10 hesitatingly must-read Tech notes

Eyes are upon Georgia Tech's defense, as the Yellow Jackets will incorporate tighter pass coverage against Virginia. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Eyes are upon Georgia Tech’s defense, as the Yellow Jackets will incorporate tighter pass coverage against Virginia. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

1. Georgia Tech’s depths problems on the defensive line might be best illustrated by this quote from defensive coordinator Ted Roof about the interior backups, Patrick Gamble and Francis Kallon. I made the observation that both had played more against Pitt than in recent weeks, and asked if coaches had gotten enough production out of them.

“No, we didn’t,” he said.

Neither had a tackle in the game. However, Roof said he’s committed nonetheless to subbing out Adam Gotsis and Shawn Green.

“We’re going to be better off by playing those guys (Gamble and Kallon), because Shawn’s 275 and Adam’s 285,” he said. “That’s not big for that position anymore. That’s little for that position. As a result of that, all those reps add up and take their toll. We’re committed to playing those other guys. As we play ’em, they’ll get better and that’s what the expectation level is.”

Roof’s comment was particularly interesting in light of the fact that, just before, he had said that he wants to parcel out reps at defensive end, as you would expect, based on production.

“Production has to be rewarded,” he said. “The guys that perform well will get more turns and the guys that don’t take advantage of the opportunities will get less turns.”

This calls to mind, of course, the heavy attrition suffered by the team on the defensive line over the offseason. Of those, I don’t think any would have necessarily started. But Jimmie Kitchen played some last season. Darius Commissiong appeared to be coming on. It’s doubtful either would have displaced Gotsis or Green out of the starting lineup. But at the least they would have created more competition and provided options.

2. Virginia linebacker Henry Coley remembers vividly Tech’s 56-20 win over the Cavaliers in 2012. Tech scored on a 70-yard touchdown pass (Tevin Washington to Zach Laskey) and a 77-yard touchdown run (Orwin Smith) on two of their first three plays from scrimmage en route to a 56-20 win.

“It was like a blur,” he told David Teel of the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. “I can’t say it any other way. … and most of it was my fault. … I gave up a 70-yard play for a touchdown, and after that their offense was just able to roll.”

3. With nine more catches and a little bit of yards-after-catch work, Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter could finish his career as Tech’s all-time leader in yards per reception.

In 21 games, Smelter has 41 catches averaging 19.7 yards per play. The school record holder is Dez White, who averaged 20.4 yards per catch. The record book requires a minimum of 50 receptions. Smelter is averaging 23.1 yards per catch on 20 catches this season, which is third in the country.

If he caught 10 more passes – two per game, including a bowl game – he would need to average 23.2 yards per catch to pass White.

4. On Wednesday, coach Paul Johnson sounded encouraged by what he saw out of the work to tighten up pass coverage.

“I think we’ve worked hard on it,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes Saturday, but we’ve worked at it. You can tell a difference.”

As I believe I mentioned earlier, Virginia isn’t a bad offense to try to tweak the scheme a little bit. Quarterback Greyson Lambert is completing 60.6 percent of his passes, which isn’t bad but not great, but is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt, which is fairly low. The Cavaliers will also be without wide receiver Miles Goodch, their most productive player at that position. That said, Virginia probably sees a defense that can be dinged for yards and points.

The player for Tech to be mindful of is wide receiver Darius Jennings, who has 17 catches and a 20.3 yards-per-catch average. You may remember that he handled Tech quite ably last year with 13 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. His 13 catches tied for third most ever against Tech.

“They definitely put him in different positions, whether it’s the X receiver or the Z or the slot,” secondary coach Joe Speed said. “They use him in jet sweep motion. We’ve got to have awareness of where he is, but they’ve got other deep threats, as well. He’s got some wiggle, he’s got some quicks, he’s got great hands, great vision.”

Virginia coach Mike London said he’s expecting a breakout game from wide receiver Keeon Johnson.

“It’s time for him to do something,” he said.

