The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find in informative, insightful and fun.
Playing ‘Tech football’
Brent Key doesn’t want to hear his program plays, “Brent Key football” or plays a style of football, “under Brent Key.”
No, the first-year coach wants the Yellow Jackets to be known for playing, “Georgia Tech football.” What exactly that looks like may not be fully realized under into the season. But over time the former Tech offensive lineman hopes his program’s identity is easily recognized.
“I want to see a physically tough, disciplined football team that’s committed to each other, committed to the process and has the ability to go out there and execute,” Key said this week. “Three of those things I think we’ve come a long with. I think we’re a lot more physically tough football team. I think we’re more mentally tough. I think they’re committed to each other, I really do. The discipline, we’ve so greatly improved. We work on it every day and we’ve improved so much.
“The execution, that’s the thing that you don’t know. You know execution in practice, you know how it happens, you know how it occurs there, you know how it’s been. But then executing versus another opponent? That’s the thing I really want to see in this game and see how we execute.”
The Jackets will be looking to break a run of four straight losing seasons this year. The program has never had five consecutive losing campaigns.
A fan of Zaza
Atlanta United’s Saba Lobjanidze, a native of Georgia in Europe, is a big fan of the NBA.
He said he loves watching the games. He even knows former Hawks player Zaza Pachulia, who played for the Hawks from 2005-13.
Lobjanidze said he’s not a very good basketball player but is a decent shooter.
He doesn’t have a favorite team, just favorite players. He said his favorite is Jayson Tatum.
Kirby is ‘best in the business, man’
During an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, former Bulldogs offensive coordinator Todd Monken discussed his decision to leave for the same position with the Ravens. He also praised Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who he believes will keep the Bulldogs atop the college football landscape over the long term.
“I was very fortunate to come to a time where the culture was already set,” Monken said. “It’s good players. Coach Smart is the best in the business, man. There’s one way to do it. And he only knows one way. I don’t know how he has the energy he has, I really don’t. He has his thumb on everything that it takes to stay at an elite level. Think it’s very, very difficult. I think the magic is recruit your rear end off and get elite players – to me, this is it – and then act like you don’t have them. Develop them like you didn’t just get the top players. To me, that’s how you stay on top. And he’s got it in terms of that. Because you’re going to get good players, and you should, that’s what he does a great job of evaluating and going and getting them. But then once you get them, it’s you are developing them and you are working and you are diligent on not taking that for granted.
“I guess the best way to put it is that we have to develop our players, and we need to do it as well as anybody. And we’re going to treat this like every team that we play is important in terms of how we prepare. There’s a certain standard of the way you go about it. And some guys just have that in. He does.”
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Monken’s old quarterback, Stetson Bennett IV, won the Rams’ backup job as expected. Bennett is one play from taking the reins of an NFL team.
The former walk-on will forever be revered in Athens regardless of his NFL career after leading Georgia to consecutive championships. Monken gives Bennett credit for his continued improvement during his collegiate career.
“We wouldn’t have done the things we did without him,” Monken told The AJC. “I mean, I really believe that in my heart. That collectively, I think he grew a lot as a player, we grew a lot together. And there were ups and downs. But the reality is he loves playing football. He has a high football IQ. Because some guys love football, (but) they don’t have a high football, IQ. He does. He’s got elite timing. And for his stature, he can see things and anticipate windows, which is unique.
“And he has the stones at times to not give a (expletive) and just go out there and make plays, and not be afraid to be wrong. Not everybody has that. And sometimes it bites him in the ass. But he has the stones to go out there and change the play, change your protection, not be afraid for us to get on his rear end about something he does wrong. He can forget quickly. He can go through a tough stretch and then find his way back to throwing three touchdown passes. And it’s a unique quality to move on.
“It was a heck of a three years, all the way back to the first game in Arkansas. And if (Bennett) doesn’t come in that game, we don’t win it. Lose to damn Arkansas, I might’ve got fired the first (expletive) weekend. So there’s a lot that he that he enabled us to do on offense because of his ability to function in a lot of ways, mentally, that some guys can’t.
Monken summarized Bennett’s improvement over the past two years with one more thought:
“The best thing I say about Stetson is two years ago, we won with him. Last year, we won it because of him.”
FitzPatrick happy for Bennett
Falcons tight end John FitzPatrick was happy to see that Bennett made the Rams’ roster as the No. 2 quarterback.
“I’m pumped,” FitzPatrick said. “He’s such a great guy. He’s one of my best friends. I’ve been with him forever. Lived with him for four years.
