1. Can you give a recap of the UVA game?
Cade Lawson: Do I really have to think about that thing again? I'm just now starting to cope.
Looking at the box score from that game is extremely confusing. The Cavaliers racked up 408 total yards of offense on Tech, but Matt Johns only threw for 175 and no rusher had more than 75. The sheer amount of ways that Virginia found success was absolutely staggering. They brought in guys who had done just short of nothing all year and each one had a big game. It is almost like the team was completely unprepared to stop everyone but Smoke Mizzell, who they also failed to stop. Olamide Zaccheaus has 181 yards rushing all season and 68 of those came in the Tech game alone. Daniel Hamm has 211 rushing yards through 9 games and 42 of them came against Tech. It almost feels like UVA nickle-and-dimed the Jackets by throwing a dozen different rushers at them and letting each have a big day. It was ugly, and losing Gotsis doesn't help. The offense was also bad, with Clinton Lynch and Ricky Jeune alone accounting for 235 of Tech's 395 yards. Only 144 of those yards were rushing. That won't get it done.
Kieffer Milligan: We played UVA? Not ringing a bell.
In all seriousness it was just another Copy-Paste performance by Tech this year. No blocking and bad defense. At this point the analysis have been repeated ad nauseum, and I'm just waiting for some improvement. Any improvement, really. This season has been a horror show.
Joey Weaver: Man...what a letdown of a performance.
At this point in the season, aside from the Florida State game, the defense has obviously not been what we had hoped it would be. After Gotsis's injury on the first snap of the game, the front 7 went from "shaky at best" to "pretty awful". As has been pointed out, UVA rushed for 233 yards (a season high and only the second time that they've had more than 160) and really moved the ball at will on the ground. Resuming another tradition of this season, the offensive line played another terrible game on the road.
The Florida State game did nothing if not give us hope for the rest of the year. The UVA game may have undone all of that entirely.
2. What specific signs of improvement should we key on to determine if we have hope going into 2016? -chilidogringsRO
CL: It's going to be hard to look for signs of improvement this season because so many people who should be big contributors next season are either injured or playing out of position right now. Looking for signs of improvement in the secondary won't do much good because A.J. Gray is currently hurt and the rest are all seniors. I don't have much hope left for the current defensive line unit, but it would be encouraging for them to get some more consistent pressure. The blocking on offense has already improved since the early goings, but there is still a lot to work on there. Marcus Marshall and Clinton Lynch continue to impress, so every improvement they make will be highly encouraging considering that both of them promise to start for a while.
KM: There are a couple things to look for against Virginia Tech. The first is the play of Kyle Cerge-Henderson, who will get the start after the injury to Adam Gotsis and Jabari Hunt's suspension. KCH could very well be a starting DT next year, and the has been a position of weakness for years. I'm looking for him to make some plays. He's a highly athletic DT who is a bit undersized, and personally I wish he wasn't stuck at the NT position. Hopefully that will be different next year. If he can get some penetration or an interior pass rush, it will be a huge step forward. Also look to see how well he holds point in the run game.
On offense, I just want to see some straight up drive blocking. Marcus Marshall is a special back, and we have him running into a wall of defenders every play. I want to finally see someone manhandle their opponent. Against the Hokies, that's going to be a tall order, and that will make it all the sweeter if it happens.
JW: The two things on offense you should watch for are the offensive line play from younger players and the development of Brad Stewart.
Georgia Tech will be starting a pair of freshmen at offensive tackle this week (Will Bryan and Trey Klock), which should provide some insight into how they're developing towards next season. You'll also see other younger guys getting playing time (Gary Brown, Jake Stickler, Jake Whitley) -- hopefully the game reps are helpful for them moving into the offseason.
Beyond that, watch for how Brad Stewart does as he takes on a full-time starting role following the departure of Micheal Summers. Watch how Stewart supports the run with his blocking, and see if he can get open to bring down a couple of passes. There will surely be some growing pains still mixed in, but hopefully he's contributing positively down the stretch.
