Category Archives: Georgia Tech Football
I hope Georgia Tech’s new AD doesn’t read this post, but it’s worth noting something MaconDawg wrote over at DawgSports yesterday.
From Clemson’s Deshaun Watson to current Bulldog commit Jake Fromm, to nationally ranked recruits like 2018 Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence (and even younger players like Marietta freshman Harrison Bailey, recently offered by the Bulldogs) the state of Georgia has undergone a renaissance in high school quarterback play over the past few years. USA Today asked those who would know, including some of those top flight quarterbacks themselves, about what has changed.
Not to spoil the answers, but they generally focus on the rise of passer-friendly offenses, 7-on-7 tournaments, and the availability of elite private QB coaching. I think those all play a part. One overlooked answer however may be the rising tide that has lifted the number of elite recruits in the state at every position: an exploding population, especially in the metro Atlanta area. The fact is there are more, bigger high schools, many of which have vastly more athletic resources, than in the past.
But the population boom has been going on for decades. The evolution of high school offenses in the state has been a more recent development, and a rapid one at that. Of the eighteen Peach State high school quarterbacks with the most career passing yards, seventeen graduated in 2004 or after (the lone exception being Americus standout and FSU Seminole Fabian Walker). Only one of the top seventeen seasons in terms of touchdown passes occurred before 2009, the year Hutson Mason’s 54 touchdown passes blew past the record previously held by Charlton County’s Jeremy Privett.
To put it another way, gone are the days when football Friday nights in the Peach State are dominated by the power-I and the triple option (sorry, Tech fans). Not mentioned in the article is the fairly self-evident proposition that Georgia is in position to benefit disproportionately from this phenomenon.
Even given that, as Johnson himself admits, Tech’s recruiting in the era of the triple option has been shabby, this strikes me as a pretty big deal, at least in the near future. Quarterback, no matter what offensive system you run, is the most important position on the field, and if high school offenses are drifting away from running to passing schemes on a widespread basis, that’s going to make it ever harder for Tech to find in state quarterbacking.
It’s not just the one position, either, of course. Offensive linemen that train to block in offenses that throw the ball all over the place aren’t going to be ready to cut block like mad overnight. And some of those high school running backs are either going to find their skills deployed at other positions or running out of a lot of shotgun sets. Either way, that’s not a good trend for Paul Johnson.
What makes it worse is that it allows schools besides UGA that can attract the new blood being developed by Georgia high schools to make inroads there. And once you establish relationships with high school coaches for some of their offensive players, you can grow that to players in general. I don’t see how Tech can prosper ceding much of the talent in as rich a state as this one to out of state programs.
As MaconDawg concludes, though, it sure is a good thing for Kirby Smart.
It’s an understatement to say the most recent loss to Tech sucks, but maybe Kirby’s playing the long game that some of you are convinced he is. After all, their new AD is wowed by the result.
“Nobody out there wants to play us. That also tells you a lot about the state of the program and the fear that opposing coaches have of our head coach,” the new AD said. “I think we have a great coach that is known nationally for what he does, and he’s had a lot of success here. My goal, and what I hope to bring to the table, is to help provide him what he needs to continue to build on that success and compete at the highest level.”
I’ll leave you to ponder the fear factor, but it sure sounds to me like a contract extension is in order for a guy whose career record against Georgia is 3-6.
If your team’s nothing special, pump your conference.
Johnson was asked, as he often is before the game, on the standing of the ACC vs. the SEC. In 2014, the ACC was 5-3 against the SEC. The SEC won in 2015, 6-4. Thus far, the ACC leads 3-2.
“We’re probably the only team that’s an underdog this year,” Johnson said of the SEC-ACC matchups this weekend. “I saw where I think Clemson and Louisville are probably three-touchdown favorites. Florida State’s probably a little less than that and we are what we are. I think it’s just an example that the ACC doesn’t have to take a backseat in football to anybody.”
If Tech loses and the other three win today, I guess Johnson can spend time at his presser bragging about the ACC’s great day.
Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I woke up today feeling strangely optimistic about the game. And, after all the ups and downs of the 2016 season, it does feel strange to feel that way going into a game, especially a rivalry game.
I do see a few keys to the Dawgs preventing the Jackets from assaulting the hedges.
- Make Tech grind. Groo discusses that point in this post. Johnson’s offense is 20th nationally in yards per play because it hits on big plays. That’s been one of the drivers to Tech’s late season run of success. Georgia can’t give up big plays on the perimeter and the secondary has to be aware of Justin Thomas’ threat as a big play passer. Easier said than done, I know.
- Turnover margin. Georgia Tech has won four of its last five games, going +5 in turnover margin during that stretch. The one loss came against Miami, when Tech was minus-2 in TO margin. Perhaps more significantly, the Jackets are +6 in their last two games and probably wouldn’t have won either without that. Georgia needs to work that stat in its favor.
- Don’t give up on the run. Ted Roof’s never seen a run blitz he didn’t like, and I fully expect him to live up to that mantra today. Even if that generates early success, Chaney shouldn’t take that as a sign to abandon the ground game. The funny thing about Tech’s defense is that it hasn’t been that awful against the pass, despite not having much of a pass rush. A look at the pass defense game log shows that they haven’t allowed a passer rating over 150 but three times and haven’t allowed more than two passing touchdowns in any game all season. Meanwhile, you can see that the Jackets’ rushing defense has slowly worn down over the course of the season and in November is giving up almost 200 yards on the ground per game, along with almost three rushing touchdowns a game. If that smells to you like making sure Nick Chubb gets plenty of opportunities to pound the shit out of Tech’s defense, you’re not alone.
- Keep special teams even. A couple of months ago, this would have seemed like a pipe dream, but now, not so much. Blankenship has emerged as a competent place kicker. Coverage teams have improved and over the past two games, it appears that blocking on returns has, too. (No coincidence that McKenzie and Davis turned in their best returns of the season in those two games.) The Dawgs would still appear to be at a disadvantage in the net punting department, but if they can at least play Tech to a draw elsewhere, I’ll take it.
In the end, my reason for optimism lies in large part with Kirby Smart, who, I think wants this game and has given every indication that he’s prepared the team for that. It hasn’t been a great year in many ways, but a solid finish against Georgia Tech lets the season ends on an upward projection and gives Smart a good place from which to grow the program. Plus, there’s no reason to think he feels any differently about Tech than we do. That should be enough to do the trick.
Remember all those years in the Cocktail Party series when Florida scheduled a bye the week before and Georgia didn’t. I don’t know if this is on the same level, but still…
I assume that adds up to extra time to get ready for the triple option. We’ll see tomorrow how much that paid off.
Yeah, the 2014 game blew chunks. Although it’s funny nobody can summon up bitter tears specifically over the effing decision to squib kick.
If it were up to me, I’d make ’em all watch the last thirty seconds of regulation until they were in the mood to punch a few walls. Which, when you think about it, shouldn’t take too many viewings.