Johnson addresses special teams coaching

Greetings-

Hope you’re well. Some notes, and I’m going home. I’ll have something new up in the morning.

1. After Georgia Tech’s costly special-teams mistakes in Saturday’s loss to Miami, a common gripe resurfaced among fans and media that coach Paul Johnson needs to hire a special-teams coach. The coach was evidently paying attention and called the suggestion “ridiculous.”

Johnson said that most staffs operate the same way as Tech’s, with one assistant in charge of special teams and other coaches assigned to specific units, like the field-goal team. For Tech, secondary coach Charles Kelly oversees special teams and other assistants coach different units. Johnson even did (or had a staffer do) research that found that only six teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have coaches whose sole responsibility is coaching special teams. In the ACC, five teams have special-teams coaches who coach another position group. Four teams, including Tech, do not have a titled special teams coach. Boston College and Wake Forest have dedicated special teams coaches and N.C. State’s special teams coach is also the recruiting coordinator.

“If I was sitting there and evaluating the tape and I’m looking at the schemes and I’m looking at what we’re doing and it’s totally screwed up, then you’ve got problems,” Johnson said. “But you can look at it: We’re doing the same stuff that everybody is.”

Johnson has not been shy about voicing his displeasure with the Yellow Jackets’ special teams, last week calling the kickoff return team “abysmal.”

“Do we have to get better at it? Yeah, you bet,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’m frustrated we’re not better at it because we practice it every day and what we’re doing is sound.”

(It’s interesting to me that Johnson is pretty transparent that he is aware of what is said about his team and him and that it apparently bothers him enough to comment on it. Just about every coach says “I don’t pay attention to what’s said/written,” but I doubt most of them are being honest about it. As far as what he said, it’s a valid point, but there’s more to it. I’ll touch on this later.)

2. With two dispiriting losses after six consecutive wins to start the season, Johnson said the important thing is to keep moving forward.

“I’ve done this for a long time and we’ve played a lot of games, and once in awhile you’re going to have games like this,” he said. “The big thing is, don’t panic, try to find some things to help with the problems you’re having, and keep going. I know what we’re doing will work.”

(Johnson was pretty even keeled last week and is staying on that course this week, evidently. I think it probably stems partly because the team has been giving him effort and is pretty young.)

3. After a critical misplay by punt returner Zach Laskey against Miami, Johnson said coaches will “evaluate [the position] at the end of the week and see how it goes.” Johnson credited Laskey for taking responsibility for the mistake, which led to a Miami touchdown in the second quarter. Johnson said Laskey told him after coming to the sideline that he didn’t know why he tried to field the bouncing punt.

“Zach’s going to be a good player for us,” Johnson said. “Stuff happens.”

(Case in point. He likes Laskey and he’s a true freshman. Re-visiting the error or getting worked up over it isn’t going to help him. I will be very curious to see who returns punts on Saturday, though. I think the fumble shook up Laskey a bit.)

4. The performance of Georgia Tech’s defense on first down was key to the Jackets’ improved performance against the Hurricanes, defensive coordinator Al Groh said. On 18 first-down runs by Miami, the Hurricanes averaged .9 yards per carry, Groh said.

Miami was 5 of 14 on third-down conversions, one of the Jackets’ better rates this season.

“First down is really the controlling down,” Groh said.

(I commend Groh for being willing to comment on Saturday’s game. He chose not to do so last week.)

5. Johnson said he wouldn’t know the severity of center Jay Finch’s lower leg injury “for awhile.” Finch hurt himself on Tech’s first offensive play from scrimmage. He was replaced by Nick McRae.

(My suspicion is that Finch won’t play Saturday. I think his injury was probably overlooked as a factor in the loss. He probably would have been a little more effective neutralizing Miami linebacker Sean Spence, who finished with 10 tackles. I also wrote after the game that quarterback Synjyn Days was tended to on the field. I don’t know for certain, but I think he’ll be available.)

6. Johnson said that the team’s effort against Miami “was probably as good as we’ve had all year.” … Groh indicated that inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy’s start ahead of Daniel Drummond is not necessarily a permanent switch, that he earned it through his performance in practice last week.

(Given Nealy’s speed advantage over Drummond, it wouldn’t surprise me if he started a third consecutive game in order to try to match Clemson’s speed.)

