Back in Joey's Midpoint of the 100 Days to Kickoff article, he alluded to a particularly special and awesome piece that would be coming soon. Well if you couldn't tell this was it. I contacted Brandon back in May to see if he would be willing to come help us out with this. Thankfully, he said yes and we got this fantastic Q&A from it, so thank you Brandon for answering all of these questions, and I hope those reading this enjoy it!
Benjamin Tankersley: Georgia Tech fans were very fond of the legacy that Wes Durham left as the voice of the Jackets. What was it like for you to come into a situation like that? Did you feel like there was a certain standard that you had to live up to because of Wes?
Brandon Gaudin: The phrase "big shoes to fill" was brought up frequently when I arrived in Atlanta. As I noted upon accepting the position, you don't fill Wes' shoes. They're too big. You have to buy your own pair. The Georgia Tech family was lucky to have Al Ciraldo and Wes Durham occupy the booth for so many years. Those are two Hall of Famers whose voices are forever woven into the fabric of The Flats. I view following them as an honor, and I will continue to try my best to carry the torch they lit.
BT: Has Wes given you any advice since you came to Tech? Do y’all stay in touch?
BG: I'm very thankful to count Wes as a friend and mentor. By happenstance I reached out via email to introduce myself to Wes less than a year prior to his departure. I was a fan of his work and wanted to get his critique of mine. He obliged. Then, a short time later when I learned of his departure, he was kind enough to assist in answering any and all inquiries I had about the position. Since my arrival at Tech, he has been there every time I have needed a question answered, advice administered, OR a good laugh. He's very good at all three, especially that last one.
BT: What makes Georgia Tech different from the other schools you’ve covered? What did you see at Tech that made you want to be a part of it?
BG: I’ve said this often, but to me, Tech provided an irresistible trifecta: (1) FBS football, (2) ACC basketball, (3) a phenomenal big city. It's a rare and strong combination I had not experienced. I already had an affinity for Atlanta and that was sort of the icing on the cake. I grew up a gigantic Braves fan and this city has always held a special place in my heart. One thing that was recognizable from day one is the enormity of college football in the south. That's one big difference. I grew up in Indiana. Big Ten country. Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers were the focus year-round. Here, football is the religion. Now, to be honest, football has become king everywhere, even in many corners of Indiana…BUT here in the south, it's a whole different level. I wouldn't have it any other way.
BT: What do you like to do in the offseason when you’re not working?
BG: I usually spend a heavy majority of my weekdays pounding chili dogs and Frosted Oranges at the Varsity. Beyond that, I have a fair amount of freelance on-air work that keeps me busy when Tech isn't keeping me busy. Mike Bobinski has been a tremendous ally in viewing other opportunities as beneficial to both myself and the Institute. I'm very appreciative of that. But I am full-time at Tech. I maintain an office there and strive to continually add more value than simply flipping on a microphone on game days.
BT: Can you talk about your preparation for calling a game? What’s the hardest part? During the game, are you playing out potential scenarios in your head, so you know what to say, or is it more spontaneous?
BG: Let's take a football game. I had a friend help create an Excel file that auto-populates a player's information and stats by simply inputting their jersey number. This saves a great deal of time and makes unexpected two-deep changes much simpler to reflect. I will update the Tech portion of the file on Monday and build the opponent portion on Tuesday. Each player block has blank space to either type in or write in nuggets/storylines. On Tuesday night or Wednesday, I will sit with my opponent sheet in front of me and watch the TV copy of their previous game that I obtain from our (awesome) Video Coordinator Todd McCarthy. I use the TV copy because it's helpful for memorization to hear the announcers say the player names plus you can often hijack a myriad of good information to utilize yourself. Also, every school has a Sports Information Director responsible for compiling "Game Notes" which reveals even more fun data and intel. I scour those once they are released and incorporate the anecdotes I find useful into my prep and Excel file.
Tuesday and Wednesday are great days to visit practice. Coach Johnson is gracious to let me attend, and I glean a lot from those sessions about the upcoming Saturday. On Friday, I will typically replay some or all of the opponent's previous game again to ensure a certain comfort level of familiarity. The advantage of working for a certain team is that your prep is less extensive for "your school" as the year progresses.
Now, I just said quite a bit, but the reality is I enjoy it all. I would feel dishonest saying there is a "hardest part." It's fun, and I thoroughly enjoy the art of trying to make each prep as streamlined as possible.
I don't think you can (or should) script your wording of potential plays. For instance, take the GT/UGA game (because why not), Butker's kick and DJ's interception can't be pre-meditated. There are too many scenarios and each case should be treated differently. Now, I did know that I wanted to say something about Tech "running the state" if they won due to Georgia's "We run this state" slogan. That's why I closed the winning play with the "For the next 364 days, the state of Georgia belongs to the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech" line. I thought that captured the mood and feeling of the team and fan base.
BT: What has been your favorite stadium to travel to with the team?
BG: I think the trip to South Bend on September 19th will take the cake but since you asked the question in past tense…I’ll say Lane Stadium (Virginia Tech). Not only was it a terrific venue with an electric atmosphere both outside (awesome tailgating setup) and inside, but the thrilling victory (on Butker’s last second field goal) makes me remember the whole experience fondly.
BT: So in the TV call from the GT/uga game at the end of the season, the fans can hear you scream "It’s picked off!" Would you say that that moment is one of your favorites in your time at Tech? Can you tell us about some of your other favorite moments?
