The first in a series of previews of the teams on Georgia Tech's 2014 schedules, with analysis provided by writers who cover each of the teams. We'll start with Wofford, courtesy of Myron Hosea, who covers the team for the Greenville News. You can read his stuff here and follow him on Twitter here.
Record in 2013: 5-6
Sagarin rating in 2013: 176
Semi-interesting fact: Wofford is one of at least four colleges nicknamed the Terriers. The other three: Boston University, Hiram College, Saint Francis College.
Recent games against FBS teams: 69-3 loss to Baylor last year, 24-7 loss to South Carolina in 2012, 35-27 loss to Clemson in 2011.
Q: I know Wofford has been relatively successful in recent years, with FBS postseason appearances in 2007, 08, 10, 11 and 12. What has contributed to that high level of consistency?
A. One reason for that high level of consistency is the word "consistency" itself. Wofford is one of those programs that has developed a system, annually finds the players that fit that system and run it well, and they execute week-to-week. As you know from covering Georgia Tech, the offense that Wofford runs (very much like Tech's) can be difficult for teams on the FCS and FBS levels to defend if they prepare for it just once a year.
Wofford also always seem to be outmanned defensively, but again, they have a system on that side of the ball that leads to big plays at key moments. Head coach Mike Ayers once told us after a game in which Wofford's defense was pushed all over the field and yet the team won that "until they cross that last line (the goal line), it's just stats." I think Wofford's year-to-year success mirrors the offense/defense. You don't think they're doing much, but at the end of the game the Terriers have 400-500 yards of offense and more points than you. They know what works, they know who they need to make it work, and they go put it together.
Ayers being head coach since 1988, of course, is a big factor in that consistency. The staff has not had a lot of turnover until the last few years. The long-time defensive coordinator left for Appalachian State after the 2012 season. Another long-time assistant replaced him last season, but he left for a new career after 2013. Yet another long-time assistant has the defensive reins this season.
Q: Is the 2014 team expected to be on par with the recent teams that have reached the postseason?
A: Certainly the system remains in place, and I think the players are there for the 2014 Wofford team to be on par with the recent teams. This is a program that has had just two losing seasons out of the last 12, so you think Wofford will rebound this season. The revamp of the Southern Conference football alignment (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Elon out; Mercer and VMI in this year), should work in their favor.
To make the playoffs this season, four road games are important: at Gardner-Webb, at Samford, at Chattanooga, and at Furman. All four of those teams beat Wofford last season - the last three in that season-ending four-game losing streak last year. After the season opener, all of Wofford's games are winnable.
The 2013 team wasn't as effective at making plays consistently as teams in the recent past. Wofford seemed to lose its ability to make a big play or a big stop or not turn the ball over as it lost the final four games a year ago. It was clear during spring practice that the emphasis was on finding the players who could do those things consistently this year.
Q: Who are one or two players that Tech needs to be concerned about?
A: Defensively: Kevin Thomas, the returning starter at one of the inside linebacker positions will be the key to the defense in 2014. Ayers has said he is the man they will depend on to be the leader. D-linemen E. J. Speller and Tarek Odom are pretty good.
Offensively: Fullback Jonny Martin will need to have a good season for the offense to get back to its usual effectiveness. If one of the four quarterback candidates takes control in August practice and becomes the clear starter, then he will be a player to watch.
Special teams: No one, really, at this time.
Q: How would you describe what the wingbone offense is?
A: Wofford's version of the wingbone is very similar to Tech's and Georgia Southern, especially in its base look. It has become more multiple in the past couple of years, however. I think they tend to run one-back and two-back sets a lot with an extra wide receiver split out or one of the HBs wide. They'll even run a shotgun look. Still, it comes down to having at least a couple of options on each play. I think which sets they'll run out of the most in 2014 will depend on who wins the QB job and how many of the HBs step up this year.
Q: Has Wofford or its fans harbored any hopes of making the jump to FBS?
A: I have not felt that Wofford or its fans see a need to jump to FBS. With an enrollment of 1,600 students, Wofford is one of the smallest schools in Division 1. I get the sense that the Terriers athletic program wants to be the best it can be right where it's at in Division 1/FCS. As an athletic program, they've had their most success in FCS football and men's basketball (Wofford won the Southern Conference tourney last season to make the NCAA tournament and has almost everyone back).
Additionally... You may have already seen this, but Wofford has 16 players from the state of Georgia plus three signees from Georgia. Three of the four players vying for QB are from Georgia: Evan Jacks (Johns Creek), Brandon Goodson (Dacula), and Brad Butler (Rome). Some other players from Georgia who could have big roles are HB/WR Nick Colvin (Bogart), HB Cam Flowers (Damascus), WR Wade Francis (Alpharetta), and TE Taylor Bragg (Thomasville).