Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

State Champs?

By: JJ Lanier news services

While both the Georgia and Georgia Tech basketball programs seem to be in a race back to mediocrity- one that neither team looks to be in a hurry to achieve- Georgia State has made a strong argument to carry the mantle of “best college basketball program in Georgia”.

It’s easy to dismiss what the Panthers have accomplished over the last five years. Including this season, since they play in the Sun Belt conference, but that would be a mistake.

Over that five years span, Georgia State has had more appearances in the NCAA than both Georgia and Georgia Tech combined (two to one) and is the only school with a tournament win, advancing to the Round of 32 in 2015 and 2018.

As a point of reference, the last time Tech won a NCAA tournament game was 2010. Georgia’s last tournament victory came in 2002, which technically has been vacated, so it’s actually 1996.

This year the Panthers have the most dynamic and arguably the best player of the three schools in D’Marcus Simonds, as well as Ron Hunter, whom I believe is the second-best coach of the three, behind Tom Crean.

(I’ve always thought Josh Pastner was overrated, and to be completely honest with you, I’d be surprised if he’s still coaching the Yellow Jackets after next season. Crean, I think, is a good coach that was in a little over his head in Indiana, but is a good fit in Athens.)

Georgia State was also crowned the de facto winners of the completely made up title “Intrastate champions of the sport most Georgia fans only watch when their remote is broken and they don’t want to walk over to the TV to change the channel”.

They were awarded this absolutely ridiculous title after Georgia defeated Georgia Tech, courtesy of Georgia State’s 91-67 victory over the Bulldogs. Basically, they’re state champions, in the loosest sense of the word.

There’s also a good chance when you include Georgia State’s victory over Alabama, that even though they aren’t in the SEC they will enter February with as many SEC conference wins as the Bulldogs-two.

Again, while they play in a lesser conference, they have more than proven they can compete when going up against a team from a major conference. Sure, they may not be able to hang with the Duke’s and Kentucky’s of the world, but there aren’t a lot of teams that can.

Even though their entire season and whether they’ll be back in the NCAA tournament will basically come down to the Sun Belt Conference tournament, they are still the state’s best shot at making the big dance.

Barring some unforeseen miracle occurring with either the Yellow Jackets or Bulldogs, both of their tournament hopes will rest on winning their respective conference tournaments, too. I don’t know about you, but if I have to choose between those three, I’m going with the Panthers.

As I mentioned, given the chance I think Tom Crean will have the Georgia program back to respectability within the next years. And given the law of averages, Georgia Tech is bound to trip up and bring in someone that can lead them back to the tournament with some semblance of consistency.

Until that time arrives, when it comes to basketball in the state of Georgia, the Georgia State Panthers are the team to beat.

Add another trip to the tournament this year and the rest of country may find out just how good they are, too.


New To The Hive

By: TJ Hartnett news services

After Paul Johnson retired from coaching the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team after 11 seasons, there was a big ACC hole to fill. They filled it with former Tech assistant and erstwhile Temple head coach Geoff Collins.

Collins was 15-10 for the past two seasons at Temple and before that worked as the defensive coordinator at both Florida and Mississippi State. He began his career in Atlanta as a tight ends coach for the Jackets under George O’Leary and also worked as a recruiting coordinator for Chan Gailey in 2006.

This amounts to a dream job for Collins, a Conyers native, who has already been on the recruiting trail since being hired last month.

Collins has fairly sizeable shoes to fill: Johnson managed 82 wins during his stint, against 59 losses; the Yellow Jackets also made three ACC Championship game appearances. Last season they finished 7-5.

In addition to recruiting, Collins has spent his time filling out his coaching staff for the upcoming season.

His first move was to bring on former Yellow Jackets running back Tashard Choice as the running backs coach. The former NFL player spent the past two seasons at North Texas as an assistant and RB coach.

Collins followed that hire up by adding Kerry Dixon and Lewis Caralla. Dixon will be the Jackets’ wide receivers coach. He held the same job in the past at the University of Florida, where he first ran into his new boss.

Caralla will serve as Tech’s strength and conditioning coach, the same position he held in Buffalo. He was an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Yellow Jackets in 2010 and 2011.

Collins brought a familiar face with him from Pennsylvania, former Temple assistant Nathan Burton, a Teaching graduate, who joins the staff as a co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

Collins has also brought on Boise State coach Jeff Popovich to coach GT’s cornerbacks and coordinator of defensive special teams.

