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Georgia Tech Football: Coach Collins Gets A Year Zero

Why you really shouldn’t have any positive or negative expectations this fall

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When Georgia Tech football takes the field this fall, it will look much different than it has for the previous 11 years. There will be shotgun snaps, tight ends, and 4 wide receiver sets. There will be some semblance of a balanced offense when it comes to run / pass ratio. There will probably be some hurry-up / no-huddle elements. There will offensive personnel recruited for an entirely different system on the field. On defense, the players will be playing under their 3rd defensive coordinator in 3 years and transitioning back to a base 4-3.

For these reasons, among many others, new head coach Geoff Collins gets a year zero. Read: an expectation-less, reset year.

For over a decade, the Yellow Jackets have been the quirky option school with an old-school coach who largely eschewed media attention and social media (still love you, CPJ). If you follow GT Athletics on any of the social networks, the change has been immediate and drastic. Time will tell if that translates to any on-field success, but the administration change has been night and day.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of talent on the Georgia Tech roster for this team to be competent and competitive this fall - but will a total coaching and scheme change mean that talent will be able to immediately succeed? Who knows.

Any sort of expectations or predictions for Georgia Tech this fall is a fool’s errand.

For starters, who’s going to play quarterback? Lucas Johnson has the most experience and is probably the leader to start... he’s shown above average passing ability during his time as a flexbone QB, but will he be able to hold a starting position after sustaining a season-ending injury during fall camp last year? Does Tobias Oliver have enough passing ability to be a viable contender?

Or does it make more sense with the total scheme change to have true freshman Jordan Yates start with a clean slate on offense and groom him into a 4 year starter? Yates probably has the highest upside of any of the QBs on the roster... should he go ahead and get the nod since 2019 is going to be Year Zero? If so, where does that leave James Graham?

And that’s just one position on offense.

Where do we put the A-backs? That was one of the most unique positions in football, with those players being hybrid lead blockers, slot receivers, and running backs. Certainly some will transition to slot receiver, but some of them it’s hard to see a place for. Where does Nate Cottrell go? Do the B-backs on the roster become regular halfbacks? Do any of the former A-backs translate to that position as well?

These are all questions Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude will have to answer this fall. Patenaude has repeatedly been quoting as saying he’s not married to any offensive philosophy and will fit the scheme to players, which is certainly encouraging to hear, but we have no idea what that will look like come even the spring game in April. Collins has reiterated that Tech will run a, “pro-style, spread attack.” That’s not very specific.

Also, we have all seen what has been considered “pass blocking” by the offensive line for the last few years... have you emotionally prepared for more of that? When was the last time a Tech QB dropped back to pass and neither of these things happened:

  1. He had time to pass
  2. You didn’t swear

Obviously Brent Key will be a massive upgrade in coaching at the position, but how quickly will we see results? And what’s the offensive line’s ceiling with the current roster? It could realistically take a couple years of recruiting and coaching before the QBs aren’t running for their lives.

All this to say is that Georgia Tech very realistically could win only 2 games this fall, and you / we need to prepare for that. It will be okay.

I, for one, hope we line up in the flexbone for the first offensive play of the game against Clemson just to mess with both the Tigers and our own fans. Nothing would simultaneously incite more panic in everyone. Both fanbases would be collectively screaming at their televisions, “What?! I thought we were done with this [redacted]?!”

The football program is going through a massive change in every way. We won’t be able to pass hardly any judgement on Collins or his staff until the end of year 3. This year is the total reset / teardown, and 2020 will simply be the year for building blocks.

This isn’t to say I don’t believe in Collins or his staff, I certainly do, and I think he was the perfect hire for the Institute and where the Yellow Jackets are as a program right now. It’s just going to take some time to turn the whole program around, and for that reason, he gets a year zero for 2019.