8 mildly must-read Tech notes

Georgia Tech running back Synjyn Days is succeeding as a former quarterback, but that hardly qualifies as unique for the Yellow Jackets. (ASSOCIATAED PRESS)

Georgia Tech running back Synjyn Days is succeeding as a former quarterback, but that hardly qualifies as unique for the Yellow Jackets. (ASSOCIATAED PRESS)

Sorry to shortchange you a couple items. I’ve got a plane to try to make.

1. Georgia Tech running back Synjyn Days has received considerable attention for his shift from quarterback, but that’s been fairly routine since coach Paul Johnson’s hire. It has been Johnson’s practice to bring in high school quarterbacks, either expressly to play a different position, or to give them a chance at quarterback before giving them the option to change.

Johnson said he was influenced by his former boss at Georgia Southern, Erk Russell. As defense coordinator of Georgia’s 1980 national-championship team, Russell coached seven high-school quarterbacks on the defense who were starters, Johnson said. When Johnson was offensive coordinator at Hawaii, the 1992 WAC champion had five high school quarterbacks on offense, both wide receivers, both slots and the actual quarterback.

“There’s just a lot of those guys that are pretty good athletes and can move around, especially with the type of quarterbacks we recruit,” Johnson said.

Against Virginia, no less than seven Tech players who took the field played quarterback in high school, including the two players who actually still are quarterbacks: A-back Dennis Andrews, quarterback Tim Byerly, Days, wide receiver Corey Dennis, safety Jamal Golden, safety Demond Smith and quarterback Justin Thomas.

2. As you likely know, Tech made the College Football Playoff top 25, debuting at No. 24. It was the committee’s second weekly. Maybe the most interesting updates were three teams between 15 and 25 who lost. No. 17 Utah lost to No. 9 Arizona State 19-16 on the road and stayed at No. 17. West Virginia lost 31-30 at home to No. 7 TCU and dropped just three slots, from No. 20 to 23. No. 19 Arizona lost 17-7 on the road to No. 22 UCLA and stayed at No. 19.

In the AP poll, Utah fell from 18 to 20, Arizona fell from 14 to 21 and West Virginia dropped from 20 to 24. I think losing and not dropping in the poll is pretty much unheard of in the AP and coaches polls, even though Utah did pretty much what could be expected of it – play a very good team in its home to a close game. I have to quibble a little bit with the Arizona ranking staying the same. Home or away, UCLA clearly asserted itself as the better team, at least from a statistical perspective, gaining 460 yards to 255 for the Wildcats. Further, while at home, UCLA was also lower ranked, and now the Bruins are No. 18, one spot ahead of the Wildcats.

That essentially means that, on a neutral field, they would be expected to play each other even. So UCLA’s advantage in rushing, 271 yards to 80, would be negated by playing away from the Rose Bowl. Not sure I buy that one, although, granted, UCLA-Arizona was just one result out of eight or nine for both teams that the committee was presumably measuring.

At any rate, this speaks pretty clearly, I’d think, about the value of schedule strength to the playoff committee, and perhaps a more rational way of looking at results (perhaps the Arizona ranking aside, although it can’t be discounted that Arizona also gave Oregon its only loss) than unilaterally penalizing teams for losing.

Anyway, what this might mean for Tech is that, as it tries to stay in the rankings, Tech still has a shot at the Orange Bowl. Let’s say Tech beats N.C. State and Clemson to get to 9-2 and then loses close to Georgia in Athens. I’d think it’d be a tight call between who would finish higher, Tech or Duke, even if it were to run the table and then lose to Florida State in the ACC championship game.

And that matters because, if FSU gets selected for the playoff, the next highest-ranked ACC team will go to the Orange Bowl as the ACC representative. In this scenario, Tech will have beaten Clemson, so it has a head-to-head advantage, and, given that the two teams are close now (Clemson is No. 21, three slots ahead of Tech), one would think that the Jackets would leapfrog the Tigers, even if it were a “good loss” for the Tigers at Bobby Dodd.

