Georgia Tech at Clemson, Game Preview

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-2 Overall, 3-1 ACC) @ Clemson Tigers (3-3 Overall, 1-2 ACC)

FEI Rankings:  GT 49 CU 25

Kickoff:  3:30 EDT

Television:  ABC/ESPN

Internet:  ESPN3

Radio:  104.9 WCCP  (www.wccpfm.com)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (25-9 overall, 15-5 ACC in his 3rd seasons at GT)

Depth Charts for Both Squads

Basic information for both squads below (thanks www.clemsontigers.com):

Clemsongtoverallpreview_medium 
Complete CU Media Preview

Yellow Jackets vs Tigers preview

From The Rumble Seat

Line: CU -5.5  O/U: 52 

Georgia Tech Base Offense:  Flexbone

Georgia Tech Base Defense:  3-4

Offensive Coordinator:  Head Coach Paul Johnson

Defensive Coordinator:  Al Groh

Paul Johnson is affectionately known as an option master.  Johnson gained national recognition as head coach of two schools, Georgia Southern and Navy, before taking over the Georgia Tech program.  Under Johnson's guidance GA Southern won two D1-AA championships ('99 & '00) and was the championship runner up once ('98).  Johnson was also the offensive coordinator for two other D1-AA championships at Southern in '85 and '86 under the great Erk Russell.

Johnson's most recognizable success outside of last year's ACC Championship at Tech was probably his tour of duty at Navy. PJ resigned at GA Southern and took over in Annapolis in time for the 2002 season hoping to bring his 1-AA mastery to Division 1 football. The Western Carolina graduate took over a Navy program that had been to one bowl game since the 1981 season and was winless in 2001. After a 2-10 opening campaign, Johnson built a program that has not missed a bowl game since. His highlights with the Midshipmen include a 10-win season in ‘04, the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, and the school's first victory over Notre Dame (2007) since 1963. His 45-29 record at Navy is nothing less than incredible and it would be a vast understatement to say simply that he left the Navy football program in better shape than he found it.

Everyone reading this is familiar with PJ's success at Georgia Tech. In late-2007, Johnson took over a Yellow Jacket program that was on NCAA probation and was handicapped by reduced scholarships. PJ led the Jackets to a first place tie in the Coastal division in ‘08 and Tech won the ACC in 2009. Johnson was named ACC Coach of the Year for both the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

PJ proved many critics wrong when he took his flexbone option-based offense to Division 1-A college football and won games. His success is pretty simple: Coach Johnson is a stickler for the fundamentals and his teams generally execute well. We saw this last year in the ACCCG when the Jackets ran the ball nearly flawlessly all evening. The job that their offensive line did in that contest was incredible and a true testament to their leader's insistence on execution and perfection. PJ will tell you the same thing that we have said year after year: the option (even if you limit the number of plays you run) is nearly unstoppable when everyone does their jobs and plays proper fundamental football. When everyone does their jobs, any offense is nearly unstoppable.

Johnson's system is not one we've studied from an offensive perspective, aside from QB play specifically, though we hope to at some point here. We have however extensively studied it from a defensive point-of-view, which will enlighten you on the offensive scheme they like and how it is countered by the defense. PJ uses a mix of Run & Shoot passing philosophies with his option, since they run out of very similar spread formations. In addition to the Veer, or outside options, they run a significant amount of Midline option. The idea there is that if you take away the outside option play, they run Midline up the gut til you can stop both.

Tech does pass at a 12 att/gm clip, or thereabouts, but its success is mostly dependent on missed assignments and misdirection. We do not respect Nesbitt as a passer but it is the threat of the pass that keeps the secondary playing honest. We believe that some of Tech's struggles are attributed to the lack of a big play threat with D. Thomas gone and that S. Hill has not stepped into that role yet, and opponents are bringing up the safeties.

Tech has not blocked as well as they did last year, but with option teams it is the repetition that counts, so they usually improve their execution significantly as the season goes on. Anthony Allen averages 85.7 ypg.

