When Georgia Tech offensive tackle Jahaziel Lee looks across the line of scrimmage during his team’s spring-practice scrimmages, what he sees looks familiar. Three defensive lineman and four linebackers – a 3-4 defense.
Tech saw it plenty last season and will see it again in the next. And now with new defensive coordinator Nate Woody implementing his version of the 3-4, the Yellow Jackets offense is seeing it in the spring and will again during the preseason.
“It’ll definitely help us,” Lee said. “A lot of slanting and linebackers popping, so it’s different, but it’s definitely going to help us during the season.”
Coach Paul Johnson was in agreement that practicing against the 3-4 was probably helpful.
“It’s closer to what we see a lot,” he said.
Clemson, Georgia, Miami and Virginia all lined up in a 3-4 last season against the Jackets. Louisville, which Tech will play in its rotating Atlantic Division crossover game, may do so, as well. The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, used three down linemen (and sometimes four) when he was directing the Notre Dame defense in the Jackets’ loss to the Fighting Irish in 2015.
It would be a stretch to say that the reason that Tech lost all four of those games was the 3-4. The amount of talent that the Jackets were facing in those defenses likely was the larger factor. But given the success each had, the Jackets expect to see it again.
Further, it isn’t just that those teams likely will be in a 3-4 again, as not all 3-4 defenses are the same. Opponents have endeavored to disrupt the Jackets with slanting (defensive linemen trying to penetrate the line of scrimmage at an angle) and popping (blitzing linebackers, often trying to time up the attack with the snap count), and those are evidently tactics in Woody’s playbook.
This spring, Tech’s offense has been seeing it in the Saturday morning scrimmages and then in the scrimmage periods in other practices.
“I definitely think it is (helpful),” quarterback TaQuon Marshall said. “Because we see it a lot, honestly. They haven’t given us one of the looks that we normally get, but just being able to go against their base look, which is one of the looks that we get a lot during the season, it’s always beneficial. Because we can work on a lot of things now so we don’t have to cram it all in one week when we’re getting ready for it.”