Key, taking part in his first ACC Football Kickoff as a coach, took the podium at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, the last head coach to speak to those in attendance on the first day of the three-day event. It was clear the former Tech offensive lineman was no longer in the mood by the time he stood inside the main ballroom to discuss what he thinks may or may not be a successful season for his Yellow Jackets.
The expectations for his team, Key said, go beyond the scoreboard. And when those expectations are met, the wins will take care of themselves.
“My expectation is they go out every single day and do the best they possibly can to improve. That’s our expectations,” Key said. “Our expectations is to go play clean football. Our expectation is to go and be disciplined. Our expectation is to be the toughest team on the field every week we play. Our expectation is the next week after we have a game on tape, they turn the film on and say, ‘Damn, I don’t want to play that team.’ That’s how I want our team to play.
“I know who these guys are. I know they’re tough. I know they’re smart. We have to show it on the field. We have to play collectively. We have to play together. That’s my expectations. If we do all those things and put those things together, we’ll have the outcomes that we want.”
Key took over the Jackets early during the 2022 season after Geoff Collins was fired. Tech was 1-3 at that point, but would go 4-4 the rest of the way. The results helped earn Key the full-time coaching gig and built confidence and belief that new and brighter days may be ahead in Atlanta.
But Key doesn’t really want to rest on those laurels, either. In no way were he and the Jackets satisfied with that 4-4 ending or 5-7 overall record. Key was adamant the totals in the win-loss columns in 2022 were not acceptable and won’t be acceptable moving forward.
“Every season is a new season. We have new players. We have new coaches. It’s a new program,” Key said. “Do you have a little bit of insight and knowledge previously on the roster and strengths and weakens and things to improve on? Yeah, but it’s a constant evaluation of your roster. It’s a constant evaluation of the staff. It’s a constant evaluation of every part of the program that needs to improve.
“I don’t care if you win 15 games or lose 15 games in a year, there’s always things to improve on. That’s my job. My job is to find those things, to focus on the small things, to focus on the details, and to focus on what makes a difference in winning and losing.”
Offensive lineman Jordan Williams, defensive back LaMiles Brooks and defensive lineman Sylvain Yondjouen joined Key on the stage during Wednesday’s afternoon session. The quartet flew via private plane to Charlotte from Atlanta on Tuesday morning and then headed back Tuesday evening.
Williams, Brooks and Yondjouen discussed the team’s current leadership state and what sort of differences they have seen thus far inside Key’s program. Each got five minutes to answer questions on the main stage, made their rounds to various radio stations in attendance and finished the day with question-and-answer sessions inside a sperate interview room.
“I would say the fun we’re having,” Brooks said on what tangible difference he has seen this offseason. “We enjoy being around each other. I think the bonds and the relationships that we’ve created throughout spring and the summer will positively affect us going into the fall.
“Being able to look to our left and right and say that we know the man next to us, it will allow you to go out and feel the need to compete for the man next to you as well as, once again, just honing in on the little things. I think once we excel in those, it will make substantial changes.”
The Jackets report to campus Monday and are scheduled to begin preseason practice at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Tech opens the season Sept. 1 against Louisville at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.