5. Backup defensive backs Lynn Griffin, Step Durham and Lance and Lawrence Austin could see more playing time Saturday.

“It’s time for those guys to start stepping up and doing their part and gaining confidence, so they can help D.J. (White) a little bit and Chris Milton a little bit,” Speed said. “It’s about that time for this to be happening.”

6. A quote from Johnson about the blitz-heavy scheme run by defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta, formerly in the employ of Tech.

“If they can get us third and long, I’m sure they’ll blitz,” he said. “We’ve got to hurt ’em when they blitz. We had our opportunities last year a couple times and didn’t get it done. If they blitz, there’s some opportunities to gash ’em.”

7. This is the latest in the year that Tech and Virginia have played each other since 2005, when the two teams met Nov. 12. The game has been played mid to late October frequently since then.

The game will be played just two days shy of the anniversary of the 1990 win at Scott Stadium over the then-No. 1 Cavaliers.

I imagine some might consider the following sacrilege, but I find the historic value put on that game a little high, mostly because it would appear Virginia was kind of a puppet No. 1. A lot of the ranking had to do with the fact that the Cavaliers started the year No. 15 and just didn’t lose. To wit, they were No. 7 going into their fifth game of the season, and then moved up to No. 4 after beating William & Mary when three teams ahead of them lost or tied.

They moved up two spots to No. 2 the next week on a bye week and then became the No. 1 team after they beat N.C. State (which was 4-2 at the time, with two wins over I-AA schools) and Michigan lost to drop out of No. 1. (I was actually at that game. The Wolverines lost to Michigan State 28-27 at Michigan Stadium.)

Starting with the loss to Tech, Virginia ended up losing four of its last five games to finish 8-4, No. 23 in the country. The game obviously still holds significance because it propelled the Jackets towards the national championship, but the most impressive win of that season, aside from the bowl victory over Nebraska, was arguably the win over Clemson, which finished No. 9 with a 10-2 record.

I equate it a little bit to Tech’s loss to Virginia in 2011. Tech was No. 12 at the time, having started the season 6-0. Virginia students stormed the field after the game, presumably because their team had just taken down the No. 12 team in the country. In hindsight, I’d say that beating a team that finished 8-5 was probably not worthy of a field storming.

8. Virginia spent time preparing for Tech’s offense in the preseason and then during its open week in early October. It’s fairly routine procedure.

“There’s elements that you just have to make sure your players are exposed to rather than the week you play,” he said.

London suggested that the work was as much with preparing the scout team to run Tech’s offense as much as it is preparing the defense.

“You try to do as much as you can because it’s hard in just one week’s time, we practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, it’s hard to try to simulate, get all the time,” he said. “You never do it. You never get it exactly how you want it. The more times you can look at it and see it, the more you feel prepared for it. We try to take some opportunities to do that.”

9. Both London and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly received questions about cut blocking, a technique sometimes criticized by coaches and players who assert that it is dangerous method. The Irish play Navy, which runs a near-identical scheme to Tech’s, this week. They answered similarly, although Kelly may have been more emphatic with a declaration to “stop being crybabies.”

Said Kelly, “It’s part of the game, and they’re legal, and you’ve got to get off the ball and go play. I told our guys this is a no‑cry zone this week. I don’t want to hear about it. Go play big games and go play the game the right way.”

Said London, “it’s a physical game inside because of the style of blocking, the legal style of blocking. We just can’t stand in cement. You got to move your feet.”

10. The Weather Channel forecast for Saturday is a high of 51 and a night-time low of 32. Winds up to 27 miles per hour and no chance of rain. … Homecoming activities will close a few roads on campus Saturday morning. More information is available on ramblinwreck.com. … I mentioned in the Shamire Devine Q&A that I would be writing a story about him for Saturday’s paper and myajc. I’m sure this won’t ruin your weekend plans for anything, but the story has been pushed back. … The blog Sporting ATL posted an interview with former Tech All-ACC center Sean Bedford. Worth a read.


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