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Mailbag 7/28

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In which we're doing a FULL-ON SWOT #ANALYSIS.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When does preseason practice start?

Preseason practices usually start a few days before or after Fan Day.

Can we have a concise update of our injured players coming into the season?

Of the players that you listed, I know of two of them that will definitely not be playing at all this season. CJ Leggett tore his ACL and will sit out the entire season. The other one is Jaylend Ratliffe. With his injury, he will not enroll at Tech until January 2016, so he is not eligible to play this season, even if he did get medical clearance. Another name that you left out is Chris Griffin. He also tore his ACL and will sit out the entire season.

Quaide suffered a leg injury during spring practices, and while expected back sometime in September or October, I think it's very likely at this point that he will redshirt this season.

Snoddy and Burden should both be back and fully healed from their respective injuries Snoddy suffered a broken leg last season, and from everything I've seen, it has healed quite nicely. For Burden, I believe it was a wrist injury. Even if that wrist doesn't totally heal up, I have no issue sliding him over to right guard (where he played during the spring). I have every bit of confidence in Andrew Marshall to take over the center job if Burden were to move to guard. Another possibility could be to swap Burden and Errin Joe. Joe does have some practice experience playing center, and if push comes to shove, I wouldn't be against it.

As far as I know, Shamire Devine is still working on his conditioning and trying to get his playing weight down to near 330 pounds. I haven't seen any official reports about his weight, so there's really no way to know for sure.

Would you say that it is likely that Gamble shifts outside to DE?

Let me put it this way. The only way Gamble doesn't move to SDE is if Jabari Hunt-Days is not declared eligible for the upcoming season. If that were to happen, he would be starting opposite Adam Gotsis at DT. Also note, this is only to start the season. I'll touch on this again in a few questions.

If our starting D- line ends up being Gamble, JHD, "The Thunder from Down Under," and Freeman, what would you say is the over/under for the number of quarterbacks they break this season?

There is some serious pass-rushing potential there with JHD, Gotsis, and KeShun Freeman. Also add in the potential of playing Kenderius Whitehead and Antonio Simmons, and I would say the over/under for quarterbacks broken is 2.5.

That might seem a little low, but I say that based off of how many quarterbacks, I think that defensive line would actually injure (not just sack a bunch of times). I'd play it safe and take the under, though.

With Anthony Harrell gone, who do you think will fill his spot in the depth chart?

There's a few guys who could fill in here. I'm only going to talk about two of them though (because the other two fit really nicely into the next question), and that is Beau Hankins and Tre' Jackson. Hankins has been around what seems like forever. He's definitely a solid option at MLB, but honestly, I'd rather see Jackson there. I see a lot of Julian Burnett in Jackson and getting that back at MLB with PJ Davis outside could be really fun. The only problem with that is that really hurts our coverage ability at MLB. I think we will see some combination of these two.

Do you think any freshmen might turn enough heads to earn some playing time (or starts)?

As I have alluded to in previous questions, there are a few freshmen (on defense alone) that I believe will see playing time. The first one comes at SDE. I have a really good feeling that by the end of the season that Anree Saint-Amour will be starting at SDE. His pass-rushing abilities are excellent, but what sets him over the top is his ability to set the edge against the run (a key ability on the strong side).

Moving backward, I could see either Vic Alexander or Brant Mitchell get some playing time at linebacker. The only way I see that happening, though, is if both Hankins and Jackson fizzle out.

In the secondary, I think it's pretty likely AJ Gray gets some playing time. Jamal Golden has pretty much cemented his spot as the starting free safety, but I'm not totally sold on Demond Smith's grasp on the other safety spot. What I think happens here is something similar to Isaiah Johnson's freshman season, where Johnson was not technically the starter, but he still received a good chunk of playing time.

