clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mailbag 9/22: 9/23 Edition!

This week's mailbag covers ACC Power Rankings, Thomas vs. Nesbitt, and a look at the schedule ahead.

Michael Shroyer

Bye Week: Name three things the team needs to focus on, issues to address, etc.

Pass protection is number one in my mind. It's been a pretty constant struggle so far this year and it's a big component of our struggles throwing the ball. Kickoff return blocking is another. It's been pretty bad this year and has been a big reason that we've had bad field position to start a lot of drives. Third is going to be defensive discipline and tackling. It's going to be crucial when playing Miami. The key to shutting down that offense is keeping Duke Johnson in check, which is going to require a lot of open field tackling and not letting him have too much daylight.

Does Ted Roof intend to continue rotating the defensive line to keep the starters fresh? While this pays dividends in the long term for player development, it leads to our inconsistent play on the line as well…is this a game to game strategy or what? Your thoughts.

I think he should. Adam Gotsis referred to the rotation in his postgame interview, saying it kept him fresh. He referenced the uga game and others since then where he's had to play the whole thing, and it took a huge toll. In this game, go back and watch the last play from scrimmage for Virginia Tech, when Brewer throws his interception. Gotsis was a man on a mission to get to the QB, pushing his blocker back into Brewer. The throw was forced, and the rest is history.

Does the cushion given to the receivers reflect the lack of our ability to cover, lack of a pass rush, or CTR’s philosophy on defense?

It's a philosophy thing of just trying to prevent the big play. Even last year, when the pass rush was decent, the defensive backs were giving a lot of cushion -- again, just trying to avoid giving up the big play. This year it hasn't gone as well (for various reasons), but you'll probably see it improve at least marginally as the pass rush continues to develop.

Will we ever put Golden and Snoddy back deep together?

I doubt it. Rychleski seems pretty intent on only using one returner, and it hasn't really been a problem so far. I'm not really a fan of Snoddy as a kick returner because I don't think he sees the holes and blockers very well. I'd rather we just left Golden back there, but I also understand giving him a rest at times.

Illegal block: Was it the right call?

Took a quick poll of our staff, to varying results. Some say correct, some say incorrect, some say "correct except by spirit of the law". I guess they call it controversial for a reason. I personally thought the call was fine, and that -- as Matt Mills and others said -- it's a pretty dangerous play by Hill. It wasn't a good block to begin with -- he should have just let the defender go.

When will our luck run out of we can’t tighten things up? Pittsburgh? Clemson? UGA? As sad as this sounds I suspect most teams we play will let us get away with it…

This is going to be a terrible answer, but I honestly have no idea. If the first four weeks of college football has taught us anything, it's that we know very little about anything. I look at the 8 teams left on our schedule, and I have no idea what to think of anyone. I don't even know what to think of our team. (Where am I right now? Why am I here? What is real? WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!?) Teams have had equally good and bad games, and I don't know what to expect at this point. History tells me that Miami will beat us if we don't play a complete game, but then again, are the Hurricanes any good? And Duke -- they just won the division, but none of us take them seriously yet. How well do we need to play to beat them?

Your question has sent me into an existential identity crisis. I hope you're happy.

So far, our games have been much more exciting than expected. Are there any teams on our schedule that we can comfortably beat, or will all of our games be as nerve-wracking as the first four? I’ll hang up and listen.

Based on the above answer, I'm going to say you should start investing in more alcohol (or heart meds, or whatever you prefer). At this point, I'm not sure there's anyone else on the schedule that I'm thinking we'll blow out. I think we're going to win plenty more games this season, but I can't really say I think any of them will look like last year's Syracuse game. Who knows, maybe one or more will -- but at this point, I can't really say one jumps out as an easy, two-touchdown win.

Some FTRS commenters have been less than positive about the team and CPJ thus far. What will it take for the team to be seen as worthwhile by this group?

That's a great question. I'm a little surprised Saturday's win didn't do it. No, it wasn't pretty. Yes, there were mistakes. There were some rough moments. But at the end, you had Tech showing guts and making clutch plays like we haven't seen in years, and winning against a team we've been complaining about not beating for the last four years. I mean, I realize we didn't look like Super Bowl contenders out there, but that kind of scrappy win is what it was going to take to beat Virginia Tech in the first place based on the types of games we've played against them, going all the way back to 2009.

