Sept. 13, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
It was about this time last year, as Georgia Tech was coming off a disastrous loss at Kansas, that you began to sense that something was wrong with the Yellow Jackets even if it took nearly two more months to settle the inner argument with yourself.
The Jackets buckled under the weight of expectations – theirs, yours, and those of pundits.
Two games into this season, the absence of external expectation has caddied Tech to two wins, 112 points, and about 1,200 yards of offense.
Really, though, how much does external expectation have to do with what’s happening? Tech players and coaches are and have been aware of the fact that few outside of their lockerroom, and perhaps within the fan base, thought much of their chances to be a good team this season.
Yet, “We really don’t worry about it,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We just try to take care of what we can take care of, and there’s pressure to do the best we can. The pressure is to go out every day and not let teammates down.”
The word “pressure” stinks, but I can never find a better one to use in its place. With that in mind, Washington’s comment makes it clear there is pressure; it just happens to come from within the ranks.
“In a way there’s more pressure because last year they expected us to win and I guess we sort of got into that as a team, and now it’s just everybody . . . trying to get the taste out of their mouth from last year,” nose guard Logan Walls said.
“Last year was not very good. Every day everyone is working to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. We expect everybody to know their jobs and do their jobs, and if someone’s messing up we let them know about it.”
Some very nice things are formed under pressure, and in Tech’s case that accounts for a heightened degree of accountability among peers.
This Kansas team is likely better than the one that beat Tech last year.
One strong hunch is that this Tech team is considerably better than last year’s squad although the Jackets’ first two opponents have not offered much to prove nor disprove that theory.
It’s more a matter of body language.
Perhaps the appearance of the Jackets having played as if they’re under less pressure is a function of both their opposition to date, and the fact that they’ve prepared themselves better – both physically and psychologically.
Egos are not likely an issue. Who on this team would you consider a star, after all? There have been many stories of the Jackets grinding away in the offseason, pushing themselves and each other, holding everybody to higher standards.
Plus, with Washington having spent an entire season pretty much knowing he’d be the man and defenders being far more familiar with what coordinator Al Groh is asking them to do, there is a sort of reduced pressure.
The Jackets of 2010 had too great a comfort zone, but of the wrong nature.
This squad so far has a different kind of comfort zone, apparently of a better kind.
“We’re more settled in the defense; we know what coach Groh wants,” junior defensive end Izaan Cross said. “It’s a lot easier to go with the flow. I also think we have more depth [on the defensive line].”
This weekend brings a built-in ego checker. The Jayhawks were terrible last season, yet humbled the Jackets before the calendar had even turned officially from summer to fall.
These guys have memories.
“I guess we can use that as a motivator,” Cross said. “No offense to them, but I didn’t think they were a caliber of Virginia Tech and some of the teams we played, and it might have been a game we should have won.”
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