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Blogger Q&A: Clemson Tigers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

NCAA Football: Clemson at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With Georgia Tech coming to Death Valley Saturday night we reached out to the SB Nation Georgia Tech site From the Rumble Seat to answer a few questions about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Josh was kind enough to take some time to answer these questions for us and we answered a few questions for them over on From the Rumble Seat. A big thanks to Josh for his time here.

STS: Georgia Tech has had two close loses this year and sits at 4-2. Is this how you expected the season to go or has it been a bit of a surprise?

FTRS: Well if you mean “are excruciating, single-point losses in games we led the entirety of” an expectation, then unfortunately yes… It’s something we’re kind of used to around these parts. This season has just been particularly painful in that aspect. Both of our losses were fluky in their own ways. I would honestly say this season is right at everyone’s preseason expectations so far, but we’re 2 points away from exceeding those by a wide margin.

STS: TaQuon Marshall seems to have GTs offense running well this year. What are your thoughts on the QB and his performance this year?

FTRS: Marshall has been a revelation at QB. He saw hardly any playing time last year as the 3rd string QB and behind three-year starter Justin Thomas. He’s been a wizard at the option with his reads and not trying to do too much, which usually gets inexperienced quarterbacks in trouble. He has a little more size than his predecessor, so he runs better between the tackles. However, he still has the breakaway speed on the edge. I’ve enjoyed seeing the midline option back in the rotation this season.

He’s been as a good a passer as the offense needs so far… he’s sitting at just above a 50% completion percentage with no picks. That’s a lower percentage in more traditional offenses, but that serves us just fine.

STS: Who are some names Clemson fans may not know a lot about on GT's offense that will cause Clemson some problems on Saturday?

FTRS: We’ll start with our redshirt freshman B-Back Kirvonte Benson – the guy is a bowling ball at 5-9, 211lb. He’s got a low center of gravity and pops through holes in the line that are seemingly non-existent. He rarely goes down at first contact and always falls forward, and he has been fun to watch this season.

The interior of our line has also been stellar this season… just don’t look at either of our tackles, they have been mediocre at best. But the inside trio of Parker Braun, Kenny Cooper, and Shamire Devine have been generating a lot of push so far this season. We’ll hope they can continue that against Clemson’s NFL-caliber front 7.

STS: What will you be looking for early in this game to see if GT is going to be successful?

FTRS: On offense, it will entirely be if our running game is having any success, because we haven’t the last two years against Venables’ defense. Last year, our linemen and ball carriers weren’t even getting to the linebacker level, which is obviously a bad sign. If the offense can pop a couple big plays and sustain drives, then that’s certainly a positive sign for us.

On defense, it will be containing your mobile quarterbacks. We have a talented secondary who have done well to create several coverage sacks this season, but it will be on our front 7 to contain Kelly Bryant, or whomever is in at QB, and prevent them from scrambling for big gains. It’s been a weakness for us that doesn’t bode well for this game on Saturday.

STS: GT has had real trouble dealing with Brent Venables' defense the last two years. Do you see anything in particular the GT offense can do to perform well enough to get the win this year?

FTRS: Let me preface this by saying I’m not an X’s and O’s wizard, but schematically, I haven’t noticed that Venables’ has done anything too different than other coordinators against us. He always comes in with a good plan, but I think the difference is that he has a good plan with the highest caliber athletes. Our offensive line has struggled to block the Clemson front 4 the last couple seasons, and when that happens, there’s just no success to be had.

I’m assuming Clemson will use the same base defense against us they have the previous years, which has the linebackers in a pyramid shape – the OLB’s up close behind the DE’s for switching the dive reads, while the middle linebacker is dropped deep in an effort to keep him clean from our leading A-backs on the perimeter. We’ve seen this defense in about every game this season, the difference is just Clemson’s athletic talent. If Clemson can stop the run in this alignment while keeping two high safeties, it will be a long day for the flexbone.

If our offense can get the dive working and get some consistent, tough yards up the middle, it sets up the entirety of the rest of the playbook. On this side of the ball, the game will hinge on the Yellow Jackets being able to get yards off the option and zone dives. If not, you’ll probably see our incredibly talented, true freshman punter a lot.

STS: Clemson has really focused on the QB run this year over the passing game. Do you think that helps or hurts GT's defense in this one?

FTRS: I really should read all of these questions before responding in previous ones haha. It definitely hurts. Our secondary is the strength of our defense, and our power run stopping is probably where we’re at our weakest. Our defensive coordinator, Ted Roof, does not always employ the most common sense, so I would hope he would leave our talented corners in single coverage with a single high safety to help stop the QB run game, but who knows. I’m more scared of Clemson on the ground than Clemson through the air this season, and that plays right into our defensive weaknesses.

STS: Who is going to have to have a big game from GT's defense if the Yellow Jackets want to pull this one out?

FTRS: I think our standout safety, A.J. Gray, is going to have to play the game of his life. We’ve seen him play more in the box against teams that aren’t much of a passing threat, and he has really excelled there. I know our offense isn’t going to be able to score many points, so the onus is on the defense this game to keep us in it, and a huge part of that will be Gray.

STS: What are some of the things you'll be looking for from GT's defense in this one for Georgia Tech to have a chance?

FTRS: I would say simply aggression. However, Ted Roof frustratingly calls the opposite. If Tech is going to have a chance, I want to see a high-risk, high-reward defense. Make the Clemson QB’s complete passes over the top, don’t let them dink and dunk their way down the field. Call run blitzes, play press coverage on the outside, etc. I’m more ok with Clemson popping the occasional big play from inexperienced QBs than I am letting that offense get 5 yards per play the length of the field.