Instead of dwelling on a miserable season as part of the season retrospective, it’s time to look ahead. This team is returning a large portion of its production on both sides of the ball, but which position groups will see the greatest improvement? Will any regress or stay the same? It’s tough to prognosticate exactly, but given the lack of personnel turnover on this team, perhaps it’s appropriate to try.
After the QB carousel to start the year, James Graham eventually gained a firm grasp on the starting role. He was inconsistent, however, missing many wide open receivers, turning the ball over, and taking bad sacks. His high point was the first half of the NC State game, where he looked brilliant. Graham has a much stronger arm than many expected, and can make some difficult throws look easy as a result. It’s all about consistency. Only a RS Freshman, it’s reasonable to expect that he will improve considerably, but will that be enough to hang onto the job? Jordan Yates was highly touted and has spent a year learning the offense, and Tucker Gleason will be an early enrollee. Gleason was recruited early by this staff and seems to be someone they are very high on. The staff could further add to the mix via transfer or additions to the 2020 class.
The QB room is certain to progress through spring practice and the competition in camp, the biggest obstacle for this staff will be to pick the right one. Preferably by Week 1.
The best position group on the offensive side of the ball doesn’t lose any significant production from 2019 and is poised for a great 2020. There is so much talent at this position that it will be difficult to get them all their snaps and touches. The 2019 team ran a lot of 2-back sets, and I expect more of that in 2020. Much of this group’s outlook for next year depends on the decision of current commit Jahmyr Gibbs, who will not sign until February and will visit several schools before then, including Tech. If he sticks with Tech, this backfield will get even more interesting. This group should improve next year, but they are already so good it’s hard to see massive improvement coming.
Forecast: Minor Progression
Behind breakout star Ahmarean Brown, Tech’s WR made a big jump this year, and next year looks poised for even more growth. Senior leader Jalen Camp will return from injury, transfer Marquez Ezzard will be eligible, and Tech’s list of current commits at the position is exceptional. 4-stars Bryce Gowdy and Nate McCollum highlight the commits, and the remaining 2 commits are highly underrated. McCollum in particular is one of my favorite commits in this class, and I think he will compliment Brown well. Brown has shown the ability to blow the top off a defense, and McCollum is a dangerous weapon near the line of scrimmage. Combined, they will stretch the defense both vertically and horizontally.
Forecast: Major Progression
Unfortunately this is where the really good news stops. The Tight End position was already thin, and loses the majority of its production from 2019. With the departure of Tyler Davis, Tech only has 1 returning scholarship tight end and only has 1 committed. Without the addition of a Tight End through an immediately eligible transfer, this will be a thin group in 2020 and will be extremely young. If no further Tight Ends are added, I expect there to be some regression here, but it isn’t over yet. Even if there is regression, it could simply lead to more 2RB or 4 WR sets next season, and those exciting groups will see a larger snap total.
This is the most important unit. When Collins came in, it was obvious that this group would be a 2-year rebuild. This year, Coach Key had to patch together an offensive line out of option linemen. On top of that, the unit had struggled to block for the option the previous 2 years. Tech has recruited a large group of linemen in the 2020 class, but the line overall will be young. Again, bringing in the right graduate transfers could help, but that has not happened to this point. The transfer portal carousel and spring practice will be huge for this group’s 2020 performance. It is nearly impossible for this unit to be worse in 2020 than it was in 2019, but don’t expect major progression until 2021.
Forecast: Status Quo
There are plenty of reasons to expect improvement from this unit in 2020 and in terms of ranking, the offense can’t get much worse. While there is hope for the majority of the skill positions, this offense will be driven by its development, or lack thereof, on the offensive line.