Larry Knight, Jim Panagos and Chris Wiesehan have also been added to Collins’ staff. Knight will serve as defensive ends/outside linebackers coach; Panagos as defensive line coach; and Wiesehan as tight ends coach/offensive special teams coordinator.

Additionally, Knight will carry the title of defensive recruiting coordinator. Tashard Choice, previously hired as the Yellow Jackets’ running backs coach, will serve as the program’s offensive recruiting coordinator.

Collins followed those hires up with a pair of steals; first swiping Patrick Suddes from Auburn to run his recruiting office, then taking Brent Key from Nick Saban to serve as assistant head coach. Key, another Tech graduate, has been coaching Alabama’s best-in-the-nation offensive line for the past three seasons.

While that seemed to close the book on Georgia Tech’s staff, this week Collins created and filled four new positions that did not exist during Paul Johnson’s tenure in charge.

Football research and analytics coordinator Pat Boyle, analysts Joe Battaglia (offense) and Ronell Williams (defense) and brand manager Santino Stancato all jumped ship with Collins from Temple.

With a new cohort of coaches and assistants (and a brand manager, of course), the Geoff Colllins era at Georgia Tech is ready to begin in earnest.

With so many staff members from Georgia, much like Collins himself, and/or doubling as graduates from the very institution they now work for, local recruiting is sure to be a focus, and strength, of this team.

Choice in particular brings a youth and energy to the staff that did not exist during the Paul Johnson era.

Despite his predecessor’s successes, Collins decided to start entirely fresh when he took over the job in December. Soon, the time will come for these new faces to prove what they can do.


Rambling Wreck To Quick Lane Bowl

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

One of the best things about the holiday season is bowl games.

We all know the prestigious bowl games are played closer to the start of the New Year like the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl. Then we have the games that occur prior to that.

That takes us to the Quick Lane Bowl played the day after Christmas. I’ve always heard it was lovely in Detroit in late December so this is a great location.

Georgia Tech and Minnesota will square off in this game. Several Tech players felt disrespected by this bowl selection and took to social media to express that.

“Feels like a slap in the face,” offensive lineman Scott Morgan tweeted.

A-back Qua Sercy: “How do we finish FOURTH in the ACC and get the lowest bowl in the ACC!!! HOW!!!”

Quarterback TaQuon Marshall: “I’m baffled at this bowl game.”

The Belk Bowl seemed like the most likely destination since it’s played in Charlotte and they would have played an SEC team. Virginia was selected to that game despite losing to the Ramblin Wreck. They also were not picked for the Pinstripe and Military Bowl over teams they beat (Miami & Virginia Tech).

One thing that played a factor is attendance. The Yellow Jackets average home attendance (43,087) is the lowest since 2001, which was before Bobby Dodd Stadium’s capacity was expanded. It will be Tech’s first bowl game outside of the Southeast or Texas since playing in the Humanitarian Bowl in 2007 in Boise, Idaho.

This is the first game between Minnesota and Georgia Tech. The Golden Gophers (6 -6) were 3-6 in Big Ten play. This should be a good way to send Paul Johnson out with a win. The Jackets will be short one player, quarterback James Graham who is academically ineligible. He is the backup behind Marshall and No. 2 Tobias Oliver.

Tech is healthy and should have all available weapons for the bowl game.

“I’ve tried to approach it like every other game,” Johnson said. “It’s more about the players. They’re the ones who won six of the last eight games and we want to try to give them a good plan to get ready to go play and certainly (we) want to go out as a winner if we can. That’s been all my effort.”

Tech leads the nation in rushing, averaging 335 yards per game. This is the final game using the triple option so we can expect a heavy dose of the ground game. Minnesota is ranked 63rd in total defense so I don’t expect them to stop the rushing attack.

The Gophers have some explosive weapons on offense. Wide receiver Tyler Johnson leads the team with 1,112 yards, 10 touchdowns and averages 15 yards per catch. Freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim has 936 yards and 7 TD’s. They had an injury to starting freshman QB Zack Annexstad back in October and he was replaced by Tanner Morgan. They’re almost identical statistically, both throwing over 1,200 yards.

This should be a high scoring game but I expect Georgia Tech to win.

Still Buzzing

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

I have to revisit something I said about Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson about one month ago.

After the opening week the Yellow Jackets lost three consecutive games. Then they bounced back and won two in a row, topping 60 points each game in the process. The wins were only against Bowling Green and Louisville but they were still impressive.

That was followed up by a homecoming loss to Duke. Yes, Duke football. The Blue Devils have won four of the last five meetings. At that point, it looked like it was time to get rid of Paul Johnson.

