When a team is losing in the fashion that Georgia Tech has been over the past few weeks, it's easy to start looking into film and breaking down weaknesses in individual players and larger schemes. For this team in particular, you should be -- there are numerous X's and O's-type problems on offense right now that are crippling its output. It's easy, too, to look at things like missed opportunities (red zone field goals instead of touchdowns, just that one block that would have sprung a big play) and how that's what's costing the team.
We've done enough of that in the last two weeks, though. What we haven't done enough of is talk about one glaring issue that might be affecting the team as much as anything else.
The state of the team's health isn't a secret right now -- Georgia Tech is already missing 5 players for the season, and will be missing at least 5 more when it lines up for Saturday's game against North Carolina. Even worse, basically all of those players missing are all difference-makers. QB Tim Byerly is a backup, but a really good one who may have been valuable to use in place of a struggling Justin Thomas over the past couple of games. (Also, one that could be used situationally as he has in the past.) There are three surefire starters who will be missing -- A-Back Broderick Snoddy, wide receiver Micheal Summers, and DL Pat Gamble -- and a former starter who would've been a key backup at worst -- OT Chris Griffin.
Perhaps the position that has been hit hardest by these injuries is the A-Back position, where they're missing a starter (Snoddy), the best backup with playmaking ability (Qua Searcy), a true freshman who was set to be in the rotation in fall camp (Nathan Cottrell), and a strong, athletic runner whose talents were needed elsewhere (Matthew Jordan, backing up Thomas in place of the injured Byerly). All of this, at a position that was already depleted coming into the season following the graduation of 4 fifth-year seniors and the dismissal of its best returning player.
For Georgia Tech, these injuries are hurting the team's performance as much as anything else. Not only is the production of veterans like Micheal Summers missing, but with so many young players on offense missing time, it's really tough to improve when they can't stay on the field. (Coach Johnson said as much on his weekly radio show on Monday.)
It's not just Georgia Tech dealing with these types of issues, either. It seems as though injuries have been something of an epidemic across the country so far this year, for whatever reason. Just in the ACC, Pittsburgh's returning conference Player of the Year RB James Conner had his season ended early with a knee injury, Virginia Tech's preseason All-American DB Kendall Fuller just recently had his season ended with a knee injury, Clemson's top WR Mike Williams has a "small fracture" in his neck, Boston College is without top RB Jon Hilliman due to a broken foot...the list goes on. Even outside the ACC, Notre Dame's QB Malik Zaire is now out for the season with a broken ankle, UCLA is without star LB Myles Jack for the rest of the year due to a torn meniscus, BYU QB Taysom Hill is gone for the year with a lisfranc injury, and Auburn DE Carl Lawson will miss an 'extended period of time'.
Many are already wanting to call 2015 the worst season of college football ever with regard to injuries. Personally, I'm hesitant to go to those "best/worst of all time" conclusions as things are happening, and I'm also wondering if we're being extra sensitized to injuries this season given the high-profile nature of some of the players being injured. In any case, there are plenty of big-time players that are missing time in college football right now, and Georgia Tech hasn't been immune from it.
Moving forward for Georgia Tech, the fate of the season may rest on whether the team can avoid adding any injuries to an already extensive list of them. The more players that are unavailable, the more stretched the team will be from a personnel standpoint -- especially at crucial positions like A-Back. The Jackets' next contest comes at home on Saturday in what's projected to be a very rainy, messy environment. That doesn't bode well for an injury-free game, but at this point Georgia Tech can only hope to make it out of that game without adding any injuries.
But, as always, we'll hold out hope for the best.