Pressure puts strain on a whole pipeline. As the pressure continues to mount, more and more potential points of failure are at risk. Welcome to the 2022 Georgia Tech football season.
The pipeline is full of pressure. Geoff Collins sits near the top of every preseason hot seat list. The recruiting class has been unable to get any traction with higher level prospects. Indeed, in the latest state rankings from Rivals released over the weekend, Georgia Tech does not have a single commitment from a top 80 prospect. Besides all the usual suspects, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, UNC, UCF, Louisville, Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Duke, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Purdue, Virginia Tech and Liberty all have higher ranked commits from the state that this staff promised to lock down. The pressure won’t stop building on the recruiting front.
I have good information that several significant donors are withholding all contributions to the GTAA until the administration changes. The department hasn’t released any information about season ticket sales, and the only logical conclusion from the absence of information is that the reality is bleak. The Clemson game - a surefire sellout in the 55,000 Bobby Dodd Stadium and an anticipated sellout at full-capacity Mercedes Benz Stadium - will be played without any fans in the upper deck, and Clemson says it was GT’s idea. The pressure won’t stop building on the booster front.
Jahmyr Gibbs is the name that everyone mentions, but other significant players chose to leave the Georgia Tech program this past offseason. Even though the easily recognized sack numbers weren’t there, Jordan Domineck and Jared Ivey both had impressive pressure numbers and were graded well by PFF. They will both be starting or playing significant snaps in the SEC West this season, and their transfers out included reference to the current “uncertainty” in the GT program. Even if this season goes poorly, Georgia Tech will have a few players who are attractive to more successful programs. The pressure won’t stop building in the locker room.
The recruiting, booster, and locker room pressure cannot persist beyond this year. Pressure relief has to come in one form or the other by the end of this calendar year. If the on-field results go the way that our numbers tell us they will, the pressure must be relieved by personnel changes that transform the top of the GTAA and the entire football program. Of course, there always remains a chance that the on-field results themselves work to decrease the pressure that has built up within the Georgia Tech football program.
A good chunk of the fanbase thinks I’m overly pessimistic, that I haven’t given enough thought or emphasis to the almost entirely revamped coaching staff or the bevy of incoming transfers. Of course, I have written several times this offseason about encouraging pieces of data related to these hires and transfers. But, coaching changes and large transfer overhauls simply don’t have consistent track records of bringing improvement. They’re just as likely to lead to worse results as better. On their own, they are no true indication that the pressure will decrease as a result of improved performance.
However, there is some chance that the on-field improvement does happen! There seems to be relative consensus that that pressure relief would happen from a 6 win season, including a bowl appearance for the first time since 2018. How likely is that? My numbers say that GT has an 8.4% chance of being good enough to have 6 expected wins on the schedule. Of course, there are other possible scenarios that could lead to 6 wins - incredible turnover luck, the schedule being must worse than expected. But playing with a team quality that would mean expecting to win 6 games against this schedule has an 8% chance of happening. That’s not nothing, but of course it’s highly unlikely.
What would it look like? I rewatched the 2021 UNC game over the weekend. That win felt flukier on rewatch than what I remembered, but it did give glimpses of the 8% outcome for GT. Namely, Jeff Sims is unleashed as a dual-threat quarterback. He gashed UNC with his legs, and eventually that led to him having more space to operate as a passer. If Chip Long is able to harness that capability, Sims could have an 800 yard, 10 touchdown rushing season, in addition to reasonable improvement as a passer. That would significantly change the upside of the GT offense. On the other side of the ball, Jaylon King and Charlie Thomas both made splash plays throughout the game. They both return, and Keion White has the upside to replace, if not surpass, the missing Domineck/Ivey threat up front. There’s an 8 percent outcome in there that looks pretty good.
A dynamic dual-threat quarterback, consistent havoc up front, and non-inflammatory play in the back is a recipe that could (8%!) lead to 6 expected wins and decreased pressure throughout the pipeline. If not, the pressure relief valve will have to deploy over the next few months. And that would be truly different.