The Ramblin Wreck traveled to Blacksburg for a Thursday night game. This was a real turning point in the season. Starting quarterback TaQuan Marshall was injured so Tobias Oliver made his first career start. Oliver ran for 215 yards and three touchdowns to lead them to a 49-28 win. He only attempted one pass and did not complete it.

Oliver seems like the more explosive player so I thought he would remain the starter. Marshall returned last week and played against North Carolina.

“I feel like it’s pretty evident that I can get in and play,” Oliver said. “But at the same time, we’re at the point in the season where I don’t want to get too much that I should be the starter. As of right now, I just want to win.”

Oliver was inserted in the game on the fourth drive, still in the first quarter. He had another great game on the ground with 120 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed both of his pass attempts for 104 yards and a touchdown.

He threw an 86-yard touchdown pass to Qua Searcy, the team’s longest since 2009.

Georgia Tech, which entered the game averaging a nation-leading 366.5 rushing yards per game, ran for 461 yards against a North Carolina defensive line depleted by injuries and suspensions. It was the Yellow Jackets’ fifth 400-yard rushing performance of the season, a school record.

They got off to a 28-10 lead before holding on to win 38-28.

“It got a little crazy there. I thought maybe when we came out and opened the third quarter and put together a nice, long drive for a touchdown and then we got ’em pinned back inside the 20 on the kickoff that maybe we’d get away from them a little bit. But to their credit, they kept playing and they fought back and we did most everything we could to try to help them,” Johnson said.

Now they have five wins and only need one more win to become bowl eligible. They also still have a shot to win the ACC Coastal division. The next two games are home against Miami and Virginia. I know they can win at least one of those games, more than likely against the Cavaliers.

The Miami game is going to be a rare night game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. CPJ has a losing record against Miami and Mark Richt. The Hurricanes have lost their last three games so they are not playing well. This is a very winnable game for Tech.

It looks like Paul Johnson will do just enough to save his job after getting off to a slow start.

College Football Fallout Week 2

By: Jason Bishop news services

Week two of the college football season is now in the books and some great outcomes and storylines arose from the “Saturday that was”.

I wonder what it will take for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to consider moving in a different direction, away from Paul Johnson.

A loss to non-Power 5 South Florida has Tech fans groaning again about Johnson and that Triple Option. However, the problem isn’t the triple option or even Paul Johnson’s coaching, the problem is recruiting.

Georgia Tech was considerably outmanned against South Florida, which had athletes all over the field and that ultimately reflected on the scoreboard.

Also, currently, South Florida and UCF are the best 2 non-Power 5 teams in the country. Thus, there should not be a lot of outrage amongst the Yellow Jacket faithful about losing to the Bulls. They are currently better.

Speaking of better, I think it is pretty safe to say the Georgia Bulldogs are better than the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Dawgs went to half up by 10 and then Kirby Smart “let the Dawgs off the chain” in the second half and South Carolina had no answers.

In my opinion, Georgia and Alabama are the two best teams in the country, again.

A team that is not among the best 2 in the country is Florida. The Gators had beaten Kentucky 31 straight time and had not lost to the Wildcats since 1986.

That streak is over. Kentucky took advantage of a bad Florida offense and came away with a 27-16 win in Gainesville. Yes, in the swamp.

Long gone are the days where no one won in the Swamp except for Florida.

One thing that truly amazes me is how the University of Florida cannot find a decent QB when they are the flagship school for one of the four most talent rich states in the country.

Especially, when you thing about the great QB’s that have played there in the last 30 years. One thing is for sure, Feleipe Franks has a lot to work on.

One last thing, for people who are not paying attention, LSU is better than you think.

Next week the Bayou Bengals will have a chance to prove this to the country as they will take on the Tigers from the plains in Auburn.

The winner will have the inside shot of dethroning Alabama in the SEC West.



No Walk In The Dawg Park

By: Kipp Branch news services

It is never too early to talk UGA football. Here is a look at the Dawgs’ schedule from worst to best in 2018.

12. Austin Peay: The Governors roll into Athens on September 1st and roll out about three hours later with a beat down and big fat paycheck.

11. UMass: The Minutemen arrive in Athens in mid-November and will get hammered within minutes.

10. Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders come to Athens in mid-September and depending on the outcome in Columbia, South Carolina the previous week will determine how badly they get pummeled.

