Georgia Tech Preview

Georgia Tech is my new favorite rival. It's a rivalry that actually matters. The UVA bowties Wahoos haven't beaten the Hokies in what will be a decade, and that annual beatdown is less of a rivalry and more of a tradition at this point. The winner of the Techmo bowl not only is in great position to win the Coastal Division every year, but Paul Johnson can come across as such a jerk that it's always fun to see a look of disgust on his face.

Tonight's battle will tell us a lot about what the rest of this season is going to look like. I've seen a lot of different concepts used by Loeffler over the first four games of this season, but haven't seen what I would consider a "complete" game plan yet. Virginia Tech spent the Alabama game running triple option from the pistol with some pro-style under-the-center formations, and then next week against Western Carolina mostly ran the same base plays that were featured in the watered down August scrimmages. Against ECU's stunting 3-4 defense, the Hokies were unable to just zone-block their way down the field, so instead of trying to run some counter blocking schemes they gave up on the run and went four- and five-wide.

Last week, Marshall's defense again proved too capable for Grimes' zone blocking scheme, so Tech lined up in pistol and ran the veer over... and over... and over again. Where were the spread formations that Tech had moderate success with the previous week? This lack of week-to-week cohesion leads me to believe that Loeffler is waiting for this Thursday's matchup to bring all of his tactics together at once. Not a moment too soon either, because Georgia Tech is no joke this season.

As always, Paul Johnson's offense strikes fear into the heart of the opposing defensive coordinator. Look at what Jack Tyler has to say about Bud Foster during the Georgia Tech week.

No one (and I mean no one) does in game adjustments better than Paul Johnson. He has been running his offense for so long that he has seen every conceivable defensive strategy and has designed a counter for all of them. One scary adjustment that he has started implementing mid-game caught my eye against USC in their bowl game last year. It was so unexpected and so diabolical that I had to rewind the play about 10 times to make sure that I was really seeing it.

00:06:59–00:07:16
People who say, "Defending the triple option is easy! It's just the same play over and over! Just play assignment football!" simply don't know what's up. Most people (including most TV "analysts") will claim that if the defensive end takes the dive, and the OLB takes the QB, all the MLB or safety has to do is take the pitch man and the offense won't go anywhere. Boom. Problem solved. Those people are dead wrong, and this play is a perfect example of why Paul Johnson would run all over their game plans.

It looks like on this play USC has the defensive end taking the fullback dive, and the linebacker on the line of scrimmage taking the pitch man. They hope to have the QB hold onto the ball and run right into the MLB who is pursuing inside out. Paul Johnson is going to run what looks like a triple option play, but will make the most basic of blocking adjustments and screw up everyone's read.

At the start of the play the A-back goes in motion, which causes the outside linebacker to head outside to get in position in case the QB pitches. The playside MLB also starts flowing to the sideline because he sees the playside offensive tackle block down, a clear read. He doesn't bother himself with the FB dive, because in meetings all week the defensive coordinator told the defensive end "take the fullback, take the fullback, take the fullback". The playside MLB has to rely on his defensive end making the tackle on a QB give. The defensive end never gets a chance to "take the fullback" on this triple option, because it's not a triple option play. The QB isn't reading anyone. This is a designed handoff.

The playside offensive tackle does block down away from the defensive end, normally a dead give away on a triple option play. Notice the offensive guard though, he trap blocks the defensive end. The offensive tackle and offensive guard switch responsibilities, and perform a cross-block. Now the defense is in trouble. The outside linebacker is still headed towards the sideline to stop the pitch that's never coming, and the MLB is relying on his defensive end to tackle the fullback so he's going to run towards where he thinks the QB will be after taking the ball back from the fullback. By the time the MLB realizes the FB has the ball, he's being blocked by the playside A-back.

With the defensive end blocked by the guard and the OLB and MLB out of the picture, there's no one left to take the FB except the safety 15 yards down the field. Everyone else has been schemed out of the play.

Here is Georgia Tech running the same play again, but on the opposite side of the formation. Both times PJ runs it to the field side of the formation, so he must have figured out the defense's assignments to that side of the field. This time, the playside MLB runs himself so far out of the play chasing the QB that he doesn't even need to be blocked.