Thanks for reading. Please follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

87 comments Add your comment

GO JACKETS

October 24th, 2011
10:25 pm

a few of the assistant coaches need to go, they just do, hopefully after this year it will be the end of it

Yellow Fan

October 24th, 2011
10:26 pm

First, . . . alone?

GT Nuke

October 24th, 2011
10:29 pm

Thanks for the info, Ken. I still feel insecure about the special teams. If we are doing what everyone else is doing, why are we getting a distinctly different result than everyone else? It just doesn’t pass the smell test IMO. I’ll be at the Clempson game, cringing in my seat the whole time.

GO JACKETS! THWG!

walker

October 24th, 2011
10:30 pm

gtfanfrom1951

October 24th, 2011
10:31 pm

special teams and offense coach that’s what we need!

Biff Pocoroba

October 24th, 2011
10:48 pm

Why do we keep the same QB coach when we can’t get a guy to complete 40% of his passes and they don’t ever improve? Hire someone that can teach the forward pass.

GT Joe

October 24th, 2011
10:49 pm

Ken: why is no one asking CPJ about Days starting instead of Washington? No one asked that in the post-game interview, and I’ve seen nothing online that brings up the possibility.

Also, no one has asked CPJ WHY he put in Days. Was it just a change of pace or to find a spark, or was he making a statement that Tevin is done? Also, would days have completed the game had he not gotten hurt?

Days was put into the game when we still had a shot (it wasn’t mop up time yet). If the defenses are forcing the QB to keep, then perhaps we need a QB that will make them pay for that strategy. That would be Days, not Washington.,

St. Simons Old Timer

October 24th, 2011
10:50 pm

I believe we are overreacting to the Miami loss more than we should. It was bad but not the end of the world. Tech is better than we showed on the road in south Florida. We never play well there. But we do play well against Clemson whether it is on the road or at home.

I, for one, believe Georgia Tech will give a good accounting of itself on Saturday. It is a big-stage game. A break or turnover early can make a big difference in confidence and allow the crowd to get into the game. A clock-consuming drive early will keep their offense off the field. Clemson is not invincible and is due for a struggle on the road. I see a close game and feel it will be because our team believes in itself. Our bloggers have given up and turned vindictive, but our team will come to play.

fan of shorter passes (as short as necessary!)

October 24th, 2011
10:53 pm

glad Johnson is not “mad” at Laskey. Hopefully he can “shake it off” soon.

Conspicuous by its absence was the new secret plan for the aerial attack featuring the not yet named “super passer”! lol

GTFan478

October 24th, 2011
10:53 pm

I said after the Thursday night season opener; special teams will cost us big at least once this year. On another note, gotta tip your hat to the d. Had you told me going into any game this year we would an opponent to 24 points I would have said it would be a win. But sadly no it wasn’t two weeks in a row. Just go ahead and start Synjin already. He can’t hurt us as bad as Tevin has so far the past three weeks.

fan of shorter passes (as short as necessary!)

October 24th, 2011
10:55 pm

evidently the filters are hungry again…even with cuss words.

fan of shorter passes (as short as necessary!)

October 24th, 2011
10:56 pm

CPJ offensive guru?

October 24th, 2011
11:05 pm

When do we start questioning whether we need a new Offensive coordinator? The past 5 weeks have been horrid to say the least. Every ACC game has progressively gotten worse against average at best defenses??? How do you explain that? Maybe it is simply that the ACC defenses (The Triple Option has now been seen a lot by ACC teams by scheduling Army, Navy and obviously by playing GT) have just gotten much better at defending this offense. If that is the case CPJ likely will only have the remainder of this year and next year before being forced off the flats. Watching Washington keeper left and Washington keeper right for little to no gains is just ridiculous to watch when the team loses. He’d better get it figured out pretty quick. Losses can be dealt with providing the team looks competent. But that hasn’t been the case the past 5 weeks on the side of the ball where the head coach is a supposed expert.

CPJ offensive guru?

October 24th, 2011
11:07 pm

Where’s the offensive genius been the past 5 weeks? Looks like the ACC DC’s have pretty much pegged how to stop this offense. He may only have the remainder of this year and next year on the flats.

