So the one day it has to rain is while I’m in town to watch the Yellow Jackets final spring scrimmage at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Well if one half of a spring game is any indication, the quarterbacks representing the future for Georgia Tech football appear to have a very good grasp of the triple option offense as their execution and handling of the football was flawless. As a coach you want to see your players working hard without making any mistakes when they are performing on the gridiron. So to me the real score on Saturday was an A+ as there were no fumbled snaps, very good pitches to the A-Backs, and very impressive running by the quarterbacks when they kept the football and turned up field for some very nice gains.
Notably, Tevin Washington looked very sharp in leading the white team to four (4) touchdown drives including a very nice keeper for a score of his own. His passing was excellent as he hit Stephen Hill in stride for a 70 yard touchdown pass on a go route. He was making good reads in the option scheme and most impressive was the way he got right back up after taking a real solid hit on a keeper from Anthony Egbuniwe who was patrolling the right side as an outside linebacker in the new 3/4 defense. It was only a two (2) yard gain but it showed his toughness and leadership in getting back in the huddle and running the next play.
I was also impressed with David Sims who ran the option extremely well and had several runs in the 5 to 7 yard range to keep the chains moving which is the focal point of this offense. He had a very nifty pitch to Orwin Smith who took it in for a touchdown from about 14 yards out for a score for the Gold team. One of his best plays was when he dropped back to pass, saw that nobody was open, and immediately turned up field without any hesitation for a very nice gain. That is the type of instant decision making that is mandatory in effectively running the triple option offense. It also makes the passing game that much more dangerous when the quarterback is not afraid to tuck the ball and run as the field is wide open with the safeties dropping into pass coverage.
But the most important statistic of the day was no fumbles or bad pitches by any of the quarterbacks. The progression of the quarterbacks in this area alone in just a few years really shows how hard the players are working in perfecting this precision offense. Obviously the coaching staff has emphasized not putting the ball on the ground, and when this team operates without turnovers they are very tough to defeat. I was very impressed with their flawless operation on Saturday.
While Jordan Luallen had his moments too, as it stands right now coming out of spring and heading into fall camp, Tevin Washington will be the back up to Joshua Nesbitt, followed by David Sims and Jordan Luallen. Nothing is etched into stone until a week out from the season opener, but I will say that all of these kids have their fundamentals in place which will allow them to run this offense at top speed. Something we have yet to see on the Flats under Paul Johnson.
For everyone out there who was crying when Jonathan Dwyer declared for the draft, Anthony Allen was showing how effective he can be operating from the B-Back position next year. He is a very tough player who is truly a pure North/South type of runner perfectly suited to his new position directly behind the quarterback. More importantly, we have some quality depth there as Richard Watson, Lucas Cox, and Preston Lyons all ran for positive yardage when they were fed the football.
But the other area that I was watching throughout the first half more closely was the play of the offensive line. On both sides of the line of scrimmage the White and Gold teams had no false starts and were really firing off the line of scrimmage. I saw no penetration into the backfield which has been a problem ever since Paul Johnson arrived. Given that the majority of these players were recruited by the current staff, we are now evolving to playing with offensive linemen suited to function in the triple option system.
The Gold team looked very good in maintaining the line of scrimmage with Jay Finch, Ray Beno, and Will Jackson looking very good in securing the middle of the interior offensive line. This allowed B-Back Lucas Cox, who is a miniature bulldozer, to gain 2 or 3 yards consistently up the middle. Just wait and see what happens when B-Back Richard Watson is into the secondary and running in open space next season.
Our All ACC Center, Sean ”Rocket Scientist” Bedford, was really firing off the ball and getting a crease to open some nice running lanes for Anthony Allen who looked very good. I was very impressed with the guard play of Nick McRae, and Omoregie Uzzi, who allowed no penetration into the backfield which permitted the triple option to operate very effectively.
Defensively, Logan Walls is perfectly suited to the nose guard position as he plays with excellent leverage and holds his ground. Once he returns this fall from his knee injury, I expect Ben Anderson to compete for extensive reps at the nose guard position as both he and Logan will be the primary folks in the middle. T.J. Barnes is just a mountain of a man, but until he learns to play with better leverage he will continue to be blocked by smaller linemen. I imagine he hears this everyday from his coaches but he really needs to work on getting his pad level lower to the ground. Once he is able to do that, he will be a rock at nose tackle much like Terrence Cody was down at Alabama.
Jason Peters and Izaan Cross are doing a very good job as the defensive ends in the 3/4 scheme. They both have good size and looked fine on Saturday. Brad Jefferson had some nice tackles inside, and when Kyle Jackson returns in the fall he will add some depth to the position. Mario Edwards at safety had some very nice tackles on Saturday, and it was obvious that Al Groh was not showing anything more than just a base defense for the scrimmage. The best is yet to come as the defense gets more comfortable in their new roles. I also saw some very nice plays made by true freshman Isaiah Johnson at safety.
Emmanuel “Too Tall” Dieke has the potential to get some quality playing time in the fall at defensive end. But the player who really showed me something on defense was outside linebacker Anthony Egbuniwe. He was really hustling around the field and laid a hit on Tevin Washington on a running play. He has very good speed, and has obviously taken to playing as a stand up linebacker to go along with his pass rushing skills. I didn’t see J.C. Lanier, but then maybe the plan was to have him on the field after halftime.
So the day was cut short by the rain, however, I was very impressed with the quarterback execution, and the interior offensive line play preventing penetration into the backfield is just the start of seeing the triple option operating on all cylinders this fall. I even saw a couple of very nice punts and kickoffs that went down to the 10 yard line. We will see what our freshman recruit can do this fall to get the pigskin consistently into the end zone on kickoffs this season.
So the only question that remains after Saturday’s scrimmage is; who won the prize that was to be announced at halftime? Maybe it will be given away to a fan during the season opener against South Carolina State. Go Jackets!