In lieu of a traditional Q&A with the opposing blogger, in this case From the Rumble Seat or Barrel of Rum, we're going to do something a little different this week. We have something special in store for you guys later this week with FTRS, but for now, we're going to talk about Georgia Tech with two bloggers whose teams have already faced the Yellow Jackets.
One of Georgia Tech's better offensive games came when it scored 30 points against an undermanned but still talented North Carolina team in Week 3. Tar Heel Fan was nice enough to answer some questions about that game to see what went right for the Jackets in that game and what we can expect from them when they're playing their best.
On the flip side is Georgia Tech's recent defeat against Clemson when it managed 13 points, its lowest output since the 2008 Peach Bowl. DrB from Shakin the Southland answered a few questions about that game to give us some insight on how Clemson held the Jacket offense to just 13 points and what to expect from the them when they're not executing.
Georgia Tech 30, North Carolina 24 with Tar Heel Fan
The tell-tale sign that I look for when wondering if the Georgia Tech offense is clicking or not comes from the box score. When this offense is rolling, it's getting close to equal production from its quarterback, B-backs and A-backs. The Yellow Jackets got that against UNC.
Joshua Nesbitt ran for 104 yards, Anthony Allen ran for 115 and Orwin Smith and Embry Peeples combined for 115. When GT is getting that kind of balance, it's tough to stop. It also signals the opposing defense pretty much has no idea where the ball's going.
Another thing to look for is lengthy drives and GT had a doozy against the Tar Heels. The Jackets ground out a 20 play drive that lasted the last 10:32 of the first half and resulted in a field goal. If the Jackets are able to get a lead, they are really good at sitting on it.
A final, more visual, cue comes from watching the offensive linemen. When they're blocking well, the center or guard depending on the defensive alignment is able to get to the second level and cut block the middle linebacker. The visual effect is a jarring one because it looks like a wave of white knocking down the opponents' front seven. However, when a cut block is missed it's pretty easy to see and the opposing lineman or linebacker is free to make a play.
Here's a play from their 10:32 drive against UNC. As the play begins, the center takes the defensive tackle off his right shoulder leaving the right guard to attack the second level.
The near-side defensive end for UNC crashes down on Nesbitt, but the ball goes to Allen, who runs through the B gap, following the right guard. The right tackle, which allowed the end to crash down, now has to take on the near-side OLB.
The right guard executes his block well, but the right tackle wasn't able to get to the OLB in time and he's able to make a play, holding Allen to "only" six yards. It was a well executed play by the offensive linemen and they were one block away from it being a really big play.
Now, here's THF to give us some more insight on the game.
What were the Jackets doing that made their run game effective in your game?
I am not sure it was any one thing other than the fact it was the triple option and UNC has had trouble with it all three years it has seen it. The Heels had issues with it even when they won big in 2008. Georgia Tech still racked up yards but simply did not convert points(of course 2008 was the season of the "bend but don't break" defense.) The biggest issue in the game this season was the fact UNC was missing seven starters on defense, two of them NFL first round defensive linemen not to mention a boatload of experience. There was also the sense the unit was ill prepared to handle the triple option which puts some of the blame on the coaching staff. UNC had two weeks to prepare but at times it looked as though they were seeing it all for the first time. Also, it was not the best outing for linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter. They looked as though they were pressing too much, flying around trying to do everything which put them out of position at certain points.
How much did the 10-minute drive in the second quarter wear down the UNC defense?
It probably had some impact in the area of fatigue but more importantly it kept UNC's offense, which had been scoring with ease, off the field . When you also consider Al Groh's 2nd half adjustments that curtailed UNC's offensive production, had they been able to squeeze one or two more drives out of the 2nd quarter, maybe picked up 6-10 more points, it may have changed the complexion of the game.
Looking back on it, was there one player or certain type of play that you feel that if you'd been able to stop the outcome would have been different?
T.J. Yates' two fumbles were obviously critical. The one coming in the 3rd quarter was probably the more crucial of the two. UNC had just stopped Georgia Tech on 4th and 2 at around midfield which was UNC's first defensive stop of the day. On the first offensive play, Yates is moving in the pocket when his hand bumps on the backs causing the ball to pop loose. Georgia Tech recovered and went on to tie the game up at 24. It also put the defense back on the field and undoubtedly deflated them considering they finally made a big stop only to see the offense waste it. Had UNC been able to do something with that drive, it could have given them a two possession lead. Instead the game was tied. Yates' second fumble in the fourth quarter came with the Heels trailing 27-24. Georgia Tech converted the miscue into a FG for the eventual final deficit. Obviously critical since UNC was forced to try and get a TD at the end but the 3rd quarter turnover was back-breaking for a myriad of reasons.
