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Mailbag 8/14: Expectations, new faces, and the temperature of Paul Johnson’s seat

Hop into the mailbag, where I answer all of your most pressing questions from the previous week:

NCAA Football: TaxSlayer Bowl-Kentucky vs Georgia Tech Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the mailbag! This week’s installment features everything from hot dogs to hot seats to hot takes, so let’s get started!

Matt: What are the three things I need to know going into the season to calibrate my expectations? Who are some players’ names I need to know? Remember, I don’t actually want to be a knowledgeable football fan, I just want the appearance of being a knowledgeable football fan.

Three things you need to know going into the season? We can help with that.

  1. Justin Thomas is the best quarterback of the Paul Johnson era. If you are expecting immediate production from a new starter that exceeds or even meets what we saw from the position with Justin Thomas, you are probably going to be disappointed.
  2. There are very few easy wins on the schedule, particularly in ACC play. Wake Forest has the potential to surprise us and making the trip up to Charlottesville has never been kind to Tech. Don’t let the name of an opponent distract from that fact that most teams look better this year than last.
  3. Paul Johnson is not on the hot seat, contrary to popular belief, and isn’t going to coach like someone who is. Expect more of the same as far as playcalling and personnel decisions with few new wrinkles.

As for players, look out for safety A.J. Gray (quietly one of the finest safeties in the conference), Desmond Branch (who could step up big at defensive tackle), and Parker Braun (a potential All-American on the offensive line).

JeffGT: So I had a friend who is a Florida Gator fan. He was in a grocery store wearing his Florida hat. Upon walking by the deli, a Georgia fan decided to get down on all fours and start barking at him. My question is, if I encounter such a special individual do I use mace or a cane switch? Also, what would is the likely hood of the video making the SC Not Top Ten?

That's a new experience. I’d probably go with the mace just for the distance factor.

Kudos to him for knowing that a dog walks on four legs, by the way. Most UGA fans learn all they know about dogs from Uga, which gives them the impression that dogs just kind of slither around like slugs. Ever seen a guy with a Georgia hat passed out and drooling on a sidewalk at 2 AM? Yep, he was doing the same thing as the deli man.

popehats: Is a hot dog a sandwich?

No. You people need to read the dictionary definition of a sandwich and then realize that a hot dog bun is one continuous piece of bread.

JabbaJacket: One article said that CPJ’s seat was the second-hottest in the ACC. How hot is CPJ’s seat really, both in relation to the rest of the ACC and FBS in general, and what would it take to a) make his seat truly hot and b) put this discussion away for the foreseeable future?

His seat could not be cooler. Within the ACC, I’d say that only Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher are safer than Paul Johnson is. Keep in mind that this is an athletic department which a) is paying three basketball coaches at the moment and b) has articulated strong support for Paul Johnson and his vision. To make his seat truly hot, I think we’d need to see something worse than 2015. I’m talking absolutely nothing redeeming for the whole season and no possible excuse besides poor coaching (which was not the case in 2015). To table the discussion, I think we would need to see an ACC Championship appearance or potentially even a win... not to indicate that missing it this season would put him in jeopardy, of course.

JabbaJacket: What are we doing differently in recruiting that has paid off last year and this year?

I have a hard time believing that Paul Johnson has drastically changed anything about how he recruits after so many years. Rather, I think we are seeing the benefits of a supportive athletic director in Todd Stansbury plus the promise of a change in uniform provider. Even more sustained success (2015 aside) has helped to dispel the gimmick knock on the offense and Tech’s culture as a school (increasingly diverse, better balance of male/female) has continued evolving, making it more attractive to recruits.

JabbaJacket: Is Popeye a super hero?

He eats vegetables and gets strong. Is every person who has ever used steroids or done bath salts and experienced superhuman strength a super hero? No. They are villains. Popeye is just a pawn of BIG SPINACH trying to make us buy leafy greens so he can buy more sailor outfits.

GTJC: Who is going to be Tech’s leading rusher this year? And how many yards?

I’m going with Dedrick Mills quite easily. The guy went for 771 last season despite missing four whole games for various reasons. The issue is that if I predict a high rushing total for him, something awful will happen. So yeah, he’s gonna lead the team with 17 rushing yards this season. Book it.

(AHEM, I like him to go for 1,000+)

SullyGT: Which freshmen, if any, do you expect to be starting by the end of the year?

I don’t think I see anyone as a sure-fire starter. Jerry Howard could get some good work in behind Dedrick Mills at B-Back and I’m sure there will be someone challenging for a role in the defensive backfield, but there are too many viable options right now. Wide receiver Adonicas Sanders has gotten good reviews as well but I don’t think he starts.

YellerBug: What's the air speed velocity of an unladen Cottrell?

From what I’ve read it’s usually somewhere between 28.27 - 30.24 ms^-1.

JabbaJacket: What kinds of penalties, if any, can UNCheat reasonably expect from the NCAA? And will it prompt me to demand that the NCAA can kiss my [Fleetwood Mac]?

Yeah, they won’t be punished. The entire NCAA investigative department is probably going to take a year off after the work they did on the Hugh Freeze case, so it doesn’t even matter. As for the second question: yep.