BG: The win at Sanford Stadium is so far ahead of the other memories that it has lapped whatever is in second place multiple times. What a game. So many twists and turns. And that finish...my goodness. It got so quiet in Athens after DJ’s pick that I think they heard Roddy and I on the top of Stone Mountain.
As for other favorite moments, the Orange Bowl was a blast. It was truly a first class production. There are so many planned events and things to do for the players the entire week leading up to the game. It was neat to see them outside of pads and helmets, just normal guys enjoying their college years. It seemed to be the perfect mix of business and pleasure. And the game itself was spectacular. To see them cap off such a great year with a convincing statement win on that stage was special.
BT: Can you tell us what it’s like to work with former Georgia Tech A-back Roddy Jones in the booth?
BG: I’m going to miss Roddy. He wasn’t there for a long time, but he was there for a good time. I’m excited for his new opportunity. He wants to try and make a career out of being an Analyst and the move to Raycom was a big step in that direction. He’ll do great, and I’m sure we’ll still be seeing him around The Flats plenty. As of now, he is still planning on doing the Tech baseball ESPN3 broadcasts so he hasn’t fully escaped me yet.
BT: So transitioning more into this football season, how does the team atmosphere compare to where it was at this point a year ago?
BG: The same. And that’s a good thing. I will say, however, that losing those senior A/B Backs meant losing a lot of great leadership. Synjyn (Days), Charles (Perkins), Tony (Zenon), Zach (Laskey), Deon (Hill), BJ (Bostic). Those were superb people and excellent locker room guys. So, not only will production be needed on the field from those positions but also off the field. That said, there is so much talent and leadership returning elsewhere that it should be a very fun year. It starts with Justin Thomas. He’s hard to describe. He is just a guy that other people want to be around. No ego. No talk. He just smiles, works hard and walks the walk. He’s kind of akin the little brother you want to protect…or the friend you just can’t help but like. Plus, he moves on to the next play incredibly well and very little fazes him. Aside from Justin, just watching the guys interact with one another…it’s obvious there is a genuine bond there on both sides of the football. Chemistry should not be a concern.
BT: I’m sure you’ve seen some of the videos of Derrick Moore inspiring the team. Does he mentor them in their personal lives, or just with spiritual issues? He seems like such an inspirational guy, but I wonder what the everyday role he has with the players is? As a side note, we have had some issues with kids not following the rules. What role does Derrick (or the other coaches) have in that problem? Or its resolution.
BG: First, I think any time you have 100 18-22 year old college men, you’re going to have at least some minor issues, whether public or private, at some point during a season. That’s not an excuse, it’s just likely going to be a reality. Now, should you strive to have zero issues and do everything in your power to that end (especially at a high caliber institution like Georgia Tech)? Absolutely. Always.
I guess my point is that Tech players getting into trouble seems to be relatively calm compared to most peer schools. Guys like D-Mo certainly have nothing but a positive impact in that direction. He is a "life coach" of sorts. He is there to encourage and inspire the players, to be a shoulder to lean on and a sounding board. The guys respect him, and they thrive off his energy. Beyond his monumental pre-game speeches, he attends practices and team functions and does a great job of being there when needed. As a former NFL player, a smart businessman, a tremendous listener and a powerful motivator, he’s a valuable resource on a number of levels for the guys.
BT: Who do you see having a breakout season this year, on offense and defense?
BG: I’m excited to see some of the new faces in camp. This is a very solid group of freshmen and some are likely going to be called on to contribute immediately, especially the ball-carriers.
The Stanford transfer Patrick Skov should be a real asset at B-Back. He fits in perfectly physically and academically. Big, strong body. Pac-12 All-Academic first team. He didn’t carry the ball much at Stanford, but I think he will thrive in that role in Coach Johnson’s system. He should be a really nice complement to emerging B-Back Marcus Allen.
On defense, maybe he had his "breakout" year in 2014 but I have to praise DJ White. First off, he’s as nice of a guy as you’ll come across. A true gentleman and always smiling. His progression on the field from game 1 to game 14 last year was really something. He has a knack for making big plays…from the forced fumble at Pittsburgh to the INTs at Virginia Tech and of course, Georgia. He’s a gifted kid who is only going to get better. I look for him to have an All-ACC season as one of the best corners in the league.
Also, look out for PJ Davis. That kid is an animal. He led the team in tackles last year, but didn’t seem to garner the league wide recognition he deserves. I think he’ll turn a lot of heads this fall.
BT: What game are you looking forward to the most this season?
BG: I referenced it earlier, but Notre Dame is the road game I’m most pumped about. I grew up in Indiana but have never seen a game in South Bend. Obviously, the venue and what it represents needs no introduction. I plan to have lots of family there cheering loudly for the Ramblin’ Wreck. At home, FSU and Georgia are obvious games to get excited about. Hopefully, they have playoff implications…
BT: Before we let you go, can we get a season prediction?
BG: Well, since I mentioned playoffs….why not?!
It is a daunting schedule. Selfishly, I love it. I want to see Tech play the best and beat the best. Last year was remarkable. Because of that, Tech is sort of the hunted instead of the hunter. To me, that’s a good thing. Coach Johnson won’t let them bask in the glow of 2014. I can assure you of that.
Even with the schedule, JT running PJ’s offense with an improved defense is a fun combination. I wouldn’t bet against Tech on any given week this fall. As Coach Johnson said at the ACC Media Days "I’m always optimistic. If I ever thought I couldn’t win, I wouldn’t show up." He’ll be at every game.