Expect Clemson to play some mix of Quarters/C2 and press coverage as Tech's receivers are not very daunting. Up front, we hope to see some variation of Over/Stacked LBs and a safety being down in the box. It is also possible to play Under, again with the safety down opposite.

Al Groh took over GT's defensive coordinator position after parting ways with the University of Virginia following the 2009 campaign. Groh's background is too extensive for me to discuss fully, but I will mention a few items. Al has been coaching at all levels since the late ‘60's and has plenty of college and professional coaching experience. Groh was the head coach at Wake in the early ‘80's, followed Bill Parcells around for quite a while, became the Jets head man for a year, then took over the head job at Virginia (where he likened his immense intellect and NFL experience to playing chess while the rest of the conference was playing checkers). Unfortunately the Chessmaster was taken to school by much of the conference (again, as if Wake Forest wasn't enough) and got the axe. Apparently he was not as smart as he thought himself to be. Groh is noted for his 3-4 defense and is in the process of molding and recruiting players to better fit his defensive scheme. GT looks different on defense since last season, but that really doesn't tell us too much. The 3-4 scheme is not one we've studied in print here yet.

Groh's 3-4 system is the basic one that has survived from the 1980s. Its two-gapped and requires a NG that can absorb (and require) a double-team. GT does not have that....whatsoever. They do have a couple solid guys up front but the rest are not so solid.

This defense may look different but it is, in our opinion, worse than last year's. He will come at Clemson with various twists and LB stunts but Clemson should be able to handle them up front.

Clemson has a talent advantage up front, and should take advantage by pounding the football. If we get back to what works for us, Clemson should be able to score over 30 against this defense.

A look back at the recent Clemson/GT football games:

Clemson's cross-conference rival, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, have been a tough matchup for the Tigers over the past half decade. Clemson's widely reported struggles include an 0-3 record against current GT coach Paul Johnson with one of those losses keeping Clemson from becoming conference champions for the first time since 1991.  The past four meetings have been extremely disappointing to say the least:

2007 in Atlanta:  Clemson missed several opportunities in a typical Tommy Bowden performance.  The Tigers lost a game that most expected them to win in a very, very disappointing fashion.

2008  Dabo Swinney's first game. There were quite a few mistakes made in a tough week for this Clemson football team as the Tigers fell to eventual the ACC-Coastal division co-champions in Death Valley.  Most Clemson fans will remember this one as Will Korn's first start at Clemson and the quick injury that effectively ended his season and potentially his career at Clemson.

2009 (1):  the first contest in Atlanta saw coaching gaffs and special teams blunders by the Tigers. GT opened the game with a big carry and had Clemson on the ropes early.  Tech was able to successfully execute a fake field goal AND get a hefty return on a Clemson quick kick.  The Tigers battled back to give themselves a chance late but could not pull out a victory in an early-season game in the Georgia state capitol.

2009 (2): The two conference foes met again in 2009, this time with the conference championship on the line.  Bothteams were clearly ready to go offensively, with Georgia Tech repeatedly converting 3rd and 4th down attempts and making Clemson pay for mistakes in its secondary. Clemson fired back with an amazing effort from C.J. Spiller. Overall, the GT option juggernaut was too much as Tech was able to pull this one out with some late-game heroics by a fundamentally sound offense.

Overall Stats (thanks www.espn.com):


2010_clemson_gt_stats_medium

Georgia Tech's Schedule and Results to Date:

September
S. Carolina St. Bulldogs Saturday, September 04 2010 win 41 - 10 coverage
@ Kansas Jayhawks  Saturday, September 11 2010 loss 25 - 28 coverage
@ North Carolina Tar Heels  Saturday, September 18 2010 win 30 - 24 coverage
N.C. State Wolfpack  Saturday, September 25 2010 loss 28 - 45 coverage
October
@ Wake Forest Demon Deacons  Saturday, October 02 2010 win 24 - 20 coverage
Virginia Cavaliers Saturday, October 09 2010 win 33 - 21 coverage
Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders Saturday, October 16 2010 win 42 - 14 coverage
@ Clemson Tigers  Saturday, October 23 2010 3:30 PM EDT coverage

So far, Tech's performance has not been overly impressive.  The Jackets lost to a very bad Kansas football team early in the year.  Kansas simply whipped Tech up front.  Tech was able to pull out a victory in Chapel Hill the following week before getting soundly beaten by a much improved NC State football team.  The Jackets have since reeled off three straight victories and are definitely still in the mix to contend for the ACC Coastal division championship.