Miami, actually, is another team to consider. If the Hurricanes were to beat the Seminoles next Saturday, that would obviously change the discussion considerably.

But, that presupposes a Tech win over N.C. State, which is not a given.

 


 

3. Three N.C. State players to watch out for: defensive tackles, Thomas Teal, B.J. Hill and T.Y. McGill. They go 6-foot-1, 296 pounds, 6-4, 300 and 6-1, 289. They have a total of 16 tackles for loss this season.

McGill is coming off a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules, so his legs may be a little fresher.

“They’re pretty good,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said. “69 (Teal) and 75 (McGill) have done a good job. They’ve held the point. They got good pressure against Florida State. They spin, they push. They’ve got two defensive ends, 95 (Art Norman) and 90 (Mike Rose), who are good players. They’ve done what they should do. They’re a pretty solid group right there.”

Norman has 32 tackles for loss in his career, tied for third among active ACC players. Teal has 25, which is sixth on the active list. Norman’s 21 sacks are second behind Clemson’s Vic Beasley for second on the active list.

4. Tech defensive line coach Mike Pelton has more familiarity with N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett than anyone on the staff. The two have been on opposite sides when both were at different schools, Pelton as Auburn’s defensive line coach and Brissett when he was a freshman at Florida. Brissett started and played a half in a 17-6 win for the Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Brissett was 5-for-10 for 45 yards with an interception. He ran four times for 12 yards.

“He’s a playmaker now,” Pelton said. “he feels like if it’s not there (to pass), he can make it with his feet, and he’s done a good job of extending plays. He’s strong and he throws a good ball. He’s one of those guys you don’t want to let get hot because if he gets hot, it’s trouble.”

5. I wrote about this for a myajc story about defensive end KeShun Freeman that I thought was worth mentioning on the blog. Freeman’s career goal is to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. Freeman’s younger brother Landon was born prematurely and spent considerable time at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston, where Freeman saw patients and talked with doctors.

“They kind of made me think, ‘Hey, I want to do that one day,’” Freeman said.

6. With the scheduling rotation allowing only ACC teams to play just one cross-division team per year besides the permanent partner, Saturday will be the last time that Tech plays at Carter-Finley Stadium until the rotation is completed in 2024.

Tech’s crossover schedule through 2024:

2014: at N.C. State

2015: Florida State

2016: at Boston College

2017: Wake Forest

2018: at Louisville

2019: N.C. State

2020: at Syracuse

2021: Boston College

2022: at Florida State

2023: Louisville

2024: at Wake Forest

The more I think about it, the more I think getting rid of the permanent-partner games might be the better way to go. Tech-Clemson is an enduring rivalry as is North Carolina-N.C. State and Florida State-Miami. But I don’t know that they’re worth keeping in order to deprive fans (and players) the opportunity to play the other cross-divisional teams more frequently. Further, it’s hard to argue that some of the partner opponents have created an advantage, notably Virginia Tech’s with Boston College.

With no rivalry game, teams would cycle through the opposite conference in four seasons. The flipside, of course, is losing rivalries and tradition, which are part of the game’s bedrock. Another option, of course, is realigning divisions or getting rid of divisions altogether, which is what the ACC has asked the NCAA to consider the deregulation of the two-division requirement in order to have a conference championship game.

7. Kicker Harrison Butker was named to the Capital One Academic All-District 4 team. Butker, a sophomore, holds a 3.51 GPA as an industrial engineering major. Butker is now eligible to be named academic All-American. Tech’s last academic All-American was Darryl Richard in 2007.

Former Tech offensive lineman Will Jackson earned the all-district honor last season.

8. You’ve probably noticed that we rolled out a redesign for the website. I’ve heard from a couple of you thus far, and seen comments on the site, that aren’t terribly favorable, which, certainly is your right. I will pass along your comments, but you’re better off e-mailing the powers-that-be, at feedback@ajc.com. I’d suggest, instead of “I don’t like it,” explaining what you don’t like. Also, I’ve been told that improving the commenting feature is a top priority.


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