jeff from Ramblin Racket and Nathan from Golden Tornado to shoot the shit about Georgia Tech and learn a little bit more about our pocket protector-wearing bretheren from Ted Turnerville. Both of them amazed me by shooting back well-thought and candid responses within hours of me sending them the e-mail. Hopefully you'll find some enlightening information to get you prepared for the tilt at Bobby Dodd in a few weeks. Again, guys, thanks a lot for being so prompt, insightful, and candid. It's going to make it that much harder for me to gloat when we wipe the field with your sorry asses {insert winking emoticon}. Enjoy!

Thanks for coming out guys. Well, first thing's first. Who the hell are you, and why blogging?

Jeff: I was born and raised a Tech Man, as four of my uncles (three on one side, one on the other), my sister, her husband and my cousin all attended GT before me. I started blogging early this summer partly to avoid going crazy over the off-season, but mainly to add another GT voice to the Internet. Also, I wanted an outlet to vent my opinions about Tech athletics, traditions, etc.

Nathan: My name is Nathan – and I was a student at Georgia Tech in the late ‘90’s watching little Joe throw the pigskin around. I took up blogging because I was driving my wife nuts ranting about sports around the house.

So who is your mortal enemy?
Jeff: Like most Yellow Jackets, I have a very strong dislike for the Georgia Bulldogs. One of the frustrating things about being a Georgia Tech fan is that Atlanta is not a “Tech town.” Being in the cultural and economic hub of the Southeast, most college football fans move here with existing allegiances, many of them from Athens. Therefore, you see more of the rival’s crap in the home team’s town than you would for nearly any other rivalry (excluding intra-city rivalries).

Nathan: Mortal enemy? Mostly anyone wearing a red hat with a G on the front.

Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!

Okay, so every single preseason publication I own is predicting a 7 win season for Georgia Tech. Obviously, this is a very logical and safe bet considering their track record, but is this a fair assessment of the team? Put another way, is this a different Georgia Tech team than what the media and outsiders alike have come to expect year in and year out?
Nathan: This is the most talented team Gailey has had, and there’s a depth and experience level we have not had in several years. The problem for years has been an inability to get those big horses on the lines in enough numbers to really compete, but both the o-line (and especially) the d-line are very, very good going into this season. As a matter of fact, you could make a pretty solid case for GT’s d-line being the best that ND will face all season, especially at the tackles. With a senior QB, a solid o-line and running backs, one of the 3-4 best players in all of college football at WR and a front 7 that is athletic, experienced and extremely well coached … this team should win 8-9 games.

Jeff: As you said, there is no reason based on history to expect anything more or less than seven wins from a Chan Gailey-coached Georgia Tech team. I do expect more from Tech this year, though. We’re not yet a week into preseason practice and nearly every starter is set (excluding one CB, TE, and RG). This is an experienced team with vocal leadership on both offense and defense.

The specific change I expect in results this year is the lack of an inexplicable loss. Obviously games like ND, Miami, and Georgia are not guaranteed wins, but this team should not lose a UNC/Duke-type game. Given that the Jackets usually pull at least one major “upset,” I expect no less than nine wins.

Tell me something about Reggie Ball that I haven't heard a million times by the talking heads (i.e., don't use the word “inconsistent”). It seems like the media has already written him off as talented yet ultimately frustratingly mediocre. Should we believe everything we hear about him or is there another side of the story that we need to hear?
Nathan: I honestly don’t think Reggie is as “talented” as some people keep saying. He’s enormously competitive and he’s athletic, but he’s also short and clearly struggles to read defense schemes at times. He’s somewhat erratic as a thrower, though he has a strong arm. All in all, I think a lot of people’s expectations for Reggie over his career haven’t meshed with his talent (i.e – too much expected). I don’t know if I’d use the word inconsistent, I think he’s been very consistent (consistently mediocre). Reggie reminds me a lot of Penn State’s Michael Robinson, a fiery competitor who really struggled to play QB effectively. Of course Robinson had a huge senior season, I’m hoping Reggie can end his career playing well.

Jeff: I would say, yes believe everything you hear. Because the pundits always say “unless…” and it’s those ‘unless’es that will make or break the season. Word out of preseason practice reports is Reggie has matured. He is zipping out accurate passes, and (more importantly) is going through his progression and throwing to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th options. Reggie will never be an NFL talent, but a few extra completions and Tech can progress. Without those extras, there is no “other side of the story.”

Everyone tells me Calvin Johnson is one of, if not the best receiver in the game. Having not seen too many Tech games, what does he do that makes him so dynamic? Is he a legitimate Heisman darkhorse, as some preseason pundits are saying, or just another talented freak?
Jeff: What makes Calvin incredible is how many improbable catches he makes. The most notable was his “Spider-Man” catch against NC State in ’04. A ball was thrown 3-4 feet behind CJ’s route, but Johnson stopped on a dime and reached way behind himself for the ball.

A video is worth a thousand words, my friend.