Tech has a critical stretch of games that begins in Death Valley Saturday and will determine the season's success level (see below).  With GT at 3-1 in conference, it is pretty obvious that this team will be playing in Charlotte this December should the Jackets hammer home their last four conference contests.

November
@ Virginia Tech Hokies  Thursday, November 04 2010 7:30 PM EDT coverage
Miami Hurricanes  Saturday, November 13 2010 TBA coverage
Duke Blue Devils Saturday, November 20 2010 TBA coverage
@ Georgia Bulldogs  Saturday, November 27 2010 TBA coverage

As for the week's press conferences, we already discussed Swinney's excuse-laden Q&A session, and Napier does not say as much with respect to GT that we find important or enlightening. Steele's was better however.

Is the template in facing an option team that you cannot blitz as much because of the way they do things?
"You can pressure it but it's very limited. You have to have someone inside the load-block and someone outside the arc-block. If it's load, that's someone inside for the QB and if it's arc, it's someone outside for the pitch."

 Do their tendencies passing change without Thomas this year?
 "Not a lot. It's a lot of the same routes. And they've been effective. Hill has caught 11 balls for 161 yards. That sounds average but for them that's really good. Melton, No. 84, he's a big guy who can run."

Patience becomes a big factor this week but isn't there a fine line between being patient and being slow and how do you identify that?
 "Yes. The biggest thing is that we've got it on video. We were very good with our eyes in the first game and very aggressive. We were patiently attacking. In the second game, for whatever reason, we got a little bit back on our heels. But what happened was not big plays. We had the one hitch-and-go, but other than that, it was three and a half to four yards to death. You can't just let them move the chains."

How difficult is it to scheme for a team that plays all four downs as much as a team like Tech does?
 "You can't go to your normal short-yardage defense, so it is difficult. It's complicated in that regard, but we've studied it every way you can. We've studied all the Navy film we can get, all the way to 2005. We've studied every game since he's been at Georgia Tech. The fact of the matter is that there aren't but a couple of base schemes that people play them with. When you watch the Iowa tape, the Miami tape, the UNC tape, the NCSU tape, our two tapes, you see almost the same thing. Then you get into the odd-front stuff and you start seeing Wake Forest playing them in an odd-front. You have to look for your change-ups. It's hard to come up with a scheme in their base stuff where you can throw a fastball or a knuckle ball or a slider."

Talk about the importance of having defensive front people disrupt what they do, not just having so much on your linebackers.
"Da'Quan had a huge impact in the first game last year. You watch that first game and he affected their running game. Jarvis was another one who had a really, really productive game the first game last year. They did not run to the field at all in the second game. They tried the first game and didn't do it in the second game at all. They ran probably six plays out there for about three or four yards. Everything came into the boundary."

Dabo said Brandon Maye has a leg issue, so you are going into a game with several who are inexperienced at linebacker.
"Well, it is what it is. You hate it. You'd like to have guys who have been around and played available. But again, when you've done it awhile, you realize it is what it is. I've been in a room before where they walked in and said, 'Hey, coach needs to see you upstairs.' People are like what's going on. Well, he just got traded prior to a game five days away. Then somebody else walks in the room and it's like, 'Go get him ready. He's playing on Sunday.' You just have to get it done."

Arc blocking is when the Wing or WR initially goes outside in an arc-looking route to block downfield. Loading is a lead blocker play, often its the backside Guard leading into a hole but it can be the other Wing, as he likes to do with Midline.

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