Part of the problem for the Georgia Tech offensive line in recent games may be falling into a trap of overthinking.
Coach Paul Johnson said Monday at his weekly news conference that players may be anticipating too much.
“We’ve got problems we’ve got to take care of from an execution standpoint,” Johnson said. “And the only thing I can figure is sometimes when you have kids who have played, they outsmart themselves because you’ll get an answer (explaining a missed assignment), ‘Well, I thought that this guy was going to do that because two plays before, he did (this).' No, no, no. Just block the rules and block the guy and quit thinking. Just play.”
By rules, Johnson was referring to the principles of his spread-option offense that govern what a lineman should do based on the play and the defense’s alignment.
Part of the challenge, though, is that the coaches aren’t telling the players to be mindless robots, either.
“Sometimes what happens is, they see things, they know things, they can assess it and we do, too,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said. “We tell them, ‘Hey, pay attention to linebacker depth. Pay attention to the tackle, pay attention to the stance. Pay attention to pass rush moves.’”
But the overriding message this week to the offense is for each player to do his job and stick to the basics.
Still, right tackle Errin Joe spoke a little bit into the balance that may sometimes be difficult to weigh, particularly in a split-second situation. He gave the example of blocking a defensive lineman when an extra defender comes on a blitz.
“If he’s close to the quarterback, you know I’ve got to take that,” Joe said. “So you know you just have to be able to think on the run.”
So, even if his job is to stay with his man, he may leave him because the blitzing defender has a free run at the quarterback.
“But at the same time, you can’t overthink it and mess yourself up and get confused and get caught in two different things and lose your footwork,” he said.
It perhaps can be understood how an offensive lineman's feet might slow. That said, I think the problem can be solved; Tech linemen have fairly managed to block effectively throughout Johnson's tenure, even when encumbered with brains and playing experience. But I also think that the solution (or part of it) is playing with trust and confidence, which aren''t always acquired easily.
A major priority for Saturday’s game will be communicating pre-snap, particularly in the face of blitzes. Having knowledge across the line of who is picking up whom, and trusting linemates to each take up their assignment, should temper the temptation to try to do too much.
“A lot of times, you’re focused on maybe looking at your guard and seeing what he’s doing,” Joe said. “You’ve got to just play football and you’ve got to make sure you’re accountable for what you’re doing.”
Johnson and quarterbacks/B-backs coach Bryan Cook said that B-back Patrick Skov's play against Duke than was better than it had been against Notre Dame, particularly regarding his vision and making reads. Against Duke, he finished with 19 carries for 75 yards, just about all of them gained against considerable resistance. As you may have read, the blocking has not been superior thus far for the Jackets. Skov can play better, but the blocking can be better, too.
“I’m sure he’s not pleased with that,” Cook said of Skov’s 19-for-75 performance. “He’s got higher expectations for himself and ought to.”
How Skov’s game compared with the lowest yards-per-carry games (minimum 19 carries) of his predecessors at B-back.
It’s difficult (for me, at any rate) to draw sweeping conclusions but I’d say this: Duke’s defense is pretty good, Skov is still learning the position, other B-backs have had games where they encountered trouble. In a way, it speaks to Skov’s running that he gained his yards without one big gain to prop up his yardage total. Dwyer, for instance, aside from a 33-yard run ran 19 times for 49 yards.
Big win for Sims
One of the B-backs mentioned above, David Sims, had a bit more success than did Skov on Saturday. Sims, the fullbacks and quarterbacks coach at Shorter College, earned his first victory as a coach, and it was pretty impressive. Shorter, a Division II school, upset FCS Southeast Missouri State 26-21 on the road. I think you could make a case that a Division II team beating an FCS team is considerably more noteworthy achievement than an FCS team beating an FBS team.
For starters, Division II schools can offer 36 scholarships compared to 63 for FCS. The FBS limit is 85.
Rather remarkably, it broke a nine-game losing streak for Shorter, which recently moved to Division II from NAIA.
Sims took the Shorter job over the summer and has aspirations of becoming a college head coach.
Linebackers coach Andy McCollum said that linebacker P.J. Davis played one of the better games of his career Saturday against Duke. Davis had 13 tackles, nine solo, and had one sack. He was credited with a forced fumble, although that is a bit generous. (Duke messed up an option exchange on the first possession of the game.) Davis has led the team in tackles in each of the past three games.
McCollum also commented on linebacker Beau Hankins’ decision to leave the team. Hankins left in part because of concussions he had suffered, including one in his final game (Notre Dame). McCollum called Hankins “a great kid” and “nothing but a positive part of the program. Hate to see him not with us.”
Player of the week
After helping the Tech volleyball team defeat Clemson and Boston College in the opening weekend of ACC play, outside hitter Teegan Van Gunst was named the ACC player of the week on Monday. It’s the second time this season already that Van Gunst has earned the honor.
The Jackets are now 11-3 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. They play at Miami Friday and at Florida State Sunday.