My recollection of the college football 2012 season was that after all was said and done with Alabama winning the final BCS Championship Game yet again, there still remained only one team that was undefeated (Ohio State) and given that they were on probation, missed out on their conference championship contest, and of course a bowl game, chances are they might have had a blemish or two on their final record. Put in even simpler terms apparently one team or more along the way was able to win a football game by stopping the other team’s offense and earning a victory. Even more ironic is that it happens every season like clockwork without anyone predicting the demise of any particular offense.
So after Stanford throttled, dismantled, destroyed, and finally obliterated Oregon’s unstoppable spread option offense back on November 17, 2012 to the tune of 17 to 14 in OT at a time when those Ducks were averaging over fifty (50) points a game, that had to be chalked to up to an aberration. Up until that dreaded loss which quashed their hopes for a BCS National Championship no defense in the country could slow them down. Did I forget to mention that the game was played at Autzen stadium in Eugene, Oregon? At the conclusion of the Cardinals OT win while everyone was crowing about the victory engineered as a result of great Stanford defense, which it was, nobody came out vociferously saying the “spread is dead.” No doubt the same result happened to teams that utilize the pro set or the air raid scheme employed by several schools in the NCAA.
But those floodgates open wide every time Georgia Tech loses a game regardless of the true reasons for that outcome. I’m confident that the Yellow Jackets will score thirty+ points a game again this season as they have solid performers returning at B-Back in David Sims and Zach Laskey who combined ran for 1,300+ yards up the middle in the line of scrimmage last season. Those are the same totals that Dwyer and Allen put up when they played and took most of the reps in the games. Toss in 100 meter speedster Broderick Snoddy at the position and the personnel are in place to have another solid contribution from that group. That is the type of depth needed to go through a grinding schedule every season. It’s also worth mentioning that Sims was injured for a good part of last season and Laskey has bulked up a bit so perhaps those numbers will increase in 2013.
Equally stocked is the A-Back position with Robbie Godhigh and probably Deon Hill starting off first in the rotation that will also include several other folks who have extensive game experience in BJ Bostic, Tony Zenon, and Synjyn Days at 6′ 2″ 221 Lbs. Redshirt freshman Dennis Andrews has been turning some heads in practice and is likely to see some action this fall too. I’m really looking forward to watching both Vad Lee and Justin Thomas on the edge running the option with a big A-Back like Synjyn Days as the trailer on the option pitchout this fall.
From the reports this camp regarding what should be our most experienced offensive line since Paul Johnson has been on the Flats, it appears that some players are still nursing through some injuries. I’m hopeful that nothing major has hit Jay Finch who at center is vital to the success of this running attack in calling out blocking assignments pre-snap depending on where the defense is shifting. While it’s always nice to have a solid backup at the position in Thomas O’Reilly 6′ 3″, 308 Lbs. who transferred in from Auburn after redshirting there then sat out another year at Tech, Finch has manned the center position for the past couple of seasons and is being counted on heavily to help this offensive line give the young QB’s time to make decisions in this offense.
Fortunately the Yellow Jackets have some pretty bright offensive linemen as Ray Beno can also play at center if needed in addition to his usual and customary slot at left tackle. However, for continuity the coaches would rather he stayed at tackle with Finch able to start every game at center while giving O’Reilly his opportunities throughout the games. After all of the angst generated this past off season over the bye scheduled right after the opening game against Elon, now it appears that scheduling anomaly will turn out in favor of Georgia Tech as it will provide additional time for players on the offensive line an opportunity to heal up before launching into a very tough four game slate of ACC Coastal Division Games right off the bat.
The wide receiver position that was such a monumental concern heading into camp since nobody outside of Darren Waller had caught a pass or even played, it now appears that this baseball player, Deandre Smelter at 6′ 3″ 221 lbs., is going to see some playing time along with redshirt freshman Michael Summers at the other wide out slot. I still chuckle when reading comments from folks outside of this program who denigrate any high school receiver wanting to attend GT as their comment is; do you want to catch or block?
If anyone in the world of football thinks for a moment that a receiver stands around and watches the team when they aren’t calling a passing play then they should log onto Amazon.com and buy Football for Dummies. Everybody blocks in order to have a successful play. Jerry Rice blocked, Fred Biletnikoff the namesake of the Biletnikoff award given to the best receiver in college football mixed it up plenty when he wasn’t snaring a pass, as does both Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson. So with Waller coming in at 6′ 5″ 235 lbs. and Deandre Smelter almost as big, no doubt opposing defensive backs will not be thrilled seeing either of them blocking or running pass routes this season.
Add in the offensive coordinator’s ability to call the right plays throughout the game (I know it’s Paul Johnson) to keep those drives moving and this season’s team has the best depth of any squad since Coach Johnson came to the Flats. This offense has been able to gain yardage and score points consistently with the triple option offense. The times it has been shut down by great defenses have come earlier when the offensive line was much smaller than what is currently on this team. So the key to having a winning season is going to depend on two other factors:
1. Can the defense play with some consistency and force some punts so the offense doesn’t have to score on every possession?
2. Will we have a kicker that can show the ability to put the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and make a team start on the 25?
While I don’t expect this Yellow Jackets defense to come out and shut out every team on the schedule, what I do expect to see is some consistency and hustle that was evident in the Sun Bowl when they showed what they are capable of doing when not having to constantly check off based on the offense shifting players around to create confusion. There were a ton of blown assignments last year in those games with receivers running free time and time again. Also with Attaochu as a full time DE in the 4/3 it will help eliminate all of those penalties for too many players on the field when the no huddle teams would bring in different personnel packages and the defense was too slow to respond adding even more confusion to the mix. If needed, Attaochu can cover a TE or receiver out of the backfield since he has done that for the past three (3) seasons. That will go a long way in curtailing constant personnel packages sent into the game from the sidelines.
If the base defense can provide the backbone for the entire game with an occasional nickel or dime package being brought in from the sidelines then that in and of itself will go a long way to eliminating the constant confusion we saw time and time again on the field with personnel not knowing where to go or what to do once the other team started moving players around pre-snap. Another step that is probably already being implemented is that the backup player at each position watching the guy ahead of him and if he is getting gassed then he is ready to sprint into the game faster than flipping a light switch. The 2013 defense’s motto needs to be hustle and effort regardless of how tired you are becoming.
Football is a very grueling game on both sides of the line of scrimmage but frankly fatigue will hit a defense faster than an offense as they are constantly running and covering lots more territory every play. So the backups need to be ready every play as it will take a team effort on defense to succeed this season. One factor that always should help out GT on defense is this offense’s ability to have those long grind it out fifteen (15) play scoring drives that provides substantial rest for those players on defense so they are always in a position to go 110% every play as the Yellow Jackets offense does very well in the time of possession (TOP) statistic season after season. That will be a huge contributing factor once again this year and by removing the confusion on defense for perhaps the first time since Paul Johnson arrived, then maybe this is the moment in time it all finally comes together on the Flats.
Oops! I almost forgot to answer question # 2. Apparently there is a freshman kicker on this season’s roster than can put the football into the end zone. I will be watching with baited breath to see that for myself as I have a custom and practice of not being real kicker friendly. But if he can show the ability to make opposing teams watch the ball sail deep into or out of the end zone and all drives beginning on the 25 yard line then I might be able to change that attitude. In the mean time; Go Jackets!