Georgia Tech trying to improve return game

Greetings-

Have a few nuggets to pass along from interviews with coach Paul Johnson, defensive coordinator Al Groh, outside linebacker Steven Sylvester, defensive line coach Andy McCollum and defensive end Jason Peters. Some of it went into the notes posted last night.

1. The kickoff return team is the bur under Johnson’s saddle this week. He said after practice that while returner Orwin Smith may keep his position, “the rest of them cats back there are gone” because they haven’t been executing assignments.

Johnson considers the 30-yard line the breakeven point for a successful kickoff return. Saturday, the first three returns didn’t get past the 19 before Stephen Hill returned the fourth to the 31 and Smith took the last kickoff back to the 39. The previous week, the returns went to the 17, 28, 37 and 33.

The kickoff cover team didn’t perform, either. Five of six returns got past the 30. The average of Chandler Anderson and Justin Moore’s seven kicks reached the 13.6. Johnson said it’s a matter of consistency.

“Those guys kill it in practice,” he said.

2. Coaches gave respect to Mike Glennon, N.C. State’s quarterback, particularly for his arm strength. Glennon is running the same offense as Russell Wilson, N.C. State’s quarterback who transferred to Wisconsin over the summer.

“He’s clearly not as mobile as Russell Wilson, but he’s a very talented guy,” Johnson said. “Big, tall kid that can really sling the ball.”

Groh said something similar, that he can’t move within the pocket like Wilson could, “but there’s probably nobody in this conference who’s got a stronger arm than Mike Glennon.”

One way that Groh is distinctive is his clinical manner of speaking about football, which you’ve probably heard or read before. A couple examples from Monday. He said that Wilson’s ability to move in the pocket “tends to distort coverage.” Former Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan (you may have heard of him) “demonstrated a unique ability to throw the ball which he is continuing to confirm.”

3. An interesting point that Groh brought up Monday that I’d never thought about until last week, when Johnson mentioned it about North Carolina. Teams that play Tech, because of its ability to hold onto the ball for so long, will run more than they normally do to avoid clock stoppages and to try to keep it longer for themselves.

“We always kind of think that way going in,” Groh said.

4. Tech’s defensive performance was “not as good as we thought,” Sylvester said. Communication, alignment, missed tackles, poor pursuit angles on tackles were three problems. The first two go hand in hand (if not everyone is running the same play, players are going to likely be in the wrong spots before the snap).

Communication was a particular problem, Peters said, when the team got closer to either end and the noise ramped up.

“That’s when we’ve got to make sure we’re all looking for the signal and all making sure we get the calls and know what’s going on,” Peters said.

Of the pursuit angle problems, “That was some of it. A lot of it was just being out of position completely, not doing what you’re supposed to do in the defense,” Sylvester said.

Not exactly a glowing report, but Tech had a pretty good day against the run (with one very large exception, Giovani Bernard’s 55-yard touchdown run), intercepted two passes and improved in third-down percentage.

“We felt like we did a couple of good things, but there’s also a lot of things that can be corrected,” Sylvester said.

5. McCollum gave something of a lukewarm evaluation of the line’s play.

“They did some good things and get they did some things that we’ve got to continue getting better at,” he said.

The areas of improvement are things I’ve heard before – getting better at read keys, playing fast, getting off blocks, “fast and violent” hands, holding the point to keep offensive linemen off of the linebackers.

McCollum added his concern about Glennon.

“We’ve got to find a way to pressure on him,” he said.

Thanks for reading. I’ll have news conference notes up around 1 p.m.

By Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech beat

49 comments Add your comment

To he'll with Georgia

September 27th, 2011
11:17 am

crackbaby

September 27th, 2011
11:28 am

Nice report Ken. First ACC road test for this Jacket team. Hope they respond to the challenge. Was there no mention of Sweeting’s personal foul penalty. IMO you can’t fault the kid for delivering the hit on a pass near the end zone.

Go Jackets!

Tech Rules

September 27th, 2011
11:28 am

About kick-offs: I watched the FSU@Clemson game. Both kickers put the ball deep in the end zone on a regular basis. Tech does it so rarely that the last time it happened, the kicker got a standing ovation. I understand Tech not being able to sign 5-star players at most positions, but I don’t understand why we can’t get a decent kicker.

Brian

September 27th, 2011
11:28 am

Thanks Ken.
Communication, alignment, missed tackles, poor pursuit angles on tackles were three problems. The first two go hand in hand (if not everyone is running the same play, players are going to likely be in the wrong spots before the snap).