3. How likely is a repeat of the "False Start Fiasco" from the 2013 edition of Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech? -YJAlleyCat
CL: It won't be a problem. That game was something of an anomaly for Paul Johnson's teams, which are almost always among the least-penalized in the nation -- the Jackets are currently No. 6 in terms of fewest penalties per game at just 4 per contest. I can't find specific stats for false starts, but this offensive line seems to have done a very good job all year long to this point. I'd be shocked if they did anything that even resembled the mess back in 2013.
KM: Eh, probably not all that likely. Those things are pretty much anomalies. I'd be more worried about whether or not the team is executing blocking schemes and throwing effective blocks. That's a much bigger problem.
JW: For whatever reason, the 2013 offensive line was terrible about waiting until the ball was snapped to move -- and there were a couple of primary offenders at that. This year, as bad as they've been, staying still until the snap hasn't been one of their major issues. Hopefully Bobby Dodd Stadium gets another crazy Thursday night atmosphere, but I don't expect it to be a problem for the good guys.
4. Who do you think has played this year that will redshirt next year? -wima13
CL: Uh oh, you are about to get a sneak peak into how I manage my NCAA 14 teams. Got two great senior running backs? Redshirt one of them!
KM: This is a tough one, but there are a few that could see redshirts come their way. Taquon Marshall is the most likely for me. He has already had his snaps taken away by Mikell Lands-Davis and Clinton Lynch, and it has been rumored that he will move to QB next season. Qua Searcy will be healthy next year, and JJ Green becoming eligible, the AB position will be crowded, so it makes sense to redshirt him, move him, or both. On defense, most of the guys have been too valuable contributing this year, and will be relied upon even more next year. The only one I could see happening is Anree Saint-Amour. He hasn't gotten many snaps, and all of the current DEs on the roster are set to return. However, there have been some rumblings that he will be getting more snaps down the stretch, and he very well may be the most talented DE on the team. If he's got the highest ceiling, the coaches won't be able to keep him off the field next year.
But I actually doubt that this will happen. Should it? Possibly. But teams don't tend to do that unless a guy has a proven need for more time to develop. If I had to choose I would probably guess someone on the offense. I'd personally like to see Mikell Lands-Davis take a season to convert back to B-Back and grow into that position a bit more since it was his intended position in the first place. TaQuon Marshall is another guy I could see this happening for as he could move forward as either an A-Back or a wide receiver. I doubt that either will happen, though.
JW: I'm going to the apparently popular pick here and saying TaQuon Marshall. I agree with the others that I think there's a chance that they move him to another position, although which position is up in the air, and Quarterback has been the primary speculation based on some of Coach Johnson's comments. If that were to materialize in the offseason, he'd probably need a year on the bench to learn the offense and get comfortable operating it. (Not to mention that the team looks to be very much set at QB next season, anyways.)
5. Which injury has affected the team the most so far this season?
CL: I'd have to go with the injury to Qua Searcy. He was an is the most athletic player on the team as well as the most explosive, and will have a great career starting when he gets back. The offense just hasn't had the spark that he brought early this season and similar players have brought in the past. I think that losing Gotsis will hurt the most over the rest of the year, though. His absence has lost us two games -- UNC and UVA. I normally wouldn't put a loss on one player being out, especially a defensive lineman, but he is a difference maker when and where it counts. Losing him stings.
KM: I would have to say Qua Searcy. He was a playmaker on the edge, and had great ability in the run and pass game. Lynch and Lands-Davis have shown good receiving skills, but Searcy was just more explosive. He had the ability to take it the distance any time he got the ball. Snoddy had a similar effect, but wasn't as good as a receiver, and won't have missed the same number of games.
Honorable Mention 1: CJ Legget. He was likely going to be the starter before he tore his ACL, and Jacket fans had heard a lot of good things about his talent. I think he could have played a Synjyn Days type role, using his vision to pick his way through bad blocking and finishing runs with power. Skov is a bulldozer, but doesn't have the vision to really pick his way through the trash.