00:07:53–00:08:05

This was the first time that I've seen Paul Johnson use this specific tactic. Obviously he liked it's effectiveness and the bind that it puts defenses in, as he's used it against opponents early this year. Bud Foster has noticed it too. Talking to reporters about how much of a pain it is to gameplan for Georgia Tech, Foster mentions this specific wrinkle (he calls it a "switch block")
as one that he may have to adjust to in game.

"We've got to really look early for any new schemes they're going to use against us, whether they switch block to try to tie our ends up, block down and pull a guy around, if they're trying to load on our Mike with a slot back. There's different ways right now in our mindset, that I'm anticipating some potential things. That haven't always shown that. They've done it at different times, but it's once in a blue moon on certain things how they block it. If they do it consistently, we've got to be ready to make some adjustments." — Bud Foster

This is why it's so vital to not face Georgia Tech on a short week. Not because the coaches need more time to spend with players to come up with a silver bullet to stop the flexbone, but because the coaches will need 10 silver bullets. If the defense lines up and defends Paul Johnson's offense the same way every play, Paul Johnson will win that matchup every time. He is too good. He's the coaching equivalent of a great fastball hitter. No one can throw their best stuff right past Paul Johnson, but if you keep him off balance by switching up your defensive assignments and lining up differently then you can get him to swing and miss at a curveball.

Above Average Defense

Georgia Tech has long been held back by their paltry defensive play. Every Hokie figured that Al Groh wasn't going to be the answer to Johnson's defensive problems, and he did his best to run that defense into the ground. After making a change and firing Al Groh halfway through last season, the defense's improvement was almost immediate.

This season Ted Roof is coaching the defense for Georgia Tech. They are running a fairly standard 4-3 defense that isn't too exotic. The Yellow Jackets don't rely on exotic blitzes or complex coverage schemes to beat you, but they do rely on solid fundamentals like rallying to the football and beating blocks. Jeremiah Attaochu is still a star for them. The former outside linebacker in Groh's 3-4 scheme has moved down to defensive end in the 4-3. He will rush the quarterback standing up pre-snap on passing downs (probably the most comfortable way for him after doing so as an OLB early in his career) and he's very effective. The Hokie tackles will have their hands full trying to stop him in obvious passing situations, so look for Loeffler to leave in RB's and TE's to help in protection. Using read plays from the shotgun and pistol should also help to slow down Attaochu's pass rush. Staying out of 3rd and longs will go a long way to keeping Logan upright, so I expect Virginia Tech to try and establish the rushing attack early and often.

Georgia Tech prefers to operate with mostly two deep safeties to prevent any long completions, but likes to drop a safety into robber or man coverage every now and then. They normally wait until right before the snap to make this adjustment, so it'll be crucial for Logan Thomas and his wide receivers to recognize the change in coverage and adjust their routes accordingly. Notice the safety waiting right before the snap to move forward into a Cover-3/Robber zone.

00:03:58–00:04:09

The rushing attack in pro-style formations will need to be at least as effective as it was against Alabama. Truth be told, it needs to be even more effective. Virginia Tech can't afford to just give up on those formations because Georgia Tech stacks the box. Loeffler will need to exploit any over-aggressiveness the Yellow Jackets show by switching between zone and man blocking on runs, running bootlegs and play-action featuring routes down the field, wide receiver screens, and other quick hitting routes from under center. If Logan Thomas is forced to operate exclusively from the pistol or shotgun, it could be a very long Thursday night.

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Comments

I had GT marked on my calendar the moment I saw that we had 4 days to prepare. I don't care who the opponent is, 4 days to prepare just isn't enough, we saw it happen when we played JMU on a short week. But the ACC really did us dirty by scheduling the one team you absolutely need that extra week to prepare for! In any case, this defense is going to have to play extremely well, disciplined and will have to make every tackle. GT gets yards in a hurry and they always have wrinkles that scare me. It is a beautiful offense but I hate being on the receiving end.

Man, typically just the idea of the old Algroh/PJ Georgia Tech team gives me heartburn, but with their new and improved Roof'd-up defense I'm in full-on panic sweats. Our boys better get their piss hot and come out swinging or else I'll be doing what I never do; leave a game early. LET'S GO! HOKIES!!!

