Kenneth Harrison

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Making The Grade?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is over and now we have an idea of what each team will look like next year.

Several players will surprise or disappoint fans as time goes on. Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see how each team did.

Atlanta: The Falcons did a good job on not reaching for a quarterback in the first round.

They selected USC wide receiver Drake London with the 8th pick. He’s a big target at 6’3 7/8 and 219 pounds. In 8 games last season he had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Calvin Ridley is suspended the entire season so he will be the #1 receiver. He should do well paired with tight end Kyle Pitts.

In the second round they drafted Edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State) and linebacker Troy Anderson (Montana State). In Anderson’s case I think they fell in love with measurables. He’s 6’3 ½, 243 lbs. and he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash.

Ebiketie played his first three seasons at Temple. In 2021 he had 62 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

They also drafted quarterback Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), edge rusher DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky), running back Tyler Allgeier (BYU), guard Justin Shaffer (UGA) and tight end John FitzPatrick (UGA).

Grade: B

Carolina: The Panthers selected tackle Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) with the 6th pick.

Ekwonu is a great combination of size (6’4, 310 lbs.), power and athletic ability.

Carolina had the 31st ranked offensive line last season so this helps address a serious need.

Trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson left them light on picks.

Carolina also drafted QB Matt Corral (Ole Miss), linebacker Brandon Smith (Penn State), edge rusher Amare Barno (Va Tech), guard Cade Mays (Tennessee) and corner back Kalon Barnes (Baylor).

Getting Corral in the third round may be great value for a potential starting quarterback.

Smith should compete in the linebacker rotation.

Grade: A-

New Orleans: The Saints had two first round picks and they got WR Chris Olave (Ohio State) and tackle Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa). They should both be immediate contributors.

Trevor Penning is reminiscent of Terron Armstead as a prospect. He’s an uber-athletic tackle coming from a small school. He’ll now replace Armstead, who started 93 games for the Saints over the past nine seasons before signing with the Dolphins this offseason.

Olave was extremely productive in college and he might be the best route runner in this draft class.

The other picks were CB Alontae Taylor (Tennessee), LB D’Marco Jackson (Appalachian State) and defensive lineman Jordan Jackson (Air Force).

Grade: B+

Tampa Bay: The Bucs didn’t have a first-round pick. They had two second round picks and they got defensive lineman Logan Hall (Houston) and guard Luke Goedeke (Central Michigan).

Hall will probably begin his career as a defensive tackle but could develop into a pass-rusher. Goedeke might be the biggest sleeper among interior linemen.

They also selected RB Rachaad White (Arizona State), TE Cade Otton (Washington), kicker Jake Camarda (UGA), CB Zyon McCollum (Sam Houston State), TE Ko Kieft (Minnesota) and edge rusher Andre Anthony (LSU).

I don’t think there are any All-Pro players in this draft class. This draft is more about getting role players that can help them get back to the Super Bowl.

Grade: B

Needy Falcons

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Atlanta Falcons may not want to admit it but they are in full rebuild mode. They finished the 2021 season 7 – 10 and have the #8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta traded quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis in the offseason.

The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota but he is not a long-term solution. We are going to take a look at their biggest needs and the player they could select for that.

Wide receiver has to be the top need. Calvin Ridley is suspended the 2022 season for gambling. Before his suspension Ridley missed the majority of last season with mental health issues.

The #2 target, Russell Gage signed with division rival Tampa Bay in the offseason.

Atlanta should draft multiple pass catchers throughout the draft but if they get one in the first round, they can choose the best option.

That means Drake London (USC) or Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) will be selected, depending on which one is available.

Edge rusher is a big need. Atlanta only had 18 sacks last season which ranked last in the league. They released their best pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr. and did little to upgrade the position in free agency.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux’s stock seems to be sliding as we get closer to the draft. Thibodeaux was the top player in the nation as a high school senior and he’s very talented. They may draft a great player that will have a chip on his shoulder.

Quarterback is also a big need. I thought they would have addressed that last year when they had the 4th pick and the 2021 quarterback class was deeper. They selected tight end Kyle Pitts with that pick.

This year’s QB class is not as good and none of them are actually good enough to be a top-10 pick. The top two options at the position are Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Malik Willis. Pickett is more equipped to play immediately.