Honorable Mention 2: Christian Philpott. Philpott would have given Tech 2 tall receivers on the outside, something Justin Thomas sorely needs in the pass game. Philpott was a highly touted prospect, and could possibly be the most talented WR on the team. Due to his pre-season injury, he was unable to learn the skills required by the time the season rolled around. CPJ commented this season that he thinks Philpott would have played this year if it weren't for the injury.
JW: Qua Searcy was undoubtedly a bad one after he had been playing well prior to his injury, but I think that Chris Griffin's pre-season injury may be hurting the team as much as anything. With as poorly as the offensive line has played all season, having Griffin in the rotation and able to start in place of underperforming players would have gone a long way. Now, with two freshmen starting at OT, you'd have to think a healthy Chris Griffin would have been in one of those spots (assuming he hadn't played poorly too).
Honorable Mention: Adam Gotsis has only missed one game so far due to injury (technically he started, but he missed the entire game aside from one snap), but his absence may be what costs the team its final three games. He was thrown out of the North Carolina game, and the defense was never the same. He was knocked out of the UVA game, and the defense looked like a shell of itself. With Virginia Tech, Miami, and georgia on the docket moving forward...it's hard to imagine they'll have a much easier time coping.
6. Preview of VT -- what's the one biggest key to victory for Georgia Tech?
CL: The biggest key is Marcus Marshall, Marcus Marshall, and more Marcus Marshall. Frank Beamer is a punk who likes to force the dive (he admits as much just about every year), so establishing the dive will be critical. Virginia Tech will let you run it up the middle, but you just have to take the opportunities when they present themselves. Hopefully Marshall will be able to do it on Thursday. Oh, god... I can already hear the ESPN announcers screaming "THERE GOES THE FULLBACK" over and over. It will be painful.
KM: Honestly, I'm not looking for Victory here, I'm looking for improvement from the guys who will be major contributors next year. I'd love to go 3-0 from here and make a bowl as much as all of you and I'll be in the stands screaming my head off, but at this point I am looking to this team's future, and hoping for stability. There are a lot of talented but raw freshmen on this team, and it will be imperative for the team's future that these players develop early. We only get one more year of Justin Thomas. Gotta make it count.
The biggest thing to watch is the blocking schemes. Did the bye week help the OL re-learn how to effectively block as a unit? They get perhaps the toughest test of the season against Bud Foster's Virginia Tech Defense. Foster will throw a variety of blitz packages and looks at the Georgia Tech OL, and they will only be able to stop it if someone has stepped up this week and become "that guy" who can make adjustments on the line when necessary. If the OL can finally gel and execute, this will look like a completely different team.
JW: Field position, especially as it relates to the defense getting stops and creating turnovers. Georgia Tech's offense has had terrible field position for what seems like most of the season, and it's contributed to the offense's inability to put points on the board. Last year, longer drives seemed more likely to end in touchdowns -- defenses got tired and the offense could impose its will in the red zone. This year, the opposite seems true -- the longer a drive, the more likely the offense is to stall out and come away without points.
That said, it's on the defense and special teams to get stops, create turnovers, and put the offense in good field position to where they can create a lot of scoring opportunities against another nasty Virginia Tech defense. If the offense continues to be working from inside its own 20 yard line and needing 80+ yards to score, it's going to severely impact their output.
Unfortunately, I don't see it happening for Georgia Tech in this game. With no Adam Gotsis and no Jabari Hunt on defense, and with such an ineffective offensive line against Virginia Tech's front 7, it's hard to imagine this game going Georgia Tech's way. The Hokies aren't an unbeatable team, but Georgia Tech isn't really in position right now to take advantage of their opponents' shortcomings. I envision another disappointing end to a celebratory occasion at Bobby Dodd Stadium. VPI 27, Georgia Tech 17