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Mailbag 12/14

What kind of offense will Buster Faulkner be running?

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

DressHerInWhiteAndGold: Fall down and cry kicky futbol; have you been watching? Do you care? Who ‘ya got?

Ben: I’ve never really been a soccer guy, outside of watching Ted Lasso and The Big Green. That being said, no I haven’t been watching.

Jack: Ignoring the inexcusable disrespect placed on the most important sociopolitcal sporting event ever known to man in the modern-era, nothing else has mattered in my world outside the World Cup over the last month except for Tech Volleyball. Very few sports even can sniff at how great of an event this is. Of the thousands of hours of sports content I consume in a year, there are few things I do not miss for anything. It’s the World Cup (Men’s and Women’s), the Olympics, and the final round of The Masters (although this might fall off if LIV keeps destroying golf).

My family has ties to Croatia, so I’m all in on them. I’m typing this before either semi-final has started, but my hunch is we’re getting a rematch of the 2018 final. It’d be the first ever World Cup final rematch, and would have France be in 4 of the last 7 finals. This generation of Brazilian football cannot get out of its own way to destroy teams like France and Croatia do. I like to call England the New York Mets of international football, but Brazil has a case as well. France wins the final 3-1.

Logan: Not watching because of all the Qatar issues, but its hard to dodge all the info. Sounds like its been exciting and I’ll be interested to hear about who wins.

Jake: I watched the US/Netherlands game with Akshay and the US/England game from my parents’ place. That probably doubles the amount of soccer I watched in the rest of a typical year, save for my summer at GTL during France’s run to the 2018 World Cup. I just find myself more interested in a random college basketball (or football, or volleyball) game than the random World Cup game.

Nishant: The only matches I really made sure to watch were the US matches, which all in all went about as expected. I stumbled across a pub in NYC’s Financial District that had a great environment for the US-Iran and England-Wales group stage finales. Other than that I’ve just watched things here and there; in past years I’d make sure to have a game on in the background whenever possible but just haven’t prioritized that this time. Part of me has felt dirty watching any of this World Cup because of just... everything, and it’d make me feel a little better if anyone other than France (given their heavy financial ties to Qatar) ended up winning.

YankeeJacket: I don’t believe you guys convinced anyone that this was an inspired hire. (It was a difficult task.) You mentioned enthusiasm, motivating the players and dedication to the school. That is all better than what Coach Football Not Found accomplished. We beat Pittsburgh and UNC two good teams, though UNC seems a bad team masquerading as a good one. We also beat Duke a mediocre team and a bad team, Virginia Tech while losing at home to a really bad team UVA and a just plain old bad team, Miami. Our offense was a mess once Sims got injured and the coaches did a good job getting some production out of it. The wins seem to have come about mostly because of the improvements on defense especially in the turnover margin (which could be seen as lucky.) There was demonstrable improvement in the team which is to Coach Key’s credit.

But we need to remember that CBK was in charge of the offensive line before his promotion to head coach which was the worst performing group on the team both on the field and in terms of recruiting. It is going to be extremely difficult for improvement next year (though the schedule is slightly easier) as our best defensive players and receivers are leaving, and our quarterback is a returning freshman quarterback with a broken clavicle.

The question I have is how much time does Coach Key’s quiet competence and likability get him over the next few years? By not hiring an outside person are we forcing CBK to win before most coaches are asked to? If we go 3-9 next year how confident are you in letting CBK be in charge for another 2 or 3 years?

Ben: I might be in the minority among the FTRS staff, but I am willing to give Key a pass for the 23 season. That is not to say that pass will mean I’m good if Key wins 3 or less games. That pass means I’ll be okay if Key doesn’t get to a bowl game this season. If Key is not in a bowl game by Year 2, though, then we have problems. In Year 1, I still expect some progress. The offense was abysmal, so it should at least be a little bit better and have some semblance of scheme.

Chris: I think to some extent he’s going to have reasonably higher expectations in 2023 because of that continuity. I would say maintaining 5 wins is probably the goal but the big problem is the schedule difficulty: 2023 is a tough schedule and 2024 looks even tougher. Three wins in ‘23 is probably not a huge indictment on him in that context, but it’s going to make it all that much harder to improve in ‘24.

Logan: I actually think Key made things harder on himself by winning 4 games last year (even though that’s probably what got him the job). That’s going to affect attitude towards him if he can’t deliver at least similar results in year 1 (especially since we are in the ACC Coastal where anything is possible). I think, given our financial situation he will get 1 year for free, a second year based on being difficult for us to replace, but if he hasn’t figured things out by then the third year is gonna be the rocky one.

Jake: If Key had won 4 games, I’m not sure he gets the job. That said, the fanbase is restless for success (see: the buy-in he got for merely elevating the team to competency, and more power to him for accomplishing that). Taking a look at next year’s schedule, I think there’s a reasonable path to a bowl, and I think it breaks down as follows:

Eminently Winnable (2-0): Bowling Green, FCS Team TBD
Pretty self explanatory. Get the job done.

What Happened to Them? (1-0): Boston College
“Hah! Boston College lost to UConn!” is a very simplified take, but really, it begs asking what on earth happened to this team. It is yet to be determined when Tech catches BC on the schedule, but it is at home, and they look like a shell of their past selves. To boot, Tech was 2-2 in 2022 against mutual opponents (Duke, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State) while the Eagles were 0-4.

The Entire Ship is now the Coastal (3-3): Virginia, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Miami, North Carolina, Louisville
I was going to break the ACC into more than three parts, but that seemed like overkill for my very simplistic method. Among the non-BC and non-Clemson teams, I could be convinced Tech has a path to a win or a loss against all of them, given the flux in talent and coaching year-over-year and rollercoaster seasons many of them have had. While Brohm and Clawson are certainly coaches to note now that their Cardinals and Demon Deacons are on the schedule annually, I think the case is still there that Tech has a reasonable shot at wins in both games.

