The Q&A segment is back this week with Tyler Duke, who contributes to SB Nation's Georgia Tech blog, From The Rumble Seat. My answers to Tyler's questions about the Wolfpack will be up at FTRS.
BTP: Are you surprised that Georgia Tech is 7-2 at this point? What were fans' expectations like heading into the season?
TD: I'm not surprised by the 7-2 record at all. I actually had Tech at 7-2 with losses to Miami and UNC in my preseason predictions. The schedule hasn't been very hard, and the team has done enough to be in a pretty good position. The expectations were pretty standard before the season. There were some questions marks on both side of the ball, but most people believed the team would have two or three losses at this point in the season. The offense has been better than expected, while the defense has been much worse than we imagined.
BTP: How would you compare Justin Thomas to the other quarterbacks who've run Paul Johnson's offense at Tech?
TD: Thomas is in his own category compared to other QB's that have ran this system. His speed is something that has been unrivaled at Tech since Johnson arrived, and he has used that many times to save the offense. He isn't as powerful as Nesbitt was running the ball, but his speed makes up for that for the most part. His arm has surprised some people this year, and at times he has looked like the best thrower that has been in the system as well. His main weakness in the passing game is overthrowing receivers high, which is likely a result of him trying to throw over lineman due to his height. As a sophomore, the thought of Thomas starting for two more years has really excited some fans in Atlanta.
BTP: Georgia Tech has had its share of defensive problems this season (we feel your pain), but what are some of the bright spots on that side of the ball?
TD: In terms of the defense as a whole, the only bright spot has been the ability to force turnovers. Without some timely forced turnovers this season, we could be talking about this defense as one that has been historically bad. The secondary led by safety Jamal Golden is adept at forcing turnovers though, and that has saved them a few times this year. An individual player that has been a bright spot is linebacker P.J. Davis. Davis is just a sophomore and has really been playing well. He plays with a high intensity on every snap and is very good rushing the quarterback as well. Look for him to make a big play on Saturday.
BTP: In general, how have Georgia Tech's special teams looked this season? What's going well and what's iffy right now?
TD: Eh. There's not much more to say. Kicker Harrison Butker has been inconsistent and is much better from 40 yards out than he is from 40 yards in. The kick return unit showed some promise earlier in the season but has been nothing to get excited about recently. The kick coverage unit has probably been the most consistent. Butker has had his fair share of touchbacks and the coverage has been pretty solid for the most part.
BTP: Are there any injuries on the Georgia Tech side that could have a significant impact on the game?
TD: If I was answering this question yesterday, I would have had a different answer, but it looks like Tech will be fairly healthy for the game on Saturday. Running backs Zach Laskey and Charles Perkins both returned to practice on Wednesday and it looks promising that they'll be ready to go.
BTP: You are closer to the situation so perhaps you will be able to enlighten us: just what sort of sorcery is David Cutcliffe using and why does the rest of the Coastal seem helpless to stop him?
TD: It's pretty hard to understand. Tech played a terrible game against Duke, and it didn't make much sense. Justin Thomas made some decisions we haven't seen him make any other time this season, and the Blue Devils continually ran it right up the middle at will. Duke seems to be the most balanced team in the division right now, and even though they don't do anything especially well, it looks like they should represent the Coastal in the championship game again this year. Pittsburgh blew a wonderful chance to make things interesting last week when their kicker missed a 26-yard field goal to win the game. I was in the car listening to it before heading into Bobby Dodd Stadium, and it definitely put a damper on the rest of the day for me.