Nose tackle might also be a need. Grady Jarrett could be released or traded before Fall camp. Jarrett has been a force for Atlanta since being drafted in 2014. He does not fit well in defensive coordinator Dean Pee’s scheme. They want someone that can play in a two-gap system and bull rush up the middle.

Georgia’s Jordan Davis would be a good fit. If they wait until Day 2, UConn’s Travis Jones would be a good fit.

The last need is between tight end or running back. Head coach Arthur Smith came from Tennessee where they had star running back Derrick Henry.

The Falcons resigned Cordarrelle Patterson and retained Mike Smith. They also will not select a running back that high so they will still probably address the position later.

Smith loves to use two tight end sets. Pitts is the flex, but the Smith is going to want a more traditional player, who can be an efficient blocker while helping in the passing game.

This is likely a Day 3 selection, so keep an eye on Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar and Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer as the best options.

Clemson Spring

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Dabo Swinney has elevated Clemson into one of the most elite programs in the nation.

The Tigers seemed to make the College Football Playoff every season. After quarterback Trevor Lawrence was drafted #1 in the 2021 NFL Draft, we still thought they would be a top-5 team.

He was replaced by five-star QB D.J. Uiagalelei. The Tigers recruit so well they just reload rather than rebuild. Unfortunately, that was not the case last year. They were 10 – 3 but that’s not good enough for Clemson.

Uiagalelei is coming off a sophomore season that saw him rank at or near the bottom of most statistical categories in the ACC, throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (9). It was a season that saw the quarterback have his share of struggles, most notably with accuracy, as Uiagalelei completed just 56% of his passes.

D.J. has lost weight since last season and hopefully that will help him move quicker. The Spring Game was April 9th so we did see some improvement on his footwork, decision making and releasing the ball quicker.

He still had issues with his accuracy, throwing several off-target passes. He completed 17-of-36 passes for 175 yards and an interception. To be fair, there were multiple dropped passes.

The five-star freshman from Texas, Cade Klubnik completed 15-of-23 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Klubnik was ranked the number one quarterback in the country in the last recruiting cycle.

“DJ is definitely our starter,” Swinney said. “He has had a great spring. He has not done anything to not be the starter.”

It might be unfair to believe D.J. would drastically improve after 15 practices. He also played behind an offensive line that was missing several starters in the Spring Game. Clemson has a talented defensive line, so they had a tough time.

This does look like a possible quarterback controversy brewing once the season starts. Swinney does feel like he can win with both quarterbacks.

“It is not often you can say that, but I have seen enough from both of those guys to know that,” Swinney said. “So, it is a good situation.”

Running back Will Shipley was really the only bright spot on offense last season. He rushed for 739 yards, 11 touchdowns and averaged 5 yards per carry. He also had 16 catches for 116 yards. Shipley and the number 2 back Kobe Pace had offseason procedures, so they did not play in the Spring Game.

The only other scholarship running back on the roster was Phil Mafah from Grayson (GA).

“I thought it would allow me to just show that I could be the guy out there,” Mafah said. “I could do it just like they could, and they just allowed me to show off what I could do and help bring up the others.”

Position coach C.J. Spiller and offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said Mafah has earned more carries for the 2022 season. Now it looks like the Tigers will have three reliable backs next season.

The final score of the Spring Game was White beat Orange 15 – 7.

Leaving The Nest

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Is there proper etiquette to trade the best player in a franchise’s history?

There’s no written rule for something like that but I’m sure the Atlanta Falcons handled that poorly. Matt Ryan has been the starting quarterback since 2008.

Last week Atlanta was one of four finalists trying to trade for Deshaun Watson. Watson ended up being traded to Cleveland and that led to this trade. Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowler was traded to Indianapolis for a third-round pick.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was made easier by Matt’s professionalism and understanding throughout,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said in a statement released by the team. “Our goal in every decision is to improve our organization for the long term. We believe today’s agreement is the best long-term decision, not only for our organization, but also the best for Matt.”

The team will take a substantial $40.5 million salary cap hit in dead money to move on from Ryan and his contract.

The Colts, who are not making any changes in the contract, will have Ryan for two years at $24.7 million in 2022 and $28.2 million in 2023.

