The 2013 edition of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate approaches and, admittedly, I find myself knowing less than I should about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. I sense a lot of Bulldog fans are in the same boat. But there's a cure for that. I posed a few questions to one of my favorite members of the Old Gold fold, Joey Weaver of SB Nation's From The Rumble Seat*. Joey gave some great answers, some of which may be a little surprising to Bulldog fans. My questions and his answers are below:
Dawg Sports: What is the average Tech fan's take on Paul Johnson? After double digit wins in 2009 it's been a struggle to get back to that level. Are Johnson's best days on the Bobby Dodd sideline behind him?
[Note by MaconDawg, 11/29/13 3:50 PM EST ]FTRS: I think it's fair to say that the "Honeymoon Phase" is long past. There's a certain section of the fan base that is losing confidence, and that section grows with every big game we lose. I brought up a few weeks ago how, since the start of 2012, we're 14-11, with those 11 losses coming to Virginia Tech (twice), Miami (twice), Clemson (twice), BYU (twice), UGA, Florida State, and Middle Tennessee State. Perhaps the biggest issue is those first four teams, all four of whom we lost to in consecutive years. Tech fans are OK with the occasional 7-win season if it also means the occasional 10-win season. Right now we're stuck in a rut of 7-win seasons, picking up right where Chan Gailey left off. Losing Saturdaywould continue the above trend. The general outlook here is that if Johnson doesn't win Saturday, doesn't win a bowl game, and can't win about 9 games next season, I'm guessing he'll be gone. (The only reason he won't be gone after this year is that his buyout is too big for our athletic department to shoulder after the firing of Paul Hewitt.)
Dawg Sports: The Jacket defense is statistically ahead of where it's been the past couple of seasons, currently 24th in the nation in points allowed. What's been the difference?
FTRS: Honestly, our defense had a really rough time in its final 8-10 games under Al Groh, and the theory is that they were just being forced to think too much to execute Groh's brilliant (but complicated) schemes. Even in the press conference after Groh's firing, Johnson made comments about how the X's and O's were never the issue -- it was his ability to communicate them. Roof is running a more simple scheme that focuses on intensity and effort, rather than straight-up out-scheming folks. Clearly it's paying off, which makes sense considering a lot of times defensive performance is based off of effort and instinct, and not so much play design.
Dawg Sports: How is Vad Lee doing in his first season at the helm of the Jacket offense? Where would you rank his decision making compared to a Tevin Washington or Josh Nesbitt?
FTRS: Vad has had some struggles in picking up the offense, it seems, although he's not getting much help up front either. Our offense has been hampered by poor blocking all year, and combined with Vad's struggles, our scoring offense is in the mid-50's against FBS opponents (which is a drop of 30 spots from our ranking including our 70-0 and 66-7 FCS wins). Decision-making wise, he's got plenty of room for improvement, but he also needs improvement in the passing game. We thought Vad would mean a greater passing element in our offense (20-25% of plays, considerable production), but we haven't seen that. Again, some of that is due to blocking, but a lot of it can also be chalked up to some pretty poor mechanics. More and more fans are calling for backup Justin Thomas to get more time than he is, which probably says a lot about what our QB situation will look like over the next two years given that Vad is only a sophomore and Justin a freshman.
Dawg Sports: How would you attack the Georgia Tech defense?
FTRS: The glaring weakness in the defense will be in the secondary, simply due to how badly it's been depleted. We're missing three safeties, as Sr. Isaiah Johnson is sitting out the season to rehab an ACL injury, Jr. Jamal Golden had shoulder surgery (he was also an extremely dynamic kick returner), and Jr. Fred Holton got kicked off the team before the year started for a few reasons. The squad playing there is talented but not menacing (Jemea Thomas is the only one to really watch out for there). Chances are they'll struggle enough with UGA's passing unit of Mason, Bennett, and Conley to the point that Georgia fans will REALLY miss the damage that Murray, Scott-Wesley, and Mitchell could have done. (See Clemson for an example of how it could have looked.) I expect our defense to contain the rushing game fairly well, and I expect Georgia to focus its attack on passing given the depleted secondary and unimpressive pass rush.
My thanks to Joey for the thoughtful answers. Here's hoping for a clean, injury-free game (culminating in another Bulldog win, but mostly the clean, injury-free thing).
*FTRS, for the record, posted well wishes for Aaron Murray within hours of his injury and noted that no Tech fan should be happy about Murray's plight.