In the South there is a term used to describe Georgia Tech graduates. That term is “nugget”, and it loosly translates to “egghead” or “nerd”. Given that the Tech fanbase (and boosters) are comprised largely of these “nuggets”, you’d think that they’d have a propensity for numbers and logic-based decision making. Unfortunately for them, they don’t. The “oh so smart” Tech Nuggets ran Paul Johnson and his eight-wins-per-season triple-option offense out of town in 2018, and demanded an “upgrade” to Geoff Collins’ more modern approach. The net result: three wins per season for the last three years. It doesn’t take an egghead to figure out that was a mistake.
Collins was let go on Monday, and he left nothing less than a dumpster fire.
First the transfer portal: Per Richard Hefner’s 2021 Production Loss article, Tech lost 16 players last year, including all-ACC running back Jahmyr Gibbs, quarterback-of-the-future Jordan Yates, and two starting edge rushers: Jared Ivey and Jordan Domineck. (Domineck led the Jackets in sacks in 2021 … with 3.5).
Second, Tech’s on-field performance: Tech is 1-3 this season, with a 35 – 17 win over FCS Western Carolina. It should be noted that WCU outgained the Yellow Jackets 390 – 343 (and probably only lost because they turned the ball over four times). Against FBS competition, Tech has yet to put up more than ten points this year. Oh and the litany goes on: Tech has been outscored 183 to 10 in their last five FBS games. Tech hasn’t beaten an FBS opponent in their last 10 tries. Tech hasn’t beaten a MAC school since Paul Johson boat-raced Bowling Green in 2018. Shall I continue?
Tech’s defense isn’t much better than their offense. The Jackets are giving up 412 yards per game (101st in the nation), and 209 ypg rushing (120th). It’s worth noting that both Clemson and Western Carolina gained only 119 on the ground, UCF put up 284 against Tech last week, and Ole Miss carved up the Jackets the week before to the tune of 316. You’d have to think Pitt is excited about this.
Warning: Low Blow Coming
So yes, Georgia Tech is reeling. Their all-hat-and-no-cattle-head-coach is gone; the locker room is probably in shambles, and Pitt has spent the last two weeks getting ready to grind their 4-2-5 defense into a fine powder. It all sounds pretty good, and it is, except for one thing: Interim head coach Brent Key.
The book on Key is that he’s basically the opposite of Collins: a no-nonsense guy who just cares about football. Also, Key’s resume suggests that he knows what it takes to win. He was a starting guard on a 10-win Georgia Tech team. He coached under George O’Leary at UCF from 2009 – 2015 (when the Knights averaged just under 10 wins per season). Prior to Tech, Key spent several seasons coaching offensive line at Alabama. No, Brent Key may not have the talent to pull off a turnaround this year, but you can bet the team is going to play harder for him that it did under Geoff “no handshake” Collins.
He’s saying all the right things, but it looks like he’s got a rebuild on his hands. Looks at him throw some shade on the current culture:
“Players respond to the organization that is in front of them. Players respond to discipline that is given to them, and have to make sure that our players are put in a position every Saturday to win football games. That is the easy thing to say,” Key said. “You are only as good on Saturday as you were on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, and on Friday. The detail you have in practice, the discipline you have in practice, and for us coaches to be able to demand those things for the players and clean up the things that have plagued us in the first four games. Those things didn’t happen just once or twice, but over and over.”
Special teams has is also an area he’s explored:
After the four punt blocks this season and poor field goal kicking, Key said his first move was to have a long special teams meeting. He appointed linebacker coach Jason Semore as the new special teams’ coordinator as well. Semore worked on punt and kickoff coverage units while Mike Daniels oversaw kick and punt return while Collins handled punt himself until his termination.
“We had probably a two-and-a-half-hour special teams meeting and I would like to announce Jason Semore has been promoted from not only linebacker coach but also special teams coordinator,” he said. “He will be running special teams along with everyone else on the staff to work to immediately fix issues that we had. Our goal is to go out and play our best brand of football that we possibly can and to give the kids a great chance and opportunity every Saturday to compete and win.”
Here’s Key’s resume, per Ramblinwreck.com. Emphasis added by me:
|2001-02||Georgia Tech||Graduate Assistant|
|2004||Western Carolina||Tight Ends/Running Backs|
|2007||UCF||Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator|
|2008||UCF||Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator|
|2010-11||UCF||Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator – 188 YPG rushing|
|2012-13||UCF||Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator – 169 YPG rushing|
|2014||UCF||Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator – 407 YPG total offense. 10-4 record|
|2015||UCF||Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs – 442 YPG total offense. 12-1 record.|
|2016-18||Alabama||Offensive Line 2016: 245 YPG. 2017: 251 YPG. 2018: 198 YPG. Three title game appearances. One National Championship (2017).|
|2019-22||Georgia Tech||Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Team Rushing 2019: 153 YPG. 2020: 191 YPG. 2021: 169 YPG.|
|2022||Georgia Tech||Interim Head Coach|
Geez, it’s almost like he’s been groomed as a successor…
So what does this all mean for Pitt? Well given our running game and Tech’s recent troubles in stopping any sort of ballcarrier, I’d expect us to test the Yellow Jackets’ front seven (er…front nine). On the other side of the ball, I’d expect Tech to come up throwing. Wait! What? but but but… Key clearly loves to run the ball. HIS TITLE IS RUN GAME COORDINATOR! Yes but offensive-lineman-turned-head-coaches can be wiley, and I don’t trust them. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there are only two ways to beat a Pat Narduzzi defense, and neither of them involve the running game. Will Key tune up his inexperiended O-line’s pass blocking and try to um… KEY on our weakness? Or will he play the blockhead (pun not intended this time, I swear), and run right at the strength of Pitt’s defense? (Despite rumors to the contrary, Pitt’s rushing defense is 26th in the nation, giving up just 3.31 yards per rush.) Or will the wiley Key utilize the run game to set up play action, and just throw it high to 6’7”, 243 lb redshirt senior EJ Jenkins all day? Hmm….
Armchair quaterbacking aside, you can bet Key has some ideas he wants to implement now that his pesky boss is gone, and it’s probably a good bet that he is going to inject some life into the Yellow Jackets. But you still have to ask yourself if Key’s influence is going to be enough to overcome the Panthers? Narduzzi rarely loses against a team that he’s supposed to beat (um …. a power 5 team that he’s supposed to beat). My take? Without that “Nugget” Geoff Collins on the sideline, Pitt will probably be in for more of a dogfight than we’d normally expect… but only for the first three quarters.
Hail to Pitt