Last Thursday, we were finally able to put the 2014 Yellow Jacket season behind us. And at the completion of the 69-6 victory over Alcorn State, it'll be a good idea to also put that game in the rear-view mirror, because no other game this season will look like that.
Still, when Tech held a 41-0 lead, my mind started wondering into so many philosophical areas. I thought about deep questions such as... what ever happened to the soft-drink "Tab"... what's up with Owen Wilson's nose... what, exactly is a woodchuck anyway? Now I can google the answer to all these questions, but google can't help me answer my most pressing question: what will be the identity of the 2015 Yellow Jackets?
The identity of a team could and usually does take many weeks and even months... with last year being a prime example. But something struck me as I was watched Tech pour on 10 touchdowns in front of 50,000 fans. I saw an excited group anxious to compete. I saw an athletic group that seemed to be having fun and very confident in their abilities. Now it could be because of the opponent, or it could that the team is taking on the personality of their leader Justin Thomas.
All we've heard about Tech's junior quarterback is that he is not very vocal. Thomas certainly looks a little sheepish as he grabs the ‘V‘ of his shoulder pads during interviews. He is not demonstrative in his speech... but calm and honest. And he presents characteristics that are more of a lead-by-example type player.
But Thomas' dynamic play and blustery performances on the field is something completely different from his docile demeanor. On the quarterback's touchdown run, he could have simply trotted into the endzone. But instead, Thomas chose a flashier exclamation point as he knocked down the pylon with the tip of the ball as he went in for the score. "Wait..." I said to myself as I flashed back to so many games last season. "...he's doing that on purpose."
The Yellow Jackets' quarterback is very good... and he plays like he knows it. The gracious, "ah-shucks" persona Thomas displays in practice and in interviews turns into a brash firecracker who's smirk flashes more than a hint of athletic arrogance. Not only does he know he's good... he knows you know it too.
As I thought back, I noticed Thomas gaining confidence in the offense and his abilities in the 2014 game against Tulane. Thomas broke a tackle, straightened his facemask and aimed for the front-pylon of the endzone. He then showed a little more in games against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and particularly against Florida State. There was this grin or swagger that seemed to say: "you're going to have a hard time stopping me today." Think of the moment in the Disney movie The Incredibles when Dash realized that he was so fast he could run on water. The young speedster actually giggled at his own abilities.
Wouldn't it be fun if the entire team adopts this competitive mentality... the extreme confidence of Jerry Rice, knowing no opponent is a match for his preparation. Couldn't you see Justin Thomas moving through defenses with defiance... picking spots when he will make plays or creating opportunities for talented teammates? We'd be watching Adam Gotsis and KeShun Freeman high-five after yet another sack or everyone rallying to the ball after a big interception... all while taking cues from their fearless leader.
Again, I could be reading too much into this because of the opponent Tech played in week 1. We'd have to see how they compete against Tulane this weekend. However, none of us saw any signs of athletic swagger in the first two games a season ago. Big plays given up against Wofford and Tulane had fans a little concerned. Some of that confidence could be carry over from a season ago. If the team does follow in Thomas' footsteps, there will be a big change in body language going into Saturday's game at 3:30 against the Green Wave. The Yellow Jackets will know there are so very tough teams that lie ahead... but Tech will also know those tough teams will have to deal with the Yellow Jackets too.