On offense, we'll likely see a few freshman get some playing time. I'm not totally sold we'll see any at wide receiver. I think the incumbents will do a serviceable job there (especially Jeune). Like I've said a few times, I can't really explain why I like him. I just have a good feeling about him. If any do play here, I think it will be Christian Philpott. He's fast and explosive. Perfect fit there.

With Patrick Skov and Marcus Allen firmly planted as the top two B-backs, I don't foresee and freshmen playing here except in the case of injury. If that were to happen, I'm putting my money on Mikell Lands-Davis being the guy that gets called upon. With Weimerskirch getting hurt, I just don't see him getting called on at all this season to play. I'd also like to see Marcus Marshall take a full redshirt year to grow into his frame before taking the B-back position.

At A-back, I think it's pretty likely that we are going to see a freshman or two play here mainly because of the inexperience of the position.

With an 8 month offseason, we fans are given a ton of time to analyze everything from every angle. What is something about this year’s team that we’re overthinking? What’s something that we haven’t been paying enough attention to? What are the intangibles? We seemed to have good team chemistry last year, is that continuing and are we building that family (all contributing members of the hive so to speak) mentality…support one another, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts type of thing. How important is stability within the assistant coaches (who do most the recruiting) contributing to the "family, together we swarm" concept?

I would say that we are overthinking the skill position players on offense (AB, BB, WR). Clearly, we lost a ton of talent at all three of those positions, but we still have plenty of guys ready to step up and take the job.

Something that is being overlooked is the offensive line. The reason for this is because we lost an All-American in Shaq Mason. He was definitely the best player on that line, but I'm not totally convinced that this O-line will take much of a hit. We've seen a little bit of Shamire Devine at right guard and he's been good, but I'm more confident because of the rest of the line. The entire left side of the line (LT, LG, C) is top notch. That side will be very good this season. Errin Joe is no slouch on the right side either. If Devine (or one of the other lineups I suggested earlier) pans out, this O-line will be just as good as it was last season.

Intangibles, it's hard to overlook chemistry. We lost some leadership from last season, but we didn't lose it all. Every season, there are three captains selected: one on offense, one on defense and one voted on by the team. More often than not, all three of those tend to be seniors. Last year was different. Justin Thomas was voted by the team to be the third captain. Seeing how much trust the team has in him, not to mention the team's reaction to Snoddy's injury in the Clemson game, gives me a lot of confidence in this team's chemistry.

Which game(s) are you most concerned about this season and why?

In order, my top four most worrisome games are Clemson, Notre Dame, uga and Florida State. Clemson tops this list because of Deshaun Watson. I'm not convinced he can stay healthy for the entire season (or even an entire game), but when he's in, Clemson tends to play a little bit better. The game is also in Death Valley this season, and Tech always seems to get into trouble there.

I'm worried about Notre Dame for two reasons: it's the third game of the season, and it's in South Bend. South Bend is not an easy place to play. The fan base is always pumped up and excited about the game. That will make it tough for the Yellow Jackets. Tech will also still be trying to figure out the offensive skill positions. We've got the players there, but I do think it'll take them a few games to cement themselves.

UGA concerns me every season. More often then not, they are one of the best teams on our schedule, and even though they don't have a quarterback, I don't see why that shouldn't apply this year. The team is loaded with talent and will put up a good fight, just like they always do. The game is in Atlanta this season, and Tech has not beaten UGA in Atlanta since Paul Johnson has been the coach here.

Finally, we have Florida State. I'm not as worried as I was about this game, and that's mostly because of Dalvin Cook. We had no answer for him in the ACC Championship Game last season, but now that he's not there, I think our chances of winning that game improve significantly. Even so, Jimbo Fisher is a good coach and he will have his team ready to play.

Which 4 teams do you predict making the CFP this year and why?

