To me, the first drive is one of the most important parts of any football game, and it’s really important for teams to set the tone on the first drive. There are some teams against whom you can do this on defense: you can come out and shut the opposing team down on the first drive with a three-and-out and be set. However, against a really good team like Clemson or uga, I feel like you have to do this on offense. I feel like you have to come out attacking, put together a long drive, and let the other team know you’re not scared of them. The last two years we played Clemson before Paul Johnson left, we kinda did that; we got the ball first and we put together some good drives. Unfortunately those drives stalled out, but I still feel if we had converted those drives into points the complexion of those games would have changed dramatically. What say you? And can we expect to see Geoff Collins adopt a similar philosophy next year, especially with that murderers row of a schedule we’re up against?
Ben: Given that Collins is a defensive-minded coach and for the first time in like a decade, the defense might be the strength of the team, I don’t think we’ll see him adopt that philosophy often. I could see him taking the ball first against some bigger opponents, like a Notre Dame or UGA. But otherwise, I think Tech will often defer if they win the toss.
Nishant: I’ve gone back and forth with friends about this, and I still always come down on the side of going on defense regardless of the situation. There’s something to be said for setting the tone right away, but I still feel like giving yourself the ability to come out of halftime and either deliver a counterpunch (see: UGA, 2008) or break your opponent’s will (see: Virginia, 2009) is more powerful than any opening drive could be. And as Ben said, I think we’ll see Collins trust in his defense whenever he gets the chance.
Robert: It depends on how much stock you put into the importance of intangible things like momentum. For me, the first drive is no more or less important than any other non garbage time drive during the game. You noted the two Clemson games where we moved the ball some, but we got killed in both of those games. A few more points wouldn’t have changed that much. They were that much better than we were.
What is yalls all time GT team (Let’s say fantasy football style with 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 Team Defense, 1 K)?
Ben: I’m going to give myself the caveat that my players can only be from the teams I’ve watched, which goes back to 2006-2007. I’ll say that Paul Johnson is the head coach but this team would be running a more traditional spread option offense, as opposed to Johnson’s offense. At quarterback, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pick Justin Thomas. He’s an absolute game changer with the ball in his hands, and he’s really not a bad passer either (especially with the receivers I’m gonna give him). At running back, I’ll take Jonathan Dwyer and Clinton Lynch. Now I know what you’re thinking. Why Lynch? In using this second running back, I would also want to line him up as a slot receiver or all over the field. Lynch was one of my favorite players to watch when he was at Tech. Dwyer seems like an obvious choice here to me. At receiver, I’ll take Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. If I could have a third or fourth, I’d take DeAndre Smelter and Ahmarean Brown (in that order). At tight end, I’m going to cheat and say Darren Waller. He has turned into a formidable tight end for the
Oakland Las Vegas Raiders and has incredible size and athleticism. Tech also hasn’t really had a good tight end since I’ve been a fan. For the defense, I think I would go with the 2007 defense. That defensive line was nasty. And at kicker, that’s an easy choice! It’s Andrew Chau Harrison Butker.
Nishant: Give me the following, with the caveat that I’m picking based on how guys did in their respective eras because comparing players who played decades apart without adjusting for that is silly (with guys from only my time as a fan, aka 2008-present, in parentheses):
- QB: Joe Hamilton. It’s tough to pick against Justin, but I feel like that’s recency bias and personal feelings speaking. (fandom era pick: Justin)
- RB: Jonathan Dwyer and Eddie Lee Ivery. At a program that’s turned out some pretty good running backs, Ivery has held the team’s single-season rushing record for over 40 years. (fandom era picks: Dwyer and Robbie Godhigh)
- WR: Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. Yeah, Kelly Campbell has a case, but I’d rather have two guys who can’t ever be left in single coverage. (fandom era picks: Thomas and Deandre Smelter)
- TE: If we write off Darren Waller as not being a tight end, my answer might legitimately be Ken Whisenhunt. (fandom era pick: if Waller still isn’t an option, Tyler Davis by default)
- K: Anyone who doesn’t kick it to the right when the ball is on the right hash mark is welcome on my team. Harrison Butker meets this criteria, but so does Andrew Chau, and he probably costs less in an auction draft. (fandom era pick: same)
- DEF: The 1952 defense allowed 59 total points across 12 games, so... them. (fandom era pick: 2008)
Robert: Like Ben, I’ll restrict it to years of my conscious fandom, which is since the early 90s.
- QB: Joe Hamilton, and it’s not particularly close
- RBs: Jonathan Dwyer and the four games of Tony Hollings in 2002. If you aren’t familiar, he had 633 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games before tearing his ACL. It was magical.
- WRs: Calvin and Kelly Campbell. This would be pretty unstoppable.
- TE: I’m realizing how much of a struggle this position has been. I’ll go with John Paul Foschi.
- Defense: 2006. This defense wreaked havoc. We held UGA to 15 points and Wake Forest to 9 in the ACC Championship Game and lost both. Brutal.
- K: the reigning Super Bowl Champ
Jake: I am pulling the resident historian card and going full wonk.
