ON THE BEAT: Georgia Tech

GoJackets.com publisher Jonathan Leifheit spoke with Pack Pride about the Wolfpack's next opponent, Georgia Tech. Leifheit talked about the team's strengths, weaknesses, and much more in this exclusive interview.

GoJackets.com publisher Jonathan Leifheit spoke with Pack Pride about the Wolfpack's next opponent, Georgia Tech. Leifheit talked about the team's strengths, weaknesses, and much more in this exclusive interview.


Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas is having a great year at quarterback. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Justin has proven to be very adept at making decisions... not just in the option game but also in the passing game (as evidenced by only four interceptions vs 14 touchdowns). He is also exceptionally quick and fast.

His weaknesses... Justin is a bit on the smaller side, and I think I can see that he's starting to feel the cumulative punishment from a whole season at quarterback.

He has been a bit more tentative than he was earlier in the season when running.

Talk about the rotation Georgia Tech has in the backfield. It seems like Synjyn Days is the main guy now with Laskey injured. Overall, have they been pleased with the ground game?
Well, Georgia Tech is 3rd in the nation in yards per game. So, Coach Johnson has been pleased. This year has been a back-to-basics kind of year for Georgia Tech. The team has embraced it and excelled at it.

With regard to B-back, Zach Laskey was the starter until he went down with a shoulder injury against UNC. Days stepped in at B-back at that point and has gotten progressively better the last 2 games... really excelling against UVa this past weekend.

The offensive line has been a strength for Georgia Tech in previous seasons. Is that the case this year?
This has been the best offensive line since Coach Johnson arrived on the Flats. They can run block and pass block. Its also a very deep unit, with only one senior on the line.

Break down the wide receiver position and passing game.
The wide receivers are led by DeAndre Smelter. He has been a very very good wide receiver for Georgia Tech, and I fully expect him to be playing on Sundays next year.

Darren Waller has come on the last couple of weeks. Both Smelter and Waller have great size (especially Waller), are tremendous blockers, and use their bodies well in the passing game.

Depth is a little suspect but Michael Summers has done reasonably well and is the first wide receiver in the game if Waller or Smelter need a breather. Corey Dennis will also see time but generally he is only in the game to block.

Georgia Tech's defense seems to have struggled this season. Talk about their progress and what they try to do defensively... schematically and with blitzing.
The Georgia Tech defense has struggled tremendously.

They did look better this past weekend, but that was against a weak Virginia offense. Their strength seems to be the ability to generate turnovers. The weakness is, well, everything else.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof did make a change this past weekend along the line and it seemed to pay dividends. He moved Pat Gamble to defensive end from defensive tackle, and it forced Virginia to double-team, freeing up one of the few playmakers on the squad, defensive end KeShun Freeman.

The defense generally plays things straight up - staying in base defense - on 1st and 2nd down. On 3rd down (or obvious passing downs), they will bring extra heat with a linebacker or cornerback.

They will play a 4-3 or a 4-2-5 defense - depending on the personality of the opposing team's offense.

How have the special teams performed?
Tech has played well on special teams. The only real weakness has been kicker Harrison Butker's ability to convert medium-to-long field goals. Butker does, however, possess a very strong leg and he will put it in the end zone more times than not. Also, Ryan Rodwell has been steady if not spectacular.

Coverage and return units have also been solid - garnering a few blocked punts and kicks, not giving up any big returns, and generating some decent yardage on their return opportunities.

How do you believe Georgia Tech is approaching this game strategically on both sides of the ball?
Georgia Tech will approach this game the same way they always do. Possess the ball on offense and put pressure on the opposing offense to score every possession.

The pressure on the opposing offense often causes them to panic and take chances - which is why the defense has been decent in generating turnovers.

Finally, how do you see this game playing out?
I think that NC State will have a hard time slowing down the Tech offense. And, I am not sure the Tech defense will fare as well as they did against Virginia.

As such, I expect a high-scoring affair, with both teams reaching the 30's-40's. The team that wins the turnover battle will win the game.

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