5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Miami

September 22, 2016 Atlanta - Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) tosses a football to Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Isiah Willis (right) in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Clemson Tigers won 26 - 7 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

 HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

1. Georgia Tech quarterback and B-backs coach Bryan Cook answered questions this week about quarterback Justin Thomas’ pattern of running backwards when fleeing pass-rush pressure before throwing the ball away. I learned a new acronym as a result – “OSR.” The first word is “Oh.”

“The first thing you’ve got to do is just get away from the guy and to get separation and, depending on how on top of you he is, you may need to go backwards,” Cook said. “Sometimes you’ve got to lose ground to get ground.”

He made the point that no play is drawn up to be run like that, “but it’s playing ball sometimes, too.”

2. A number to note, one that I dug up for the “Inside the Numbers” post previewing the game – Tech has fumbled the ball just six times in four games, a 1.5 fumble-per-game average. Compared to the rest of FBS, it’s not exactly worth bragging about. The Jackets are tied for 74 with their six fumbles (one of which was Lance Austin’s in the Clemson game).

But, to the degree that statistics after four games have merit, it’s noteworthy. In coach Paul Johnson’s first eight seasons, Tech has ranked among the very worst in fumbling seven times, averaging more than two fumbles per game.

The only season the Jackets were better was the 2014 season, when they fumbled 20 times in 14 games, tied for 69th. You may remember that season turned out fairly well. One reason Tech was able to at least hang in the game against Clemson was that it didn’t kill any offensive possessions or shorten fields for Clemson with fumbles. The Jackets, even while collecting three-and-outs, were still able to punt the ball away.

After fumbling in the opener, B-back Dedrick Mills has not fumbled since.

3. Tech’s defense will need to be wary again of screen passes, this time thrown by Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya. Mercer had success with it, Vanderbilt didn’t try it and Clemson ran them with their usual success. Bubble screens are part of the Miami package.

For the defensive line, the challenge is learning to recognize when offensive linemen are letting linemen through to the quarterback so they can release to block for the pass receiver.

“Just getting a better feel,” defensive end Francis Kallon said. “ Just feeling the offensive linemen relase earely and just being able to see that quicker is one of the things I’m working on this week.”

4. This doesn’t have much to do with the Miami game, but was something left over from the Craig Candeto story I wrote for earlier this week. Candeto, Tech’s assistant director of football operations, was Johnson’s first quarterback at the Naval Academy in 2002 and 2003. It was clear how much respect and appreciation that Candeto has for his old coach, describing him as, among other things, generous, fair, honest and caring.

“If you’re good, he’ll tell you and if you’re bad, he’ll tell you,” Candeto said. “You don’t get that a lot in life. A lot of times, you don’t even get that out of head coaches. They give you a lot of fluff. I respect that.”

Also interesting: “He’s probably a little more laidback, but he’s not that much more laidback.”

Candeto and his wife Maribeth, by the way, are expecting their first child in March.

5. Tech’s coaches clearly have a lot of respect for Kaaya. It was evident in the way they talked about him in interviews this week. This wasn’t mere puffing up.

“I think Kaaya’s really improved since last year,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “He’s very decisive and throws a great deep ball and (has) another year experience. He’s a fine quarterback that we have a lot of respect for. Sees the field well, delivers the ball. It looks like he understands how the defenses are trying to attack him, does a good job delivering the ball to the voids in the coverage, the soft spots in the coverage. He runs a really good operation, too.”

Said Johnson, “You can’t go out and just play man to man the whole day or they’ll torch you. This guy’s really good at throwing the deep ball. He’s probably the best guy in our league at throwing the deep ball.”


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