Right now, I'm going with Ohio State, TCU, Alabama and Arizona. Really, the only surprise pick here is Arizona. If it wasn't obvious, I'm very high on Arizona. They've got plenty of young talent coming back, the main guy there being Anu Solomon. He's a dynamite quarterback for RichRod's system, and I think he's got a good chance of winning the Heisman this season. They've just got to make sure the rest of the team is ready.

Is it too obvious that I can't wait for football season and have too much time on my hands?

Fantastic song right here. For those of you wondering:

State of GT Athletics, a SWOT analysis:

Where do we want to be in the mid-term (5-10 years time horizon)? National Championships? More/Fewer sports represented? Wider reach in recruiting? Change conferences?

This is Joey -- Ben asked me to answer all of these. We'll break it into pieces.

As far as where we want the athletics program to be in 5-10 years, I'd like to see the football program maintain where it's at now. By that, I mean a relatively consistent 9-10 wins per year, continued bowl streak, and beating rivals regularly, even if that's less than 50% of the time. (Mainly, that means avoiding long losing streaks to georgia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Miami, etc.) I'd like to see the basketball program perenially on the bubble at worst, making the tournament more often than not. I'd like the baseball team to have more success later in the season, sustaining early-season success that I feel like we've had recently. I'd like to see the other non-revenue sports in a good spot as well -- golf to continue its strong performance on the national stage, women's basketball to make it back to prominence, and one or two other programs to start making waves. (The tennis program in particular could be much better, I think.) It's going to be tough to add more sports with Title IX restrictions, and there's no varsity sports at the moment that I really question the existence of, so no expectation of adding/removing programs.

I think that a wider reach in recruiting requires two things: more cooperation from the academic arm of the school, and a bigger brand nationally. Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, I knew all about how great schools like Stanford, Duke, and Notre Dame were. I wasn't aware that Georgia Tech was more than just another state school until midway through high school -- and that's coming from the school's backyard. I don't know how one would go about improving the school's brand, but I do think it's a major part of why we don't attract those 4- and 5-star players who also happen to be academically inclined. Everyone knows about Stanford -- I feel like Georgia Tech's prominence is relatively unknown on the national scale.

There's no value, at this point, to changing conferences. The ACC has cemented itself as a major player. The scenario that interests me is if one of the major conferences were to fold, with the only real possibility at this point being the Big XII. If somehow things were to go south there, having 4 major conferences instead of 5 could open the door to bigger structural changes in college football, just with 4 being a round number. But that's totally baseless speculation and I have no reason to think it would ever happen. Frankly, the one linchpin in the whole situation seems to be Texas -- if the Longhorns were to bolt, the Big XII could reasonably implode. That'd be a fun scenario, not unlike what we saw a few years ago where there was a ton of movement in a bunch of directions.

* Strengths: Facilities -- both practice and performance venues seem to be in the upper quintile nationally (McCamish, Chandler, BDS@HGF, Brock Indoor Practice Facility, Tennis, Golf, etc) after much $$ over the last few years. Does our Capital budget allow for further expansion into this vital market, or do we shift these resources to another business vital strategy? (Link to GT Facilities)

The biggest thing that could use some upgrade at this point is the Edge Building, particularly in the way of adding more space for coaches and staff and all that. That's highly unlikely for two reasons though -- the space doesn't reasonably exist, and there's not exactly a bunch of money burning a hole in the GTAA's pocket right now.

Coaching/Staffing: I’m not hearing much about hot seats outside of CBG. Do we need to grow headcount, especially in High School Talent Resourcing?

Of the three major sports, Gregory's seat is the only one that could reasonably even be warm at this point. Danny Hall's squads haven't exactly impressed in the last few years, but there's also not anyone that would do things any better than him. There are some really good players in this year's class, so I'm interested to see what he's able to do with them. It seems like the pitching and hitting have been out-of-sync over the past few years (one struggles when the other is good), so one good year of both could end in a big postseason run.

