ATL Sports HQ Preseason Top 25

Creator:Jamie Squire/Getty Images, Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Copyright:2017 Getty Images

1. Clemson

2. Alabama

3. Georgia

4. Michigan

5. Oklahoma

6. Ohio State

7. LSU

8. Notre Dame

9. Texas

10. Florida

11. Texas A&m

12. Washington

13. Utah

14. Oregon

15. Iowa

16. Nebraska

17. Michigan State

18. UCF

19. Penn State

20. Auburn

21. Northwestern

22. Iowa

23. Missouri

24. Army

25. Boise State

Just Missed: Wisconsin, South Carolina, Miami, Memphis, and Florida State

By: Bret Anderson

What Is Georgia Tech’s X Factor This Season?

Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech has made headlines for their shift from the triple optional to a more traditional spread offense. Those headlines, half the time, failed to mentioned the change on defense as well to a more blitz driven, man coverage attacking defense.

Regardless of how you look at the team, there is talent everywhere. The running back room is stacked. The wide receivers have plenty of talent headlined by Jalen Camp and Malachi Carter.  While the starting QB has not been named, you could not go wrong with any of the four battling for the job.

On the defensive side of things, the linebackers look solid as David Curry is the leader there and Bruce Jordan Swilling has transformed his body this offseason and is poised for a breakout year. The secondary is filled with talent as they are led by Sophomore Safety Juanyeh Thomas, who is also an elite return man for special teams. Tariq Carpenter and Christian Campbell(who actually has the most sacks for returning players) are battling it out for the other  safety spot but both will see the field. The other part of the secondary, the corners, are poised for a big year and look for the other Swilling, Tre Swilling, to have a breakout year as well.

This leads me to the X factor for the team, the trenches. Like I said, the leading sack returner on defense is a safety. The pass rush has to come from somewhere, and after the tragic loss of Brandon Adams, somebody has to step up and be a big run stopper up the middle. Sophomore TK Chimezda is a candidate to become that big force up the middle and Jaquan Henderson is a guy that I really like to step up and be that sack monster that this team needs, although guys like Kelton Dawson and Justice Dingle will contribute off the edge.

The other side of the trenches, offensive line, is a question mark, mainly due to the depth. In the open scrimmage, with a couple expected starters out, the depth did not impress as the blitz packages the defense was bringing out gave them trouble. If this group can stay healthy, they can hold their own, but that will be the big key.

Georgia Tech can win 3 games this season or they could win the Coastal. The talent on both sides has to come together, but it all starts in the trenches.

Thank You Kent Bazemore

Picture Credit: @x_TH3_Truth_x on twitter

Thank you Kent Bazemore for your hard work, dedication and smile that kept the Hawks soaring thru the ups and downs . Five years ago you came to us as a 24 year old underrated forward with a lot to prove. You were an undrafted free agent and showed some promise on your last team before going down with a tendon injury. But that didn’t stop the Hawks from taking a chance on you and it damn sure paid off.

Your first year with the Hawks was more like your early career playing little minutes trying to fit in the new system, but the upcoming years you blossomed into a solid role player, helping the Hawks to their best seasons yet with some playoff success, eventually earning the 4 year 70 million contract you received in 2016. We watched you score your career highs, become a lock down defender, develop a 3 point shot and have some of the flashiest dunks in the NBA.

We will miss your growth and leadership with this young team and also the patented Baze Gaze that had everybody laughing. We wish you the best and hope you excel on your new team.

Thank You Kent

By: Evan Nix

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How Much Longer Can The Braves Keep Austin Riley in AAA?

Image result for austin riley
Karl L Moore Marietta Daily Journal

The Atlanta Braves have themselves a special player down in Gwinnett by the name of Austin Riley. Before the start of the season, many were wondering how he would find a path to the MLB this season after the Josh Donaldson signing. The answer came rather quickly when he got some time in the outfield during the spring. Nearly a month into the season, all the call u chatter had stopped, on April 24th, he was batting .213 with just two homeruns. Since that day, Austin Riley has been on a hot streak that has people wondering how much longer can the Braves keep him down.

Starting on April 25th, Riley has gotten his average up to .300 and has 12 homeruns and and 26 RBI since then. Video game type numbers for such a short span of games. That’s about as good as a 16 game stretch that you will see. The most intriguing thing about that stretch is that Riley has found a new position, left field, where he got some run at during the spring.