"You know when the Hokies say 'We are Virginia Tech' they're going to mean it."- Lee Corso

I've seen a lot of different concepts used by Loeffler over the first four games of this season, but haven't seen what I would consider a "complete" game plan yet. Virginia Tech spent the Alabama game running triple option from the pistol with some pro-style under-the-center formations, and then next week against Western Carolina mostly ran the same base plays that were featured in the watered down August scrimmages. Against ECU's stunting 3-4 defense, the Hokies were unable to just zone-block their way down the field, so instead of trying to run some counter blocking schemes they gave up on the run and went four- and five-wide.

Last week, Marshall's defense again proved too capable for Grimes' zone blocking scheme, so Tech lined up in pistol and ran the veer over... and over... and over again. Where were the spread formations that Tech had moderate success with the previous week? This lack of week-to-week cohesion leads me to believe that Loeffler is waiting for this Thursday's matchup to bring all of his tactics together at once.

I don't get this... Why would Loeffler hold back the offense when we came close to losing against ECU and Marshall? I understand doing this against WCU, but ECU and Marshall games were too tight to limit the offensive playbook, for any reason. Seems to me like he makes in game adjustments to go with the hot hand/formation/play?

Twitter me

Yes I agree. I tried to caution people earlier against hoping for an offensive explosion in this game. I don't understand why people are just waiting for Loeffler to unleash some offensive machine against GT. Our offense is in the midst of rebuilding, and that is a process that takes a long time. I think our O will struggle all year long but it will improve slowly and steadily. I think 2016 will be a magical year for us, but for right now we're struggling to install a new system and asking a handful of TE's to run our offense from unnatural positions.

Once "Lefty" (still not sure if he's actually left-handed or not) starts getting the recruits he needs for his system and gets some younger players to learn the system and begin mastering it in their junior and senior seasons I believe we'll be able to put a pretty effective offense on the field. I just don't see that happening against GT.

I am still cautiously optimistic though, and I'm hoping to see our O move the ball and get some points. It would be TERRIFIC to see more than 2 offensive TD's for a change.

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

I think we are all hoping and believing that we haven't seen the whole offense yet because every game our offense has been different. Drastically different in some cases. Also the Marshall and ECU games did not matter at all once we lost to Bama. Remember the year we lost to Boise and JMU. We still made it to the Orange Bowl. All you have to do is when your in conference games. I believe that was and is our goal for this season since the beginning. Our first conference game may very well be our most difficult match up and we want as many advantages as we can and hopefully that means we surprise them with a complete offensive gameplay that hasn't been on film yet. It is a stretch but it is something very believable.

"Facyson is a baller."
-CFB

Agreed +1

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

I tend to agree with that assessment. I know ECU and Marshall were close but I think it was wise to hold back and not show the whole hand. That being said I do not expect any type of offensive explosion tonight. I expect the offense to do its job. We are 4 weeks into this season. It's time for it all to come together, blocking needs to happen, passes need to be caught and we need to score at least 24 to have a shot tonight. Even with the short week the defense will find a way to slow down GT. 24-31 points will win this game either way. Go Hokies!!!

He's Still Open!!!

This is what I wanted when Loeffler and the rest of the staff were hired:

A 100% turnaround of LT3
A front line that would stop all sacks and open all holes
A fast paced offense that would light up the scoreboard

Realistically that was never going to happen, but it is what I wanted. But Loeffler has improved LT3 (in another post it was mentioned he (LT3) actually looked happy again playing his position). The O-line has done much better then I have been used to seeing. Now I think it is a matter of meshing all the parts together. Loeffler could have the greatest playbook in the sport but will never be able to implement it until all the players are on the same page. My personal feeling is he was/is trying different looks and formations to see which ones work best with the players he has. He can then start building from there going into conference play. Can't expect miracles in the 8 months he has been there and fixing three to four years of bad coaching will take time.

6-5, 10-1-1, 2-9, 3-8, 6-4-1, 6-5, 5-6, 2-8-1, 9-3, 8-4, 10-2, 10-2, 7-5, 9-3, 11-1, 11-1, 8-4, 10-4, 8-5, 10-3, 11-2, 10-3, 11-3, 10-4, 10-3, 11-3, 11-3, 7-6, 8-5.......

