ATLANTA — Andy McCollum has prepared for this Saturday, emotionally and mentally, for more than seven months.
Internally, in his head, it is safe to assume this particular upcoming game has played out from beginning to end several times since he arrived back in his native Georgia and at Georgia Tech.
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“I knew this week was coming, because there’s nobody who’s got more respect for Tom O’Brien and North Carolina State and those players, the ones I recruited and their staff,” McCollum said.
Now the Yellow Jackets’ defensive line coach, McCollum came to the Flats this offseason on the heels of the sudden departure of Giff Smith, Georgia Tech’s previous defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator who left days before Signing Day to take a job as an assistant with the Buffalo Bills.
McCollum’s arrival also signaled his departure from North Carolina State, a school he called home for three seasons, and where he developed a friendship with O’Brien, the Wolfpack head coach.
When the Yellow Jackets and Wolfpack meet Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium, it won’t be the only time McCollum may linger during pregame festivities across to the other sideline. Georgia Tech also plays Middle Tennessee State this season; a program with which he previously served as head coach.
“Even when (Georgia Tech head) Coach (Paul) Johnson started talking to me about this job, that was the one thing I looked at,” McCollum said about playing N.C. State and Middle Tennessee.
With the Wolfpack sporting a 3-0 record and high expectations, McCollum is expecting a tough, physical game.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” he said. “I know how good they are. The thing about North Carolina State is that we played a lot of young (players) when Coach O’Brien got there basically three years ago. And they’ve been through the fire.”
Entering this season, the Wolfpack were 16-21 the last three years.
Blair, Cross honored
Two Yellow Jackets were named ACC players of the week on Monday for their contributions to Georgia Tech’s 30-24 win over North Carolina.
Senior place-kicker Scott Blair received specialist of the week honors after kicking three field goals on three attempts to help propel the victory. One of the makes was from 46 yards; his longest of the season and second-longest of his career. He had a 49-yarder in last year’s ACC championship.
It was the second time Blair had received player of the week honors. Last season, following another three-field goal effort against Clemson in September, he earned the title.
For Cross, the selection was a first, as the sophomore recorded five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a key pass break-up on a fourth-quarter North Carolina drive. Cross’ lone sack came on fourth-down late in the game and helped the Yellow Jackets hold the Tar Heels scoreless in the final 15 minutes of play.
“It feels good, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do where I want to be, but it still feels good to be credited for making a couple of plays on the field,” Cross said.
Earlier this season, center Sean Bedford earned co-offensive lineman of the week honors following Georgia Tech’s 41-10 win over South Carolina State.
In addition to McCollum’s time in Raleigh, N.C., there are several other personnel connections between N.C. State and Georgia Tech.
Jon Tenuta, the Yellow Jackets’ defensive coordinator from 2002-07, now heads the linebackers at N.C. State after a brief stint the past two seasons at Notre Dame.
Just before Johnson officially took over the program, Tenuta served as interim head coach, following the post-Georgia game firing of Johnson’s predecessor, Chan Gailey.
“We agreed that it was probably better to go different ways,” Johnson said, referring to why he didn’t retain Tenuta for his new staff. “He had some things he wanted to look at, and I had some people I wanted to talk to. It was, you know, very cordial, very professional.”
While Georgia Tech has no players from the Tar Heel State on its roster, the Wolfpack have 12 players from the Peach State, including former Dublin standout Rashard Smith, Trinity Christian’s Colby Jackson and Macon natives Michael Lemon and D.J. Green. Lemon transferred to N.C. State following a brief, drama-filled tenure at Georgia.
Jerseys a mystery
It has been reported that N.C. State denied Georgia Tech’s request this offseason to wear white for its home game against the Wolfpack instead of the more traditional dark-colored uniforms most teams sport inside their own confines.
Since Johnson’s arrival three years ago, the Yellow Jackets have made it their policy to wear white at home, if possible. That typically involves an appeal to each of their home schedule opponents. Last year, Wake Forest denied the Yellow Jackets’ request and forced the home team to wear gold at Bobby Dodd Stadium for the first time under Johnson.
As a result of the rumblings this season, the mystery into what colored jerseys the Yellow Jackets will wear Saturday has begun. Johnson declined comment on the matter Monday.
When asked what his team would be wearing, he said, “I’m not sure.”
In gold, the Yellow Jackets beat the Demon Deacons in overtime last year. In blue, they lost the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Johnson’s debut season.
The issue is of concern to some fans because the Institute has announced it is holding a student-sponsored “white-out” this weekend.
Wake Forest game time announced
The ACC on Monday announced the game time and television network for next Saturday’s game at Wake Forest.
In their third road game of the season, the Yellow Jackets will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. for a 7 p.m. kickoff with the Demon Deacons. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
On Sunday, the Yellow Jackets learned that this Saturday’s home game against North Carolina State would have a noon kickoff and will air on ESPN.