When Austin Riley is called up, he will be playing everyday. There will be no point in calling him up and having him spot start and be a pinch hitter. He needs to continue to get at bats and continue to develop, especially if he is playing the outfield.

With Riley a hot as he is, it is hard to keep him down in AAA, but there has to first be a path to the MLB. Right now, there really isn’t an immediate one that would lead to quick playing time. However, a lot can change with this Braves team from now until the trade deadline which quickly change the path for Riley to the MLB.

As we have said, Riley is really forcing the Braves hand. If Riley was doing this a month ago when Ender was struggling at the plate, you could have seen Ender be traded and Austin Riley be brought up while sliding Acuna to left. Now Ender has been on a nice little run at the plate, and his glove, as always, is one of the best in the bigs.

If the team finds themselves as sellers with the trade deadline approaching, no matter how Riley is doing, you will likely see a couple guys moved and see him brought up. Of course another scenario is if someone were to get injured for a significant amount of time and Riley could be called up at that time.

Riley impressed this spring, but as of right now, there really isn’t a place for him on the MLB roster, but he is basically forcing trying to force his way onto the roster, which is a good problem to have if you are the Braves.

Were Riley to keep up with this current pace, it will be hard to not see him on the Braves 25 man roster soon. He is a freakish talent with power that the Braves need, but it is just a matter of a clear path to reveal itself.

Heck, Austin Riley may just create his own path to the bigs.

By: Bret Anderson

 

 

Joe Johnson: The Free Agent Signing Who Saved The Hawks.

Image result for joe johnson hawks
Getty Images cbssports.com

With free agency coming up in a couple months, we look at the guy who is to thank for putting the Hawks back on the map. He went by the name of ISO Joe, but Joe Johnson brought some of the most exciting moments in recent Hawks history and played a huge part in why the Hawks became relevant again in the NBA.

Back in 2005, the Hawks were coming off a 13 win season. Things were not looking good for the franchise who had not made the playoffs since 1999. The team desperately searched for answers, and after whiffing, or missing out on, guys in the draft, the Hawks were essentially stuck in the bottom of the NBA.

General Manager, Buddy Knight, and Head Coach, Mike Woodson, looked to free agency for an answer, and took a gamble on a fast rising 24 year old player by the name of Joe Johnson. They got him in a sign and trade which sent two firsts and Boris Diaw to Phoenix and the Hawks(technically the Suns) essentially signed Joe to a 5 year deal with an average salary at around $12.5 million.

It was a risk worth taking as Johnson just averaged 17.1 points and shout nearly 48% from 3 the previous season. A franchise that desperately needed to make a big move, got the answer to their prayers, and signed a guy that should have, depending on who you ask, should have his number up in the rafters.

The Hawks were a flat out dumpster fire as we mentioned when Joe came here. His first season, brought no playoffs, but the Hawks doubled their win total from the previous season and Joe averaged slightly over 20 points a game. The Hawks also had a high flyer by the name of Josh Smith, who they drafted in 2004, that began to gel and form a nice duo with Joe.

Let’s fast forward to the 2007 season, where a star that this franchise needed, and had not had in about a decade, was born. A young quartet of Al Horford, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Josh Childress were a nice surrounding core for the Hawks. Mike Bibby was also added near the trade deadline of this season.

Joe Johnson missed 25 games due to injury this season, but he fueled the Hawks to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. He averaged 25 points a game, the highest point per game total for a Hawk since Dominique Wilkins averaged close to 30 in 1993. Sure, the Hawks hit on their draft picks to go with Joe Johnson, Horford was a stellar player, Josh Smith was the best rim protector in the NBA, but it all circles back around to Joe Johnson. The guy who believed he could be the guy on a team and he was a big reason why a team went from 13 wins to a perennial playoff team in just 3 seasons.

As we mentioned the Hawks were a playoff team in the 2007-08 season as an 8 seed, and their opponent was the big 3 of the Boston Celtics. With the surrounding coaching controversy about whether or not Mike Woodson should be fired, the Hawks very slim chance of even making this series diminished to just about zero.

However, this city was buzzing. There was excitement for basketball for the first time in a long time. Rappers, movie stars, filled the court side seats. Phillips Arena( Now state Farm Arena) was filled to max capacity every night. Charles Barkley even said, while he thought the Hawks would be swept, he said at the airport, the talk of the city was this team. This team led by Joe Johnson, was a culture changer here in Atlanta.