Dead money counts against the salary cap even though the player is no longer with a team. All of the bonus money paid to Ryan accelerates into this year’s salary cap for the Falcons, who were already at $20 million in dead money mostly from the Julio Jones and Dante Fowler contracts.

“This business is not without its difficult decisions, and while this is one of the most difficult decisions we have faced as a club, we feel it is in the best long-term interests of both the Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said a statement released by the team. “On behalf of the entire Falcons organization, I wish him success as he continues his career and know that he will bring the same dedication and professionalism to his next club.”

I think this was the best-case scenario for Ryan. The Colts have a good offensive line, the leading rusher from last season (Jonathan Taylor) and a top 10 defense. He will lead the Colts to the playoffs next season.

His replacement was signed less than two hours after the team announced the trade. Marcus Mariota signed a two-year contract.

Mariota, 28, was originally selected by the Titans in the first round (second overall) of the 2015 NFL draft from Oregon. He completed 1,128 of 1,795 attempts (62.8%) for 13,437 yards, 77 touchdowns and 45 interceptions for an 89.5 passer rating in 74 games (61 starts) for the Titans and Raiders.

He has also rushed for 1,574 yards on 264 attempts (6.0 avg.) and 13 touchdowns. He has been the backup with the Raiders the past two seasons after his final season with the Titans in 2019.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was tight ends coach and offensive coordinator with the Titans when Mariota was in Tennessee.

Atlanta is in full rebuild mode. The question now is will they draft a quarterback with the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft or will they wait until next year?

This year’s quarterback class is considered weak so I believe the goal is to tank this season, so they get a high draft pick in 2023.

Prowling Panthers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NCAA Tournament starts this week. Everybody loves filling out brackets and watching the upsets take place for March Madness.

We have an unlikely team representing the state of Georgia in the men’s tournament.

Familiar faces like Georgia and Georgia Tech did not make it. Georgia State is the team that made it. The Panthers (18 – 10) won the Sun Belt Conference championship to get there.

Senior Corey Allen led them on this improbable run. He scored 29 points to match his season high for the second straight game in the championship win over Louisiana, 80 – 71 at the Pensacola Bay Center. Allen was named the MVP of the Sun Belt Tournament.

It was the 10th straight win for Georgia State and its 12th win in the last 13 games.

Georgia State won the Sun Belt Tournament for the fourth time and will make its sixth trip to the NCAAs. It also served as redemption for losing to Appalachian State in last year’s title game. This is their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

“It’s special because the experience we had last year I think led to these guys’ desire to return,” Georgia State coach Rob Lanier said. “And they were motivated to be here and do this.”

Allen was one of four seniors who decided to return for a COVID season. The others – Eliel Nsoseme, Kane Williams and Justin Roberts – were each big contributors to the championship and enjoyed the enthusiastic postgame celebrations.

“There’s a lot of adjectives we could use, but it’s a special moment and I wouldn’t want to share it with anybody else,” Williams said.

It was a satisfying finish for Lanier, who was able to hold the team together despite losing five games to COVID and enduring an 0-4 start in conference play.

” All that disruption affected our chemistry, our rotation, and we were one of the worst defensive teams in the country on top of our bad offense,” Lanier said. “We really figured it out defensively, and we felt like we could get back to our old selves offensively and put the two together. It happened the last few nights, as simple as that.”

All of the teams have been selected Sunday so we know who GSU will play. They are the No. 16 seed in the West and they play No. 1 Gonzaga Thursday in Portland. Gonzaga finished the season as the top team in the AP Poll.

The Bulldogs lost the National Championship game last season so they are focused on winning it this season.

This is a David vs. Goliath matchup. In the history of the NCAA Tournament a 16 seed has only beaten a 1 seed once. That happened in 2018 when the top overall seed Virginia lost University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), 74 – 54.

Clearly, the odds are stacked against Georgia State and they are expected to be crushed by Gonzaga. They probably will be blown out but it is impressive that they made it to the tournament. As an underdog, they should have several fans cheering for them.

 

Wanna Bet On It

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley has made the headlines for a negative reason.

Ridley stepped away from football on Halloween, saying he needed to get his personal life in order.

He gambled on NFL games in 2021 and he has been suspended for at least the 2022 season.