That’s what I was saying in the prior blog. Guys were not in position to make plays. If a receiver is standing open 15 yards downfield and 3 tech guys surround him but not one is on him, what is the point? They had too many open receivers standing around. COVER!!

juvenal

September 27th, 2011
11:32 am

good job, Ken…any talk about DT play?

dry dirt road

September 27th, 2011
11:35 am

I think those hurry up offenses are over. I kinda noticed where NC hurried so fast that they had no time to line up, or know what play they were gonna run, or have time to rest from the previous play, thus becoming prone to forgetting what play the next play was. It looked like they were disorganized, and confused from fatigue.

crackbaby

September 27th, 2011
11:37 am

Just read last night’s notes – great to hear that Tyler Melton was honored by the coaches. Tough to be the No. 2 receiver in Tech’s offense as you get very few reception opportunities but Tyler blocks like a madman for the backs and receivers on every play.

Shout out to Tyler Melton #84! McKayhan (#80) is getting it done too.

friendofthedevil

September 27th, 2011
11:37 am

Great job, Ken! Keep it up!

GIVE ME A BREAK

September 27th, 2011
11:41 am

Still looking for a big game against NCST. Hill’s dropped pass would have put him as the nation leader in receptions. ” KEEP ROLLING JACKETS “

CT_Jacket

September 27th, 2011
11:43 am

What I don’t understand about the kickoffs was that Moore was offered a scholarship because he kicked off into the endzone regularly in HS. Do they kickoff from 35? I also would have thought that over a year in the weight training program would strengthen his leg. Of course, there is always the possiblility that he is instructed to kick short of the goal line with a lot of hang time.

GIVE ME A BREAK

September 27th, 2011
11:43 am

Receiving yardage.

PerimeterCenterJacket

September 27th, 2011
11:58 am

NCSU will be fired up to redeem their image nationally after their defrocking in Cincinnati. We’d better come to play. They might have had a couple bad games, but Glennon’s a kid who’ll get better and be dangerous with his short passing.

Go Jackets!

ToeMeetsLeather

September 27th, 2011
11:59 am

Thanks for all of the great coverage Ken, with your reporting I feel like I know more about this team
(and the players) than any team in the past. Keep up the good work!

To have a special year the SPECIAL Teams will have to improve. In the tight games surely to come, a kick off return, missed field goal or twenty yard punt will be the difference. Keep working on them guys.

spider

September 27th, 2011
12:00 pm

the kickers are not getting the kick off past the 20 yard line, this is terrible..i think NC ran every kickoff past the 35 yard line..we should just go ahead and kick off out of bounds and take the penalty that puts it on the 35 yard line..this would elminate the chance of the other team running it back all the way and allso eliminate some injuries.

GT Dude

September 27th, 2011
12:02 pm

Most impressive player to date on the defense is James Thomas #14
he is a true hitter and light up the ball runner.

Born2Buzz

September 27th, 2011
12:11 pm

Good to know the defense doesn’t think they did a great job. Because they didn’t, They are getting better and at least got pressure on the QB, but Peters is exactly right. On the long run by Bernard either I Johnson was out of position or he took a bad pursuit angle, or maybe even both. But there is no way the RB should go right by our safety like that.

And I agree Tech Rules, you would think we could find a guy that could kick the ball to the endzone every time. Of course you would think the Falcons could do the same but they don’t have one either, and they are kicking from the 35. And they pay the guy!!

I’m looking for the D to turn it up another notch this weekend and from the notes provided on the NC State DL, David Sims should have a big day. Can you say 45-10!

As usual, great job Ken.

Born2Buzz

September 27th, 2011
12:12 pm

GT Dude, you are right. Jamea is going to be a star!

Stanley In Marietta

September 27th, 2011
12:30 pm

find blockers and let Zenon return kickoffs.

ToeMeetsLeather

September 27th, 2011
12:40 pm

Spider, an out of bounds kick is placed at the forty now.

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2011
1:47 pm

regarding kickoffs, i tend to think the deeper kicks will come with time. johnson has said he and anderson have kicked it fine in practice, it’s just a matter of taking it to the game.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2011
1:50 pm

ToeMeetsLeather, I don’t think so. We kicked out of bounds against both WC and MTSU, and I am pretty sure the ball was placed at the 35. That’s definitely where it would have been placed last year, and I don’t recall hearing of any change. Correct me if I am wrong.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2011
1:51 pm

Ken, if you’re still there, can you confirm? Where is the ball placed after an out-of-bounds kickoff?

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2011
1:58 pm

Well, I guess I am wrong. I GOOGLED it, and everything I saw says the ball is place on the 40. Live and learn.

