Brent Key striving to grow, adapt in year 2 as Georgia Tech coach

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key walks off of the Rose Bowl Field during their first day of spring football practice, Monday, March 11, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Georgia Tech coach Brent Key walks off of the Rose Bowl Field during their first day of spring football practice, Monday, March 11, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

One of the more constant challenges for Brent Key as a second-year head coach, he said, is time management and task delegation.

“In Year 1 you set everything in motion and you have everything scheduled out and planned out. But you almost feel like you have to stick to that because that’s what you put down even though the fit is not right,” Key said in a conversation with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month. “I had several people that I trust that are like, ‘Nah, if you’re gonna fix it, fix it in year one. Don’t be afraid to make an adjustment. You don’t wanna be in year two, three, four and now you’re making adjustments on things still, and no one feels like there’s any routine or consistency.’”

Key would argue his second season as Tech’s head man began Dec. 23, the day after he and the Yellow Jackets beat Central Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Florida. That victory capped a 7-6 season and gave Tech its first winning season since 2018.

The former Tech offensive lineman knows 7-6 was nice, and worth celebrating in the moment, but not good enough. He told his program as much in a team meeting before the Jackets began spring practice March 11.

Key also knows that to improve Tech’s record, and its chances at being an ACC title contender, he has to improve as a coach as well. He and his players now often like to use the refrain of you’re either getting better or worse, no one stays the same.

“Last year I did a daily diary of things that were good and things that weren’t good so I could circle back to it this year and really see how the adjustments were made,” Key said. “Last year’s time frame to right now, there’s a lot of those adjustments and tweaks we made, whether it was number of reps in team period or the time something started. The efficiency we’re able to do things with now is very apparent.”

There were adjustments made to the staff and to the roster, of course, too. Key has five new assistant coaches (four on defense) on his staff and he promoted quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Chris Weinke to assistant head coach and promoted special-teams coordinator Ricky Brumfield, who also is helping coach cornerbacks, to associate head coach.

Key was able to build the depth and increase the talent level with more than 20 high school signees and a dozen transfers. The program’s recruiting class was ranked 33rd nationally by the 247Sports Composite, its highest mark since 2020 (27). Retention of the 2023 roster was pivotal, as well, as Key was able to hold on to his starting quarterback and running backs, top receivers and the bulk of his offensive line.

While all those changes, additions and subtractions were taking place over the past three months, Key said he has continued to self-assess and to battle an old foe: trying to do too much from his office inside Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“As the (2023) season went on I started sucking more things back in and realizing that at the end of the year, ‘All right, what are the things I can get off my plate that bog me down.’ Not necessarily delegation of duties, but the delegation of work. So that’s been something for me that I’ve been working on.

“I’ve gotten better the last few weeks. It will still be late at night and I’m looking and saying, ‘Whoa, I gotta go to bed.’ It’s tweaking a job description here, it’s adding a little more detail into something. The same thing you tell players is you don’t wanna be paralyzed with overanalyzing. I’ve really been working hard these past few weeks to just give up some of those things.”

Tech is 11-10 under Key and 8-7 in conference games, totals that include his eight games as interim coach to finish the 2022 season. He has four wins over ranked opponents and six road victories.

But the inability to string more than two wins together has been in part what has held the Jackets back during Key’s tenure. They are also 0-2 against Georgia (as part of a now six-game losing streak to their bitter rival) under Key.

And nothing will come easy for Key and Tech in 2024, either. A harrowing schedule begins with a trip to Ireland to face defending ACC champion Florida State. The Jackets also have to make treks to Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and UGA, will face Notre Dame at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and will have to find enough left in the tank to try to top Miami and North Carolina State at home in November.

Key won’t concern himself with that schedule now or even in late July when his squad begins preseason practice. He cited former Alabama coach Nick Saban when detailing how he is approaching the season to come, his second leading the Jackets.

“Not one time did (Saban) talk about a championship. Not one time did he talk about what we’re going to do or win. That just doesn’t happen,” Key said. “People that talk in those terms, and they’re focused on the outcome of things, you’re not gonna get what you want. We’re worried about each and every day being the best team that we can possibly be, improving every single day and playing the game the right way.

“I could care less about tomorrow. I’m worried about doing the best job we can do today to build this football team to be the best they can be today. You start worrying about the outcome, you’re not process-driven and you’re not process-oriented in everything you go about, then you got zero chance. We talk about having a championship mindset. Well, that means doing the best you possibly can every single day regardless of how you feel. Having the right attitude every single day regardless of how you feel. Coming out and playing the game the right way regardless of how you feel. The ability to affect others on the field and have those guys rise up and play to the expectation each and every day.”