The NFL released a statement Monday announcing his suspension, saying Ridley gambled on games over a five-day stretch in November 2021 when he was on the non-football injury list to address his mental health.

In a series of tweets, Monday after the suspension was announced, Ridley said he bet $1,500 total and that “I don’t have a gambling problem.” He also tweeted that he couldn’t even watch football at the time he made the bets. He added that he’s just going to “be more healthy when I come back” and that “I know I was wrong But I’m getting 1 year lol.”

The NFL determined that Ridley placed multilegged parlay bets involving three, five and eight games that included the Falcons to win via his mobile device out of state, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“There is nothing more fundamental to the NFL’s success — and to the reputation of everyone associated with our league — than upholding the integrity of the game,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a letter to Ridley notifying him of his suspension. “This is the responsibility of every player, coach, owner, game official, and anyone else employed in the league. Your actions put the integrity of the game at risk, threatened to damage public confidence in professional football, and potentially undermined the reputations of your fellow players throughout the NFL.”

“For decades, gambling on NFL games has been considered among the most significant violations of league policy warranting the most substantial sanction. In your case, I acknowledge and commend you for your promptly reporting for an interview, and for admitting your actions.”

The NFL said its investigation uncovered no evidence that Ridley used inside information or “that any game was compromised in any way.” There also was no evidence that any of the Falcons’ coaches, staff or players were aware of his betting activity.

The earliest Ridley can apply for reinstatement is Feb. 15, 2023, the NFL said. He also can appeal the suspension by filing notice within three days, per the collective bargaining agreement. It is not known if he has appealed the punishment.

Multiple NFL teams reached out to the Falcons in recent weeks to inquire about trading for Ridley, and each time, Atlanta declined to enter into talks out of good faith, knowing the issues in store for their standout wide receiver.

Ridley’s contract will toll until 2023 and come off the books for 2022, opening up $11.1 million in salary-cap room for the Falcons.

Ridley was a disappointment last season because he only played a few games. It was his first season without Julio Jones because he was traded to Tennessee. Having a player not play for reasons that are not related to an injury is hard for a team to deal with.                                 The Falcons only have one receiver from the 53-man roster last season under contract; rookie Frank Darby.

Southern Draft

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2022 NFL Draft starts April 28th in Nevada. We’re going to take a look around the AFC South to see who the first picks will be for each team.

#1 Jacksonville: The Jaguars (3 – 14) have the top pick in the draft for the second year in a row. Last year they picked Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He struggled in his first season but that’s because they were a bad team with bad coaching.

The Urban Meyer experiment ended during the season. Doug Pederson has been hired to replace him. He won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, which was the first for the franchise.

“This culture is all about winning. The players here want to win. I want to win. And that’s what I can bring to the Jacksonville Jaguars, to this community, and to our fan base,” Pederson said at his formal introductory press conference, with the former Eagles coach flanked by owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke.

Jacksonville’s first priority should be a tackle to protect Lawrence. Alabama tackle Evan Neal will be the pick. He’s massive, standing 6’7 and 360 pounds. He’s versatile and he should help improve Jacksonville’s fifth worst third down conversion rate (35.8 percent).

#3 Houston: The Texans (4 – 13) have a ton of needs which also includes a quarterback. The problem is this is not a great quarterback class and rookie signal-caller Davis Mills got better later in the season. I think they’ll draft the best available player which will be someone on defense.

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux will be a good pick. He’s the best pass rusher in the draft. He’s 6’5, 258 pounds and a great athlete. Last season he had 35 solo tackles, 7 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He should be an impact player and an immediate starter.

# 26 Tennessee: The Titans (12 – 5) had a surprisingly good year considering star running back Derrick Henry missed several games with an injury. They were the top seed in the AFC and lost to Cincinnati in the divisional round.

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum would be a good pick. He’s athletic with a mauling mentality, which is perfect for the run game. That would be an ideal fit for the Titans.

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams might also be a possibility. He tore his ACL in the National Championship Game against Georgia, which unfortunately altered his draft status.

He obviously will need time to recover from his injury, but this may be a bargain for an explosive receiver. Williams had an amazing 2021 season with 79 receptions, 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.

#47 Indianapolis: The Colts (9 – 8) traded their first-round pick to Philadelphia for quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles have the 16th pick and Wentz struggled last season so it may not have been worth it.