Why would we hold back? Because losing to ECU and Marshall really doesn't matter. At all. We just want the ACC, so anything we do that would help us win conference games is what we're gonna do. That's my theory.

The only thing I can surmise is that you game-plan for each team and you don't deviate from that game plan. Perhaps he used components of his offense for each of the four games, using it intelligently enough to produce wins, but at the same time holding some items out. The offensive game plan is an ever growing thing, so the only thing I am hoping for with GT is more complexity and better execution. It was like Loeffler was testing components of the offense. I could be, and am likely off here, but I think to a degree, he was holding some stuff back.

Not to be the token Logan hater, but what about his play up to this point makes anyone think that he or Loef are holding anything back? They don't appear able to run the various schemes that we have seen with any level of effectiveness or consistency, so the thought of adding more offense to what seems like a cluster F scares me at this point.

So many moving parts. I usually have trouble figuring out what's going on, who has the ball, and if we have someone in position to make the tackle. I'll think some B back running to the outside untouched has the ball but then realize the QB kept it and he just got leveled. This is pretty much my reaction on those plays:

I am always drunk when I make my videos.

Same here Dozer. I usually blame it partly on the camera crew though.

I believe in the Brew Crew.

My high school usually runs some type of option offense and a couple years ago we had a team that was pretty good at it (State Quarter Finals). That year was mostly traditional veer out of split backs. I remember at least once (and there were probably other times) when the QB pulled the ball out of the dive back's gut and kept it. The dive back was stopped about 3-5 yards down the field and the refs blew the whistle, at the same time the QB was about 30 yards down the field with no one around him heading for the endzone. It was a game that we won easily and we eventually scored on that possession, so having to replay the down didn't really affect the outcome of the game, but I still thought its a good example of how hard it can be to know who has the ball in an option offense.

I miss 'ol Al....I understand he's doing color commentary for the mothership on really bad games on ESPN3 now....I can only imagine that listeners are ripping their ears off or turning the volume off to combat this.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

I've heard that his commentary is so bad that turning off the volume doesn't even help.

"That move was slicker than a peeled onion in a bowl of snot." -Mike Burnop

Another excellent preview Mason.

In Sam Rogers we trust.

My Keydet dad and I went to last year's Techmo Bowl, and as it turns out, we probably went to the best home game that season!

We're going to need to play our best football yet, to win tonight. The offense will really need to execute and do its part tonight. The defense will need to continue to play like a disruptive wrecking ball (against the Rambling Wreck, no less). FG situations will have to be avoided at all costs, but we must make them tonight if necessary.

Starting with a Coastal victory is huge. Giving GT their 3rd win in the division will likely seal things up for them. That just won't do!

LET'S GO, HOKIES!

I support Coach Frank Beamer.

VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804. Hokies, Keydets, Army Black Knights, NY Giants, NY Rangers, and ATL Braves.

If I were a Tech player, I would feel disrespected. Almost everybody is a predicting a GT win and some are predicting a blowout against a team that you have beaten 3 straight years and I believe 7 out of the last 9. I hope they come out with fire and grab an early lead and never look back from that point. GO HOKIES!

In Sam Rogers we trust.

I think that Kendall and Facyson are the two players to watch on VT's defense tonight. Yes, the primary action will involve the VT front 7, and Jack Tyler will have double-digit tackles, but Kendall and Facyson are going to be asked to shut down a decent pass attack with no safety support, as well as maintain leverage on the outside of the field and make tackles against the pitch man.

GT's WR's are big and athletic. I do believe that Kendall and Facyson will be able to run with them in coverage, but I am concerned about their ability to get off blocks. Tonight will be a very physical test for them.

Bonner is another player to watch, as he will be playing close to the line of scrimmage tonight and his tackling has been very suspect the last few weeks.

If Kendall and Facyson shut down the passing game, and consistently make tackles on the perimeter, I think we win this game. I'm confident in our ability to shut down the dive. If GT is completing passes, our CBs are getting blocked out of the play, and Bonner does not improve his tackling, I'll be concerned.

