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Mailbag 10/6: 10/8 Edition!

The mailbag is approaching unprecedented two-days-late territory, and covers celebrations, drinking, polls, and all sorts of other wholesome goodness.

"I'll tell you all about it one day, kid."
"I'll tell you all about it one day, kid."
Scott Cunningham

When will we lose? Obviously Tech is going win against all the rest of the ACC Coastal, beat Clemson, beat u(sic)ga, win the ACC Championship, and then win the first ever college football playoff. Hypothetically if this scenario were to be "too optimistic," what game do you think is the most likely for the 0 in the loss column to become a 1?

The first thing you should know about me is that I'm very noncommittal about making predictions or projections, for better or worse. That being said, there are two games moving forward that scare me more than they should, and I'll tell you why.

The first is Duke, this week. There's three things about Duke that scare me. First, we've beaten them 10 times in a row. As much as uga fans may disagree, that type of streak has to come to an end at some point and just on chance alone, we're overdue. Second, we're coming off of a very emotional, exciting win, feeling great about ourselves. History would tell us that the team is likely to start a bit slow in the week following a big win like that. Finally, the students are on Fall Break beginning this Friday through the following Tuesday. As much as I was really proud of our students for showing up and sticking around last week, and as cool as it was when the team showed their appreciation for that...I've seen my share of Fall Break games as a student, and I'll just tell you that, sad as it may be, not enough students care enough about football to delay a flight home or a trip out of town by a few hours. I'm really worried about attendance and atmosphere being a bit of a letdown this week.

The other game that concerns me is NC State. The thing that scares me about that game is playing it in Raleigh, where the Wolfpack have a history of either creating upsets or nearly creating upsets. Over the last four years, they've beaten a #7 Clemson team, upset a #3 Florida State team, nearly upset a #3 Clemson team (doomed by a very controversial call), and given a reigning National Champion and #1-ranked Florida State team all it could handle. All of those things happened at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Don't forget either that our 2011 win in Raleigh was a one touchdown game going into the fourth quarter. It also saw NC State miss a field goal and turn the ball over on downs twice, once on the tail end of a 19-play, 81-yard drive. (No, your eyes are not deceiving\ you. Check it out.) I don't know that NC State is a particularly good team, but something about them playing prime-time games at home is a bit worrisome for me.

Besides those two teams, there's the obvious Clemson, uga, and Florida State (in a potential ACCCG).

How worried should we be with Duke coming off a bye and us coming off an emotional win over Miami? How much letdown will there be, if any?

As I mentioned above, we should be very wary of that. I'd like to think the team comes out focused and picks up where they left off on Saturday, but history tells us they won't, and that the atmosphere won't be there to pick the team up.

Recruit -- Who did we impress most this weekend? Who will commit next? And who will be a surprise commit?

I've checked in with a few commitments and another big recruit who is uncommitted. They all seem very impressed by what they saw on the field, as well as what was happening around the field. For future commits, the two guys I have my eye on are a couple of guys in the front 7 on defense. One is uncommitted but said to be leaning our direction, while the LB is committed elsewhere but said to be setting up visits and at least interested in seeing what we have to offer. Both are pretty highly-rated guys.

Is our D's strategy causing these turn over? After the last two games it seems like we dare teams to pass on us, and they get away with it for a while, but they don't get big plays. Then at some point it catches up with the other team in the form of an interception. Is this some evil master plan by CTR? Or are we just not playing good D at first?

I think strategy is contributing to it. A couple of the turnovers in the two games prior to Miami were created by a clear scheme adjustment meant to take advantage of a QB getting comfortable with our coverages throughout the game. I know that Jamal Golden went on the record saying his interception was largely a result of spending a lot of time in the film room. I'd also say that Isaiah Johnson's interception was scheme-based, considering his tactical position compared to where he was on the field at the time. (He's a safety who was 5 yards in front of the receiver. That's the result of a good play call by Ted Roof.)

How big is November 1 UVA game now?

Pretty huge. Things can happen between now and then, but if Tech can beat Duke this weekend and then UNC and Pitt on the road, there's a chance that UVA game will be contested with the division championship on the line. Only issue is whether UVA loses between now and then. If they don't and we still win that game, we would still have to beat either NC State (on the road) or Clemson (at home) to keep our conference record in order.

CFB Final 4 includes FSU, Auburn, ______,and_______. ECU? TCU?

FSU is a risky pick at this poing because they've been uninspiring so far as compared to last year. They're actually not in the Top 10 in F/+ this season, per SB Nation's Bill C. My Final 4 includes, at this point, Auburn, Oregon, Baylor, and Florida State, although I'd rather put money on my current #5, one-loss Michigan State, over those last 2. Yes, I picked a one-loss Oregon team. No, I don't think their loss eliminates them, nor do I think they lose again if they can get past UCLA this week.

