VIDEO: GT head coach looks ahead to Jackets' 87th all-time meeting with Duke
Georgia Tech Football Head Coach Geoff Collins Weekly Press Conference – 10.8.19
“The story of the [North Carolina] game is still third downs, obviously [UNC] converting them, but I thought we played at a really high level on defense for the first part of the year and we did that on first and second downs on Saturday. But unlike our improvements, on third down we just couldn’t get off the field. That was a big emphasis on Sunday’s practice and obviously today. [We want to] keep playing at a high level on first and second downs. We’re creating a bunch of tackles for losses, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re getting off the field on those critical [third] downs and not extending drives.
“Offensively, we’re still in the early phase of one of the most radical transformations in the last 40 years. But they’re getting better each and every day. Even with three new starters in on Saturday [QB James Graham, OL William Lay III, WR Adonicas Sanders], the way they got better even during the game – the second half, having explosive plays and really moving the ball. There are a lot of things that are positive and there are a lot of things to build on.
“David Curry had 16 tackles on Saturday, I believe. That hasn’t happened around here since . That’s a great performance by him. He set Catapult [analytical system] records. The data on effort and speed and yards covered, I think he ran upwards of 9,000 yards in the game. He was flying all over the field.
“I thought Bobby Dodd was electric on Saturday. Our in-game management people, marking people did an amazing job. Our band I think is one of the best bands in college football. They do an unbelievable job with the environment and the atmosphere. There were some times on Saturday that that thing was absolutely rocking the way it’s supposed to be.
“One of my favorite performances from the game was Jaytlin Askew. Jaytlin Askew is a young man that has started games in this program in his career at corner. Right now, his role is predominately special teams and he is playing that role to his absolute fullest. He’s the gunner on punt, he’s on the kickoff coverage team, he’s on the punt return team. His energy, his work ethic, his selfless nature truly is special.
“Kelton Dawson wore the No. 90, which signifies he is a great teammate. His Catapult numbers, he set records for o-line and d-line this week in the game. He was flying around; he was making plays all over the field. But then, even though he’s expending all this energy internally for himself, he’s then going and pouring out his energy and his heart to his teammates and motivating other guys. Those kinds of things are special moments as you’re building a program.”
On the issues with third-down defense:
“It’s a bunch of things that we’ve handled internally that we have to improve on. We were getting them in third and long. Just some coverages relative to the pass rush. So when we were max pressuring, we weren’t able to hold up in coverage; when we were max coverage, we weren’t able to generate pass rush. Playing elite third-down defense is in our DNA and in our package, so we’re just making sure we’re moving stress around and guys are understanding how they fit within the framework of the defense and what the other team is doing. Still understanding the down and distance and what relative distance that we need to drop, things like that. Now give [North Carolina] credit, they did a nice job, they had a nice scheme. They protected well and had some good rub routes that were able to allow them to convert but those things we have to get better.”
On the process of walk-ons becoming starters on the offensive line in the wake of injuries
I think it goes back to the philosophy of this program: we are a developmental program first and foremost. The way we practice, it’s not like a lot of places where the older guys, the first- and second-teamers, get reps and everyone else stands around and watches. Everybody gets reps, everybody plays. Regardless of if you’re a first-year walk-on and maybe you didn’t even play high school football and you’re out there contributing, to the starting quarterback, you’re going to play a lot of football. That gives us opportunities to see guys that could have the potential to play. I think we did a really good job with this recruiting class, having some recruited walk-ons that have come in and contributed.
Once they’re in the program, we don’t worry about that distinction. Everybody is treated at a really high level because every single person in our program from a freshman equipment manager to the starting strong safety matters to us.”
On if QB James Graham is expected to make another big jump this week:
“I think that’s the same case with everybody in our program. Offensively especially. The amount of reps that we can accumulate over time, you can see significant improvement day after day. Literally on Saturday, you could see Adonicas [Sanders] get better throughout the course of the game. You could see James Graham get better throughout the course of the game. I think that’s true for everyone in our program. We talk about going 1-0 every week and 1-0 every day. Everything in the program matters. We just focus on the improvement and the results will take care of themselves. You can’t look in the past; all you can do is learn from it. I think our guys have adopted that attitude and they go out there with unbelievable attitude.”
On whether Tobias Oliver’s role at WR will likely grow:
“Absolutely. In every phase. He had two kickoff returns on Saturday and people are having to be strategic in how they kick to him. We are constantly being creative with him because he’s a playmaker, he’s a competitor. You’ll see him doing different things with him, I won’t give too much away. We’re being creative like we always are and innovative. When you have someone like that with his skill set, trying to make sure we showcase that for himself and the betterment of the team too.”
On creating more turnovers defensively:
“That’s what we talk about every single day. [Defensive coordinator/linebackers] Coach [Andrew] Thacker and the defensive staff do a great job. It’s every single meeting and every single day, Coach Thacker talks about it. He points out strip attempts, he points out things we need to do to create turnovers. Last year [at Temple], we led the country or were top three in the country in creating turnovers, we were No. 1 or No. 2 in defensive scores. So that’s part of our DNA.
“There’s been so many things that we’ve had change and fix and adjust in this transformation and we don’t want anything that’s really, really important to us to get lost in the shuffle. The picks are going to come because we’re very creative on the backend with our coverages, but the thing that Coach Thacker stresses all the time are the strip attempts, ripping the ball out and creating turnovers in that manner.”
VIDEO: Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker (pre-Duke)
VIDEO: Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude (pre-Duke)