VandyMania asked Georgia Tech Director of Broadcasting and former Vanderbilt play-by-play voice Wes Durham for a scouting report on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and his insights on Saturday evening's game from a Tech perspective. Here is his analysis:
This will be an interesting game, because I think the coaching staff's preparation on both schools' side is unique. I think Vanderbilt has an advantage in terms of getting ready to play against Tech's offensive side, because they can look at a tape from last year and know what kinds of offensive sets they're going to see. The names have changed-- we don't have a George Godsey behind center, we don't have a Joe Burns at tailback-- but the offensive scheme, the formations, some of the plays, are not going to be too different.
Chan Gailey [Georgia Tech's new head coach] has done a marvelous job of what I think can be one of the most difficult things. When you make a coaching change at any place that's enjoyed success, invariably there are going to be some rocky waters. We just quite frankly haven't had much of that here. Chan and his staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that.
At the same time, the players in this program have become very resilient. They became resilient in the month of December last year. When all the things started happening here and in South Bend, about the future of the program, who was getting the job, and what had happened to Coach [George] O'Leary and things like that-- a mental toughness kicked in for this program unlike any I've seen.
These kids just went out and destroyed Stanford in the Seattle Bowl, when a lot of people thought that these guys had given up the ship. That mental toughness has carried over through the spring and into the fall.
Like Vanderbilt though, Georgia Tech has had a good many injuries. Nothing that will keep anybody sidelined for a year, but there have been some bumps and bruises and strains and pulls that has not allowed for the continuity to take place that they would like to have. From that standpoint it will be an interesting game.
The other point about this is, Tech is a team that is returning a lot of players on defense, but yet a lot of guys who haven't had a lot of success over there as a collective unit. Now with Jon Tenuta coming in [as defensive coordinator], there is really a new attitude and a new scheme. That, to me, is a very big positive to what this season could be for Georgia Tech.
This is as important a game for Vanderbilt as it is for Tech, but for Georgia Tech's purposes, there's a lot of newness, with A. J. Suggs at quarterback, and Tony Hollings at tailback. The receiving depth is phenomenal. They've got a lot of guys to throw to. Still, we're going to see how the Suggs and [Damarius] Bilbo method works in terms of interchanging play at quarterback, and we'll see some of the other faces in the depth in the backfield.
I know a lot about Benji Walker's high school program. I know he came from a great program in Brentwood Academy. It's funny-- do you remember when Gerry DiNardo left and Rod Dowhower came in, and the offense went to a passing game? They went through that period with Damian Allen and Ronnie Gordon, quarterback by committee for a year or so, to see who could drop back and throw the ball. The offensive line was an option-based line, a quick line but not very big.
Well, it appears to me the transition from that dropback style to what Coach Johnson likes to do with option and perimeter passing is probably a little easier to make going the other way. I'll be curious to see how Bobby Johnson sets up Vanderbilt's offense, because I know how well he did at Furman.
You can look at Tech's offense from last year and virtually know what you're going to see, except the personnel is going to be different. Tech's offensive line, if healthy, could be very good, especially going to the left side. Nat Dorsey is a potential Outland Trophy candidate. Leon Robinson at left guard is outstanding, and Hugh Reilly at center is very good. At right guard Ray Blake has played a lot of football here, but in the shadows of other good players. At right tackle, Kyle Wallace is a guy who looks good getting off the bus. I think we'll see more tight end play with John Paul Foschi and Will Heller than we've seen. Bill O'Brien [Tech's offensive coordinator] is a guy who's learned from Ralph Friedgen, but added a lot of wrinkles of his own.
Then there's the [Damarius] Bilbo factor-- people will just have to see. He's a gifted young man. He's maybe not as good an athlete as Donovan McNabb, but he's that size, that kind of run/pass ability. In terms of that kind of experience, of course he's not there yet. He's a legitimate 6-3, could play as big as 230-235 pounds, though probably down around 220 now with camp. The comparisons go right to Joe Hamilton. People say, he's just a big Joe Hamilton. What people forget is that Joe threw only seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a freshman, and he started ten games. So you don't want to throw D-Bo out there under the gun. We're fortunate in some respects to have A. J. Suggs.
The thing people don't realize about A. J. is his ability to run with the football. Just because Suggs is in there doesn't just mean Tech's going to run option. Vanderbilt people know about him. He's hungry. He went through a very difficult experience there in Knoxville-- started four games, went 1-3 as a starter, threw for 319 yards at LSU and got beat in overtime! As I've read the game stories, it really wasn't his fault they were losing. So there are some very interesting angles on this game.
I'm delighted these two schools are playing. It's a great series for both schools. If you've heard me on the radio in Atlanta, you know I think Vanderbilt is a candidate for ACC expansion. I know, some folks up there may not want to hear that-- especially when they get that big check every year from the conference.