Washington corner back Kyler Gordon would be a good selection because he addresses a need. He had 36 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 pass deflections and 1 forced fumble. He’s 6’0 and 200 lbs. so he’s a big corner back.

Crean Not Rising

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia is riding high after winning the national championship in 2021.

They had a historically great defense that helped deliver their first football national championship since 1980. The question is can that inspire some of the other teams in the athletic department?

The UGA men’s basketball team needs some help. They currently sit alone in last place in the SEC. Their overall record is 6 – 15 and 1 – 7 in conference play.

The most recent game was an 85 – 77 loss to Vanderbilt (11 – 9), led by Scottie Pippen Jr. The younger Pippen scored 23 points and dished a season-high 9 assists and Vanderbilt snapped a three-game losing streak, leading from the opening tip. This was the first time the Commodores swept an SEC opponent since 2017.

Aaron Cook led four Bulldogs into double-digit scoring, finishing with 18 points. Kario Oquendo and Noah Baumann each scored 15 points and Braelen Bridges contributed 14 points. Baumann led Georgia (6-15, 1-7) with nine rebounds.

Vanderbilt led by as many as 15 points in the second half after a Pippen layup with less than five minutes to play. The Commodores hit 7 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half and knocked down 12 of 23 overall. Vandy shot 63% from the floor in the first half, hitting 28 of 55 (50.9%) for the game.

Last season the Bulldogs were 14 – 12. Not great but at least they were over .500. They had one returning starter from the 2020-21 team, P.J. Horne. The 6’6 forward from Tifton, GA suffered a season ending knee injury in October.

Head coach Tom Crean had to know then that season would be tough.

“This is such a major blow to us because (Horne) was playing so well and showing great leadership as our leading returning player,” Crean said on Twitter. “But more so because he is such a great person and one of the finest people I’ve ever coached. He cares about his teammates deeply.”

In May, 9 players entered the transfer portal. This is happening to every team but to have that many players enter at once is still shocking.

No team has been hit more squarely in the mouth by player free agency than Georgia. They have been picked nearly down to the bone. From a raw numbers’ standpoint, the Bulldogs have lost 83.4% of their scoring (1,680 points), 72.5% of their rebounding (701) and 72.1% of their 3-point field goals made (119).

One of their best players, K.D. Johnson transferred to Auburn. The Tigers are currently the number one team in the nation. The Bulldogs had the 4-star recruit for all of 16 games, with Johnson missing the first 10 because of NCAA academic eligibility issues. He averaged 13.5 points a game, second on the team.

Another notable name to leave was graduate transfer Andrew Garcia, who transferred to Kent State.

The Bulldogs appear to have done reasonably well with the six transfers they’re bringing in, led by sophomore guard Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who’s coming from Virginia.

Crean has been in Georgia for four seasons and last year was his only winning record. He did go 16 – 16 in 2019-20. The finished 10th in the SEC that year which was the best they have done in his tenure. He has a 47 – 64 record in Athens.

It might be a good time to move on from Crean after this season and rebuild.

Dawgs Eat

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Something I thought I’d never see in my lifetime happened.

Georgia won their first national championship since 1980. I’m not a UGA fan at all so I was shocked they finally beat Alabama.

Kirby Smart lost his previous four meetings to his old boss, Nick Saban. In his case the fifth time was a charm. It was a close game through three quarters, but Georgia won 33- 18.

“I told the guys in the locker room, just take a picture of this, because I think back to the ’80 championship picture and seeing all those players and the Frank Walkers and the Herschel Walkers and all these people that have reached out and said things,” Smart said. “Our guys have accomplished that, something special, and as they say, they’ve become legendary, and I want that for them.”

The teams traded field goals in the first half and Alabama took a 9 – 6 lead into the locker room at halftime. In the SEC Championship win, the Crimson Tide lost wide receiver John Metchie III with a torn ACL. He leads the team in receptions with 96 and he was second in receiving yards with 1,142.

The other star receiver, Jameson Williams suffered a knee injury in the first half after catching a 40-yard pass. Williams is the team leader in receiving yard with 1,507 yards.

The first touchdown came with 1:20 left in the third quarter. James Cook broke a 67-yard run to get the Bulldogs in the red zone. Three more running plays and a facemask penalty by Alabama got them into the end zone. Zamir White went in standing up from a yard out. It gave Georgia their first lead, 13 – 9.