- QB: With honorable mention to Shawn Jones, the youth left hander Kim King, Pepper Rodgers, who unseated the sitting starting quarterback who had led Tech to the 1952 national title, and Joe Hamilton, I’m going with Billy Lothridge. He started for most of three seasons on the Flats and received Heisman votes in two of them, finishing as the runner up in 1963, Tech’s last in the SEC.
- RB1: Eddie Lee Ivery, for obvious reasons.
- RB2: It feels too cliché for me to pick Clint Castleberry here, war hero and all, because of his limit time on the Flats, regardless of potential. We have Buck Flowers, Joe Guyon, and Everett Strupper to consider, too, and, out of them - all College Football Hall of Famers - it kills me not to take Guyon, but Everett Strupper overcame deafness and only being 5’ 7” and 148 pounds to star for Tech’s 1917 national champion team, widely considered the best team the South had ever produced. John Heisman said, “He couldn’t hear anything but a regular shout. But he could read your lips like a flash. No lad that ever stepped on a football field had keener eyes than Everett had. The enemy found this out the minute he began looking for openings through which to run the ball,” and Strupper was regarded as the best runner in the South in a backfield that also included Guyon, and became the first Southerner named to an All-American team. A lot, but he’s worth the words. Oh, and his writing is credited as having invented the elelphant association with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Because why not?
- WR1: Calvin Johnson, also for obvious reasons.
- WR2: Kelly Campbell played four great years here anchoring Joe Ham’s receiving corps, including two first team all-ACC selections and spots near the top in almost every receiving record list before getting more than a cup of coffee in the NFL. Perhaps the standout game of his Tech career is a 209 yard torching of Clemson in 2000. How is he not talked about more?
- TE: Ken Wisenhunt? Maybe? Honestly, probably historically our weakest position on the field. In the meantime, I’d like to take this time to shoutout all the linemen in the CFB Hall of Fame, which we should also talk about more. A big chunk of our representation is from these guys.
- D/ST: Miss me with the Blackwatch talk. With all props to the late Heisman-era defenses (holding Cumberland without a first down, anyone?), let’s roll with the 1966 Tech defense. The most vaunted Bud Carson defense came in his only year as coordinator, in Bobby Dodd’s surprise final Orange Bowl. In it, he laid the basis for the Cover 2, which, well, is oen of the most influential schemes of all time.
- K: As much as I’d like to talk about the semi-mythical tale of booting a kickoff in the Cumberland Game off the goalposts and picking it up and running it into the endzone on his own kickoff, I prefer to talk about legends we can discuss as having for sure, definitely, actually happened. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Scott Sisson, the man who not only has three of the top five single season performances ever for a Georgia Tech kicker, but split the uprights to knock home the most important kick in Tech history, banishing the Virginia Cavaliers back to their semi-permanent state of mediocrity.
Also, I decided this team is coached by Bobby Dodd, with Bud Carson and Paul Johnson as his coordinators. John Heisman can be a combination of DMo, Tashard Choice, Brent Key, and Lewis Caralla. Athletic Director?
DRad Just kidding, Homer Rice. Too far? Well, I’m rolling.
Jake P.: This will be fairly easy for me, as I’ve only been a conscious Tech fan since 2011-12.
QB: Justin Thomas, duh.
RB1: A toss-up here between Synjyn Days and Zach Laskey. Days had the better 2014 season, but I’ll give the nod to Laskey because of his consistency over three years.
RB2: Jordan Mason, easily one of the best players on the current Georgia Tech roster. Although he only ran for 899 yards last season, it’s incredible he even gained that with the quality of the offensive line. With a much better offensive line (much like the situation Brown is in), Mason could cement himself on this list for good this season.
WR1: Another toss-up, this time between between DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. I’m going to have to go with Smelter. He only played for two seasons, but had a tremendous second season before tearing his ACL against uga. 56 receptions for 1060 yards in two seasons? You can’t beat that considering the whole “run all the time in the triple option” deal.
WR2: Even though he’s only played one season so far, it has to be Ahmarean Brown. The lightning quick slot receiver tied Calvin Johnson’s record for most reception TDs by a freshman in school history. With Tech getting better on the offensive line, and hopefully finding consistent QB play, the sky is the limit for Brown.
TE: By default Tyler Davis. The first TE drafted from Tech in years.
D/ST: I’ve got to go with the near-miss ACC champions and Orange Bowl winners of 2014.
K: Harrison Butker, duh.
Now that CJP has missed on Matthew Cleveland, who becomes a can’t miss recruit for the 2021 class?
Nishant: Even if I were to list a name here, would we really feel good about GT’s odds to land him?
Robert: I coudn’t name a single basketball recruiting target at this point. The apathy...
Jake P.: What four-star recruit from the Atlanta area signed with a team far away that’s much better than Tech? Said recruit won’t get much playing time at the school they initially signed with and will come back as a transfer. That’s your can’t miss recruit.
Jake: Not a basketball response, but with 12 comments on the mailbag questions article, I must say I was expecting more than three questions, since I don’t usually like to look at those until I see this article is ready to be written. Go figure. As for Cleveland, well, all I have to say is FUN TIMES [with] CLEVELAND TODAY! STILL CLEVELAND! I promise both videos are worth your time.
Carter: ♫ at least it’s not Detroit! ♫