Do you think Arizona deserved to shoot all the way up to #10 in the AP poll?

Last week's AP poll, they had 6 more points than us. Then they enter the polls at #10. I think they're a good team, and I recognize they beat the #2 team nationally. I don't see how any one game can make a 15-spot difference though without an admission of major fault.

They say defense wins championships. Is our D good enough? I hope we get to find out.

I'll reference what I did in the comments of another article recently and say that our defense in 2009, while not amazing, was good enough. They don't have to be a top-10 defense nationally...they just have to limit the scoring enough for the offense to score more. Luckily for them, the offense looks as good as it has in years, and by the end of the year could be the best it's ever been under Coach Johnson. That said, the offense won't be able to win every game by itself, and the defense is going to need to make a couple of stops at some point that win or save a game.

Is Ryan Rodwell starting at B-Back for the next game? And will he be our leading rusher by the end of the season?

Should we really consider it a coincidence that Laskey had 7 carries for 45 yards prior to Rodwell's two-broken-tackle rumble, and racked up 22 carries for 88 yards afterwards? Clearly someone's feeling threatened.

The plan against Miami was to protect our defense by playing ball control on offense. That may be a theme for much of this season given the obvious chinks in our defensive armor. But my question is this: Against some team this year CPJ is gong to feel secure enough to take the gloves off and administer an explosive onslaught of offensive terror. Against which team on our schedule is this going to happen? For some reason I am guessing it could either be against Pittsburgh (because they seem susceptible to severe morale loss) or against Clemson (because we may have nothing to lose against them by opening up the offensive floodgates.) What do you think?

I think the main candidate right now to score 50 against is UNC, just because their defense is a wreck right now (no pun intended). I also think you see CPJ throw the kitchen sink at teams like Clemson and uga -- particularly the game in Athens, where the secondary is approaching "unmitigated disaster" levels. I wouldn't expect him to pull out anything too revolutionary until the need presents itself, though, and I think the playcalling looks a lot like the Miami game did until someone makes him change it.

Our defense seems incredibly reliant on turnovers. I'm worried that we won't be able to force punts against teams that don't pass a lot. Tulane - 3 INTs, Southern - 1 FUM, 0 INTs, VPI - 3 INTs, Miami - 2 INTs (should have been 3). We've had an incredibly positive turnover ratio all season, which I hope continues (we're 13th in the nation in turnover ratio). How screwed are we when we have a game in which we don't get turnovers? Can we actually force punts against teams that take care of the ball?

I think the main thing you're seeing is offensive systems. Wofford and Georgia Southern combined for one turnover against us because they focus so hard on running the ball. Fumbles are much harder to cause than interceptions just by nature, and so run-heavy teams will naturally turn the ball over less. However, you saw in games against Tulane, Virginia Tech, and Miami that pass-focused or pass-reliant teams are a little more likely to turn the ball over. (Passing is, by nature, risky.) It's also much easier to put those teams in position to turn it over. I think you'll see a natural trend by scheme, but the defense needs to continue to be opportunistic. If they can't create turnovers against run-based offenses, I think their biggest goal will be to force those teams to throw by bottling up the run. That might require some cheating at times, especially if in the nickel, but will hopefully involve some calculated risk.

Is there a video out there of the students storming the field? I was one of the trend's early adopters in the south end zone, and a mixture of excitement, sheer adrenaline, and the fear that security was right behind me made me cover those 110+ yards faster than I'd thought possible. I'd like to get a scholarship at Auburn for my ability to run fast, since they're handing 'em out for those kinds of things now.

I've embedded the video below. It was a bit of a weird field-storming, because it didn't happen until after the team's prayer in the middle of the field, and because the South end zone crowd didn't join until after the fight songs. However, after watching the video below, I'd watch this video from RamblinWreckTube. I think it's even cooler. It shows the players breaking from their midfield circle, and on a dead sprint to the student section to celebrate with those students that were behind them for the entire game. I think for a team that's had questions and issues with student section support at times in the last few years, it was amazing seeing a) the students so great all night long, and b) the players showing that obvious appreciation for their support. Hopefully that sets a precedent moving forward.

The Dookies' offense:

1. What kind of offense does Dook run? How will we defend it? What scheme changes/adjustments will we make for them (if any at all)?

Duke runs a pretty balanced spread attack that incorporates a lot of read option and a lot of mid-to-long range passes. Frankly, it's a lot like what I would run if I were an offensive coordinator, and is a lot like what I run in NCAA Football video games. (I actually operate out of Clemson's playbook, which you could say is comparable in a lot of ways.)

