CHARLOTTE — Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall was scrolling through Instagram a couple of weeks ago when he stumbled across a group of pictures posted by an old friend from his high school days in Georgia.
The account belonged to Austin Bryant, one of the four members of the Clemson football team's dominant defensive line, and in the photos, Bryant posted a step-by-step progression of himself sacking Florida State quarterback James Blackman.
Marshall, whose high school team beat Bryant's two years in a row before they each went off to college, decided to write a goofy comment under the photos as a fun way of saying hello. The two old pals don't talk or see each other as regularly as they might like, but thanks to a Week 4 matchup between the Tigers and the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta this season, they can circle on their calendars when they will meet again.
When they do, Marshall — a senior and a captain for Georgia Tech — has an idea of what to expect.
It is his personal opinion that Bryant and his teammates on the defensive line could be in the midst of making history.
"Everybody's going to talk about their D-line for the next couple of days and probably the rest of this year. If they stay healthy, they're by far the best D-line you'll see play college football,” Marshall said. “In my opinion, and I'm sure other people will say the same thing, they're the best group you'll see come through this game."
That type of praise speaks for itself.
At the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte this week, the buzz is about Clemson's quarterback situation and about the Tigers' monstrous defensive line that every opponent in the conference is essentially dreading.
Marshall vividly remembers what it was like to have Bryant, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins running at him full-speed in 2017 when Clemson beat the Yellow Jackets, 24-10..
Georgia Tech is hoping that with a more experienced Marshall and a healthy dose of returning players, the Yellow Jackets can hang with Clemson's line better than they did last year. The rival-like nature of the Clemson-Georgia Tech game every year is not lost on either team.
"We're always constantly working on the blocking schemes, better ways to do things,” Marshall said. “Better ways to block up front."
As a team, Clemson racked up 46 sacks for minus 246 yards last season. Georgia Tech linebacker Brant Mitchell, who is helping lead the charge in getting the Yellow Jackets on board with a new defense, said he admired the way Clemson dominates in the trenches.
"They have been a force to be reckoned with. They’re really good at what they do," he said.
But it is his mindset that Georgia Tech can hang with anybody, including Clemson.
"We’ve had our success with Clemson. They’ve won the last two. But I’m not sure, I think we’re 5-6 against them. We’ve probably had a better record against them than anybody else that they play," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "It’s always a challenge. They’ve got great players. Dabo (Swinney) does a good job. They’re tough to play. But they’re not invincible."
The Yellow Jackets will get a chance to prove it on Sept. 22.