“He’s out in LA doing his thing. In the three (exhibition) games, he did well in all of them. He did mention to me that he’s coming back here this weekend so I might see him. I texted him. FaceTimed him, here and there, checking in through camp.
“He’s excited about what’s going on over there in Los Angeles. So, I’m happy for him.”
FitzPatrick trying to stay out of ‘The News’
Falcons tight end John FitzPatrick doesn’t plan to attend Georgia’s game against Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.
“That’s a funny topic of conversation,” FitzPatrick said. “I guess if you’re pictured at the Georgia game, or like DeMarcco (Hellams) at the Bama game or Zach (Harrison) at the Ohio State game, you’ll get some flack from the team. Acting like you’re the big man on campus, that type of things. That’s why I’m not going.”
FitzPatrick doesn’t want to make “The News” portion of the Falcons’ team meetings.
“You might get, it’s called ‘The News,’” FitzPatrick said. “In the team meeting, just like this, you’ll have a picture of yourself and (coach Arthur Smith) will say, ‘check out this guy.’ You try to stay away from ‘The News.’ That’s kind of how it goes.”
FitzPatrick doesn’t want to make the news, and he needs some rest.
“That’s not specifically why, but it was a long camp,” FitzPatrick said. “I’m going to get some sleep. I don’t think I’m going. I’m going to take it slow.”
Lindstrom is a Bulldog fan
Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom, who played at Boston College, has been converted into a Georgia Bulldogs fan.
“How can you not (be a Bulldogs fan),” Lindstrom said.
It all happened by accident.
“So, this was funny, at the end of last season, we had just finished up the season, and I was about to drive back to Massachusetts,” Lindstrom said. “It was a Monday night, and I’m like totally zoned out. Done with the season and I’m in like flip-flops.
“I go to a restaurant in Buford, just stumbling in. I’d forgot it was the (night of the national championship game). It was like 500 people. All in Georgia (gear). So, I just sat there and watched the whole national championship. I was fully immersed in Georgia culture. I’m all in.”
Don’t expect to him to bark, thought.
“I was not (barking),” Lindstrom said. “There were plenty of people that were.”
Key’s new office
When Key decided to renovate his office – doing much of the demolition this winter himself – he envisioned a new space that would look like an Apple store.
The old look, which went back at least to the tenure of former coach Paul Johnson, was heavy on dark-wood bookcases, cabinets and ceiling panels. The renovated office is heavy on whites, blacks and glass cases. There are a couple of features that are sure to lure in guests of varying age groups. One is a bin with snacks for his daughter Harper to sample. Another is a tablet that Key or guests can use to play music that is wired not only for the room but for the sound system in Bobby Dodd Stadium, which Key’s office looks out onto. Also, Key had a video-game console set up for games to be played on the stadium video board. The purpose of the upgrades, as ever, is singular.
Said Key, “Recruiting.”
Headed into the opener against Tennessee-Martin, the Georgia football team had won 18 consecutive games at Sanford Stadium. That is just six shy of the program record, which was 24 in a row at home from 1981-83.
The Bulldogs have seven home games scheduled at Sanford this season. That means they could tie the record against Missouri on Nov. 4 and establish a new mark of 25 in a row against Ole Miss on Nov. 11 in the final home game of the season. No. 1 Georgia currently is posted as a double-digit favorite in all its home games, which include Ball State on Saturday, South Carolina (Sept. 16), Alabama-Birmingham (Sept. 23) and Kentucky (Oct. 7). A win against the Skyhawks also will give the Bulldogs their longest overall win streak in program history. They entered the season having won 17 games in a row, dating to a 44-28 loss to Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 7, 2020. Georgia also won 17 in a row in a streak from 1945-47.
Georgia entered the season 29-1 over the past two seasons, with two national titles.
Bohannon at a silent disco
To build student support for his football team, Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon has been willing to go where the students are. Recently, that was an on-campus silent disco.
For the uninitiated, a silent disco is like a conventional dance party except for that participants wear wireless headphones and listen to music of their own choosing.
“You just put your headphones on and you can switch to different stations, so perfect for where we are now,” Bohannon said. “Everybody gets to do what they want individually.”
In making the appearance, Bohannon spoke to all the disco goers through their headphones, trying to pump up the students. For the 52-year-old coach, it was an experience.
“It was just different,” he said. “Because you’re not getting any feedback; you’re just talking to yourself. It was just unique.”
Kennesaw State is transitioning from FCS to FBS and will play a nonconference schedule this season.
-Staff writers Chad Bishop, Doug Roberson, D. Orlando Ledbetter, Ken Sugiura, Chip Towers and Gabriel Burns contributed to this report.