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Mailbag 5/18

What does Taisun Phommachanh bring to the team?

Wake Forest v Clemson Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Geoff Collins is ADTS’s highest profile hire for the highest profile, highest revenue sport. But why does one bad hire act as the deciding factor in an AD’s fortune, as is being discussed recently?

Points against:

  • We know it would have been fiscally devastating to fire Collins last year.
  • Most other sports are at or near watermark high levels for GT in the last 2-3 years.
  • As an alum, this is the most interested I’ve ever been in MBB, WVB, Baseball, and Softball. I think that reflects well on the whole athletic department, including Stansbury at the helm.
  • AI2020 was a stunning success.

Why don’t we keep Stansbury regardless of Collins, and just give ADTS a crash course on BATNA? - GTBuzzed

Ben: I will not be upset if Tech decides to keep Todd Stansbury. My frustrations stem from Stansbury’s blind support of Geoff Collins. I understand the need to support the people that you hired, but you also need to hold them accountable when they are not getting the job done. I’m sure they have had conversations about this behind closed doors, but it’s hard to get that message when all we get from Stansbury is, “I’ve got my guy.”

Carter: Personally, I’m not sold on canning Stansbury just yet, due to his ability to raise funds and the performance of many of Tech’s non-revenue sports. But I totally understand how his public backing of Geoff Collins has tanked his popularity, plus his seeming propensity to give out unwarranted extensions to underperforming coaches.

Chris: I’m with Carter, as a whole I think Stansbury has done a lot of good things. But it’s tough if your highest profile decision ends up being a huge bust. I think there’s also some existential dread about the state of CFB that plays into it - at times it feels like if we don’t figure out football in the next little while we might be completely left in the dust.

Jake: I am probably the biggest pro-ADTS guy out there. I think in hindsight the football coaching hiring was kind of weird, and he has doubled down on the Collins support, but what exactly can we expect him to say - “I was wrong but we can’t afford to fire the guy, we have other more pressing concerns?” I think that the devil comes out in the details here, given that ADTS hired Collins, Aileen Morales, and Nell Fortner. When looking at those hires, one has been a runaway success, the other has steadily built a very respectable program, and the third is Geoff Collins. In other sports, the funding, support, and resources have been there to result in either sustaining previous success (Golf, WTEN, Baseball), a solid build into a top 25 program (MSD, VB), one- or two-off great seasons (WXC and MBB), or a general improvement and producing notable individual athletes (MXC, TF, WSD) that generally indicates a healthy overall athletic program. In addition, the remarkably successful capital campaign that wrapped in 2020 well exceeded its goals and interest, at least what I see in terms of engagement on my non-revenue articles and in the venues for those teams, seems much higher than when I became involved. Of course, it isn’t awesome that the program with the most cultural cache isn’t doing particularly great, but, on the whole, I think we really should stick with it.

In my unbridled optimism (which by now should be no surprise), while I recognize that Georgia Tech football hasn’t really left us with lots of reasons to feel optimistic, that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna try. Obviously a lot needs to go right for us to have a good season and, depending on how you feel, validate the current coaching staff and the direction of the program. With that in mind, I’ve got a few questions:

Who really needs to step up on the roster? - Anuj Bhyravabhotla

Ben: The offensive line. I think this team has some talent, but the offensive line is a gigantic question mark (at best) at this point. If Tech wants to win more than three games this year, the OL is going to need to show some push this year.

Chris: My first instinct was also OL, but I’ll say “defensive playmakers” to get some variety in here. The defense has been atrocious over the last few years and we are desperate for a couple big playmakers to string together a strong season.

Logan: after last year the QB needs to step up. That has been a position that has seen he’s results running the ball at GT for the past 3 years. Problem is Paul Johnson isn’t running the offense anymore. I need to see some decent throws this year.

Jake: I agree with Logan. I think the QB plays an understandably large part in the success of the team, and a rising tide there could help to lift all ships.

Carter: The defense needs to step up across the board, and I’ll be more specific in saying they need to create more havoc. They notched just 20 sacks on the season last year — just 12 outside of the UNC game — and only three, three, interceptions.

Which player, regardless of tenure, has the most to prove this year? (Optionally, which coach not named Geoff Collins?) - Anuj Bhyravabhotla

Ben: This is an interesting question. The player that comes to mind is Jeff Sims. Tech now has four quarterbacks on the roster with significant years left to play, and they are some pretty talented guys. If Sims is going to prove that he is the guy for Tech, it’s going to have to happen early this season.

Coaching wise, since I can’t say Geoff Collins, I’ll say Brent Key. This will be his fourth season working with Tech’s offensive line, and they have not shown much improvement since he took over. Similar to Sims, if Key is going prove that he is the guy, he needs to do it.