The Bamboo Shaft

October 24th, 2011
11:23 pm

Thanks as always for the great info, Ken. I agree, losing Finch on the first play was probably a significant factor in the offensive struggles since C is usually considered the most important position on the OL. And IMO the root cause of our offensive woes is the OL (as it usually is for any team). Once we started playing better defenses, the plays that worked so well earlier in the season no longer work. It shows how 180 degrees our fortunes have turned… we scored a TD on the first play in our first 3 games, but now we throw an INT and lose our starting center on the first play vs. Miami.

StingerSplash

October 24th, 2011
11:34 pm

This is where I think PJ’s closing of practice hurts him. If he opened it, even for a little while, that would enable folks to see just how much work is being put in on special teams. He could adopt the NFL strategy – open it for a while, then close it after a few periods, if that’s not what he’s doing now.
I saw plenty of PJ’s practices in Statesboro, and he had some great kicking game units there. They worked on it hard at Southern but I don’t know why it’s not translating at Tech.

Marietta Buzz

October 25th, 2011
12:01 am

Georgia Tech has the most remarkable offense known to college football, but BCS schools have figured out a way to short circuit it. So a modification is needed: Always Play Two Quarterbacks!

“Heresy!!” you shout.

I would agree except this offense requires the QB to carry the ball up to 30 times a game or more. The QB is tackled/blocked another twenty. Then you expect the QB to make split second decisions to hand off, pitch, or throw the ball. FATIGUE makes cowards of us all. Mistakes are made.
Look at the facts:
1) There is no other skilled position in the field that the same player plays every down EXCEPT the quarterback.
2) Tech has the best offense in the land. It’s different. Its remarkable.
3) BCS quality teams have a scheme that will work against this offense. BCS defenses are locking down every position except the Quarterback. That requires the Quarterback to run the ball 15 to 30 times a game. He gets hit another twenty times. And then he’s supposed to make split second decisions and/or throw the ball at the right time to the right place.
4) At this level of play, the quarterback becomes fatigued and begins to make bad decisions.

Coach Paul Johnson should activate Vad Lee, giving him three quarterbacks. Play all three until two surface as the best. Develop packages for the two. Never go back to playing just one QB, even when you have another Joshua Nesbit.

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
12:13 am

I have come to the conclusion Georgia Tech football is what it has been for 45 years; a bunch of smart marginally athletic players who sometimes put it together and do great things, sometimes lay n egg, but more times than not walk the fence and finish somewhere around .500. Why should this year be any different than the culmination of the last 45? Tech finishes 6-6 this year. Wanna bet?

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
12:33 am

GTFan478, actually the defense only gave up 17 points in each loss. Special team touchdown against Miami and a pick 6 against UVA. I think the defense has played up to it’s potential. Hope they have an outstanding game against Clemson.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
12:36 am

Tech Forever, you’re in a funk, snap out of it. We’re ok and will be back, we just need to reload.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
12:38 am

Marietta, I suggested three,Tevin, Days and Sims. Fresh legs the whole game.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
12:46 am

Only a coach with an 8-0 record should say that suggestions aimed at improving are ridiculuos.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
12:52 am

yeller bug

October 25th, 2011
12:58 am

This was to be a somewhat rebuilding year—-we’ve already achieved the number of wins that the experts predicted (they still might be right). We’ve played better competition (UVA emotion, UM talent), didn’t play well and have been snakebit too. Our best 3 plays in the last two games were called back on penalties—the stupid facemask on Roddy Jones was that he got his finger stuck in the facmask while giving a stiffarm—he didn’t grab it—the odds of that are extreme. Two really bad plays—redo the punt fumble and bad kick-off and the game would have been 7 – 7 at the half or maybe 7 – 10. TW needs to get his head straight on passing—coach needs to help—he’s dancing with the stars in the pocket and not setting his feet—-thus his first pass was 20 yds overthrown which was an INT. The quick out to Hill is open every series as on 1st down the CB is 10 yds back. We need to pass more to set up the run. M. Buzz has a good point especially if TW is having problems. Put in Days for a series or two. He has a different skill set. Try a hurry up offense for a series or two. We seem a bit predictable lately. Shake it up—play loose—no need to be tight now. We still have sufficient talent the win the rest of our games, but we’ll have to bring our A game in 3 of the next 4. Special teams has special needs—a punt of 52 and another of 13 yds? Bad decisions trying to run the ball out on KO returns. Trying to pick a bouncing ball inside your own 10? Didn’t we learn anything against WCU? We shouldn’t have mental errors. A tough place to be—need to forget the past, put on our cup, and come out on fire—-we need our best game on Sat.

