A key element of Collins’ coaching philosophy is his use of the “Above The Line” chart rather than a traditional two-deep depth chart. The intention is that every player listed on the chart is expected to be able to play meaningful minutes. Tech found out about some of the absences as recently as Saturday morning, putting that philosophy on full display.
“Everybody that’s on the plane is expected to be able to play,” Curry said. “Yeah, we had some big hits, but it’s just the next guy up. With what we have, (the coaches) decide to maybe tweak the game plan a little bit here and there, but ultimately, if you’re on the plane, you’re expected to be able to play. I think that the guys that stepped up, I think they played well.”
After allowing the Wolfpack 262 yards and 20 points in the first half, Tech’s defense came out in the second half and allowed only 135 yards and three points — a field goal with 3:31 left in the game. On a night when multiple freshmen had to play larger roles than they have in the past, it was the Jackets’ leadership group that helped turn things around for the defense at halftime.
“Coach Collins came in at halftime and said, ‘Guys, we’re worrying about the wrong stuff. We need to worry about staying together and playing one play at a time and don’t worry about the scoreboard,’” Curry said. “And then of course you had leaders, myself and some of the guys on offense, some of the other guys on defense, step up and get the guys riled up and ready to go. We take pride in coming out strong in the third quarter, and I think we did that well.”
With a short week this week — Tech plays Pittsburgh on Thursday — the defense’s strong second half may help carry momentum forward to that game. It’s unknown at this point if any of the players who missed the game Saturday will be able to return by then, but for the less-experienced players who had to step up, the experience against N.C. State and progress throughout the game will be valuable.
“Just the way the guys battled (and) stayed together is commendable,” Collins said. “It’s something to build on as far as our culture goes.”