Clemson 27, Georgia Tech 13 with Shakin the Southland
Clemson was able to basically shutdown Nesbitt, holding him to seven yards on 14 carries (not counting a sack) and held the Jackets without a rushing touchdown. The long possessions weren't there, either. By the time GT had a drive of over 1:45, it was down 17-0.
There are a lot of ways to try to slow down this offense. Stopping it is out of the questions, but some teams have been able to slow it down. NC State sent Nate Irving in through the middle to try and disrupt Nesbitt and had good success with it. However, this is most effective against their midline option and on speed option plays. Irving got to Nesbitt before he was able to react and force the ball out of his hand, allowing the rest of the defense to pursue the A-back.
Like I said, it's effective against midline and speed option plays, and only when you have an inside linebacker as good as Irving. As Notre Dame learned against Navy, it's dangerous to just bring linebackers up the gut against GT's usual triple option attack.
Here's DrB to give us an idea of what worked for the Tigers last week. Just because something Clemson or NC State or Iowa did that worked against the option doesn't mean that it will work for the Hokies or even that Bud Foster will run it. Johnson will have his adjustments in line just like Foster will have what he wants to run. The winner will be the team that makes the better halftime adjustments.
What defensive scheme was most successful for Clemson against the Yellow Jackets?
I detailed it in the film review post I put up this morning. In short, all the DL have Dive first. Ends crash up the B-gap to take the Dive back first, with their heads up watching to see if he actually gets the ball. That is why the End is aligned in a 2-point stance when we went 4-3. Technically his assignment is Dive-to-QB. It is not a one-assignment scheme.
DTs have Dive only, backside contain/then pursue on anything away.
MLB has Dive first, then QB on the pitch if the DE gets suckered by the Dive. Dive to QB assignment again.
OLB has QB-to-pitch, if the End is out of the play, and the MLB isn't there on the QB, the OLB must force the pitch (he hits the QB) and the secondary must come up in support. If the End is there, the End takes the QB and the OLB hits the pitch man and plays him to the boundary, trying to string it out as wide as possible.
Secondary support is determined by coverage. For VT, I suspect it will be mostly Safety support. Clemson played hard cover 2 on one side and quarters to Field side. On the C2 side, the CB has pitch support. Quarters side, Safety support.
When we went 3-4, which was maybe 20% of the game, all assignments are the same. ILB has Dive first, particularly the backside. Playside has Dive-to-QB. Playside OLB has QB to pitch. DE has Dive to QB.
Basically whomever can get there to force the pitch to the Wingback has to get there, and then everyone else slides over to take the next one in line.
What's the biggest difference between last year and this year's Georgia Tech teams?
This year they can't block as well. Weak linemen, (strengthwise) in my opinion. They don't get leverage or finish their blocks, and thats the biggest thing up front. I think they need some serious recruiting up front at the moment.
In addition the execution of the pitch option is lacking. Last year Nesbitt had it running like a machine. This year he's tentative with the pitch, and the back isn't hitting the hole as well.
They don't have an outside threat like Bebe anymore, who also was an outstanding crack blocker, he set up alot of their big runs last year with great cracks on a safety. You can now play more aggressive with your secondary support on the pitch because Stephen Hill can't catch and the other WR might as well not exist right now. They don't use them well, mostly because Nesbitt can't throw worth a damn.
They have not utilized O. Smith like they can, and they dont utilize both Wingbacks. Only really need to respect one of them, and when the other got his yards against us, it was mostly because we overpursued the play, not because of his talent.
I really don't think its the schemes they face, they just aren't playing well.
A lot of focus always goes to the GT offense. How much of the Yellow Jackets' relative struggles this year can be blamed on their D?
Their D was bad last year, but they had a few playmakers to keep them in it. This year they are AWFUL. Their front confuses their own players more than the opponent, and the coverage is similarly bad.
To play a 3-4 every down, you must have a NG. They don't. The NG in a 3-4 system must command a double-team every down, and his intent is not to rush the passer or get into the backfield as much as it is to keep the ILB's free of blockers. That is a general statement about most linemen in 3-4 fronts: the linemen are read & react guys, not gap chargers like in a 4-3 or in Tech's Gap 8-based scheme. Their intent is to let the LBs make the plays and eat up blockers. GT has no DL. Jefferson is one guy I'd take from the LB corps, but the rest I wouldn't.
They are uncomfortable and haven't gotten used to playing a 3-4. Groh knows it, and doesnt give them anything exotic, but right now they don't show signs of great coaching, and they don't have the LB talent (particularly outside) to play a 3-4 well.
You could toast their secondary last year, and this year they are about the same. Terrant is OK, Robinson seems to have good technique, but the rest are not a concern, at least in my eyes.
It will take them a couple years to get players who can really excel in this scheme.