If you even have heard of the Atlanta Hawks, you know what happened in this series. This one series forever changed how people viewed the Hawks. From the laughing stock of the league to a team that will fight for every thing and play you tooth and nail.

 

 

Joe Johnson averaged 20 points a game this series. The catalyst behind what was almost the biggest upset in NBA history to date because, if you remember, the Celtics originated “the Big 3” of KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce.

This season sparked a decade long run f the Hawks making the playoffs. The team made it no farther than the second round with Joe Johnson, who was traded after the 2011-12, 2 years into his infamous max contract, but that is not the point.

The point is that a guy who could have played anywhere, and wanted to be the guy on a team, chose to do it in Atlanta. He brought together a city. You saw it in the video above, look at the crowd. The city, the fans, were all buzzing, the arena was deemed the Highlight Factory. Kevin Garnett said in an interview a couple years ago that he could even tell the different vibe in Atlanta when the celebrities filled the sidelines and the crowd was buzzing.

This is the scene Hawks fans want. We got our taste of the playoffs, thanks to Joe Johnson. He refueled this city and this generation of fans to love basketball again. Of course you have other key players like Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Zaza, but Joe was the guy.

As we go forward into free agency, the city is buzzing again, much like Joe had the city buzzing. However, it isn’t because of a free agent, it is over a young core that seems to be destined for greatness. The Hawks are poised to add two more top 10 picks to this core, and with the money to sign a max player, it is hard not to be excited.

The main point of all this is, Joe Johnson proved Atlanta can be a destination spot for a big name. He proved this city can be a basketball city. Paul Millsap followed suit a few years ago and was the best player on an Eastern Conference Finals and 60 win team.

Guys like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are expected to give the Hawks a look in free agency, and it all circles back around to Joe Johnson, the guy who changed the culture here in Atlanta. He made the second of the playoffs the norm for this franchise. The NBA Championship is always the ultimate goal but every team has their own standards and Joe Johnson raised them for the Hawks.

Some may be thinking what is the point of this article. Well times are changing again here in Atlanta. Trae Young and John Collins seem ready to take off with this franchise and try set new standards for this franchise with the help of potentially a big name free agent.

The question is what can the norm be for this new age Hawks team. Well it is up to them. Joe Johnson and Al Horford set the bar high, but not high enough, but to the point where you realize how much they changed the culture. There is definitely another culture change underway here in Atlanta. However, if there are going to be new standards for this franchise, it will result in trips to the NBA Finals.

Joe Johnson will always be remembered for that max contract he signed that put the front office in a money pickle. It wasn’t his fault, he earned the money.

Still,  Joe Johnson should be remembered by saving this franchise from its lowest of lows. This city cares about basketball because of Joe Johnson and all the clutch moments he brought to this city.

I became a basketball fan, and a Hawks fan at a young age, because of Joe Johnson. My first ever sports jersey was a Joe Johnson one.

Thank you Joe, your accomplishments here in Atlanta set the bar for this new age of Hawks basketball.

 

Players Who Stood Out at The Spring Game: Jahaziel Lee

 (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Throughout spring the two main question areas for the 2019 Georgia Tech football are the offensive and defensive lines. After losing, not only a great person, but a fantastic player in Brandon Adams, the defensive line questions have grown. While the coaching staff searches for pieces to build the defensive line, there is one player taking advantage of the “position flexibility” that has been preached by the coaching staff all spring.

Jahaziel Lee has seemed to make the most of getting reps on the defensive side of the ball. Since Lee got on campus, he has pretty much been a plug and play tackle for the offense, he even got some time at center last season. With the change in scheme, his mean streak, and the chip he plays with, Lee seems to be better suited on the defensive line more than the offensive line.

He played both in high school. He showed us some of his defensive skills running with the gold team defense in the spring game. In the time he got, he managed to get a couple sacks, and also force a fumble on a scramble from James Graham. Lee will be a player to watch as the team heads into summer workouts, then into fall camp. He looked like a veteran defensive lineman out there on Friday and he will only get better with more reps there. Lee could be one of the surprise position flips that actually ends up sticking with the opposite side of the ball from where he started spring.

By: Jordan St. Clair.