The Virginia Tech Hokies (6-3, 3-2) visit the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-7, 1-5) this Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. It’s a critical matchup for Virginia Tech, as the Hokies can win win the Coastal Division by winning their final three games.
However, a win in Atlanta will not come easy. Despite their record, the Yellow Jackets are playing much better football in recent weeks, as Virginia can attest to last week in Charlottesville. Georgia Tech picked up its second win of the season three weeks ago at Miami before dropping a 20-10 game against Pittsburgh and fighting the Wahoos to the finish last week.
The first thing you think of when you think of the Yellow Jackets is the triple option. Well, it’s gone. Paul Johnson retired and Geoff Collins takes over. Collins, a Georgia native, came to Atlanta from Temple, where he was head coach for two years. Collins has modernized Georgia Tech’s offense, but the transition will have its ups and downs.
At quarterback for the Jackets is redshirt freshman James Graham. If that names sounds familiar it’s because Graham is a former Virginia Tech commit. Graham committed to the Hokies as an athlete, probably as either a wide receiver or a defensive back, yet decided to back off his pledge in order to stay in the state of Georgia and play quarterback. Johnson offered him that opportunity, albeit for the former offense.
It’s been a mixed bag for Graham under center. He has completed just 47 percent of his passes for 952 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also taken 15 sacks and is third on the team in rushing with 164 yards.
Sophomore running back Jordan Mason is GT’s top offensive player. He has rushed for 716 yards, averaging almost six yards per attempt and scored seven touchdowns. Mason, at 6’1”, 219 pounds, is a big back and will challenge Virginia Tech’s run defense. Stopping him will be Bud Foster’s number one priority.
Georgia Tech’s top receivers are 5’10’ freshman Ahmarean Brown and 6’1” sophomore Adonicas Sanders. Brown has caught 17 passes, but for 361 yards. That is an average of 21 yards per reception and he has also scored five touchdowns. Disregard his number of receptions, Brown is a dangerous player who will be a very good player in the future.
Overall, Georgia Tech ranks No. 121 in total offense out of 130 teams. While they have a ways to go, players like Mason and Brown are talented and could give the Hokies problems.
The Yellow Jackets have some talented players on defense. Unfortunately, they’ve been on the field a lot unit due to the changes on offense. It’s led to them ranking dead last in the ACC in rushing defense. The Hokies have gotten the ground game going recently and this is an area to watch. Particularly, GT has struggled a bit against quarterbacks who can run, like Hendon Hooker. Bryce Perkins gave Georgia Tech’s defense fits.
Overall, the Jackets rank No. 119 against the run, allowing 4.68 yards per attempt and over 210 yards per game. Look for Virginia Tech’s offense to use Hooker to help loosen things up early.
Georgia Tech doesn’t get after the quarterback with any regularity or force turnovers. The Yellow Jackets have 15 sacks on the season and have forced 12 turnovers. The Jackets’ top players on defense are junior linebacker David Curry, who has 74 tackles, and sophomore linebacker Charlie Thomas. Thomas is extremely fast and active and leads GT with nine TFLs.
The key for the Hokies in this game is not to allow Georgia Tech any big plays in the passing game. Far too often in recent years, Georgia Tech’s triple option would be unstoppable and Georgia Tech would hit on a wide-open play in the passing game to break games open. That cannot happen for the Hokies tomorrow.
On offense, the Hokies should use Hooker to open up the running game. More importantly, they need to get the ball in the hands of receivers Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton and Tayvion Robinson and tight ends Dalton Keene and James Mitchell. The more the ball gets to the tight ends, the more explosive this offense becomes.
So, Hokies, are you happy we aren’t seeing the triple option tomorrow?