Hypnotic Challenge

Dec. 29, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It might be a good idea to give some background before mentioning that Al Groh on Thursday morning said that Georgia Tech should have a hypnotist on the coaching staff. Turns out, the Yellow Jackets did see a hypnotist Wednesday, and they learned quite a bit.

If Tech could hire somebody to zone out Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, they’d be in business.

Stories like the one that follows grow out of the Sun Bowl because it has to be one of the most under-rated postseason trips in college football for a variety of reasons. As long as nobody tries to cross the border into Ciudad Juarez, which is a bad place, good times are there to be had.

Tech did cross borders Wednesday, sort of, when the Jackets visited Fort Bliss. That’s a big deal, one of the U.S. Army’s very largest facilities, in fact, and it is under the largest unrestricted air space in the nation. Give the military 1.1 million acres to work with, and those folks are going to test missiles and artillery like they own the place. Fort Bliss is so big it rests in parts of two states, Texas and New Mexico.

The Jackets didn’t do any missiles, but they did fire some weaponry.

Then, a few of them were hypnotized; seriously.

Quite a few of them didn’t take it so, but after seeing several players, coaches and managers under spell, they were sold.

Assistant coach Lamar Owens was made something of a spectacle while under hypnosis.

“I was not a believer in hypnosis, but I believe it now,” said center Jay Finch. “One of the funniest things was Lamar Owens. He was told [by the hypnotist] that every time the crowd applauds, you can do whatever you want to accept your applause. “He had his head down, like he was asleep, and then we’d applaud.”

Oh, the fun.

“Coach Owens would stand up and bow, and wave,” said guard Will Jackson. “He’d give peace signs to the crowd. It was like he’d won a presidential election. [The hypnotist] had Chris Taylor doing ballet, and a couple of our managers as well. Chris is pretty good; he should look into it.

“Ty Kelly, one of our outside linebackers . . . [the hypnotist] had him convinced that he did not believe in hypnosis while he was hypnotized, and he got in arguments with people in the crowd. He would just get furious. I didn’t think it was real before, but I believe in hypnosis now.”

Tech’s defensive coordinator took note of all this, and spun some humor. A hypnotist, he suggested, might help the Jackets pay attention.

They’re not going to have much choice up front Sunday.

Utah is not ranked No. 7 in the nation against the run for nothing.

Lotulelei is a lot of something. The Pac 12’s defensive lineman of the year is about 6-feet-3 and 325 pounds. His statistics are not overwhelming, but his propensity for drawing double teams and mucking up the middle are impossible to miss.

The Jackets would like to hypnotize that guy.

“He’s a big bad Samoan,” Finch said. “They plan an eight-man, and then he moves to nose when they play the triple stack … three down linemen with three linebackers stacking.”

The Utes have several junior college transfers, including Lotulelei, in the mix, and they’re men.

“They’re unbelievable up front,” Jackson said. “The inside guys are going to be one of the biggest challenges we’ve had. The linebackers really fly around. They force things outside, and their defensive backs are incredibly aggressive against the run.”

There’s a story out there about how just a couple years ago Lotolelei was moving furniture for a living before he decided to give college football a shot.

Now, he’s furniture the Jackets will have to move to have a shot.

So yeah, like Groh suggested, a hypnotist would help because this isn’t funny. You’d better believe it’s serious.

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