Chris: Agree with Ben, I think it’s Sims. There’s a lot of QB talent on the roster right now and he’s certainly struggled to be consistent in his time as QB1. I think it’s still his position to lose, but if he doesn’t start the season off strong I think you’ll see us start to give the other guys looks and it’s going to be really hard for him to come back from that if they live up to their own expectations. You don’t get that many chances to be a starting P5 QB - it’s past time we see him take the next step. Coaching wise I agree again - it’s Key. The OL has been the glaring weakness ever since he stepped on campus and the signs of improvement are few and far between. I think a lot of people are really starting to consider him overhyped and that his success at Alabama was because of, you know, Alabama.

Carter: I’ll also agree on both — last year Sims split starting duties with a guy who transferred to Sam Houston State. This year his competition is much tougher, and I could easily see him losing the starting job for good. As for Key, he hasn’t shown much in the way of developing talent or successfully utilizing existing talent, so it’s now or never.

Logan: the RBs have the most to prove. Last year Gibbs was the offense. If they can get results they can show they weren’t just backup players and can also have an impact behind a struggling O-line. I don’t list a name, because I think it’s Dontae Smith but we tend to do RB by committee.

Jake: I think we need to see a lot from a lot of people, but I think the defense as a whole needs to be effective. I realize that’s a bit of a cop out compared to naming a single player, of course, but I think that is something the staff has touted past success at developing, we haven’t seen much of it, and it is a vital part of an effective season.

Of the new recruits that have signed with Georgia Tech this year, both those from the transfer portal and the incoming freshmen, who has the most upside? And who’s the most likely to see the most playing time? - Anuj Bhyravabhotla

Ben: I was really intrigued by the defensive tackle transfers, but uhh.....Anyway, I’ll say Taisun Phommachanh is probably the most intriguing for me, and I’ll elaborate on the next question.

Chris: I’m definitely very interested in all the defensive backs. We’ve gotten several high rated transfers and recruits at the CB and S positions and I think any one of them could immediately earn a spot on a struggling defense that’s lost a lot of talent.

Jake: I mean, I had heard of Taisun Phommachanh, despite not knowing all that much about the intricacies of other rosters or following the portal/recruiting all that much. I blame the Basketball Conference podcast, I think.

Carter: I’m really interested in seeing what Dylan McDuffie can do for the running game.

What are your opinions on the Phommachanh commitment? I find it extremely odd that he would transfer to Tech seeing as that ALL we hear from the coaching staff is that it’s Sims’ job to lose, but he wouldn’t have transferred unless he saw an opportunity. - Frodo Swagginz

Ben: This was a really weird (but very intriguing) commitment. Tech has three other quarterbacks on the roster that are considered young and probably challenging for the starting job this year. People keep saying that it’s Sims’ job to lose, but I think if that were the case, you wouldn’t see Tech getting two transfer QBs who could probably be starting in comparable situations. You will see some kind of QB competition, and I think it’s a little strange that Phommachanh would transfer to Tech with this situation. Regardless, I’m excited to see what he can do. He’s very athletic and has a big arm, so it could be well worth it.

Carter: I don’t really understand what that’s about, given I remain of the full belief Collins wants Sims to remain the starter. But at this point I’m down for a QB competition.

Chris: Yeah, it’s weird right? Totally out of nowhere and shockingly a name that a lot of people know. I agree though - I don’t think he would’ve done it unless he thought he could earn the job. I think it’s exciting; he’s another talented guy that can elevate the position. Either he wins the position or he pushes Sims to be better. Both are good for us.

Logan: My opinion is that I hope he is writing checks that his arm can cash because if he’s as talented as he is confident I want to see him start.

Jake: What’s there to lose, really? If it works to push one of the existing quarterbacks, awesome. If it means he seizes the role, awesome. It’s a win-win scenario.

The RB room has gotten really interesting as well. Dylan McDuffie, Hassan Hall, and Dontae Smith are going to be fighting for playing time and I’m curious for opinions on how this breaks down. Is there a primary back or is this a three headed monster? To start with anyways. - Frodo Swagginz

Ben: I get the feeling that McDuffie and Smith will be the two primary backs. That isn’t based on any specific. I know Hall did some return work, so I could see him slotting there while McDuffie and Smith carry the load.

Carter: Smith and McDuffie could be a great A-back and B-back combo. In a different offensive system, of course.

Chris: I think it’ll be similar to the setup we’ve seen in recent years - Smith is going to be the main guy but the others will get solid playing time and feature in certain situations. There’s enough talent to spread the load and create a diverse attack with different strengths.

Logan: Smith should be the starter but expect RB by committee. There’s plenty of talent back there.

The TE room is getting a little crowded and I don’t see all of them staying at the TE position. So how do you feel that the current players at the TE position are going to be utilized? Does Luke Benson become a slot receiver since by all accounts he has some really good speed? I’d be shocked if EJ Jenkins doesn’t become a red zone staple for Sims; guy is a head taller than most DBs and LBs. - Frodo Swagginz

Ben: Chip Long has used a lot of two-TE sets, and if Georgia Tech is going to replicate that, they needed some tight ends. With Benson, Sims, Leonard, and (maybe) Billy Ward, you at least have some options there.