1Jacket7

September 27th, 2011
2:26 pm

The ball is placed on the 40 when the ball is kicked out of bounds and the kick-off is originated from the 30 yard line not the 35.

Luke

September 27th, 2011
2:26 pm

GT Dude,

Just a correction: Its #14 Jamea Thomas. Not James.

GT

September 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

Finnally some talk on the defensive side of the ball!!! Our problem area which we need to talk bout the most!

GT

September 27th, 2011
2:47 pm

See I keep here these thing but I do not see us improve!! i have not seen us play a decent game on defense in over 4 years now!!!! maybe UNC and VT in 2009. But other than that I keep here the same excuses!!

The problem sarts with recruting!! We have not recruited a decent defensive player asside from Jerimah attachu since CPJ has been here!!

I am not sure this 3-4 is what this team needs either..

question

September 27th, 2011
2:58 pm

GT,

I too am frustrated with our defensive play, but I think given our situation, Al Groh is the best option we have. I think we need to give him at least until next season before we start discussing whether or not he and his system are being effective.

I hate seeing our D struggle on 3rd down/establishing an effective pass rush/missing tackles/etc, but there HAS BEEN improvement from last year.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2011
3:18 pm

Good grief, we had 7 sacks and two interceptions. How long has it been since you’ve seen a Tech defense do something like that? Do we still need improvement? Of course we do, but so do most other teams as well. Our coverage of screen passes was really bad, but Tech has had that same problem under other DC’s also. You guys are blind if you can’t see the improvement since last year, and even more so since 2008.

JM

September 27th, 2011
3:20 pm

Getting pressure on the QB has been an issue all year, the LB’s are blitzing in obvious situations and the playcall almost always seems to be a quick pass.

1 4 GT

September 27th, 2011
3:21 pm

Ken–You are doing a fine job reporting on GT sports beat & it is appreciated. I have to disagree with you on kickoffs though. It’s mostly all about leg strength and then getting your body timing through the ball at the same time as your foot. Most kickers have no other job these days. For a player that has no other responsibility than that, he needs to perform. Both the punter & kickoff guys are letting their team down. I know the coaches have to be frustrated. If the kickers they have can’t do any better in the future, it will cost GT against a “good” team in a close game and we all know that time will come. I wish them well & root for them to do better & GO JACKETS.

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2011
3:29 pm

1 4 GT – i agree with you that you need leg strength and timing to get the ball to the end zone. the thing is, justin moore has apparently shown in practice that he has no problem doing that. he kills it in practice, per paul johnson.
luke – it’s actually jemea thomas.
juvenal – in sort of sussing things out, Logan Walls had high effort but not great productivity. T.J. Barnes gave some good snaps but was not consistent.

juvenal

September 27th, 2011
4:04 pm

heard Pollock on sirius today, he played DT his first year at 275# because of injuries to their DL, need to plug someone smaller but quicker in there-seems like productivity is the only thing that really matters, works that way in my job……..wasn’t Lanier going to switch?

CurrentJacket

September 27th, 2011
4:32 pm

Hey Ken. I’ve been using the AJC for an biased opinion of Tech, and you’re doing great. After all the talk about our kick off guys not doing well, I was wondering if you knew anything about kicker David Scully. I’ve been to all the home games, and I’m not sure how many kicks he’s gotten, but it seems like all of them have been within the 20 if not the 10. Plus he’s made two tackles with a forced fumble. Seems to me like he should at least get a couple more shots, and I was wondering if you’d heard why he hasn’t been out there.

ahsoisee

September 27th, 2011
5:38 pm

Kickoff Returns: There is no majgc blocking schemes, there is no magic method. It boils down to the speed of the kickoff personnel. A second is not a lot of time. A tenth of a second is almost nothing unless you are 1/10th of a second slower than the person running away from you.

However, any kickoff returner that stops or slows down one iota should be benched until he learns to run at top speed all the time. If he wants to cut away from a potential tackler, he should do it at top speed, but never slow or stop to pivot.

Most of the tacklers on the kickoff team are the fastest players on the team. If the returner of the kickoff makes one slow cut or (heaven forbid) stops to go in a different direction, he has lost his advantage of speed. Since the returner is probably no more than 5/10ths of a second faster than the slowest tackler on the kickoff team, all of the tacklers will catch up to him if he slows or stops for any reason.

The blockers on the return team should go upfield and engage the nearest potential tackler and put him on the ground or slow him up. It is then up to the return man to quickly assess the field and turn on the burners in the direction of the best hole he can find in the defense.

It is then up to his ability as a speedster and his mobility to make the long gains needed for the team. The name of the return game is nothing more than speed, speed, speed, and finding the best holes in the defense.

