- Jul 4, 2015
Coach: Geoff Collins (3-9, second year)
2019: 3-9 (2-6 in ACC), 111th in SP+
2020 projection: 4-8 (3-5), 58th
Five best returning players: RB Jordan Mason, S Juanyeh Thomas, LG Jack DeFoor, LB David Curry, CB Tre Swilling
Collins' first season in Atlanta was a thought experiment come to life; it was the ultimate Year 0. What happens if you try to move on from the triple option while fielding a two-deep that deploys almost nothing but freshmen and sophomores on both sides of the ball? We got to find out.
The results were predictably painful on offense. With freshman quarterback James Graham, sophomore running back Mason, freshman wide receiver Ahmarean Brown and sophomore receivers Malachi Carter and Adonicas Sanders leading the way and eight freshmen and sophomores seeing snaps on the line, Tech's offense was really, really bad. The Yellow Jackets were 117th in offensive SP+ and 125th in overall success rate. Mason actually had a pretty solid season all things considered (899 yards, 5.2 per carry), and DeFoor earned honorable mention all-conference honors. That's something.
Tariq Carpenter and Kaleb Oliver and cornerbacks Swilling and Zamari Walton is particularly exciting.
If last year was Year 0, then his Year 1 should be a little bit more fun. The offense will still be a major work in progress, though Mason should run behind a solid line and crack 1,000 rushing yards if he stays healthy (and if there are enough games, obviously). A little more consistency out of the receiver trio -- which averaged 15.8 yards per catch but with a dreadful 50% catch rate -- would be beneficial.
The defense has, at worst, top-50 potential. Considering the Jackets haven't topped 49th in defensive SP+ since 2008, that's exciting. Thirteen of Tech's top 14 tacklers return, plus transfers Antonneous Clayton (Florida defensive end) and Derrik Allen (Notre Dame defensive back) are eligible, and a few members of Collins' 27th-ranked recruiting class -- four-star corner Miles Brooks, or high-three-stars such as corner Jalen Huff and ends Akelo Stone and Jared Ivey -- could crack the rotation. (Collins' haul also included four-stars in QB Jeff Sims and RB Jahmyr Gibbs, either of whom could see time quickly.) This defense has massive growth potential. As soon as it finds a pass-rusher.
Even with a strong defense, finding six wins will be difficult, as Tech plays Georgia, Notre Dame and UCF in the nonconference schedule and draws a season opener against Clemson in cross-division play. SP+ projects the Jackets to improve dramatically but gives them only about a 1-in-5 chance of bowling. Still, improving on last season's 3-9 record is likely, and Tech will carry a truckload of experience into 2021.