Carter: Long’s predilection towards two-TE sets is certainly, uh, a choice, given the roster he inherited, but I guess that might help ease any perceived crowding in that room. I expect the returning players from last year, who notched a total of 15 catches for 128 yards among them[edit: it’s actually just the one returning player, with 11 catches for 112 yards; I forgot Deveney transferred], to be similarly utilized this year.

Chris: TEs have been weird for us since we started having them huh? We’ve gotten very little production from them so far, but maybe Long’s philosophies will highlight them a bit more. I think my feelings are “sure, I don’t care, do whatever works” - if TEs start being productive them I’m all for utilizing them more. Definitely a great call about the red zone - I would LOVE to see an actual red zone offense and a giant TE monster running around is perfect for that.

Jake: I think Chris sums up my thoughts pretty well.

Ben (again): I wanted to come in here again to say that Long is also serving as the TE Coach, a position that I am very confident he can do well. The question remains to be seen if he will be able to develop the TEs on the roster currently in time.

Summer plans? - DressHerInWhiteAndGold

Ben: Well I’m getting married next weekend, so I guess you could say yes.

Carter: Moving jobs to one that actually gives me PTO has really opened mine up. Got weekends in Nashville, Charlotte, Michigan, and Houston as well as longer trips to New York City and Florida on the schedule all before Labor Day.

Chris: A bit of travel but mostly quiet. Saving up for a September trip to Utah!

Logan: Didney Wurld

Jake: My friends have started to get married, some in places that are very much not Atlanta, so I presume I’ll be somewhat busy in various American locales accordingly.

Ben: I think Chris summed it up really well in the other Phommachanh question:

I think it’s exciting; he’s another talented guy that can elevate the position. Either he wins the position or he pushes Sims to be better. Both are good for us.

Hey y’all

Still recovering from sickness this week but getting better. On a lighter note, I recently ordered one of those fake Braves championship rings off of etsy. I’d like to get a real one but I didn’t have $25,000 lying around. $50 for a knock off ring isn’t a bad deal.

My question this week is what is the most you have spent / would be willing to spend on sports memorabilia and what would that memorabilia be that you purchase for that money? I think my fraternity still has a chunk of the field goal post from the miracle on Techwood, and that didn’t cost anything... generally speaking though getting those kinds of things takes money. Later Y’all,

Sincerely Markiplier (submitted via email)

Ben: I’m not much of a memorabilia collector, so I have not purchased anything too crazy. How much I would be willing to spend would depend on what it is, but if I thought it were cool enough (or had a personal attachment to it), I’d probably shell out a couple hundred bucks.

Carter: Who would have thought a world famous YouTuber read this little blog? Like Ben, I’m not big on memorabilia — the list of items I have as season ticket holder bonuses is long, and they’re all in my house.... somewhere. That said, if something came by that really caught my eye, I’d consider it, but up to a limit of, like, a thousand dollars. I still got a midtown Atlanta mortgage to pay, after all.

Jack: I’ve managed to find some good deals (also known as Christmas presents haha) when it comes to acquiring jerseys/other memorabilia, so my recent acqusition of a Lorela Cubaj NY Liberty jersey was my most expensive yet. The value of anything in this I think is completely dependent on one’s experiences with a team, of which I have had many, therefore making the choice of a solitary item nearly impossible. If the right thing was available in the four to five figure range max, I’d have to start asking real questions about where my priorities were in life. I nearly caved and bought one of those $1200 World Series tickets. In the meantime I may just hope to get lucky with a good Topps pack and resell a high grade/rarity card.

Chris: I think my holy grail would be a match-used racket signed by Nadal. I would be very willing to part with like a thousand bucks.

Logan: my girlfriend reads this blog so I have to be conservative with my projection. Yeah I could part with $1000 for the right item, but it would have to be something amazing. Maybe a signed GT Jersey from Calvin Johnson. A signed football from Harrison Butker. Definitely plenty of Atlanta Braves stuff. Anything related to Ichiro... Yeah, I could go for plenty of useless junk.

Jake: I like to collect Tech related books, and I recently added a first edition of Robert Wallace’s Dress Her in White and Gold, which he wrote for Tech’s 75th anniversary, which joins my signed copies of Dodd’s Luck, Griffin, You are a Great Disappointment to Me, Dean Dull’s book, and Homer Rice’s book, none of which were all that expensive. I think I would pay a large sum for Jim Paul’s out of print You Dropped It, You Pick It Up, about the Cumberland game, too, or anything that was like a signed Heisman biography or something like that. As for non-book things, a number of notable Cubs artifacts (Travis Wood’s 2016 NLDS Game 2 home run ball, for starters) or jerseys would be cool, but I will stick to literature in the meantime.

By the way, if you get your hands on a copy, I have read a ton of Tech-related literature, and George Griffin’s Griffin, You are a Great Disappointment to Me has got to be my favorite. It’s a ton of anecdotes, but basically like having an old grandfather-type telling stories from memory that sometimes are familiar, but are usually just great color on days that are certainly long gone by by noww.