It is complete foolishness to try and set up a blocking scheme for the returner to run behind. When the other team sees all the blockers lining up at a single point, that tells them where the returner is headed unless the returner is given the freedom to pick his own holes and use his speed to get through those holes.

Anything else is wasted time. The coach can replace the returners every game, but the results will always be the same if the team uses foolish blocking schemes. All Ivory Soap returners have super speed and never slow down or stop to change directions, they do it at top speed. There are extremely few athletes (maybe one-a-year in the NCAA) that can slow or stop and still be effective returners.

The second secret is to bench any player who holds or causes a penalty on a return. Most of the time, the hold or other penalty has no bearing on the success of the return. I have seen way too many good returns called back in my life-time due to foolish penalties. The excuse is normally given that the blocker was just being an aggressive player (I say BS).

If a coach finds good high school kicker who can kick the ball into the end zone each time without a tee (tryouts), then he is worth a scholarship. You can only play so many players in a game, but you need the kickoff man in every game. Personally, if a player could kick the ball out of the end zone or deep into the end zone without having to have a specific hang time, I think he would be just as effective.

Tech will never have a good defense until they start playing closer to the line of scrimmage at the begining of a game and be alert to the short passes. Take away the short passes at the beginning of the game; we can always ease off after a few possessions when they think they can start throwing long. The odds of hitting a long pass is much worse than hitting the short pass. Also, the opponent can manipulate the time of possession with the short pass. Also, the long runs will be nipped in the bud with the condensed defense.

All teams, who play us, realize they can control us with the short pass. There is no reason to let them automatically have this advantage. Again, constant and frequent substitution on defense is a far superior method than leaving first teamers in too long. A fresh second teamer will always outperform a tired first teamer. The first team DT & 2 DEs should never be left in the game over three consecutive first downs by the opponent.

Most defensive coaches complain that the defense is on the field too long. They would not be on the field if they would stop the offense with three-and-out.

The Old Man

SansWorld

September 27th, 2011
6:22 pm

I think Tech defense is improved and were generally successful Saturday.
UNC had 12 real possessions: four were 3 and out, four gained a single first down, but were otherwise inconsequential. 4 they scored a TD.

The Tech Defense completly shut UNC down on 66% of their posessions.

19

September 27th, 2011
7:38 pm

To the “The Old Man” WOW!

19

September 27th, 2011
7:44 pm

Old Man, I think you’ve coached ball?

19

September 27th, 2011
8:36 pm

Justin Moore needs to kick it into the end zone frequently every game! We score too much if he cannot handle it. I’m just saying…
Go Yellow Jackets!

JM

September 28th, 2011
9:05 am

GT is winning, but can still get alot better. That’s a great situation.

reebok

September 28th, 2011
9:19 am

looking forward to watching the jackets play a complete game against he wolfpack!

Jackets 2011

September 28th, 2011
9:33 am

It was a very good thing to be tested late by the Heels.
So Hill’s drop actually worked out for the best as he noted himself.
I think it was like a lot of Julio Jones’ drops at Bama.
Running before catching.
I think he prefers the impossible catch to the catch anyone could make.

Jackets 2011

September 28th, 2011
9:35 am

The Pack are not as bad as they looked vs Cincy.
In a road game with a new QB, things can go south fast.
They’ll play us better.
Count on that.

Jackets 2011

September 28th, 2011
9:58 am

@The Old Man.
Sorry but no time for War & Peace.
Try adding brevity to your skill set.

Jackets 2011

September 28th, 2011
9:59 am

Question.
Do we have two offensive line coaches and that is why we have no Special Teams coach?
Now maybe that is the way to go with this offense.

Jackets 2011

September 28th, 2011
10:00 am

What happened to wise guy G State Ben?
We did not shut him up.
His own team did.

NYJacket

September 29th, 2011
9:28 am

The foul against Sweeting should not have been called. He made initial contact with his shoulder in the shoulder area of the receiver but he hit him hard and the recoil from the hit resulted in helmut contact. Sweeting did not lead with his head and he did not spear.

I suspect that is one of the plays Tech has asked the ACC to review.The reason you haven’t heard anything about it from the coaches is the ACC rule against complaining about officiating. (Unless your name is Beamer and you don’t like having your guys have to learn to play legal cut blocks.)

To he'll with Georgia

September 30th, 2011
12:51 pm

Old man you make alot of valid points the defense needs to play like 2 yards closer to the ball on at lease the first two possessions.the kicker situation could be fixed easy with a soccer player.

[...] new cats that replaced “them cats” apparently weren’t the solution. An explosive offense covers up a poor return team, [...]