9. Vanderbilt: Vandy won the last time they came to Athens in 2016, but that will not happen in 2018. Vandy will be scrappy but in the end get beat something like 41-17.

8. Tennessee: The Vols come to Athens where they won with a Hail Mary in 2016. Butch Jones left a huge mess in Knoxville and Jeremy Pruitt is there to clean it up. It may take 2-3 years to get the Vols back in contention if they give Pruitt enough time in Knoxville to do it. 41-0 at home last season really eats at the Vol nation.

7. Georgia Tech: The Jackets have won the last two times they have visited the Classic City, but that will not happen in 2018. UGA is too deep and talented for Tech in 2018. Did you ever think Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate would land here?

6. Missouri: The Dawgs travel to COMO on 9/22 with a young secondary and will face a Tiger team with Drew Lock, who throws the deep ball better than anyone in the country. Dawgs better be ready for this one. This game worries me.

5. Kentucky: Georgia travels to Lexington on 11/3 and I already know it will be a night game even before it is announced. This is sandwich game between Florida and Auburn and UGA better be ready. A loss to Kentucky would be disaster for UGA because UGA just flat out owns Kentucky in football.

4. LSU: A trip to Red Stick is never easy. The Dawgs will be coming off a Vandy win and LSU will be in the third leg of a four-game stretch with three of the Tigers biggest rivals. Ole Miss, @ Florida, UGA and then Mississippi State, who beat LSU 37-7 in Starkville in 2017.

UGA is catching the Tigers at a good time, but it will still be a toss-up game. Who will LSU’s QB be?

3. South Carolina: This game has been moved back to early September and let me go ahead and warn you that this will be a war.

Columbia, South Carolina may be the hottest place on the planet early in football season. This will be a great game to attend because the sights around Williams Brice stadium will be easy on the eyes because Carolina girls are sweet southern pearls just as the song says. Will Muschamp is building quietly a quality program in Columbia.

2. Florida @ Jax: With Dan Mullen arriving in Gainesville, promising a better offense and a more heated rivalry after saying of the Bulldogs winning the East in 2017, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.” As Granny Hawkins said in Outlaw Josey Wales that big talk’s worth doodly-squat Dan.

This game will be more heated than in the past with 4th place Dan running things in Gainesville. 42-7 in 2017 could have been 63-7 it was that one-sided. I Have never seen a Florida team lay down like that Gator squad did that day.

1. Auburn: The DSOR (Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry) was played twice in 2017 with UGA winning the SEC Title 28-7 over AU. This game has all of a sudden become very heated with UGA taking 10 of the last 13 contests. This one in Athens on November 10th should be a classic.

UGA’s conference schedule is tough with trips to LSU, Missouri, Kentucky, South Carolina, and UF in Jax.

Dawgs need to win four of the five contests to get back to Atlanta and play for another SEC Title. Hey Bama, see you in Atlanta.

Week 7 College Football Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

We’re now in Week 7 of the college football season. We have a pretty good idea of the teams that will make the playoffs but there are some teams that are on the outside looking in. I’m going to take a look at the biggest matchups in the South.

Continue reading

ACC Coastal Week 1 Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

It’s my favorite time of year again, football season. Seriously, the opening weekend should be declared a national holiday. Lucky for us it coincides with Labor Day weekend, so we get three days of games.

I’m going to break down the matchups of the best conference, the ACC. I’ll focus on the weaker Coastal division.

North Carolina vs. California: The Tar Heels are replacing the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky. LSU transfer Brandon Harris is his replacement. Frankly, Harris was not a good player in Baton Rouge so I can’t imagine him being great in Chapel Hill.

The Golden Bears were 5-7 in 2016 so they aren’t very good. Sophomore QB Ross Bowers will be making his first collegiate start so I give the advantage to UNC.

Miami vs. Bethune-Cookman: This is a game against an FCS opponent to start the season. The Hurricanes are replacing their all-time passing leader Brad Kaaya. Junior Malik Rosier is hoping to take his place and lead Miami to their first ACC Championship. He’ll have the chance to build a lot of confidence in this game. This will be an easy 40-point win.

Pittsburgh vs. Youngstown State: Youngstown State is also from the FCS but their pretty good, especially against Pitt. They beat the Panthers in 2012 31-17.

They met again in 2015 and lost 45-37. Pitt is coming off of two consecutive 8-5 seasons and their looking to improve. That will be difficult because they lost five players to the NFL Draft including QB Nathan Peterman and running back James Conner.

Sticking with the theme of breaking in a new quarterback Max Browne will make his debut. I expect a close game but Pitt should win.