GT4Life (the original)

October 25th, 2011
12:59 am

I told y’all at the start of the season that Drummond is a “practice warrior”. Nealy is making impactful tackles and is much better in coverage while Drummond appears to be a pile-jumper. Keep Nealy in the game coach and play your best players. Laskey will be okay – just made a dumb freshman mistake. Hopefully he starts to return a few punts instead of fair catching them all…we need threat of a return back there. Roll with the QB’s you have, coach. Don’t play Vad now. He’s a big boy but next year he’s going to be a beast with a year of weight training and playbook studying under his belt. Tevin’s confidence is shook so bad that I don’t think it can be recovered.

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
1:04 am

GIVE ME A BREAK

Back to what? One hit wonder status?

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
1:07 am

My…..how good does Jaybo look now? Also, I’ve watched the Eagles on TV a couple of times already and they are now running most of their sets out of the pistol formation. We’ll never do that though b/c CPJ would view it as an insult….even though there is nothing to show it wouldn’t work better at this level.

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
1:10 am

GT4Life (the original)

I agree about Tevin. I think Synhyn should be getting the starter’s snaps from here on out. Bottom line, if CPJ can’t find a Ricky Dobbs every three years and 4 to 5 Sean Bedford’s every year this thing ain’t never gonna work at this level consistently.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
1:11 am

CPJ needs to wake up and realize that college football doesn’t revolve around him. Hopefully before it’s too late.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
1:13 am

TF, it’s still hard to believe that Tech let Jaybo leave.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
1:18 am

CPJ makes these athletes fit his system rather than design a system that better fits the athletes that Tech can recruit.

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
1:29 am

Power is power and speed is speed. I don’t care what kind of system is being run when the other team has more of it then more times than not they win. Right now Tech has very little of either, and more seasons than not we don’t have too much more than we have right now. CPJ doesn’t believe in the recruiting ranking??? Well right now the recruiting rankings are making him look stupid. Every coach before him believed in them and tried to get the best Tech could get no matter how futile the attempt because those type athletes are not going to go to Georgia Tech….ever.

Tech Forever

October 25th, 2011
1:30 am

O.k. not “ever”. I mean Calvin proved that even Stevie Wonder could drive a bus one time out of a 1000.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 25th, 2011
1:34 am

I want to see this team mature for next year and add Vad, Broderick and Hallon Then we’ll see what CPJ is made of.

Old Gold

October 25th, 2011
6:06 am

I agree with the poster above (”Bamboo Shaft”) regarding the offensive line. Fact is, it’s very young – the two deep depth chart reads 3 redshirt juniors; 5 redshirt sophomores; 1 redshirt freshman; and 1 true freshman. Against tougher competition, they’ve struggled. The good news is that as they get more seasoned and stronger, we will have quality depth on the field in the seasons to come. I haven’t given up on this season, just saying that our best days are ahead of us (assuming special teams cease being an enormous liability as they continue to be).

btgt69

October 25th, 2011
6:07 am

thanks for the Finch update. Hope he is back for klempsun

Donnie Davis - Arena Football Legend

October 25th, 2011
6:26 am

CPJ’s arrogance knows no ends…..that was a good point Ken to note how he apparently pays attention to what is wirtten and said in the AJC….he’s quite a sensitive fellow.

Crazy Robert

October 25th, 2011
6:55 am

The only positive I have seen when it comes to Special Teams is they have come close to blocking several punts and field goal tries. Other than that, they leave much to be desired. Come on guys, Clemson is not going to make it easy for ya. GO TECH!!!!

Jacket Man

October 25th, 2011
7:16 am

I think everyone should be expecting to see Synjyn Days playing a lot sooner, and a lot more snaps, if the offense isn’t playing better than it has lately. His fumble against Miami was mostly due to the nature of the vicious hit he took rather than ball security, so I doubt Paul Johnson is holding that one against him, like his one against NC State.

Synjyn has a ton of confidence and capability, and I believe, given the chance, could help give the team that spark they seem to have lost here recently, if necessary. He’s a much better runner than Tevin, and no one should question, at this point of the year, anyway, that Synjyn should be considered more of a passing liability than Tevin. The only potential concerns would be his abilities to make the reads for hand-offs, keeps, and pitches, and then successfully executing them without fumbling.