Nathan: He doesn’t return kicks, he won’t win the Heisman – it’s as simple as that. While CJ is 10x the WR that Ginn Jr. is … he won’t have the flash and “game changing” impact that kick returns seem to give the impression of. CJ is dynamic because he’s huge and he has tremendous body control and hands. He makes more twisting, leaning, leaping catches in traffic than anyone I’ve ever seen, he seems to have some supernatural sense for where the ball is in the air. He’s fast (very fast) but he doesn’t run perfect routes – there’s not quite as much separation as you’d expect from someone with his physical gifts. It’s the leaping, the strength and the body control those … you can’t teach those. I’d expect somewhere between 50-60 catches for around 1,000-1,200 yards and 10 TD’s or so for the season. That won’t get him to NY unless GT wins the ACC, but it will make him one of the first 3 picks in the NFL draft whenever he decides to leave.

The secondary. Need I say any more? Already decimated with graduation, the news has been nothing but bad in the offseason. What is going to be out there and is there any optimism for their ability to contain pass-happy teams like the Irish?
Nathan: The starting 4 are good, and Kenny Scott is very good at one of the corners. This is a big athletic secondary, and the two safeties can bring the wood. Depth though? Yikes. I honestly am not sure how much nickel we are even going to play, with a true freshman and a converted WR looking like they will be battling it out for the 5th DB spot. I’m going to be praying to Touchdown Jesus or something if any of the 4 starters get hurt. Tenuta will continue to defend the pass the way he always has, lots and lots of zone blitzes. Both KaMichael Hall and Philip Wheeler are excellent coverage backers capable of dropping back into the deep middle or sniffing out short routes in traffic, and the d-line is good enough to bring a lot of pressure without needing the blitz packages GT so loves. This year’s pass defense will be won or lost on the line of scrimmage.

I know Chan Gailey just re-upped for a long-term deal, but is that truly indicative of his job security? As a follow-up question, what is the reaction to his decision to hand over most of the playcalling responsibility?
Nathan: As for job security? Gailey isn’t going anywhere, he goes to bowl games, the team competes, he wins some big games from time to time and his players for the most part stay out of trouble and in class. You have to remember that two the schools Tech most closely resembles are MIT and CalTech, and while athletics are a big part of the Institute’s tradition, somebody like O’Leary was almost “edgy” for us in a way. Gailey is nice and safe, and while he’s a bit boring (and 7-5 every year is monotonous), he’s someone “The Hill” seems very comfortable with.

Pointing with the best of them, seven times a year.

Jeff: Most fans seem very pleased with OC Patrick Nix taking over playcalling, largely because that’s helped free Gailey’s time to recruit. Nix has done well as the QB coach, has experience winning (he QB’d an undefeated season at Auburn), and seems more willing to open up the offense than Gailey was.

Allright lads, hit me with a prediction.
Jeff: The Georgia Tech offense leans heavily on Calvin Johnson, lining him up at QB for at least 3 plays including a TD pass and two sprints out of the backfield. Reggie throws 2 TDs, 1 INT. Notre Dame disrupts Tech on offense, limiting the rush, but is also disrupted itself. Quinn throws for 3 TDs. I’m saying Tech 38 – Irish 27.

Nathan: 24-21 Tech with my gold and white colored glasses on. Oh, did I mention we are busting out the navy blue jerseys from the 1990 national championship team? Should be quite a scene.

Oh, by the way, you left your gold and white glasses at the office. They're quite fetching.

From my research, the two most famous GT alumni are Jimmy Carter and Jeff Foxworthy. Is there anyone that I missed that you can actually be proud of?
Nathan: Many “famous” GT alumni won’t be known much in the realm of common public knowledge, mostly due to the fields they are in (quick, name a famous M.I.T alumn either). GT has had more astronauts than any other D1 university (actually, might be more than any other US school period), so that gets us cool points. John Young commanded the first ever space shuttle, and Richard Truly was the head of NASA, for example.

Suck it Michigan, you also-rans!

So... is it true what they say about Georgia Tech women? Are they really as homely as they're made out to be, or is this a misperception?
Jeff: The consensus opinion of me and my buddies is, GT has a fairly normal percentage of pretty hot girls. The problem is, it’s a percentage of a very small number. Tech has around 11,000 undergrads, only about 33% women. By no means is Tech a hotbed of beauties like Ole Miss or UGA, but we’ve got our fair share of bangable Southern belles.

Nathan: Um yeah, it’s true. Even worse, there aren’t many of them and they are far too smart to fall for what most college guys are offering. God bless places like Agnes Scott, they got me through school (and I might have made a trip or two to Athens, but I’m not proud to admit it).

Got the hots for ultrageek Sandra Bullock in Love Potion No. 9? Well, here's a college brochure, my friend.

So, do Cumberland University alumni still hold a grudge against you?
Nathan: Best line from that game (222-0) was “you dropped it, you pick it up” from one Cumberland player to another after a fumble. Heisman was the Spurrier of his day, he LOVED to run the score up. Think about that the next time they talk about the character and sportsmanship of the players receiving the trophy given in his name.

Thanks, fellas! Good luck this year!