Excellent point. I'm also keeping an eye on Kyle at whip to see if he can use his experience, speed, and tackling ability to his advantage to help them out on the edge if need be.

Well, I can tell you one thing... If we come out in shotgun or pistol formation on a 3rd or 4th and <1 yard, this will be my immediate reaction:
No

VT 12'... but once you're a Hokie, you're always a Hokie..

You mean like what we did on 4th and 1 against Miami? Or LT3's game-winner and 2 pt in OT this past week? Or would you rather see the failed sneak against ECU in the red zone? I'm just sayin', don't be so quick to judge the formation when shotgun on 3rd/4th and short has been very successful for us.

No, he is right, it was 4th and 1 (I think....)

But you failed to mention 2 instances in JUST the Marshall game...
1.) 4th and 1, shotgun, Logan keeps, doesnt get it.
2.) 1st and goal at the half yard line, ends up back at the 6 with a 3rd and goal, gets lucky touchdown to tie the game.

All im saying is, when you are in very short yardage situations, I think its common sense to believe you have a better chance of getting the first down under center as oppossed to starting 4-5 yards behind the line of scrimmage pre-snap...

VT 12'... but once you're a Hokie, you're always a Hokie..

Good lord I'm nervous for this game but it's good that JCC is coming back. Should we expect to see him used similar to Chris Mangus last Saturday?

In Beamer & Co. We Trust #Livefor32 #DecadeofDominance

This being my first official comment on this fantastic website, I wanted to say something insightful, but I can't, because F GA TECH. I hate them. As a fan of the game, when the Bees are not palying us, I really want to enjoy the nuances of the triple option and appreciate the new wrinkles they've added this year, but CPJ's stupid, smirking face ruins it for me every time. I know this is all completely irrational and I am sorry for the rant. Actually, I'm not sorry. I hope I dont have to punch a hole in my tv tonight. I really wish I could drink on the job today.

Welcome. I can get behind some unfiltered CPJ hate. Nothing but respect for the school and their program, but that dude rubs me the wrong way.

Thanks, and agreed. Good school, good program, dig the novel offensive approach. He might even be a nice man in real life, but I've considered pitching a beer bottle at my screen when he's on. Reasonably sure that would'nt hurt him nearly as much as me, however.

Nothing wrong at all. In fact, I hope SAM ROGERS takes a Hokie sized dump on CPJ's head just like Duke Nuke 'em.

DFWTF...DON'T FUCK WITH THE FULLERS

Incorrect. Sam Rogers dump would never dirty itself with CPJ's head.

Also, I should return to a more civil state for a minute and say thanks very much for another great post.

ESPN "Numbers Never Lie" just showed the helmet with the pylons logo. I like em!
pylon

So is Michael Smith, kissing the helmet there? I know i might be in the minority but I am really digging those, especially with the pylons on there. I think they should look pretty damn good on TV, and it would be great to have those bad boys with a 1-0 helmet record.

Bud Foster is made of hokie stone!

Another great post! There are just not enough words for how much I can't stand GT or how much a victory tonight would mean! It's about time we shutup the talking heads at ESPN. Everyone is pulling for and predicting GT outside of Hokie Nation tonight. I hope we come out fired up and break a lot of hearts. Looking forward to seeing a lot of booboo lips on GT fans tonight when we win. Go Hokies!!!

He's Still Open!!!

"booboo lips"? Not sure what they look like, but I wanna see 'em too. Turkey leg for breaking new literary ground.

VTCC '86 Delta Derelicts, Hokie in Peru

One thing I failed to mention in my preview:

My biggest concern heading into this game is how the young corners Brandon and Kendall hold up in run support on the perimeter. Last season the Hokies had what was almost certainly the best tackling duo at CB in the nation, Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum. Matchup nightmares for the Georgia Tech WR's trying to block them.

This season? Kendall and Brandon have been brilliant against the pass, but tonight we'll learn just how tough they are against bigger WR's. If they can't hold their blockers off and force the run back inside, or if they can't make the one on one tackle in space, the Hokies will be in bad shape.

They both need to have brilliant games tonight.

Who is this team on offense? I do not recognize anyone.

RISE