More to your question, I think we need a convincing win against a decent ACC opponent to get folks to believe. One of the prime suspects I'm looking at right now is UNC. They just gave up 70 to East Carolina and really haven't looked very good this year. They're 121st nationally in scoring defense, even giving up 29 points to Liberty in Week 1 and 27 to a below average San Diego State team. Those guys could be ripe for a smoking by our offense after three straight games coming up at Clemson, home against Virginia Tech, and at Notre Dame.

Power Rankings? Please rank Coastal and Atlantic by division in terms of season performance thus far… Does a Coastal Champ look competitive with the potential Atlantic Champ?

This is going to be tough. Let's see.

Rank Team Reason
1 Florida State Something about "being the man" and "beating the man". A lot shakier than last year thus far.
2 Clemson Two losses so far, but both admirable and to top-10 teams nationally.
3 Louisville Rough loss to UVA, but looked good against Miami. Early hiccups should settle.
4 Boston College Loss to Pitt wasn't pretty. Win over Southern Cal sure was. Seems like a decent team.
5 N.C. State Undefeated in conference play, but against debatable levels of competition. October will teach us a lot.
6 Syracuse Needed 2OT to beat Villanova at home and lost to Maryland. Meh.
7 Wake Forest Losses to UL-Monroe and Utah State, and a 3-point win over Army. Hasn't scored more than 24 yet. Ew.

Florida State remains in the driver's seat here after a win over Clemson, but something about this team isn't the same as last year. Louisville and Boston College have had good and bad games. NC State is a wild card here, and I'm not betting on big returns. Syracuse has been pretty underwhelming, and Wake Forest is pretty bad overall.

Team Reason
1 Duke I don't want to put Georgia Tech on top, and they're the undefeated reigning Coastal Champs.
2 Georgia Tech It hasn't been pretty, but it's not like anyone has been prettier.
3 Pittsburgh Was solid against a decent Boston College team. Was bad against a bad Iowa team.
4 Virginia Looked respectable against UCLA and BYU. Beat Louisville. Uncomfortable feeling ranking them this high.
5 Miami Wins over Florida A&M and Arkansas State. Losses to Louisville and Nebraska. No clue.
6 Virginia Tech Beat Ohio State by 2 TD's. Lost to East Carolina and Georgia Tech.
7 North Carolina Not particularly good against Liberty or San Diego State, and East Carolina just scored again.

Let's just say I legitimately considered using a random number generator here. I honestly have no idea about much of anyone in this division right now.

Are you as surprised as I am that ECU is leading the ACC Coastal?

If you had told me before the season that ECU would beat Virginia Tech and UNC in consecutive weeks, I wouldn't have believed you, but I also wouldn't have bet my life savings against it either. That's not to make a statement on how much money it is, but more that ECU has been a decent team for a few years now. Their Air Raid offense finished 7th nationally in total offense last year, and they beat UNC by 24 last year in Chapel Hill. (They also fell to Virginia Tech by a score of 15-10, so they weren't far from winning that one too.) They've certainly been a surprise, but it didn't catch me completely off-guard either.

Just saw we got 27 votes in Amway Coaches Poll; with a win against Miami do you think we vault into the top 25?

Yeah, a win over Miami gets us in the 24-25 range, I'd think. Then again, half the Top 25 might get blown out next week with how this season is going, so we could already be a top 20 team going in or something ridiculous like that.

The commentator yesterday said multiple times that CTR was looking for people to prove themselves yesterday, challenge even" leaders" like Gotsis. Basically saying no one’s job is safe. Do you see any serious moves in the next two weeks on Defense? Can we see anyone lose their spot or gain a starting spot come two weeks from now?

I think the front 7 is basically set, except for the two defensive end spots. KeShun Freeman and Rod Rook-Chungong have been the best so far, but there's a chance you see Tyler Stargel reclaim his spot from one of them. I'd keep an eye on the secondary, especially since Lynn Griffin's return and the questionable play of the DB's at times. Also, I'd be shocked to see Isaiah Johnson lose his starter slot, but I also can't really say his play has been impressive so far this season.

Pretty banal question, sorry, but since I can only listen to most of the games — what do the redshirts do on gameday? Cheer, support the team on the sidelines? Help loosen the other guys up, help with stretches, help warm the kicker up??