In terms of staffing, I think you're right that we could still use more people to support recruiting. Something that's been talked about is the lack of social media presence. That's supposed to be a part of what the recruiting support staff does, but they're too busy with other duties to really do much there. I think you've seen a bump in quality of recruits starting with this most recent class, and that's a result of that unit giving the coaches more bandwidth to travel and actually see and visit with recruits. If two people helped this much, I'd think a unit of 4 or 5 people could be that much more helpful. (This is specifically speaking about football. I have no idea how to fix basketball recruiting at this point, but it probably has to do with giving a coach -- Gregory or otherwise -- a long-term contract.)

ACC: Stable, growing, getting more attention. Hoops is still top decile, even though the market space is suffering from a lack of talent due to the invasion of NBA Monopoly. CFB on a strong growth track, but the market space is increasingly becoming a Oligopoly with ESSEEECEE/B1G dominance of the ultimate product.

I agree on basketball, I think the game is down nationwide in terms of good basketball being played. They instituted the "one year rule" instead of letting high school players go straight to the NBA, and it's actually hurt the game where I thought it might help. I wouldn't count out the conference in football terms though. There's a strong top 4 right now of Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, and Louisville, with a lot of potential in Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami, North Carolina, and others. The conference fared pretty well in high-profile OOC matchups last year, and I think the SEC has come back down to Earth over the past couple years with the resurgence of Florida State and others.

*Weaknesses: Men’s Hoops is in a lower decile than I’d ever imagine we would allow to happen.

Last year was it for Brian Gregory, so I assume this year is super it.

Attendance? Sidewalk fans paradigm

I think that's another 'branding' thing to a certain degree, but it's only ever going to be so good in a state where uga also exists. Historically, it's only ever been so good. (I remember hearing that season tickets didn't even sell out the season after Georgia Tech won the 1990 National Championship...and if that won't bring them in, what on Earth will?) I'd also point to attendance numbers being down across the board in college football as a way of showing that it's not just us.

#migration: Is this a thing anymore? Are we bringing in the correct talent to achieve optimal Student/Athlete balance.

When recruiting is less successful, fans like to point out that we're either 1) not getting enough in-state recruits, or 2) not casting a wide enough net in terms of recruiting, with either one purely based on recent results. It'll ebb and flow over time as far as where they come from, but as long as there's a reasonable regional presence, we're doing just fine. There are plenty of good football players in the South, even after you take away all the 4- and 5-star types.

* Opportunities: Add sports? I’m surprised we don’t have a Women’s Golf program given our success, history, and facilities. All the Title 9 Stuff etc.

Again, Title IX makes that extremely hard, and we'd need a good justification for doing so. It probably won't happen.

ACC adding ND eventually, possibly picking off some B1G teams?

I don't see that happening, I think the ACC caps off at 16 teams. With Notre Dame as a full-time member, that means adding one more school. Not sure where that would come from, whether it would be someone from the B1G or a team from a smaller conference (like Georgia Southern or Georgia State or something).

Possible opportunities to shift to into new markets with strategic alliances, principally B1G? (The Terrapin Strategy)

As discussed above, if Georgia Tech were to go anywhere it'd be the B1G, but chances are extremely low that it would happen any time in the foreseeable future.

Uniforms? Are we optimizing our position for eyeballs on the product?

As discussed the last couple of days in the comments, this is a really complex issue that actually involves the academic arm. Russell Athletic's partnership with us is based around a family connection, and that same family connection also funds a position within one of our engineering departments. (I don't know specifics here, but I know it's the case.) I think some of the pressure not to sever the partnership with Russell Athletic is coming from the academic arm. Someone said the contract with them is up in 2017, and as much as I'd really like us to use someone else, I'll believe it when I see it.

* Threats Continuing delusional rise of ESSEEECEE hegemony in the national discourse, especially in heavy media driven markets. Don’t get me started on the local media dominance of the shoddy product imported from Clarke County.