Proven Levels of Competency (0-2): Clemson, Ole Miss
These are both on the road and both against teams with varying levels of potential to blast Tech into smithereens, as seen by 2022 results.

Athens (0-1): Athens
Breaking the streak would be nice...

A conservative 6-6 sends Tech to a bowl and can reasonably be considered an improvement. If we’re 3-9, despite how key moments in the Pitt, Duke, VT, or UNC games could have turned this year’s somewhat refreshing 5-7 into something worse, I think that people would again be restless.

Nishant: Chris is right about the schedule being tough, but I think if Brent doesn’t win 11-12 games over his first two seasons, the frustration will start to mount. And this might be overly generous, but one area where I’m willing to give him the benefit of doubt is actually the OL. Among the many rumors around Collins’ tenure was that he pushed some really weird practice protocols, and it wouldn’t shock me if that was the true source of the team’s frequent lack of game readiness in his tenure. But this year Tech returns every starter on the OL, along with most of the key backups, so I think how that unit performs in 2023 will be far more telling of what we can expect from Brent and his staff.

YankeeJacket: Bonus Question: What are the odds of having two quarterbacks join the team last year with the first name of Zach? (Please do the math.)

Ben: I’m not a statistics guy, and I’m too lazy to go look and document all the names of every quarterback in even the ACC to try and determine the odds. So instead, I’ll say it’s a really low chance.

Chris: According to the first website I found, Zachary was the 26th most popular name in 2004, so not entirely crazy.

Logan: Yes

Nishant: We can go deeper. Tech needs more QB depth, and former Texas A&M and Auburn QB Zach Calzada is in the portal.

Jake: My quick math suggests around 0.0336%. Of note, the popularity of the name Zach has really fallen off from a peak popularity of 1.236% in 1993. My methodology is as follows:

  1. Odds of a baby in the US being named Zach in 2004 (approximately the age of a current true freshman) through 1999 (most current redshirt + COVID sixth years) by year.
  2. Roster distribution of GT Quarterbacks in 2022 (1 Fr., 1 So., 2 R-So.).
  3. Sum of probability of all combinations of those two years.

Burdell91: How do you play a BB game and have just 1 (one!) offensive rebound, while the other team gets 31 defensive rebounds? Will Tech be able to win an ACC game this year?

Jack: Yes, see: Louisville.

Logan: Well you see a rebound is when you go up, you put two hands on the ball, and then you come down with the ball. So what happened was the opponent got more of those than we did. Yeah, we’re not doing great. I think we will win more than you expect. We seem to play significantly better at home than on the road, but the numbers aren’t great right now.

Nishant: I understood Logan’s reference. Also I feel like it’s a hallmark of Pastner’s teams to have absolutely no depth in the frontcourt (see: Ben Lammers in 2016-17, Moses Wright in 2020-21) so this isn’t really all that surprising.

Jake: Seems insane to only have 1, but North Carolina is also a team with a monster frontcourt. I think Tech grabs a few ACC games, at least, regardless.

Rbissman: Should we be concerned that good players are still leaving and no OC has been hired by heavy recruiting season??? Ouch!

Ben: I wouldn’t be. Tech has an OC!

Chris: Yup as Ben said, we have our OC now.

Logan: We have an OC... doesn’t mean you can stop being concerned.

Nishant: It’s a bummer that McCollum ultimately decided to leave, but he’s good enough to make a splash at a bigger-name school. Just the nature of the beast now. And Sims’ impending transfer had been an open secret for months. Was hoping they’d land another signee or two before early signing day, but the recruiting class has largely held together. I’m not too worried.

Frodo Swagginz: Chase Lane, a 3 star receiver from the Aggies has announced his intentions to transfer to Tech. Obviously, I don’t think any of us want Jimbo’s bad juju stinking up the place, but should Tech pursue Haynes King?

Ben: I’m not concerned about players leaving Texas A&M to come here and bringing the bad juju. They aren’t bringing Jimbo with them, so I don’t believe they are bringing that bad juju either. As far as King, sure, I’d love some QB depth!

Jack: For one, I don’t believe in ‘juju’ or whatever related concepts exist. But, if something like that does pop up, we’ll know Haynes King specifically has bad vibes.

Chris: Jimbo’s bad juju is Jimbo’s, not the players. So sure, bring in anyone who wants to come.

Logan: I do believe in bad juju, but I don’t see how the players are related to the bad juju in this case. I’ll take as many good players as we can get regardless oof where they come from.

Jake: I encourage them, in fact, to leave the bad place, and get to a better situation, if said vibes are that bad in College Station.

Nishant: Gotta bring in at least one QB anyway, so why not? I looked up King’s stats, and in 10 games at A&M he had 10 TD passes and 10 interceptions—perfectly balanced, as all things should be. More importantly, while looking up his stats I found this picture of him. Judge for yourself.

Frodo Swagginz: Additionally, what kind of scheme do you think the offense will run?

Ben: Since he was most recently at UGA, I imagine the offense will bear some striking resemblance to that offense, so a run-heavy spread that can pass when necessary. I remember he also utilized a lot of screen passes.

Chris: Run-heavy seems to be the rough consensus. I just hope Faulkner doesn’t think our TEs are remotely in the same stratosphere as UGA’s...

Ben (again): I did also want to mention that Faulkner does have some air raid roots, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those concepts either.

Nishant: All I care about is that he’s willing to adapt to the personnel he’s given. I have a feeling we’ll be run-heavy at the outset simply because we have two senior running backs and virtually no returning experience at wideout.