Intrect: Jalen Camp or Sanders with the first career start?

I’m going with Jalen Camp. He has the benefit of experience and did see some limited snaps a season ago, not to mention that he’s built like a tank. Sanders has looked good, but there’s no need to rush him onto the field as a freshman.

Buddy Smiggins: Who will be QB1 and QB2 on 9/4 at 8 PM?

I’d be shocked if anyone but Matthew Jordan got the start. I’d be equally surprised if anyone managed to set themselves apart as a stand-alone backup by that time; I’m thinking we’ll see a committee approach behind Jordan.

UnCivilEngineer: Have you ever been in a Turkish prison? Do you like movies about gladiators?

I had to Google this reference.

Man, I used to be so good at movie references too. Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue...

GTalbatross: Why is teaching throwing mechanics different from teaching kicking mechanics?

I’m guessing that there’s more variation when it comes to teaching throwing mechanics, especially since there is so much footwork involved in throwing and so little handwork involved in kicking.

You made a good point in your original question about phrasing, but I personally see a lot of comparisons between the “one day at a time” mentality; it seems to apply to both kickers and quarterbacks. I listened to Pardon My Take yesterday when they interviewed Mike Leach and I think that something he said may be relevant: from middle school to the NFL, coaches always key in on one thing (i.e. accuracy) as being the “one thing” that a quarterback has to improve. So the middle school coach says “he just needs to work on accuracy,” the college coach says the same thing, and so does the NFL coach, but the accuracy never improves. Why? Because that “one day at a time” mentality is never present and the coach, regardless of level, settles for the thought that the quarterback could one day improve. Hopefully that makes sense and is at least kind of related to your question.

PeterInVA: How big a deal is coaching continuity? I feel like recruiting has been slowly trending upward the past few years. How much of that is due to the newer staff/coaches and how much of that is due to maintaining relationships with younger players?

Coaching continuity is everything! I think that’s part of why Tech’s recruiting is trending upwards — Paul Johnson has had a decade to establish relationships with coaches, schools, and players while working a job that people usually stay at for roughly half that time. I feel like we see it more in basketball with youth leagues and such, but there’s definitely a relationship aspect to football as well.

GT_Jason: Rank the uniform brand partner candidates from Nike to Adidas with Under Armour in the middle and then tell us why you each made that choice.

Darn, I forgot to ask the staff. Here goes nothing: 1) Nike 2) Under Armour 3) Adidas. You know why.

chilidogringsFO: What are the differences (if any) between CPJ's grumpiness after the start of fall of good years and bad years? For example, he seemed equally unhappy after the first few days of this camp as he did in 2014 and 2015. Yet 2015 was distinctly different. I guess what I’m asking is are there any "tells" in his wording that help clue us in to his assessment of the team in such an unknown year? We were all expecting world beaters in 2015 yet it seems pretty clear CPJ wasn’t.

Ah, the greatest puzzle of all. I think we all tend to forget that Paul Johnson is among the most candid coaches in the entire country and tend to try and overanalyze everything he says or apply our own knowledge to his comments. The fact is that no one knows what’s going on better than Paul Johnson and the more we try to justify or change what he says, the more disappointed we will be with an eventual outcome. I really don’t think he ever tips his hand, mostly because it stays tipped with how honest he is.

Charles: What will be the best use of the 10th assistant coach position come Jan 9?

Only Paul Johnson knows the correct answer to this question. I would personally like to see someone who can focus on film prep for upcoming opponents or maybe even a recruiter who works the hell out of the metro Atlanta area and nowhere else, but both of those things are luxuries. It will be cool to see Paul Johnson’s vision.

Zach: Do you think Coach Johnson will run a scheme with multiple quarterbacks this year, or do you think Jordan will split time with another QB like Thomas and Jordan did in goal line situations? Do you feel as though Tech could have the best defensive year we've seen under Ted Roof, and do you think this sets us up better than where started last year?

I think we will see Matthew Jordan start off as the full-time quarterback and keep that position for much of the season. He may see his time cut into by a younger guy later on and potentially transition to a goal-line role, but I’m confident in his abilities as a starter. I hope he is very successful from day one.

Defensively, the weapons are there for this team to be much-improved. It will all come down to Ted Roof’s evolution as a playcaller; the time has come to abandon the “bend-don’t-break” mentality and start to use the talent more effectively.

Randy: In college football you are down when your knee touches the ground and you have possession of the ball. On an field goal or extra point try when the long snapper hikes the ball to the holder and he places the ball on the ground prior to the kick and his knee is down why is the play not whistled down at that spot?

They don’t call him Randy Descartes for nothing. This is too much to wrap my head around at this hour. I suppose it’s because the snap is like a continuous fumble and a live ball from the time it leaves the snapper’s hands.

Dwayne: How does Tech get to the playoff championship with this offense?

Dwayne, no! The offense is not now nor has it ever been the thing keeping Tech out of the playoff. That honor belongs to the defensive unit, which has been mediocre at best for years now. Playoff teams routinely lead the nation in defensive metrics, something Tech hasn’t done under Paul Johnson. Coupling a good defense with the offense is the key, like it is for many of college football’s top schools.