GT Beat: Offensive Outlook

Another Preseason Analysis, Volume I: The Georgia Tech Offense

I, for one, am ready for the season to start. Though everyone tries, it’s impossible to make the preseason sexy. Oooh, a Top 25 prediction, or wow, “here’s how they’ll finish in the ACC”–all of that lands in the bunk file, appropriately and quickly. Sure, there may be teams that are excited about a couple of recruits, or perhaps a significant coaching change, but until we see the first snap, there’s little worthwhile action to recount. Quite frankly, it’s hard to write a still-life. It’s a price I’ll pay, though, to enjoy the opportunity to keep you posted on the upcoming battles of the season.

All of my data comes from the 2012 Georgia Tech Football Spring Guide. The rest is hearsay and opinion, or otherwise noted.

It’s no secret. The Triple Option Wishbone Flexbone Motion-activated Quadruple-vertical Confusing-to-defenses Set will again be employed by Head Coach Paul Johnson for the 2012 season. However, most teams still won’t be spending a significant amount of time practicing to defend against this golden scheme, which, up until recently was thought a barbarous relic. At most, they’ll spend the week ahead of their contest with GT to prep for an offense they won’t see again until the ACC Championship Game. So, despite the fact that this is a known quantity, there will remain an element of surprise. Sam Snead famously said, “Practice puts brains in your muscles”. This can work in two ways. One step in the wrong direction, or even a half-second hesitation, will often result in a GT touchdown. And confusion will happen. Have doubts? This is from the Wikipedia entry for “flexbone”, specifically the “veer” play:

“The triple option forces defenses to worry about fullbacks running in the middle of the offensive line and to worry about quarterbacks and slotbacks running to the outside of the line. The decision of who is to carry the ball (which option to make) can either be made before the play in the huddle, or during the play by the QB, who will make decisions based on the position and play of certain defensive players and what they are doing. The quarterback reads the defensive end on the side the play is going to when deciding whether to hand to the fullback or to keep it himself. If he sees the end is committed to stopping the fullback in the middle, the QB will keep it. If the end is staying back to contain the QB on the outside, he will give it to the fullback. If the quarterback does not hand to the FB, he will then read the end to see if he is committed to playing the SB on the pitch or the QB. If he is playing the QB, then he will pitch it to the slotback. If the end is committed to stopping the slotback on the pitch, the QB will take the ball upfield himself.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexbone_formation

That’s but one play for the offense for which defenses will be preparing. The pictures don’t help clarify it. Still, there are a few opponents with upper-echelon DEs and extraordinary general team speed that GT should fear. Virginia Tech and Clemson come to mind.

Let’s talk personnel. We’ve graduated and/or lost some significant, productive players. We’ve also retained & gained some.

WRs: Stephen Hill is on to the NFL–gone is his average 25 yards/reception–and Tyler Melton graduated. The replacements have managed to fly under the radar. This is good. Darren Waller (6’5″, 220) and Jeff Greene (6’4″, 200) are just sophomores, but both are big, both played offense and defense *and* basketball (hands, baby!) in high school, and each has a real shot at making a name for himself. There will be competition–solid, experienced backups–for each of these guys, too, so it’s safe to anticipate some exciting play and reliable downfield blocking.

Georgia Tech may only throw the ball a dozen times per game, yet will somehow send a wide receiver to the NFL every few years. It’s a mold we’ve made and I’ll not examine it too closely, because it could very well change. Could we send two? Having a strong WR on each side should loosen defenses a bit, assuming a QB that can throw the ball downfield …

QB: It’s not plural over there to the left, but maybe it ought to be in our case. GT may well play three QBs this season, and even two at a time. Why? No, it’s not to add confusion to what is already an enigmatic offense. It’s because Synjyn Days (6’1″, 212) is fast as lightning and strong as an ox–he can bench 365–and rather than let him sit, the coaches have considered using him in one of the Letterback (A or B) positions. This may be exploited in the form of trick plays. Tevin Washington (6’0″, 205), a lock as starter, is in his fifth year. He knows the offense up & down and with his eyes closed. Redshirt freshman Vad Lee (6’1″, 206) is reputed to be an excellent passer, too, so there exist several possible permutations here, and Coach Johnson will likely explore.

A-Back: We are deep as a well here. Orwin Smith (6’0″, 202) is the returning starter. He’s a senior and will almost certainly start the opener, despite surgery for turf toe in the offseason– January, to be a bit more precise. Broderick Snoddy (5’9″, 190) is a redshirt freshman. 10.76 100 yard dash in high school, plus elusive stature equals dynamite. It’s expected that he’ll get some significant yardage this season. He’s being considered for the B-Back spot, as well. B.J. Bostic (5’11”, 171) is back, still plenty fast, and should also get some touches. Robert Godhigh (5’7″, 187) and Tony Zenon (5’8″, 180) are more dynamite. Deon Hill (6’0″, 205) is another athletic A-Back whose time on the field will be productive. Special Teams will borrow several of these guys for TD returns. Recall that Barry Sanders played at 5’8″, 200, and was quiet.

B-Back: Last year’s starter David Sims (6’0″, 218) returns. He started his Tech career at QB, but was switched to B-Back. He can block, run, catch, and throw, and do all of these well. Zach Laskey (6’1″, 201) and Charles Perkins (6’0″, 219) are big and solid, too.

Get happy now, because the news just gets better. Here’s the offensive line breakdown.

C: Jay Finch (6’3″, 283). He’s big, strong, and smart. A former defensive lineman, he knows the tricks of the other side and will anchor the line in fine fashion.

OG: Omoregie Uzzi (6’3″, 300) has NFL potential. He’ll play like a million dollars is on the line because it is. Will Jackson (6’3″, 285) is an extraordinary student and a fine football player. He is Janet Jackson’s son.

OT: Ray Beno (6’2″, 290) is another solid and mobile offensive lineman. He’s experienced and will contribute much more than he’ll be recognized for, as will most of these humble guys. Tyler Kidney (6’2″, 262) started half of the 2011 season and is back.

There are several offensive line backups and newcomers–Morgan Bailey (6’4″,298), Shaq Mason (6’1″, 295), Trey Braun (6’5″, 295), Bryan Chamberlain (6’4″, 297), and Errin Joe (6’3″, 295). As with the returning starters, their names will seldom be mentioned on SportsCenter, but they will certainly contribute to every yard gained, every touchdown scored, and every kicked point. And this offense absolutely demands depth. That, or superhuman endurance. Relatedly, John Sisk is the new strength and conditioning coach. Perhaps his bonus is indexed to fourth quarter and late-season performance?

Other: Justin Thomas (5’11”, 185) was recruited as a QB, but his speed may mean that the coaches find a fit for this true freshman, even a temporary one. Maybe one whereby we have three wideouts, he among them, and Vad Lee in shotgun.

That’s it for this week. If you’ve borne it out to now, thank you. Next week, we’ll talk defense and invoke the name of the greatest sportsman ever to live. He’s a Yellow Jacket.

 

Geofferson P. Burdell was awarded a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Georgia Tech in August 1999. He is an Austrian Economics devotee, a shadetree mechanic, a hiker, and an improving bridge player. He resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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