Virginia vs. William & Mary: The Cavaliers are one of the few teams that return their starting QB, senior Kurt Benkhert. At first glance it seems like he was pretty decent last year, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns. He set the all-time record for single-game passing against Central Michigan, with 421 yards. Unfortunately, his 56% completion rate was the lowest for a UVA starter since Dan Ellis in 2000.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall is in his second season and looks to improve after a disastrous 2-10 campaign. The Wahoos lost to an FCS opponent (Richmond) to open the 2016 season so it won’t be unheard of for them to lose. I’m expecting them to win by single digits.

Duke vs. North Carolina Central: The Blue Devils got the memo to play an FCS team. They are coming off a 4-8 season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. They do return quarterback Daniel Jones and they’ll get a blowout win.

#21 Virginia Tech vs. #22 West Virginia: This game is played Sunday night at the home of the Washington Redskins, FedEx Field. This is actually a rivalry game where the winner gets the Black Diamond Trophy.

This is their first meeting in twelve years and I expect it to be intense. The Hokies will start redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson. I expect him to struggle against the Mountaineers and Va Tech will lose.

Georgia Tech vs. #25 Tennessee: This is a prime time game on Labor Day at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Both teams are breaking in new starting quarterbacks.

I think Tech’s biggest concern is replacing B-back and leading rusher Dedrick Mills. He was dismissed two weeks ago for violation of unidentified athletic department rules.

Even without Mills I believe the triple option will be too much for Tennessee and the Yellow Jackets will win.

Jason Bishop Show w Kipp Branch August 5

Jason Bishop Show w Kipp Branch August 5

Georgia Tech Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

You never really know what to expect with Georgia Tech. When you have high expectations they seem to disappoint. Conversely, when you have low expectations for the Yellow Jackets they exceed them.

Perfect example, they were 11-3 in 2014 and finished the year ranked in the top 10 in the AP and Coaches polls. They followed that up by going 3-9 in 2015 with only one conference win. Of course, that lone ACC win was against No. 9 Florida State. Last year they bounced back and went 9-4.

So, are we in for another down year for the Ramblin Wreck? They lost 5th year senior quarterback Justin Thomas. Junior QB Matthew Jordan is probably going to replace Thomas. He started last year on the road against Virginia Tech and led the Jackets to a win. He only completed 2 of 7 passing attempts but he rushed for 127 yards against the Hokies. Fellow junior TaQuon Marshall also has a chance to start at quarterback.

Fullback Dedrick Mills is back after leading Tech in rushing as a freshman, and the top three slotbacks and both starting receivers are back.

Mills and Clinton Lynch were voted the ACC’s second best running back duo by a few publications. Mills was named to All-ACC Preseason Football Team after rushing for 771 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016. Lynch rushed for 415 yards and two touchdowns last season and had 16 receptions for 490 yards and six touchdowns.

The offensive line has all sorts of experienced pieces returning after a disastrous 2016. Nine players started at least one game, and no one started all 13. The result: three “starters” are gone, and six “starters” return. One of them is the mountain of a man, 380-pound guard Shamire Devine.

The entire secondary returns from last season. This will be one of the most experienced defenses Paul Johnson has had in a while. The entire lineup should consist of juniors and seniors.

The season begins September 4th at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Tennessee. The Vols are also going to have a new starter at QB since Joshua Dobbs has graduated. Tech normally starts the season against an FCS opponent so this is a big game to start the year. I think Tennessee wins.

The next two games should be easy wins. September 9th is at home against FCS Jacksonville State and September 16th is at Central Florida. UCF was 6-7 last year so I don’t expect them to put up much of a fight.

Conference play begins September 23rd at home versus Pitt. I think this game is a “W”.

The following week is also at home against North Carolina. The Tar Heels lost QB Mitchell Trubisky, who was the second overall pick in the 2017 draft. I expect that to slow down their high scoring offense and the Jackets should win.

After a bye week, they go on the road at Miami. Johnson has not had much success against the Hurricanes. I think this will be a loss.

Next is Wake Forest at home. This will be a blow out win. Oct. 28th is in Death Valley against Clemson. I’m picking the Tigers.

The next three games are at Virginia, Virginia Tech and at Duke. The only loss in that trio is to Va Tech.

The season finale is the in-state rivalry game against Georgia in Atlanta. I believe UGA will be much better this year and I’m picking the Bulldogs.

I expect Ga Tech to be 7-5 which means they will play in a bowl game in 2017.