2. At this point in the season, who are Dook's best offensive players? How will we plan to shut them in particular down?

As was expected prior to the season, WR Jamison Crowder has been solid with 29 catches for 343 yards and 2 TD's. His sub-70 yards per game isn't anything outrageous, but he's shown himself to be well-capable of a huge game at any point in time. The less expected success has been the freshman RB Shaun Wilson, who has 36 carries for 435 yards and 4 TD's so far this year. For those keeping score at home, that's upwards of 12 yards per carry. However, you should know that over half of his yards and 3 of his touchdowns came against the grease fire that is Kansas, where he went for 245 yards on 12 carries -- an average just north of 20 yards per carry. QB Anthony Boone has been underwhelming so far, posting a completion percentage short of 57% and having 7 TD's with 3 INT's. He's also got 23 carries, but for only 99 yards. He's got 3 rushing TD's though, so watch for him in the red zone.

Bonus question:

3. Do you remember what your drinking habits were during the game? Do you remember anything at all after the final play? ;-)

Haha, of course I remember them. I actually spent a lot of the day Saturday regretting the choices I made Friday night, and so I opened my first beer right at kickoff. I drank somewhere between 5-7 cans of Shiner Bock during the game, and went out for celebratory ice cream with the FTRS First Lady afterwards.

Can you make our rec'd color a deep gold instead of green?

SB Nation was doing stuff with separate blogs back in the summer, but required a manual email request to put the wheels in motion. Full disclosure, I was a little late with that email and it never happened. Let me check though. For the record, we'll probably go with a navy background and gold "thumbs up" logo. Before all the "white and gold" purists get angry at me, let's think for a second. You want it to be white, just like all the other comments you've already read? How about gold, just like all the other comments you haven't quite gotten to yet? Yeah, I think we're going to the first "alternate" color here if it ever happens.

Ok Joey humor me. I did a quick check of the roster and it looks like Laskey, Waller and Smelter are seniors. A lot of people are comparing this year to 2008 in anticipation of a breakout 2009 type year next year. But I'm beginning to wonder if we're experiencing our 2009 this year and about to get a rude awakening a la 2010 next year. For those of your who don't remember, we lost Dwyer and Thomas at the end of 2009. So here are my questions. What is CPJ doing to develop our up and coming offensive skill position starters? I hear CTR is doing a lot of rotating on defense to keep guys fresh, motivated and developing. Is this the case?

I wouldn't worry about WR. Jeune and Messick have already gotten some time in games thus far, and we've got a really good crop to support Summers there next year that could include Qua Searcy if he were to get moved back. B-Back is the position I'd worry about. Our top 3 B-Backs right now are Laskey, Synjyn Days, and Matt Connors -- all seniors. We'll be replacing them with will-be redshirt freshman C.J. Leggett and probably with true freshman Mikell Lands-Davis. The other person to remember is Marcus Allen, linebacker who was originally recruited as a B-Back. He's the one guy that could be a wild card who gets moved back, purely for the experience factor.

For defensive rotation, I think it's all a win-win. Young guys get some real game-situation experience, veteran starters get rest. I think you've already seen it pay off in certain situations, and I think you'll continue to see it pay off that way. Even replacing 3 starters this year, there's a chance we have to replace 2 more next year if Gotsis is to jump ship to the NFL after this season. I don't know how likely that is, and honestly I'd be a bit surprised, but there's a reasonable possibility there.

Could you please talk about the freshman secondary players and how much they have played this season? They did not play against Miami, I am not sure how much they played against VPI. I am just wondering why they are no longer playing as much and what the plan is for them.

The participation report at RamblinWreck.com has all the freshman corners (Austin twins and Step Durham) as not having played against Miami. My thinking there is that there were two reasons. First, Miami's receivers are a major challenge when you know the scheme being used to defend them front to back. They're even more of a challenge when you're still learning the system and apt to make a mistake every once in a while that could turn into a touchdown. I'd like to think that they were held out of the Miami game in the interests of limiting defensive mistakes. The other reason is a justification of that being an acceptable strategy, in that Miami's 44 offensive snaps are not enough to require that many bodies on defense. They had some success, yes, but the fatigue hit to our defense in that game was likely pretty minimal, especially with the extensive rest periods between their time on the field. I think that they needed fewer bodies, and that the general mistake-prone nature of freshmen had them below the threshold of playing in that game.

Moving forward, I think they'll play less with the return of Lynn Griffin, but I think you'll see them in action down the road as early as this weekend against Duke. It all depends on Ted Roof and his scheme.

Thanks for all the great questions, and apologies for tardiness once again.