With the season approaching, we’ll continue to preview each of the opponents Boston College will face in 2016. To better get you acquainted with those teams, we’ll hear from some of the names and faces who know those squads the best.
With Georgia Tech facing Boston College in the season-opener, get to know the Yellow Jackets with help from Joey Weaver of SB Nation’s From The Rumble Seat:
BC Interruption: What the heck happened to Georgia Tech last year? In less than a year, they went from Orange Bowl champions to last place in the Coastal.
From The Rumble Seat: Yeah, the fall-off was sudden and drastic. It was a combination of a few things...
a) The 2014 team graduated both wide receivers (both were drafted), its best offensive lineman (who was also drafted), and its entire two-deep in the backfield, with the exception of Thomas.
b) The 2015 team saw an enormous amount of injuries, concentrated in the backfield on offense. That meant a ton of true freshmen replacing guys who were expected to step up and be the team's playmakers.
c) The 2015 team created nowhere near as many turnovers on defense, and saw its best defensive player (Adam Gotsis) ejected early in the UNC game and suffer a torn ACL to miss the final 4 games of the season.
d) Top-to-bottom, the team had awful luck in every way.
Combine those things, and you end up with a team that wins an Orange Bowl and then wins 3 games in a span of 12 months.
BCI: Is there any indication that Paul Johnson's seat is hot?
FTRS: There's not, for a couple of reasons. The Orange Bowl win built up some goodwill with the fan base that helped Johnson to weather the storm of the 2015 season, although some fans' happiness with him and the program has proven far more volatile than others'. He's also shown a strong record of graduating his players, as well as keeping them out of trouble. Maybe most importantly is his contract, which currently features $3 million in buyout were they to fire him following the 2017 season, or $6 million if fired after the 2016 season. The GTAA continues to be hampered financially by payouts to former coaches from other sports, and so firing Paul Johnson just wouldn't be feasible for another ~18 months barring desperate circumstances.
BCI: BC opens the season against GT in Ireland. What's the reaction been in the south to moving the game and are people excited about it? Is there anything of an Irish heritage in Atlanta that's going to be a draw?
FTRS: The reaction has generally been positive. A lot of the fan base will be in attendance (myself included) and seem to be very excited about the opportunity to "kill two birds with one stone" by seeing a Georgia Tech football game while traveling abroad. Generally, the response has been excitement and positivity! As far as Irish heritage, Atlanta has its share of Irish people, but nowhere near the concentration of Boston's Irish population. That's not stopping the fans from wanting to make the trek over though!
BCI: Justin Thomas entered last year as a triple option quarterback who can throw. A year later - what are the thoughts on him as a player?
FTRS: Thomas's passing numbers looked awful in 2015, after they looked pretty good in 2014. Suffice it to say that the 2014 numbers were probably inflated by the NFL talent he was throwing to, but at the same time his 2015 numbers were strongly influenced by exceptionally poor pass protection. It really became a meme throughout the season, with several Vines being made showing the level of awful it really was. (Exhibit A) Simple four-man pressures looked like jailbreak blitzes with how Thomas couldn't get to the top of his drop before scrambling. Most of the time, he ended up having to throw the ball away, which I legitimately believe made a major dent in his Completion % numbers. This offseason, Georgia Tech replaced one of its OL coaches, and better coordination in pass protection will be paramount in getting the offense back on pace for this year.
BCI: Give us the best and worst case scenarios for the Yellow Jackets this year.
FTRS: The best-case scenario this season would see a major bounce-back, combined with some growing pains from opponents. I don't see them beating Clemson either way, but a 10-win season wouldn't be entirely inconceivable. A worst-case scenario would see injuries pile up again, continued inconsistency and non-cohesion on the offensive line, and a young secondary getting abused, all on the way to another 2-3 win season.
BCI: Okay - now what's the realistic case?
FTRS: Paul Johnson has said that the team is going to be better than a lot of media and others are expecting, which is a pretty unbelievable level of praise from Johnson for his team at this time of the year. That makes me think that Georgia Tech rights the ship this year and wins 7-8 games in the regular season. I've got plenty of concern about the defenses they'll face out of the gate (Boston College and Vanderbilt in Game 1 & Game 3), but a 3-0 start sets the team up very nicely. Also worth noting is that, as bad as the team seemed last year, 6 of their losses happened in one-score games. I think the luck turns around this year and Georgia Tech wins 7-8 games.