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Behind enemy bylines: Clemson vs. Georgia Tech

Taylor Grey, The Technique

DJ Uiagalelei (5) runs behind Clemson’s offensive line against Georgia Tech in Memorial Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021.

Ahead of Clemson’s 2022 season opener against Georgia Tech on Sept. 5, sports editor Justin Robertson spoke to the sports editor of The Technique, Will Fuss.
Justin Robertson (JR): Coming off a 3-9 season last year, what has been the vibe around campus on the football team and the Yellow Jackets’ potential this season?
Will Fuss (WF): Yeah, I mean, we are a school of pessimists, a lot of the time. I’m a lifelong Tech fan, so I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. But we’ve made a lot of changes to the team this offseason, like a new offensive coordinator in Chip Long, who coached at Notre Dame and Tulane and had a lot of success. On that side of the ball, we’ve had a ton of really good transfers come in from a lot of schools — a bunch of guys who are three, four, five-star recruits out of high school. And then a pretty good recruiting class, including a couple of guys who were in the last recruiting class who didn’t play this past year. So, there’s definitely some optimism around it, especially knowing that there’s a lot on the line this year. I’m a senior, and so I haven’t seen a Tech team while I’ve been here that has won more than three games, so that’d be nice. Getting a win over Georgia or a few more ACC wins would be fun. Geoff Collins is in the fourth year of his contract, and we’ve got a lot of new players that I think want to prove themselves here, so there’s definitely optimism. We have the fourth hardest schedule in college football, which leads us to worry a little bit, but we definitely have a bunch of winnable games in the schedule. And we showed last year that we can win or be competitive in tough games.
JR: With Clemson’s down season last year, do you think teams like Georgia Tech smell blood in the water and have a deeper belief they can defeat the Tigers?
WF: ACC teams, in general, are going to have some confidence. I mean, Pitt was our conference champion (last season). Wake Forest, NC State and a couple of other teams have looked to be closer to that Clemson level. Whether or not Tech is one of those teams, I feel like there’s definitely more confidence across the league, and it’s not a one-team league anymore. JR: Heading into this matchup, who’s an under-the-radar player for Georgia Tech that fans should know? WF: I’ll give you one on each side of the ball. We have one (defensive lineman), Zeek Biggers, who was a 6-foot6, 363-pound freshman last year, if I remember correctly. He’s a bruiser if you watch his high school highlights. He didn’t play a ton last year, but he had recorded a couple of runs stuffs in the UNC game, and he’s definitely that kind of that big bruising nose tackle prospect that gives offensive lines trouble. On the other side of the ball, I don’t know if underrated is the right word, but Malachi Carter is probably our best wide receiver. He was good for us last year and is going to be back for another round this year and should be good, especially with more going on in the quarterback room. Jeff Sims is still the projected starter (at quarterback), but Carter has a chance to catch a bunch of passes from whoever we have playing. He is a very explosive player, and he led the team in receptions and yards last year and is set to potentially repeat that and be one of the more underrated receivers, not just on Georgia Tech but in the entire ACC.
JR: Former Clemson quarterback Taisun Phommachanh transferred to Georgia Tech in the spring. What have the coaches been saying about him and what he brings to the table?
WF: Obviously, Taisun is a very, very strong prospect. And I like Simms. Simms has a ton of upside, and he was really good out of high school. But if Simms has trouble placing the ball this year, we have options. I don’t know if it would be a committee approach per se, but I think that, especially with a lot of our staff having coached for more time with the program, it wouldn’t shock me if a lot of players are on a short leash.
JR: In your mind, how big is it for both teams to win this opening game of the season?
WF: Either way, a conference win to start the year looks good, especially in what’s, to some extent, a rivalry game, even if it hasn’t been the closest in years past for Georgia Tech. A win would be huge. I don’t know what the spread is right now, but I know last year, it was like a three or four-touchdown spread. And that was a six-point game when it all was said and done. So, I mean, that gave us a lot of hope last year. Playing this game in Mercedes Benz Stadium is fun — that’s where we beat UNC last year. Using that different setting, if we could pick up a win or just, in general, look like we’ve made a big jump from last season, the players, coaches and fans will be happy. Everyone will be happy for the win, but it’ll give us a much better outlook on the rest of the year because most sources are projecting another three-win season. But that’s not our ceiling.
JR: Who will win on Monday, and what will the final score be?
WF: I’m going to say our offense gets rolling better than last year, but Clemson will pull it off, 41-21. Interview responses are edited for length and clarity

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