Tech football unlocks new chapter, Brent Key promoted to head coach

Brent Key, in gray, was announced on Nov. 29 as Tech’s full-time head coach after leading the team to a 4-4 record over the final eight games of the season. // Photo courtesy of Taylor Gray

On Tuesday Nov. 29, athletic director J Batt and President Ángel Cabrera officially announced interim head coach Brent Key will be taking over as head coach of the Jackets’ football team for the coming seasons. The decision comes after what Batt told the team was an “exhaustive search” that had many circulating rumors, with there even being a claim on Monday that a coach had been hired. Key will be the 21st head coach to lead the Jackets onto the field and only the fifth Tech alumnus to hold the position. 

Key took over as interim coach for the team after the fourth game of the season, a 27-10 loss at UCF in a game where Tech outgained the Knights by 119 yards, moving Tech to a 1-3 record. Key won the hearts of fans right away, defeating the then No. 24 ranked Pittsburgh in his opening game and delivering an emotional post game interview on how proud he was of the team. He then brought the Jackets home to beat a momentum-filled Duke team in an overtime thriller on Homecoming, making Key only the third Tech head coach in the last 55 years to win his first two games. 

Many fans and players began calling for Key’s promotion after a huge upset victory in Chapel Hill over then No. 13 UNC and the most competitive first half against Georgia — the Jackets only trailed 10-7 — since Tech beat Georgia back in 2016. Key went 4-4 as an interim coach with numerous accolades: beating two ranked opponents on the road for the first time since 2005, producing four ACC victories for the first time since 2018, winning consecutive games for the first time since 2018 and winning on Homecoming for the first time since 2017. Before being named interim coach, Key was in his fourth season as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the Jackets and had previously coached the offensive line at Alabama for three years. Under his leadership, the Jackets’ run game only saw improvement, being in the top half of the ACC rushing statistics the past two years. He also has been flagged as an excellent recruiter, having been ranked number one in the country as a recruiter for his 2020 efforts and number two the year prior by 247Sports. 

Key’s ability to produce success and instill a winning culture in just eight games during a season that looked like it was heading for disaster was seen as beyond impressive by experts, and has produced excitement for what he can do next season. It is clear Key has the love of the players as seen in a video shared by Tech football of the announcement of his hire to the team, but his biggest test starts now, as many star players are beginning to enter the transfer portal. Key will need to either retain these players or recruit new stars from the portal to wear the white and gold. This offseason is crucial for Key and much will be expected of him entering the 2023 campaign. 

The 2023 season will be the first year where the ACC plays without divisions, with Tech’s conference opponents being Louisville, Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia, Syracuse, UNC, Miami and Boston College. Key will have his first game as the full-time head coach in Mercedes-Benz Stadium against the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.