We traded questions this week with Tech bloggers over at http://barrelofrum.blogspot.com/. I encourage you to go over there and check out their place and our answers to their questions.
STS: Al Groh has brought a new scheme with him to Georgia Tech. How has the defensive unit responded to Groh? What are your general thoughts on Groh and this 3-4 scheme and how do the results qualitatively compare to past defensive units?
BOR: The defense has responded well to Groh but we're far from being a good defensive team. One issue is the simple adjustment to a new scheme: 1) we lack the personnel at LB to really play the 3-4 effectively, & 2) we are learning as we go. Our guys are finally starting to play without having to think about everything and we have improved defensively as the season has progressed. The first issue is the over-riding concern for us: we simply don't have enough quality athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Qualitatively, we're about where we were last year defensively, which is middle of the pack and very average. That being said, we're a little better off because Groh has shown the ability to adjust in-game & take away certain things from the offense, something we couldn't do last year. This game is a match-up nightmare for us if Napier calls it right. We are small & easily pushed around up front. You guys excel at zone read runs & power ISO football. Your strength is our weakness. We'll need to gamble & blitz frequently if we hope to slow you down. If it turns into a one-on-one zone blocking situation we're in trouble.
We know that Georgia Tech is a run-based team. Can Josh Nesbitt throw the ball effectively if Tech gets down at some point in this game?
Whatever the score, our ability to throw the ball effectively will be key for us on Saturday. I'm not worried about the number of attempts but about passing efficiency: when we do choose to throw we must be effective & gain large chunks. Everyone looks at Nesbitt's numbers & assumes he can't throw but that's not really the case. Don't get me wrong, he's no Drew Brees as far as accuracy goes but he's not horrible, either. Simply put, our guys have TERRIBLE hands. Roberto Duran has nothing on anyone catching the ball at Tech. Embry Peeples dropped three wide open touchdown passes last week. I'm talking wide open, no one within 10 yards of him. Joshua takes a lot of heat but there's plenty of reasons other than his inaccuracy we don't complete many passes. One interesting thing is that Nesbitt is a significantly more accurate passer on the move; if he doesn't have time to think & aim the ball and simply throws it he has much better results. Back to the original question, if we get down big, we're in trouble.
We have seen Paul Johnson do a fantastic job offensively over the past few years at Tech. Johnson has mixed in mid-line, veer, and dive plays to sustain drives against his opponents and win football games. Are there any new wrinkles out of GT that our readers should be aware of this season running the football?
Great question. Many of us are waiting for some things to come in to the play book he ran at Southern (stack formation) but he seems content with what he has in right now. That's not to say that you won't see new stuff from Tech. We've introduced basically a zone read QB sprint draw this year that has worked well. We've run some "over green" & "over brown" sets where we put both tackles on one side of the line & bring a WR in tight next to the guard. We seem to be running more crossbuck stuff this year. The beauty of this offense is the myriad of ways you can block a single play. Does the A-back arc & cut the corner while the WR cracks the safety? Next play it might be the exact opposite. Who's the option key, the DE or the OLB? Johnson has taken to widening the dive track this year if things have gotten tight inside & we can't get the dive going. There are endless variations & the beauty is he's seen just about everything & knows the counter-move. Of course physical superiority cancels out all theory but when we're close in physical ability to another team, the offense is the X-factor. Watch for a little flair route from Orwin Smith or Roddy Jones, one of our A-backs, on a 3rd down & 6 or 7 play. We've used it several times this year to good effect.
Clemson is a tough place to play and the fans always get excited about playing GT. How big of a factor will this be for this Tech team (coming into a hostile environment)?
This is a pretty veteran group. Other than the Kansas debacle, which really was an anomaly, they should be fine on the road. We have hand signals & worked on going silent this week. One thing that helps is Johnson runs the plays in verbally & not with signals. We generally get to the line in good shape so Nesbitt can read the count & get things set. Death Valley is a tough place to play but we've got enough veterans we should be fine.
Who should Clemson be most concerned about on the GT’s special teams units and why?
The big joke after last season was just tell our field goal kicker, Scott Blair, he's playing Clemson. We tried to send him a pair of orange tinted glasses. He was very erratic except against y'all, when he was money. This year he's been great and that's a real special teams strength. We've been a mess punting the ball so most Tech fans are used to holding their breath at this point when we have to punt. Watch #40, Julian Burnett on kick coverage. He plays with reckless abandon & simply hurls himself at anything that moves. Very fun to watch.
This is obviously a big game in terms of the ACC standings. What will it take for Georgia Tech to make it back to the ACCCG again this season, especially considering what you know about this team now?
That's a big chore for this team. We've certainly not played up to our potential, particularly offensively, this year. We lead the nation in fumbles which is a disaster for this offense. Can we make it to Charlotte? It's possible, as we made it there with NO defense last year. But we have to play much better than anything we've shown so far this year, especially with you, VPISU, & Miami all remaining. I wouldn't rate our chances too highly but we do control our own destiny & as a fan base we believe our coach is virtually infallible, so we've got that going for us.
What do you think will be the difference in this football game Saturday? One item that GT needs to control to win the game? One item that Clemson should try to exploit to win this one?
I'd like to think that coaching will be a factor which probably gives the edge to us. I do expect some trickeration from Johnson to try & up our chances. It's simple to say turnovers will be key but the games between the two teams have been so tight of late that turnovers always matter. Clemson needs to line up & pound the rock. Keep it simple & run Ellington until the wheels fall off. Power stuff & zone reads and when necessary use Allen on play action over the middle. Keep it simple. For Tech, we have to block your front four, particularly Thompson & Jenkins. Penetration kills this offense as it disrupts the timing. As it has been of late, I expect a tight game.