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Three (and a half) Georgia Tech Players to Watch Ahead of Tonight’s Game



The defense of the ACC championship has arrived as Pitt will host Georgia Tech Saturday night at Acrisure Stadium. It’s expected to be a chilly, rainy, windy contest under the lights, and that just makes both teams’ ability to run the football even more important.

So, who will be some of the names that Pitt fans should be watching when it comes to the Georgia Tech offensive and defensive impact makers?

Dontae Smith — RB

Everyone knows that Jeff Sims is the engine that drives the Georgia Tech offense, especially with the use of his own legs, but in a cold, rainy game tonight, expect a steady workload for Dontae Smith.

Smith hasn’t been featured a ton this season, but his best showing came courtesy of a 102-yard, three-touchdown day against Western Carolina — Georgia Tech’s only win of the season.

In four games this season, Smith has racked up 191 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. The one-two punch of Sims and Smith on the ground should be heavily utilized.

Pitt’s defense has clamped down after allowing 191 yards to West Virginia in Week 1. The run defense has allowed just 68 yards per game against Tennessee, Western Michigan and Rhode Island.

Rhode Island ran for 63 yards on 22 carries last week, but URI’s Marques DeShields accumulated all of that on one run in the first half.

Georgia Tech’s offense is better suited to run the football, the weather will be suited to run the football and Pitt’s defense will be honed in stopping the run — as it always is.

Ayinde Eley — LB

Pat Narduzzi has said that if Georgia Tech’s defense attempts to limit Pitt through the air Saturday night, he would run the football. One of the GT defenders well-equipped to defend the run and drop back in coverage is Ayinde Eley.

Eley has been an impactful defender this season, leading Georgia Tech with 42 tackles (24 solo) and six tackles for loss, but he’s added two sacks, two forced fumbles and recoveries and two pass breakups.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker will be relied upon even more heavily with fellow linebacker Charlie Thomas missing the first half of the game.

Speaking Thomas, who will miss the first half because of a targeting call in the second half of last week’s 27-10 loss to Central Florida.

Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 207-pound linebacker, is second on the team with 38 tackles (27 solo) this season, and he’s added 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.

He’s one of the most experienced players on the Georgia Tech team, having first played way back in the 2018 season. The loss of Thomas for a half will force Georgia Tech to turn to the duo of Trenilyas Tatum and Demetrius Knight.

LaMiles Brooks — S

Georgia Tech’s passing defense has been a saving grace so far this season, with the Yellow Jackets’ defense allowing just 202.5 yards through the air per game — good for fifth-best in the conference.

LaMiles Brooks hasn’t just been Georgia Tech’s best defensive back, he’s been perhaps its best defender as a whole. His stats (13 tackles (six solo) and an interception) don’t jump off the page, but he’s blanketed opposing receivers.

According to Pro Football Focus, Brooks has allowed just three receptions for 20 yards this season and holding opposing quarterbacks to a 54.9 quarterback rating.

With the conditions Saturday night, it remains to be seen if Pitt will air out the football, but Brooks will be relied upon to slow down the receiving corps featuring the likes of Jared Wayne, Konata Mumpfield and Gavin Bartholomew.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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