Breaking down the run defenses Georgia Tech will face

HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COMt34

HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COMt34

Breaking down the run defenses that Georgia Tech will face this season:

The Yellow Jackets averaged 256.2 rushing yards per game, the eighth highest average in FBS last season. The offense returns quarterback Justin Thomas, several starters on the line, A-back and wide receiver, and some experience at B-back.

 

Boston College

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 82.8.

NCAA rank: 2nd.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: The teams didn’t play last season. Tech rushed for 391 yards the last time they met, a 37-17 Jackets’ win in 2012.

Starters returning: Eight.

Date of game: Sept. 3 in Dublin, Ireland.

Comment: Steve Addazio is jacked up about this game and facing the offense. The eight returners includes the entire secondary. Three of the front seven starters must be replaced, including two of the team’s three leading tacklers last season, which should be an advantage for Tech because it should take a while for the Eagles to get used to the speed and timing of the offense.

Mercer

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 171 on the FCS level.

NCAA rank: 64 on the FCS level.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: The teams last met in 1938.

Starters returning: 10.

Date of game: Sept. 10.

Comment: Even with so many starters returning, including numerous experienced upperclassmen, this is a game in which the Yellow Jackets should be able to call a number for rushing yards and hit it.

Vanderbilt

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 143.2.

NCAA rank: 33.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: The teams didn’t play last season. Tech rushed for 396 yards the last time they met, a 56-31 Jackets’ win in 2009.

Starters returning: The Commodores’ line returns five players who started games last year, including nose tackle Nifae Lealao and Jay Woods in the 3-4 defense. Three starters return at linebacker, including all-SEC players Zach Cunningham and Nigel Bowden. The secondary returns three starters.

Date of game: Sept. 17.

Comment: This could be a very tough game for the Jackets. Not only are the Commodores experienced, it will be the third consecutive game, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except the first is in Dublin and it’s just a few days before a huge Thursday night game against Clemson.

Clemson

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 125.3.

NCAA rank: 18.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 71 in a 43-24 Tigers’ win in Clemson.

Starters returning: Four. Three of the four are in the team’s front seven, including defensive tackle Carlos Watkins and linebacker Ben Boulware, who were All-ACC last year.

Date of game: Sept. 22

Comment: Regardless of the Tigers’ inexperience, they will feature talent and speed at every position. Tech is 1-3 in its last four games against the Tigers with an average margin of defeat of 19.7 points.

Miami

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 200.6.

NCAA rank: 101.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 314 in a 38-21 Miami win in Miami Gardens.

Starters returning: Six, including defensive end Trent Harris Jr., linebacker Jermaine Grace and safety Rayshawn Jenkins.

Date of game: Oct. 1.

Comment: Hey, Mark Richt is returning to Atlanta. I’m guessing you are going to read a lot about that in the next few weeks. The difference is this Hurricanes’ team, at least on defense, doesn’t yet possess the same talent that most of his Bulldogs’ teams did in going 13-2 against the Yellow Jackets.

At Pittsburgh

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 148.5

NCAA rank: 40.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 376 in a 31-28 Panthers’ win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Starters returning: Eight. Five of the front seven, including preseason All-ACC end Ejuan Price, and both safeties.

Date of game: Oct. 8.

Comment: No matter how many yards the Jackets rushed for last season, this will be yet another tough game because of the amount of experience that the Panthers return.

Vs. Georgia Southern

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 130.9.

NCAA rank: 26.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: The teams didn’t play last season. Tech rushed for 348 yards in a 42-38 win in 2014.

Starters returning: 6.

Date of game: Oct. 15

Comment: Five of the starters that return are in the Eagles’ front seven, including all four defensive linemen.  Fans on either side won’t have forgotten the last meeting. The Jackets led 35-10 at halftime before the Eagles took a 38-35 lead with 10:46 remaining. Tech won on a 13-yard scoring pass from Thomas to Deon Hill with 23 seconds left.

Vs. Duke

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 153.8.

NCAA rank: 49.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 173 in a 34-20 Duke win in Durham last year.

Starters returning: Six, but four are in the secondary.

Date of game: Oct. 29.

Comment: This game last year, played in a monsoon in Durham, raised the antennae because the Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack could simply get nothing going against an experienced Duke defense. It was the Jackets’ lowest rushing total to that point in the season and the team failed to convert two crucial short-yardage situations in the fourth quarter. It was also the first game of the season in which Tech didn’t have one rushing play of at least 25 yards.

Tech should benefit from the graduation of safety Jeremy Cash, who killed Tech two consecutive years

At North Carolina

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 247.4.

NCAA rank: 121.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 249 in a 38-31 Tar Heels’ win in Atlanta.

Starters returning: Six, including All-ACC preseason cornerback Des Lawrence. Three of the returners are in the front seven.

Date of game: Nov. 5.

Comment: : Last year was Gene Chizik’s first year as defensive coordinator and they did better than they have in recent years like the 68-point game at UNC in 2012. The team must replace linebackers Shakeel Rashad (126) and Jeff Schoettmer (97), its second- and third-leading tacklers.

At Virginia Tech

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 180.7

NCAA rank: 75.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 161 in a 23-21 Hokies’ win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Starters returning: Six to Bud Foster’s defense.

Date of game: Nov. 12.

Comment: The team has two new coaches on defense, including safeties coach Galen Scott and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell (a former Falcons player). Charley Wiles returns for his 21st season as defensive line coach with the Hokies.

Vs. Virginia

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 156.6

NCAA rank: 50.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 144 in a 27-21 Cavs’ win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Starters returning: Six for new coach Bronco Mendenhall. That total includes preseason-All ACC safety Quin Blanding.

Date of game: Nov. 19.

Comment: Mendenhall was brutal on Tech’s offense when he was coach at BYU for the 2012 (117 rushing yards) and 2013 (237 rushing yards) games. He doesn’t have studs like Kyle Van Noy and Ziggy Ensah, though. The Cavs allowed 37 plays of at least 30 yards last season (111th nationally), according to the Orlando Sentinel.

At Georgia

Rushing yards allowed per game last season: 149.5

NCAA rank: 42.

Rushing yards allowed last time played GT: 194 in a 13-7 Bulldogs’ win at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Starters returning: Five for new coach Kirby Smart, including the entire secondary.

Date of game: Nov. 26

Comment: By the time this game is played the pain of trying to replace the front seven won’t be nearly as keen as it might if the Jackets and Bulldogs were meeting earlier in the season. Johnson and Smart have never faced each other as play-callers, or overseeing play-callers, so this will be an interesting tactical matchup. Smart was DC at Alabama when Jeff Monken’s Georgia Southern, running a very similar offense as Tech’s, rushed for 302 yards in a 45-21 Tide win in 2011.


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