Alabama added another field goal after that. They got the ball back on a play that was ruled a Stetson Bennett fumble. It looked like he was trying to throw the ball away and the ball rolled out of bounds. Bama’s Drew Sanders casually caught it jogging out of bounds.

They got the ball in the red zone and Bryce Young threw a 3-yard touchdown to give them an 18 – 13 lead.

Bennett was 13 for 22 for 141 yards as the next drive started. He completed all three of his passes for 68 yards, including a long strike to Mitchell for a touchdown with 8:09 left that gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead after a failed 2-point conversion.

The Georgia defense forced a three and out and got the ball back for the offense to seal the win. UGA scored 20 points in the fourth quarter.

With less than a minute remaining in the game, UGA corner, back Kelee Ringo intercepted Young and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.

“I hadn’t cried in — I don’t know, years — but that just came over me,” said Bennett, who was named the offensive player of the game. “That’s what — when you put as much time as we do into this thing, blood, sweat, tears, it means something.”

In the SEC Championship Georgia didn’t sack Young. Last night he was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.

“We had a lot of opportunities, moved the ball relatively well. We did some stuff well. We didn’t execute, and at the end of the day, that’s on me,” said Young.

“We played a heck of a game against a heck of a team for the first three quarters of the game,” said Saban. “Nobody can take the SEC championship away from this team, the Cotton Bowl championship.”

Wreck In Atlanta

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

William Geoffrey Collins has finished his third season as the head coach at Georgia Tech.

So far Geoff Collins hasn’t had much success in Atlanta, but should we be surprised? Collins only has head coaching experience at one school prior to Tech, which is Temple. In his two seasons in Philadelphia coaching the Owls his record was 15–10. Not very impressive but he’s looked at as more of a recruiter.

So far three is his magic number in Atlanta because that’s how many games they win each season. They lost the season opener by one point to Northern Illinois. The Huskies did win nine games, but they aren’t from a major conference. This should have been an easy win.

They were fairly competitive in most games, losing three games by one-score. They lost to Clemson 14–8, Virginia 48–40 and Miami 33–30. If they can figure out how to focus and have better attention to detail, they should have better success in close games.

They finished the season with two consecutive shutout loses. Notre Dame won 55 – 0 and Georgia 45 – 0. Both teams are drastically better but that’s embarrassing.

Once the season ended Collins fired several assistant coaches. He gave pink slips to offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Nathan Burton and cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich. Collins gave insight into how he plans on turning things around.

“As I began the deep dive into everything we need to fix to take the next steps to get the product on the field and the results on the field at the highest level possible,” Collins said, “the things that I’ve realized is, less branding, more coaching. Less worrying about culture, more worried about ball.”

That strikes me as interesting because that’s what it looks like from the outside. I always see social media posts of pregame outfits, uniforms and doing things for the 404 (an Atlanta area code). I kept thinking is he coaching or making social media posts? The fact he had to address plans to focus on coaching now, three years into being at Tech is frightening. That should have been the only focus.

“We’re to the point now where it’s time to work,” Collins said. “The brand is set, the culture is set, all of those things. Now it’s time to coach. Now it’s time to work.”

Collins needs to get to work with the defense that finished tied for 111th in scoring defense, 117th in total defense, 117th in third-down conversion rate and tied for 112th in plays allowed of 20 yards or more.

He was asked if they should change the defensive formation or fire defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker and he did not directly answer those questions.

“I know Andrew Thacker would be the first person to say that we didn’t play to the standard that we’ve had playing defense wherever we’ve been,” Collins said. “His main focus is to do everything in his power to make sure we’re doing that.”

Chip Long has been hired as offensive coordinator and Travares Tillman as defensive backs coach and defensive pass-game coordinator.

Collins was defensive coordinator at Florida from 2015-16 and he led the Gators to consecutive top-10 finishes in total defense.

So far, the Yellow Jackets have the No. 40 recruiting class in 2022. They are getting better players than Paul Johnson did but not winning.

Next season they have non-conference games against Ole Miss and UCF so things won’t be easy. I don’t expect Tech to get drastically better next year and not make a bowl game.

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