Maybe it's just very, very simple. In college football your team is either exceeding expectations and you're ecstatic, or they're failing to meet expectations and you're miserable. I mean, wasn't last year great? And 1990 wasn't bad either. I don't think the Jackets have wilted under the heat of high 2001 expectations at all. Their overall performances on offense, defense, and special teams have been very good. You can look it up in the conference and national stats. But they have played at times--even in the N.C. State and Syracuse wins-- like they were trying "not to lose." And their opponents in both OT losses definitely played more aggressively. That's what scares me about tonight's game. UNC is scary because they are playing with so much confidence. They are going to steamroll right over the Jackets unless the Jackets play exactly like the team most thought they would be back in August. I personally think they are up to the challenge. If I'm right they could finish strong and represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl. If they lose tonight, things could get ugly. Nobody around here wants to be the ACC's Mississippi State.
Welcome Back Daryl!
The main reason I'm confident about tonight is that Daryl Smith is back. His value to this team has been forever chronicled by the Clemson loss. Tech's defense just fell apart when he went out in the second quarter. He truly is one player who makes others better, because he frees up outside defenders to do other things.Big Names On The Recruiting Front
I leave the recruiting stuff to Coach Battle and Jamie Newberg most of the time, but I couldn't help but notice the high number of so-called big-name prospects the Jackets are recruiting all over the country. For example, of the Insiders.com Top 111 National Prospects, Tech has been actively recruiting at least 20 of them. They seem to be trying to take another step up in talent level, even in a year when they don't have a large number of scholarships to give. One of my favorite players is WR Maurice Stovall from Radnor, Pennsylvania. Stovall is a Randy Moss-like 6-5, 210 and runs a 4.35. He also has a 3.0 GPA. Imagine a 6-5 WR in the Tech offense! He recently said Tech and Virginia were his top two choices but Mr. Stovall is being recruited by everyone. Of course, all of these Top 111 high schoolers are being recruited by all the top schools. They're harder to get, but it certainly will be intriguing if the coaches can land four or five of these guys.
When Will We See More Bilbo?
One of the problems with all these tight games has been the lack of playing time for Andy Hall and Dimarius Bilbo. Bilbo, of course, saw action in the Navy game, so it would be a shame if his freshman eligibity was wasted on those four or five plays. I'd love to see the Tech coaches let him run a series or two in the Virginia and Wake Forest games just to give other coaches something else to worry about. He looks more like Dante Culpepper every day as he now stands 6-4, 220 or so. And the coaches say he can throw the ball 75 yards in the air. Maybe we'll see a little Bilbo tonight. That would be a fun wrinkle.
Next year's race between Hall, Bilbo and A.J. Suggs for the starting job is going to be very interesting. Coaches say Suggs is going to be very hard to beat out.
Ather Brown, of course, has been lost for the year and John Bennett has been hampered most of the season, but, otherwise, Tech is in really good shape. Smith and Recardo Wimbush are at full strength.
The most intriguing injury story has to be Ronald Curry and his hamstring. It's very doubtful he'll play meaning playmaker extraordinare Darian Durant will start and play the whole game. Durant has been highly effective coming off the bench all season long so it will be interesting to see if playing the whole game changes anything. He throws a fairly flat, side arm pass that defenders can intercept more easily than most. If he plays the whole game, watch for Marvious Hester and friends to start going for the ball as the game wears on.
By rotating QBs in and out, UNC coach Jim Bunting has been able to construct a platoon system that has actually added to team chemistry. A word of warning: Despite his lack of arm strength, Durant has made big plays over and over again. Tech better be careful with him. Again, I'm very thankful Daryl Smith is back.
I'm nervous. This game appeared to be an easy 'W' before September 22. But it's time for the Jackets to really play a great all-around game. The team that turns the ball over the least will probably win, because these teams are fairly even talent-wise.
One last thought: I look forward to watching Julius Peppers and Bunting's defense play the zone blitz and try and slow down the Tech offense. Here's hoping Mr. Godsey and his two freshman linemen handle it.