As I said before, I actually think their balloon is deflating a little bit. More and more prominent figures in the media (talking heads and coaches alike) are calling out ESPN and others for the shameless propaganda. If you say something enough it becomes the truth, and that's what happened with the SEC after a few years. A few things have led to that not being the case as much any more, even though it's still a strong conference.

Rumors that the Alexander/Tharpe Fund is continually under funded does not allow hiring of Market Leader level talent. Continuing budget pressure on funding of non-performing assets (looking at you Hewitt). Rise of 2nd/3rd Tier products: GSU-SE, GSU-ATL may degrade our product portfolio; will it effect talent resourcing? Can you tell I’ve been on too many conference calls lately?

That was pretty clear when you asked to do a full SWOT analysis of our entire athletics department and then halfway did it! I think that the A-T Fund might be waning a little bit, mainly because I've heard there are a few donors that aren't happy with the AD. Hanging on to Gregory for another year was very much a financial move, which is really sad -- you should never be in a place where you're imprisoned by a self-created financial situation. They could really, really use a strong hire to replace Gregory if and when that happens, preferably an up-and-coming guy who will provide big results for a relatively low paycheck. Getting Hewitt off the books will help a lot, as will paying off some debt from the facilities that were recently remodeled or reconstructed. The GTAA isn't in a bad place financially at this point, but as I said before, they're not really in a place where they have a whole bunch of money burning a hole in their pockets either.

Is Paul Johnson actually getting better, in game, at judging the talent/weapons he has, at reading the opposing D, and matching that with the plays he calls? Who would be most qualified to answer that other than CPJ (maybe Bud Foster), but would give us an honest answer?

I would say so, if for no other reason, than you get better with what you're doing as long as you keep doing it.

Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, georgia. Of those, which one do you think people are overrating, and which one are people underrating? In other words, which game has a higher chance of victory than we’d think, and which one has a lower chance of victory than we’d think?

Right now, I'm going to say Florida State is overrated. Like I said earlier, Dalvin Cook is gone, and their offense is going to take a huge hit. I also don't think Everett Golson is that great of a quarterback.

Out of these teams, I'll say that Miami is the most underrated, simply because of how much talent they have. They lost a fair amount from last year's team, but I still think it'll be a close game.

In Paul Johnson's 7 years at Tech, is it true that he has a significant advantage in wins and big point spreads when facing a first time opponent or a first time new opposing DC who has never played against a Johnson lead Tech team? If true this would bode well for our trip South Bend?

You can use that same reasoning for any coach's offense. I like our chances better in South Bend because of how much hate Johnson has for Brian VanGorder.

Why are dwag fans so butthurt?

I do want to address the quote in question here. In the tweet and the headline of the article, it says "Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson: ‘UGA isn’t any different’ than ACC teams."

Look at where the quotation marks actually appear. Only around "UGA isn 't any different."  What that means is that Johnson never said anything about them being different about ACC teams in general. What he did say was this:

I can assure you Georgia isn’t any different than Clemson or Florida State or some other teams we play.

There is a huge difference in comparing a team to the ACC as a whole and comparing that same team to two of the best teams in the conference over the last few years. The quotation was taken completely out of context and thrown into a headline to do nothing more than stir the pot for people who just see headlines and complain. It is childish of the author of that article to do that. If you're going to call yourself a sports writer, do everybody a favor and check your facts. Otherwise, you are just destroying your own credibility.

As for the second tweet, I'm not going to argue that one a bit. You can see in the recruiting classes (no matter how you feel about star ratings), it's very easy to tell that UGA has quite a bit more raw talent than Tech does. However, I would argue very heavily that our coaching is superior. Why is that? Look at the talent. UGA is playing with far more talent than Tech, yet Tech has played them close the last two years (both games going into overtime), not to mention Tech also finished last season ranked above the Dawgs and beat another SEC team in the Orange Bowl. Call me crazy, but talent does you no good whatsoever if you don't have the coaches to develop that talent.