When Georgia Tech has the football
As most folks already know, Coach Paul Johnson came to Georgia Tech in 2008 and brought with him his spread option offense. The offense gets its name from 1) the offensive line splits and 2) the primary play run by Georgia Tech – the triple option. Fans will see this play run about 30% of the time.
The primary formation that Georgia Tech uses is a double slot formation with a single back behind the quarterback. The single back is referred to as a B-back and the 2 slots are called A-backs. The quarterback should operate exclusively from under center – some experimentation with the shotgun during spring football notwithstanding.
The offense is startlingly simple in how it appears to the average fan. It often appears that Georgia Tech is running the same play over and over with no change. Don't believe it, though! Coach Johnson has also put in place several blocking schemes – all designed to block defenders based on who is assigned to what aspect.
If you watch closely, you will notice things like an A-back blocking a safety on one play and then a wide receiver doing the same on the next play. Last, Coach Johnson is undoubtedly one of the best in the business when it comes to making in-game adjustments. It's not unusual for a defense to find a solution to the GT offense and then have GT adjust to it on the next series.
From a personnel standpoint, the Georgia Tech offense will live and die on the legs (and arm, too) of Joshua Nesbitt. The senior signal caller is one of the toughest quarterbacks around. Nesbitt has off-season surgery on his ankles and has returned quicker and faster than he has been in both 2008 and 2009.
Nesbitt has struggled with accuracy in the passing game. But, this offense only requires him to throw between 10 and 15 times per game on average. Typically, most of his attempts are downfield – with little to no short passing game.
At B-back, Anthony Allen slides over to take over the reins from Jonathan Dwyer. Allen played at A-back in 2009. But, his build and running style is more strongly suited as a B-back. He is expected to play a significant role in the offense.
Other impact offensive players include Roddy Jones at A-back and Stephen Hill at wide receiver. Jones had 2 rushing touchdowns this past weekend. Due to the nature of the game vs South Carolina State, there wasn't a lot of passing so Hill hasn't made an impact yet.
When the Jayhawks have the ball
The Yellow Jacket defense is a unit that struggled significantly in 2009 – so much so that Coach Johnson fired his defensive coordinator and brought in the former head coach of Virginia, – and noted defensive specialist – Al Groh. As a result of the coaching change, there's also a big shift in scheme and philosophy. Groh will line the defense up in a 3-4 scheme; a shift from the 4-3 scheme seen last year.
Additionally, the defense has new coaches at linebacker and along the defensive line. Coach Charles Kelly is the lone returning coach on the defensive side. So, the defense has a new scheme and many new faces on the coaching staff. That adds up to a lot of uncertainty as the 2010 season unfolds.
The returns from the first game were mixed. The defense did a good job of adapting and adjusting during the course of the game. But, there was still a lot of yardage given up to a FCS team – particularly by the run defense.
Schematically, the goal of the defense is for the defensive linemen to occupy as many blockers as possible – forcing double teams whenever possible. This will allow the linebackers to fill gaps and make the plays. During passing downs, the defense will send 4-5 players – mixing up which outside linebacker is sent and also throwing the occasional safety in there as well.
In watching who makes the plays, Coach Groh considers the outside linebacker to be the "cleanup hitter" of his defense. These are the guys that are expected to keep contain on the outside, rush the passer, and cover the tight end/slot receiver. So, they have a lot of responsibility and much is expected from that position.
As far as which players are expected to have an impact? Defensive end Jason Peters had an excellent spring practice and its hoped that he will continue that through the fall. In the first game, however, it was Izaan Cross who appeared to have the best game among the linemen.
At linebacker, Brad Jefferson is the captain and stalwart of the defense. Jefferson is an inside linebacker. But, he is a very athletic player and will be a tough presence on any plays between the tackles.
The secondary has been shaken up and no clear leader amongst that group has emerged. However, true freshman Isaiah Johnson has been the surprise of the group and he appears to have a bright future.
When the ball is in...uh...transition? (Special Teams)
All in all, Georgia Tech has solid special teams. Coach Paul Johnson commented earlier this week that the coverage units were the most athletic groups he has had. Despite some hiccups with kick coverage in 2008, all of the teams have been very solid under Coach Johnson to date.
Senior Scott Blair will be the kicker for extra points and field goals. Blair has been inconsistent at times. But, he has also been rock solid in big games (see both Clemson games in 2009). Freshman Justin Moore appears to have won the kickoff duties with a couple of deep kicks in the first game of the season.
Chandler Anderson and Sean Poole have both been locked in a battle for punting. At this point, Anderson has the edge. Both punters are pretty solid and are capable of booming one occasionally with only a very rare shank.
Jerrard Tarrant is the punt returner and he started out last season with a bang – returning 2 punts for touchdown. Following the early season games, teams began kicking away from him. He is a very good punt returner.
Orwin Smith will return kicks. Smith is a very hard-nosed tough player. He doesn't possess exceptional speed. But, he does do a good job of moving north-south and not dancing left-right.