Photo courtesy of ESPN

Q&A: Tom Luginbill talks Georgia Tech’s outlook, recruiting

Former Georgia Tech quarterback and ESPN National Recruiting Director Tom Luginbill spoke at the Touchdown Club of Atlanta’s first meeting of the season Wednesday night.

The club is a “501c3 group that supports high school football in Atlanta, Georgia and the nation,” according to its website. It will hold several meetings throughout the season and feature a number of guests, with the first being Luginbill.

Luginbill spoke for over an hour about all things college football (but mostly local teams). He fielded questions from the audience and revealed his College Football Playoff prediction, the same as last season’s results: Alabama, Clemson, Washington and Ohio State. He called Stanford his surprise team, and suggested a Heisman Trophy campaign for Florida State safety Derwin James isn’t crazy.

Afterward, Luginbill sat down with the AJC to discuss Georgia Tech football.

You said you expect 8, 9 wins from Georgia Tech. Why?

I think the coach (Paul Johnson) feels good about whoever’s going to play quarterback. Everybody is so concerned about that, but they got a little taste of it last year with Matthew (Jordan), so he played pretty well on the road versus Virginia Tech, it gave them a little confidence as a team. And I’m not as concerned about the Dedrick Mills situation. I’m really not. Listen, they had a kid on their team a year ago who decided to transfer who was actually starting in front of Dedrick Mills. My point is, they’re going to have other backs. I think Jerry Howard, the true freshman, is going to be a really good player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some turns there. 

The Tennessee game’s going to be a huge confidence booster to get a win there. I think they will. Give them five wins (to open the season) going into what would be the Miami game on a Thursday. They’ve been a team that when they get rolling, they get hot, they’re pretty darn good. I think the Georgia game at the end could determine eight or nine (wins).

But what are your concerns?

I’m a little concerned about their defensive front in terms of known commodities. They had some losses there, but from the linebacker core to the back end, they return everybody. Jaytlin Askew, who I think is going to be a really good corner as a true freshman. They’re already two-deep.

So you said you think they will defeat Tennessee?

I just think, even when you’ve had time to prepare for it (the triple option), it is such a difficult offense to deal with. It’s not so much, ‘all right, let’s watch film,’ or preparing for the scheme, but you can’t practice against your own guys the things that they do. So you’re only getting a look. You’re not getting the full speed, cut blocks at the ankles, the whole nine yards. Because you’re not going to do that to yourself in practice because you don’t want to get injuries. So they have more time in the film room and more time to dedicate towards preparing for it, but until you see it live, and it’s happening fast, it’s a culture shock. It’s a different deal, man. And the ACC sees it a lot, but the SEC doesn’t see it. The SEC doesn’t schedule those service academies.

Who’s somebody on Tech that we don’t know now, but will by season’s end?

Howard. I think this is going to open up an opportunity for him to be pretty good. I also really like the receiver Adonicas Sanders. They’re pretty good at receiver, but I think he’s going to be in the rotation. I think that’s two names right now that you don’t know about, but will be pretty good players for them.

What do you think of the state of Tech’s recruiting?

For Georgia Tech, things are so different because of who they are; the academic side, plus the scheme side. You know they’re always going to be a little bit behind the curve – and when I say behind, I mean they’re going to take a little bit of time to recruit offensive linemen because they’re not going to get that ready-made guy. They’re getting the lighter, maybe not as heavy, underdeveloped guy so they can recruit that guy to the end. So their recruiting prowess is different because their calendar I think is a little bit different, and the type of player they’re going after.

We’ve always talked about the SEC versus everybody else. In your mind, how much has the gap closed between it and the other conferences?

I think the gap’s closed between the SEC and the ACC. I think you can really only look to one team right now in the Big Ten that you could sit there and say OK, that team looks like Alabama, or that team looks like Clemson. That’s Ohio State. But with the SEC and the ACC, the player pool that they’re drawing from is the same. The quarterback play in the ACC elevated the perception of the teams in the conferences. They started winning more. They’re a little bit more exciting. You had some high-profile names. Think about it, you had Marquise Williams and Mitchell Trubisky back-to-back (at North Carolina), Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson back-to-back (at Clemson). Then at North Carolina State, you had Jacoby Brissett and now you’ve got Ryan Finley. Brad Kaaya at Miami, Florida State’s had three in a row if you count E.J. (Manuel). That’s really been the significant difference. The quarterbacks have kind of balanced it.

I still think because of the player pool that the ACC and SEC draw from, for whatever reason, all the best defensive linemen by and large – Myles Garrett was a Texas kid – have come from the Southeast. And all except the Joey Bosas and the Nick Bosas (from Florida) stay there. That’s what’s kept both of those conferences at or near the top. I don’t think you’ll see enough of those guys leaving this region to flood the Big Ten or the Big 12. They’re just not going to do it.

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