Georgia Tech’s Brent Key makes changes to staff, looks ahead to open week

Georgia Tech interim coach Brent Key met with media members Tuesday after the Yellow Jackets’ 23-20 overtime win over Duke on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium and at the beginning of the team’s only open week of the season. The Yellow Jackets’ next game will come Oct. 20 at home on a Thursday night against Virginia.

Among other topics, Key outlined plans for the week, changes to the staff and renewed pride in his alma mater.

Staff changes

Key announced two changes to the staff, most notably the elevation of offensive analyst Donald Hill-Eley to the coaching staff, filling the opening created by Key’s promotion to interim head coach after the dismissal of Geoff Collins. Hill-Eley will be a special-teams assistant to special-teams coordinator Jason Semore and an offensive assistant.

Hill-Eley, the father of linebacker Ayinde Eley, most recently served as head coach at FCS Alabama State (2017-21). Following his dismissal there, he was hired at Tech before the start of the season as an offensive analyst.

Key also changed the role of defensive analyst Anthony Parker, giving him the title of director of player development, a position that previously did not exist. Key said that Parker will “really help with a lot of things on the football team and help me with a lot of things and help with players in the locker room and with leadership on the team.”

The offensive line, which Key had been coaching, will continue to work under the supervision of graduate assistant Nathan Brock, who was in his second season assisting Key on the line before the coaching change. Brock was a walk-on offensive lineman at Ohio State before starting his coaching career at Tech.

Key said that Brock “really had a good feel for the things that were going on in that (position meeting) room and the kids. That’s what’s so important. The X’s and O’s and the schematic parts are important, but the ability to get the kids to play hard and to practice hard, that’s important.”

Working on punting unit

Key acknowledged that “there’s still some issues” on the punt unit “and we’re working like heck to fix them.” After he was named interim head coach, Key assigned Semore, the linebackers coach, to take on additional duties as special-teams coordinator. Semore’s first priority was to install a punt-protection scheme that would prevent blocked kicks after four punts were blocked in the first four games of the season.

Semore was successful in doing that, but with limited time to install only one trustworthy scheme, Duke was able to exploit that and returned one punt 81 yards for a touchdown and another 40 yards. On the return for a touchdown, Key said that Eley was in the gunner position and was double-teamed at the line, which helped returner Sahmir Hagans get outside Tech’s coverage and free to the sideline.

Also, “we had some uncharacteristic loafs on the play, which have been addressed and shown (to the team),” Key said.

Key said that he wants to change the personnel on the punt team and add “big-body guys that can run and hit and make tackles on that unit.” Additional schemes could be introduced for the Virginia game.

“We talk about the improvement part, the self-scout part that we’re working on this week,” Key said. “Obviously, for special teams, that’s a big portion of it.”

Goals for week

For the team’s open date, Key said that the goals for players are to recover and improve. The team had multiple players out with injury against Duke, so having extra rest before the Virginia game should be beneficial.

When the team met to review the Duke game Monday, Key said he told players that he wanted them to get away from the football facilities Tuesday and not feel like they had to be present. Key said that the relief on players’ faces was obvious, some of them telling him that they planned to sleep in Tuesday.

“I’m like, ‘I would, too, if I were y’all,’” Key said. “Just giving them the mental break to be away a little bit and decompress.”

The coaching staff was to focus on self-scouting Monday and Tuesday, breaking down the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the team and studying individual players, too. Key said that every position coach was to meet individually with the players in his unit and present an evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses and how they can improve.

Not looking ahead

Key was asked again about his being head coach (albeit the interim) at his alma mater and what it meant to him. As he has previously, Key steered clear of addressing the possibility of being named the full-time head coach.

As he has told players to focus only on the week ahead and think of each game as a one-week season, “as a coach, if I do anything other than that, I’m a hypocrite,” Key said. “So I’ve got to do what I’m telling the guys to do, that the coaches on the staff have to do the things that we’re telling the players to do. We don’t have time to look back or look forward.”

Taking pride in the logo

With no game this weekend, coaches will have time to make recruiting visits to high schools and scout games this weekend. After two attention-getting wins, the reception should be different.

“The big thing is getting into high schools and wearing the Georgia Tech logo,” Key said. “We talked about earning our respect back on the field, each week earning respect and people being proud to wear the ‘GT’ again. We talk about that with the kids. I want these coaches to be proud to wear it and go out in this area and be able to show that we’re proud to wear it and show that there’s something behind that GT.”