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Georgia Tech Football: What Should We Learn This Week - Clemson

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First conference game means there’s a lot we can learn!

NCAA Football: South Carolina State at Clemson Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and welcome back! It was very refreshing to see Georgia Tech pull out a victory last week, even if it was an FCS game. Moving forward, Tech’s schedule gets drastically harder starting with a game in Death Valley against Clemson before culminating in hosting UGA on the Flats.

Before we talk about this week’s questions, let’s take a look to see what we learned last week.

Is Jeff Sims still “the guy,” or can Jordan Yates unseat him?

So obviously, this is the question that is still on all of our minds. Jeff Sims was dressed and reportedly available for the game on Saturday, and yet, he didn’t see a single snap. Instead, Jordan Yates started the game and performed incredibly well, and when Yates did come out, Temple transfer Trad Beatty came in his relief.

So, if Jeff Sims was available, why didn’t he play?

I have a theory, and please note that this is pure speculation based off what I know. I do not have any kind of inside information on why Sims didn’t play.

My theory is that while yes, Sims was in fact available for the game, he was not 100 percent healed following an injury to his non-throwing shoulder he suffered in Week 1’s match-up against Northern Illinois.

So why did Beatty come on in relief of Yates for a couple plays?

If you have your starting quarterback (who is already recovering from an injury), why would you risk agitating that injury further in a game against an FCS opponent that you’re winning handily? The answer is, you don’t.

Personally, I think there’s one circumstance in which Sims would have actually played on Saturday, and I’m very thankful that it didn’t happen. The only way I think Sims would have played a single snap is if Yates went down with some kind of injury during the first half of the game (or if the game was still close). Otherwise, I don’t think there is any reason to risk the health of your starting quarterback in this game.

Is this going to be a repeat of The Citadel?

It wasn’t!

What exactly would happen if Tech loses?

They didn’t!


Well with KSU in the rearview, let’s take a look ahead to see who Tech is playing this week!

...

Oh good grief, Tech gets right to it, don’t they?

After playing the easiest game on their schedule, they turn up the difficult to about an 11 as they head into Death Valley to play the Clemson Tigers and open up ACC play. I’m sure there’s plenty we can learn this week, but let’s focus on a few key things.

Can Georgia Tech keep it close...at all?

I want to go ahead and get this out. It would take an absolute miracle for Georgia Tech to walk into Death Valley and come out with a win. If it happens, you’ll all probably hear me cheering from Savannah, but I don’t think it’s very likely. So as I’m watching this week’s game, I’m looking for progress in each phase of the game.

The Yellow Jackets have not won their annual match with the Tigers since 2014, when they won 28-6, and the defense played one of the best games I’ve ever seen. And ever since then, these games have just gotten continually uglier, especially the last couple years.

2015: 43-24

2016: 26-7

2017: 24-10

2018: 49-21

2019: 52-14

2020: 73-7, which is the second most lopsided victory for Clemson in their history against Georgia Tech. The most lopsided victory was in 1903 when John Heisman’s Clemson team walloped Georgia Tech 73-0.

There are things that do bode well for Tech in this game. Most notably, DJ Uiagalelei is off to a bit of a rocky start to the season, but I’ll get to that in a second, because there are many things that don’t bode well, and one in particular: Clemson has not allowed an offensive touchdown all season.

Yeah, the season did just start, but the one touchdown they have given up was a defensive touchdown in their season-opening loss to UGA. So if Tech wants to keep it close, they are going to have to find some way to score.

Can Georgia Tech take advantage of an underperforming DJ Uiagalelei?

Coming into this season, most folks expected DJ Uiagalelei to seamlessly become the next great Clemson quarterback, following in the footsteps of Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence. He was a five-star quarterback and was commonly ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in his class.

Expectations only rose last season when he filled in for Trevor Lawrence last season in Clemson’s sole loss to Notre Dame. Uiagalelei completed about two-thirds of his passes for more than 400 yards and a couple touchdowns.

Coming into this season, he faced a daunting task in Week 1, facing a very good UGA defense. Understandably, he struggled, completing just over 50 percent of his passes for no touchdowns, except the one he through for UGA on an interception.

What is more concerning, to me at least, is that he didn’t look much better in Week 2 when Clemson faced South Carolina State. Despite a 49-3 victory, Uiagalelei completed just 14 of his 24 passes for 171 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Let’s take a look at some of his passes.

This was his first pass of the game, a five-yard completion to Justyn Ross. The angle of his arm looks almost vertical as he’s throwing and Ross has to go to the ground to even make the catch, which means he’s unable to add on any yards after the catch.

This play came in the second drive, and while it isn’t a bad pass, the play itself looks weird. It’s a play-action, but Uiagalelei is holding the ball to the opposite side of where the running back goes. I don’t know if that’s intentional or if it was an error on someone’s part, but at least to my untrained eye, it looks like someone messed up.

On the very next play, Uiagalelei does a much better job on the play action and stepping up and out to avoid the sack, but he throws a bit of a duck out over the middle of the field, and once again, Justyn Ross has to go to the ground to catch it.

A couple plays later, Uiagalelei rolls right and tries to hit Justyn Ross, who is wide open in the endzone. He overthrows it. I don’t know if it was nerves or he didn’t get his feet set, but that is a play you need to make every single time.

These are just a few examples, but I show all of this to say that Uiagalelei is a mortal at quarterback, which is a welcome change form having to play Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, who are two of the best QBs in football the last several years. If Tech can somehow get pressure on him and keep him a little rattled early in the game, they have a chance to keep this game pretty close.

And now, of course, because I’ve said all this, he’s going to have a career day, so congratulations in advance, DJ!

Who’s starting at quarterback this week?

You knew I was going to talk about this again. Jordan Yates came out last week and made a pretty convincing case that he should be the starter. Against Kennesaw, Yates set a record, passing for four touchdowns in his first start with Georgia Tech, and he looked pretty dang good doing it.

But I still think Jeff Sims is going to start against Clemson.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (or Davey P, as I like to call him) was unnecessarily coy about naming a starter earlier this week.

I talked about this a little bit earlier in my review of last week, but I want to say this again. If Sims is your starter (which I believe he is), why would you risk playing him in a game against an FCS opponent when you have a sizeable victory? ESPECIALLY when the back-up quarterback has proven that he’s more than capable of taking the reigns and keeping the offense moving. The answer is that you wouldn’t.

I also do want to drop this highlight that an official Tech account posted earlier on Wednesday:

In this clip, we see Jeff Sims working with what appears to be the first-team offense against the first-team defense. This is also the only practice clip they’ve dropped this week (as of the time writing this on Wednesday). I think this team struggles in several areas, but one thing they do well is social media. I fully believe that in this post, they are sticking to their guns and saying that Sims is QB1. Is it a stretch? Well, maybe, but until I see otherwise, I have no reason to believe that when Tech comes out on Saturday, it won’t be Jeff Sims leading the offense out.

What are you hoping to learn this week?