Clemson football will open the season against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Labor Day Monday. While this game will be in Atlanta, it won’t be at Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. It will be at Mercedes Benz Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons.
Georgia Tech is now entering its third season under head coach Geoff Collins. Anyone being objective knew that Collins had a big job ahead of him with the conversion of Tech’s triple threat offense into a more modern offense. Other schools that have made such an attempt, like Georgia Southern, have found it to be very difficult. Southern tried once to move away from the triple threat, abandoned the attempt out of frustration, and are now trying to replace it again.
It isn’t just installing a new playbook – you must have the right personnel to be successful, which normally would take 3-4 recruiting cycles. With the advent of the transfer portal, one would think the process could be expedited. Unfortunately for Collins, the portal has made the process more difficult.
The Yellow Jackets lost running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who elected to transfer to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Statistically, Gibbs didn’t make a huge mark, but a lot of that had to do with problems on the Tech offensive line. Most observers acknowledge Gibbs’ talent and understand he is a huge loss for the Jackets.
Tech also lost backup quarterback Jordan Yates to transfer, although his situation was more understandable. Yates was a graduate and had one season remaining. He started eight games for Tech when starter Jeff Sims was out due to injury. Sims returns this season, and although it seems like he is a true veteran, he is officially a sophomore due to 2020 not counting towards eligibility due to COVID. Yates was praised by several observers for his play in relief of Sims, but as he understood he wouldn’t likely play barring injury, Yates elected to transfer to Sam Houston State.
Collins has used the portal to bring in players to replace Gibbs and Yates. Tech has two transfers at running back and two at quarterback, including former Clemson quarterback Taisun Phommachanh. Collins has also overhauled his offensive staff with new offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, who Tiger fans will remember from his Heisman Trophy winning career with Florida State.
Another Clemson transfer for the Yellow Jackets is guard Paul Tchio, who is expected to start this season alongside sophomore Jordan Williams, who was one of the few bright spots for Tech last season. Tech ultimately brings back two offensive starters: Sims and Williams. They are basically starting over on offense.
Clemson football takes on Georgia Tech in the 2022 opener on Labor Day night and that’s unfortunate for Geoff Collins in his effort to turn the Yellow Jackets program around
Unfortunately for Collins, it isn’t any better on defense. Just like offense, they will have two starters back in 2022: linebackers Charlie Thomas and Ayinde Eley. Most of Georgia Tech’s key contributors from 2021 left for the NFL or decided to transfer.
This is a key season for Collins, who needs to show some progress after a 9-25 record in his first three seasons. Patience is hard to come by in college football, and it is fair for Ramblin’ Wreck faithful to expect year four to be the year they break through. It is hard to imagine this happening for Collins when he only has four total returning starters.
What makes it even more of a challenge for Collins is that they must open against Clemson. While there are plenty of questions regarding the Tiger offense, the defense is expected to be one of the best in the country. The Tech offensive line isn’t likely to be able to slow down Clemson’s defensive line, which will start four players projected to be drafted in 2023. Sims has earned respect around the conference, but it is hard to imagine that he will be able to be effective with all the turnover in personnel around him.
If this game were to be played in late October, it might be different. Tech would have had a chance to figure out who they are. As it stands now, Labor Day night stands to be a long one for Collins and the Yellow Jackets.