Time will tell if a new offensive dimension revealed itself to Georgia Tech on Saturday or if the Yellow Jackets merely unwrapped a bauble. Either way, their new diamond formation looks like a keeper. North Carolina, Tech’s opponent Saturday, figures to see it.
“We all like running that kind of stuff,” quarterback Vad Lee said. “We’re just going to continue to put plays into it because we know Carolina’s going to adjust, so we’re going to adjust and go from there.”
Plucked from game video of the San Francisco 49ers, the formation aligns Lee in the shotgun, with the two A-backs closely flanking him and the B-back directly behind him. The Jackets have worked on it since spring practice and sprung it on Duke on Saturday to great effect. Among the plays run out of it were a 44-yard read-option run by A-back Robert Godhigh, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Godhigh and a number of sweeps that outflanked the Blue Devils and went for big gains.
“It adds a different wrinkle, and it has different angles and creates different running lanes,” B-back David Sims said. “It’s something we want to try to exploit.”
Coach Paul Johnson introduced the formation in the spring, looking for a way to take advantage of Lee’s dual-threat skills and retain the ability to run. The entire offense can be run out of the diamond formation, Johnson said.
In Tech’s standard formation, the quarterback is under center with the B-back about 3 yards behind him. The A-backs are lined up just outside the offensive tackles. Out of the diamond, plays run up the middle don’t develop as quickly, but the offensive line doesn’t have to create as much movement off the line of scrimmage.
“It gives you a little better (blocking) angles sometimes, especially if you’re trying to get linebackers,” Johnson said. “You’ve got a little better run and go at them coming downhill. It also doesn’t hit as fast, so there’s tradeoffs both ways.”
Lee likes being able to take the ball from the shotgun.
“I just like being further back,” he said. “It’s an easier read in the run game and the pass game because I’m already back there.”
It has caused no small consternation at North Carolina. After losing 68-50 last season and surrendering 588 yards of offense, coach Larry Fedora’s staff assembled a game plan that it began to implement last week, when the Tar Heels had an open date. Then coaches and players watched as Tech introduced the diamond against Duke.
“Will we see it Saturday?” Johnson asked. “Who knows? Maybe, maybe not.”
Johnson said that the offense will not stray too far from its spread-option foundation, with the quarterback under center. But it doesn’t hurt that North Carolina and future opponents now have more on their plate.
“The more we get them to not focus on the fundamentals, the better for us,” Sims said.
Opposing coaches have long dedicated time in spring practice and preseason camp to preparing for Tech’s offense, believing that the standard game week didn’t allow enough time to train players to defend it. Notably, Virginia Tech, the Jackets’ opponent after North Carolina, will have even less time because the game will be played Thursday night.
“It’s two different styles of offense, and they are able to do that because of Vad Lee,” Fedora said. “Vad is a very talented young man who can beat you with his legs or his arm. I think what they have done is they have put together pieces of both of those offenses to be very, very successful, and it makes it really hard on your defense.”