ATHENS — Ken Sugiura is awesome. If you’re like most Georgia fans, you probably don’t spend a lot of time reading about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, at least until this week anyway. But you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Ken’s not only a good reporter, he’s one funny dude, and his wit comes through in his writing. And if you think that’s good, you should read his Facebook posts!
Ken, a Michigan graduate who grew up in Northfield, Ill., outside Chicago, lives in Atlanta with his wife and three young children. You can read his stories on the Tech page of the AJC.com website and he’s a great follow on Twitter @ksugiuraajc
Here’s Sugiura’s answers to my questions this week:
1. What’s the general feeling on The Flats about the way the season has gone?
Sugiura: “That’s a funny question. I think there’s some fans that seem to have had their fill of coach Paul Johnson and dwell more on bad losses to North Carolina and Clemson and problems with the defense and not on a road win at Virginia Tech and a four-win improvement from last season. But, given that the Jackets were picked sixth in the Coastal and were 3-3 at the halfway point, to be at 7-4 and have both sides of the ball getting better (mostly), I think there’s a sense that the season has turned out pretty well.”
2. Obviously we can see the statistics but what kind of year is QB Justin Thomas having?
Sugiura: “He is having a strong senior season. It’s unfortunate that with a loaded group of quarterbacks in the ACC (starting with Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson), he probably won’t sniff All-ACC. He’s made a lot of big plays and has been dangerous both with his arm and legs. A lot of the difference from last season, though, is who’s around him. Last year, they were really young at the skill positions and then had a slew of injuries. The offensive line was not as good as it was expected to be. He was put in a positon of having to make plays on his own and he couldn’t do it frequently enough. This year, Dedrick Mills has been a highly effective B-back (fullback) and he’s got more experience and skill at the A-back (slotback) and wide receiver spots.”
3. Who’s the best player Georgia fans have probably never heard of?
Sugiura: Maybe Clinton Lynch, an A-back from Norcross, where he was teammates with Lorenzo Carter. Lynch was actually a late flip from Georgia State in 2014 but has turned into one of the team’s biggest playmakers. On just 46 touches, he has seven touchdowns and 15 plays of 20 yards or more. He’s kind of the prototype of a player who’s not excessively big, fast or strong, but excels in the scheme. When safeties get caught looking in the backfield on play action or suck up to play the run, Lynch is often the guy running free in the secondary.”
4. How’s J.J. Green doing?
Sugiura: “Quite well, I think. He has started eight games at A-back and is probably the best perimeter blocker in the group. He’s the guy that might spring an option pitch to the perimeter for a 40-yard gain by cut blocking a cornerback or safety to clear out an alley. I think the team likes the energy and confidence that he has brought. He was not made available to media this week, but I gather that he’s pretty fired up to face his old teammates.”
5. How bad would you say the Yellow Jackets — and the Yellow Jacket Nation — want to beat Georgia on Saturday.
Sugiura: “Yellow Jacket Nation wants it very badly. It’s without question the game most fans want to win most, and second place probably isn’t that close. My sense of it is that players and coaches want it, too, obviously, but don’t obsess on it 365 days a year like fans tend to do. I wasn’t around prior to Paul Johnson’s hire, so I don’t know what it was like before. But while he wants to win badly – he’s a ridiculously competitive person – he puts ACC games first and only turns the focus to Georgia once game week hits, and I imagine that filters down.”
SUGIURA’S PREDICTION: I hate making predictions, but the one I made for the paper was that Tech would win 24-21. I can see it going either way, obviously. Tech has been getting some turnover help in the past two games thanks to better pass rush (and some gifts). If that continues (Georgia has turned the ball over six times in the past three games), that would help the Jackets’ cause immensely.”