With the Syracuse Orange and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets battling for bowl eligibility on Saturday night, it would behoove the Orange faithful to know more about their next foes. Luckily our friends at From the Rumble Seat are here for us to give us the lowdown on Georgia Tech. Benjamin Tankersley was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the 2023 Yellow Jackets.
Be sure to check out their site, where we answered their burning questions about the brand new Orange program.
TNIAAM: So... the last time Syracuse and Georgia Tech played was in 2020. Do you wanna talk about what happened?
Benjamin Tankersley: Wait, Georgia Tech played Syracuse in 2020? Nah, I don’t remember that. You must be making that up.
TNIAAM: It didn’t look like Georgia Tech was in a great position program-wise after Geoff Collins was fired. How did Brent Key turn around the fortunes in Atlanta?
Tankersley: Well, it was really just a simple change. Georgia Tech went from having a not-serious coach in charge of the football program that was more concerned about looks and swag to having a serious coach in charge of the football program. The stories that came out after his dismissal about how Collins ran practices (and really the program as a whole) make it clear why Georgia Tech was so bad under Collins.
Key has come in and simply put, he’s cleaned up a lot of the nonsense. He’s far from a perfect coach, but he’s also in his first full season as a head coach, so he’s got room to grow. I think he brought in a terrific offensive staff (remains to be seen about the defense), and he’s done a good job of motivating his team to play up to the competition in some cases. Here’s a fun stat: under Brent Key, Georgia Tech is 4-0 against ranked ACC opponents and 6-2 on the road against ACC opponents. He’s off to a pretty great start, and I’m excited to see how he progresses.
TNIAAM: Georgia Tech is averaging the third most points in ACC play this season, led by the rushing attack of RB Jaymal Haynes and QB Haynes King. What do those two do so well?
Tankersley: So before this year, Jamal Haynes was actually a slot receiver. Given that information, you would probably think he’d be a super speedy, good-in-space type of running back. Well, you’d be wrong. He has been a tremendous surprise this year. He’s a tough runner who will bring a couple defenders with him on runs. For Haynes King, his rushing is more just taking off when there aren’t passing options available. The offensive line has seen tremendous improvement this season that has cleared the way for the running game.
TNIAAM: Is defending the Georgia Tech passing attack as simple as “guard Eric Singleton Jr.?”
Tankersley: Interestingly, no! Singleton has certainly been a big-play threat the entire season, but King has done an excellent job of spreading the ball around. King has found 14 different receivers this year, with half of those having at least 10 catches. Malik Rutherford, Christian Leary, and Dominick Blaylock are the other main names you’ll hear, but if Tech gets close to the endzone, Cuse’s defense will also need to watch out for tight end Brett Seither who has an impressive 4-to-6 TD/reception ratio.
TNIAAM: How much of a problem is Syracuse’s brand new rushing scheme for the Georgia Tech defense?
Tankersley: (casually glances to see that Georgia Tech is giving up 224 rushing yards per game) Uhh... Yeah, Georgia Tech has struggled against the run this year. Last year, Tech had two stellar linebackers in Ace Eley and Charlie Thomas who both had more than 100 tackles last year. This year, linebacker has been a bit more of a revolving door. Trenilyas Tatum and Paul Moala are the two that have risen to starting positions, but neither of them have quite been able to fill that gap left by Eley and Thomas.
Now that Cuse’s offense is purely running the ball, that doesn’t bode well for Tech. What Georgia Tech struggles with the most is tackling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at the TV because Tech defenders are not using proper tackling technique. It’s infuriating, and it’s going to more than likely continue into this weekend. Tech is going to need to find some way to make stops or force turnovers.
TNIAAM: Who’s an unsung hero on both sides of the ball?
Tankersley: I mentioned this earlier, but I’ll mention it again. The offensive line has shown tremendous improvements this year. The offensive line has basically been an issue for Georgia Tech since the year after Shaq Mason graduated, so almost 10 years now. This is the first year since 2014 that Tech’s offensive line seems promising. They have done an excellent job of keeping the pocket clean. Despite giving up four sacks against Clemson, Tech’s OL ranks 16th in the country in sacks allowed, which is crazy considering how poorly they have ranked in the past (122nd last season, 97th the year before, 72nd in 2020, and 69th in 2019). I also wrote more about how the offensive line has been setting up the running game in a column earlier this week.
On defense, that question is a little trickier, because they haven’t been as good, but I’ll say Jaylon King. King was the starter at FS at the beginning of last season before going down with a season-ending injury. Coming back this year, he’s sharing the role with Clayton Powell-Lee who played very well last year. Even in a limited role, King has been responsible for four interceptions, 7 pass break-ups, and a blocked kick. He’s really good and probably the best player on the defense.
TNIAAM: We really can’t have a college football conversation these days without talking about conference realignment. How is GT and their fans feeling about our new friends in Cal, Stanford and SMU? Also, what has been the reaction for the nerds that GT doesn’t have an ACC “protected matchup” in future schedules?
Tankersley: I don’t have much in the way of thoughts about the new ACC schools, but I will say that I’m hoping the ACC rebrands as the Coastal Conference so that Coastal Chaos can live on eternally.
As far as the permanent rivals, that was wholly Georgia Tech’s decision. And it’s an incredibly dumb decision! My annoyance with this stretches back to the last time the ACC announced permanent opponents when Georgia Tech found themselves not facing Virginia Tech every year. Of any school in the ACC, I would say that Virginia Tech is probably Georgia Tech’s biggest rival. I understand that they have an in-state rival in the conference, but other schools had multiple permanent rivals, why couldn’t Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have a game every year? It’s just dumb. Anyway, I am excited to have SMU in the ACC. They are probably the team that excites me the most. I don’t have a particular reason why, but I’m excited about that.
TNIAAM: Prediction time. One of these teams is going bowling. Who is it?
Tankersley: I’m more confident in Georgia Tech’s offense than I am in Cuse’s. Only very good defenses have really been able to slow down Georgia Tech’s offense, and although Cuse has a solid defense, I don’t think they are in the same echelon as Clemson, Ole Miss, and Miami. I think they’ll struggle to contain Tech’s offense. I also think that Tech’s defense will struggle to contain Cuse’s run game. But given that it’s a home game under the lights, I think Brent Key wills his team to bowl eligibility, and Tech wins 38-28.
Once again, big thanks to Ben for taking some time to answer our questions. Drop him a follow on X (@FTRSBen) and follow From the Rumble Seat on there as well (@FTRSBlog) to see the Georgia Tech perspective this week. Don’t forget to visit the From The Rumble Seat site as well, where we’ve answered their questions about Syracuse football.