You'd be surprised, actually. A lot of them are in pads on the sidelines, ready to go in case of emergency. They're usually in the huddle on the sideline during a time out, and they usually hang out with their position groups during sideline coaching sessions. They're incorporated in a lot of ways, even if they're not getting out onto the field.

If we continue winning these big games do you think we can land some high level recruits at the end of this cycle?

I think it would go a long way in getting them to Atlanta, for sure. Recruits don't pick schools solely based on winning, but it certainly would be one less thing people could say bad about us, and could be one more thing for us to sell to them.

CPJ is making it clear he wants the team to be confident. He gave the ball to Justin Thomas on 4th and long without hesitation. Without hesitation he called offensive plays whose only purpose was to run down the clock and set up for a clutch winning field by Butker. If you are CPJ who is the next player or players your are going to demonstrate that level of confidence in and put in a position to make a big play?

He definitely did lean on Thomas there at the end, and it was great seeing him step up. Assuming we're just talking offense, I won't say DeAndre Smelter, just because I think he already is counted on to play a major role in the offense. The other guy that comes to my mind is Zach Laskey. So far, he's been solid, but not counted on to be a superstar. I think there comes a point in the middle of a game this year where Justin Thomas is struggling or being shut down, where CPJ looks at Laskey and basically says, "I need you to do something about this." You'll see him go for something like 50-60 yards on a single drive to get the offense back in motion.

If Tech should lose to Miami, in what ways would that change the season for us and would it necessarily take the shine off of beating VPI in Blacksburg?

I think the worst part of losing to Miami would be doing it on national television at home in front of what should be a really fired-up crowd. It would be deflating, especially against a team that's been middle-of-the-pack so far this season. I don't think it ruins the VPI game at all -- a streak that we were all aware of and irritated with was broken -- but it'll probably make the naysayers louder than they were prior to that game.

After starting off 4-0 with three semi-uninspiring wins, and then a big win in Blacksburg, how do we finish the season from here? Do you stick with your original prediction (which I would have to check on)?

I predicted 9 wins, and I think we do. I do like our chances against Miami, but I still don't like our chances in Games #11 (Clemson) and 12 (uga). I think that even if we beat Miami, we find a weird way to lose to someone else. Could be Duke, Pitt, UNC...anyone. It's a young team that'll make the mistake of not being focused somewhere, and it'll cost them.

What does it mean that Tim Byerly wasn't brought in yesterday, even in goal line situations?

I don't think it's a criticism of Byerly at all. I think it's more a reflection of the scheme. On third and fourth down, with a distance to go of 2 yards or less, Thomas had one carry and two passes, and Tony Zenon and Zach Laskey each had one carry. Out of 16 third and fourth downs, only 5 of them were "and short." Three of those were given to Thomas, and two of those were passes, where Thomas is better than Byerly. The only situation where Byerly may have been better was at the end of the second quarter when Justin Thomas had his sprint out that turned into the "Superman" dive, but he scored anyways and was in rhythm. It was also a first down play that he had a passing option on.

So from what you’ve seen would you rather have Nesbitt’s strength or Thomas’ speed? In other words, if you could resurrect 2008 Josh would you rather have him back or have Justin today?

It's really hard to compare them. Nesbitt was more reliable to fall forward and pick up two or three yards on any given play. Where Thomas has him is on big play ability, thanks to his speed, acceleration, and shiftiness. As far as which one I prefer, that's tough. If it's 4th and 1, I'd rather have Nesbitt, who I always knew was good for it on the QB Follow play. Outside of short-yardage situations, I think I'd prefer Thomas though. Thomas's speed also becomes valuable in the passing game, in that he can avoid sacks and extend the play. I think I'd take him in most situations.

Why hasn’t Devine been given the chance to help at all?

From what I've read, Devine still has conditioning issues that limit how much he can play. That said, a lot like the D-Line, I think the O-Line would benefit from rotating a little more. He's gotten in some on offense and the field goal team, and I've thought he's done a pretty nice job when in there. If he can extend his stamina a little more, I think he can be a really dangerous and impressive offensive lineman.

Thanks everyone for the questions, and apologies for being late on another article. We'll do it again next week!