From a wider perspective, James Bates likes what he has seen from Georgia Tech while calling two games for Fox Sports South’s weekly ACC broadcasts this season. The former Florida linebacker said that if he had a son who was going to play for Tech and coach Geoff Collins, “I’d be pretty excited.”
So, then, his prognosis for the second half of Collins’ first season, which begins Saturday at Miami?
“I just pulled up their schedule,” Bates said in a phone interview this week. “It’s a hot Miami team. Honestly, to be truthful, I would just expect more of the same.”
» MORE: How to watch all 62 FBS games
Given that the Yellow Jackets are 1-5 and that their four losses to FBS opponents have all been by at least 16 points, it’s not the most hopeful expectation for Tech fans. Former Tech captain and ACC analyst Roddy Jones shares Bates’ view.
“From a record standpoint, I don’t see (an uptick), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got one more win,” said Roddy Jones, former Tech captain and now an analyst for the ACC Network.
ESPN number crunchers have reached a similar conclusion. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Tech no better than a 32.4 percent chance to win any of its remaining six games. Three games are assigned a win probability of less 10 percent, including Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes (6.6 percent). ESPN’s forecast is for the Jackets to find one more win and finish 2-10.
Jones, who will call Saturday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium along with Tech Hall of Famer Wes Durham and sideline analyst Eric Wood, also was assigned to Tech’s win over South Florida and its loss to North Carolina.
Jones said he liked that Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude have settled on quarterback James Graham and that “James looks like he’s going to continue to develop.” The secondary has future NFL talent, he added. Bates is also high on Graham, saying that “he flashes and shows some really nice things when he gets some time.” The effort, even in the face of lopsided scores, is encouraging.
But, as far as the final six games go, Jones and Bates have their reasons for low expectations. It’s a young roster with scheme changes on offense and defense.
The Jackets will face a series of strong defenses – five of Tech’s six remaining opponents are ranked in the top 30 nationally in total defense. That will make the road even more difficult for an offense that has shortcomings.
Graham is developing, running back Jordan Mason has been productive and wide receiver Ahmarean Brown is a future star. However, the passing game has been inconsistent, and the offensive line has struggled in pass protection as it is absent two senior starters lost to season-ending injuries (Jahaziel Lee and Kenny Cooper) and is making the transition to a new style of play.
“They’re doing the best they can in pass protection,” said Bates, in his eighth year of calling ACC games for Fox Sports South.
On defense, the lack of a consistent pass rush will be difficult to overcome. It doesn’t help, either, that Tech will face a series of mobile quarterbacks, including Miami’s N’Kosi Perry, who can evade pressure even if it comes.
“It’s hard to find the matchup (advantage),” Jones said. “Because the weakness of the ACC right now is the offensive lines, and if you can’t create a pass rush, then you’re not able to take advantage of that (weakness), and that makes (opposing) guys look better than they are.”
But, in some ways, whether Tech finishes at 1-11 or can scrape together a couple of more wins isn’t entirely of consequence.
“The difference between one win and three wins is the note in the record book about ‘last one-win season,’” Jones said.
Bates liked that, in the final minutes of Saturday’s 41-23 loss to Duke, Collins was calling timeouts when Duke had the ball to give his offense a chance to run its two-minute offense.
“That to me shows that they will go out and they will grow and they will take advantage (of opportunities), whether they’re 2-10 or 4-8 or 1-11,” Bates said. “It’s a football team that’s not going to stay stagnant. There may be young, inexperienced guys that don’t have any business being in the game at that point because they should be redshirting, but those are young guys that are going to gain experience.”
It is an opportunity for the staff to gain experience, also. Jones said he had concerns about operational matters such as the clock-management lapse at the end of regulation against The Citadel and the process of determining the team’s offensive identity.
“That’s all stuff that, this is the staff’s first time coaching together,” Jones said. “It’s a young staff, and they’re going to learn, as well.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.