Last year, when Tevin stepped in for an injured Joshua Nesbitt, he was forced to do so under the most extreme situation the team could face. This year, Synjyn could be given the chance to step in with the umbrella/luxury of knowing if he fell flt on his feet, we still had Tevin we could fall back on later.

juvenal

October 25th, 2011
7:26 am

any word on the nzaa?

bobby ross

October 25th, 2011
7:31 am

we need to continue to stack the line on d, we looked pretty good against a very good running team. We shoul have done the same against va.Plain and simple……WE NEED A SHAWN JONES ,, JOE HAMILTON TYPE OF QB,one who can use his talents to simply win games.

TechLB

October 25th, 2011
7:36 am

Ken, I would like to know why we are so much worse than others on special teams if we are doing the same things the same way? This is not a new issue either but a common problem year after year.

Maybe we are over reacting BUT we were plain bad last year, we looked bad and sloppy winning against inferior competition and we’ve looked totally inept losing two very winnable games.

Bamboo Shaft – agree to a point, the problems on offense and defense come down to a lack of talent on the lines.

Knocking the offense is old and ridiculous, no one can stop it when we execute it. DC’s work to “figure out” every dang offensive scheme out there all the time so it’s no better or worse in that regard. When you can’t make the blocks at the point of attack and you miss the blocks on the edge you’re not going anywhere I don’t care what the scheme is.

I’m alarmed by the drop off in athletes from year one to year four…what’s the plan to acknowledge and correct this? Who’s our Recruiting Coordinator? How can we get Giff Smith or the same results back?

GT

October 25th, 2011
8:02 am

We lost that Air Force game because of special teams. One of the main ingredient of CPJ’s coaching is ball control. I think he thinks he can take the ball from any position and score. For that reason it takes longer from the 2 than from the 20. The defense gets to rest longer. All that is great until your special teams get so bad they allow cheap points and your offense all of a sudden can’t move the ball. That said I like that he sticks to his convictions and certainly doesn’t need the AJC telling him how to coach. Football is not a democracy. The players start seeing the press has an affect on their coach and they start playing the press to control the situation themselves instead of playing football. It is happening in Athens everyday.

nate

October 25th, 2011
8:08 am

Ken,

You are doing an outstanding job keeping us updated. I sincerely appreciate it.

Nate

Tokyo jacket

October 25th, 2011
8:11 am

Ken, one of your colleagues recently wrote about how playing for Johnson might be tough, indicating that CPJ might have a tendency to throw players under the bus. Your article here seems pretty contrary to that with him praising effort and saying “stuff happens” referring to Laskey. What’s your read on how the players like playing for Johnson?

TechLB

October 25th, 2011
8:16 am

Ken, thanks for the fine work.

Those calling for Davis at QB – he turns the ball over too much, he has to get better at running the offense that’s why CPJ doesn’t start him. If the D knows he’s going to run every play that won’t gain us anything. We do need a solid QB and Jaybo would be better than TW. However, he wanted to leave, CPJ didn’t “let” him he chose to.

@Biff was right about QB player development. Did Josh improve as a passer that anyone could see? TW is still fundamentally making the same mistakes.

@CPJ Offensive Guru and others still knocking the offense – you cannot stop this system when it’s executed. If you don’t block at the point of attack and you don’t block on the edge, NO SYSTEM will work! As for DC’s “Figuring out” how to stop our offense, they do that for every system, every week, every team. The triple option gives you more ways to read and react dynamically to what the defense does than any other scheme…you MUST execute and make the blocks. Our key issue is we are losing the one on one battles on the line.

@Bamboo Shaft and Old Gold have it right. We need better players on the line. Our recruiting is sub-par and I wish we could get back to Giff and his results.

@Tech Forever – I agreee with your comments that we need better recruiting but…One hit wonder, never get those kinds of players, Stevie Wonder, etc.? Starting to smell a little trolly there…

Technically Correct

October 25th, 2011
8:22 am

If the poor special teams play is not due to coaching and is not do to scheming, that only leaves the…players? And, if it is the players, doesn’t that mean that the coaches don’t have the right personnel on th field? And, doesn’t that go back to…coaching? Unless, of course, the team lacks the personnel to properly play on special teams, which means we don’t have the talent, which goes back to recruiting, which goes back to…coaching? Either Tech has the quality players to field units that can cover kickoffs, punt the ball more than 13 yards, kick field goals with enough loft to clear the line of scrimmage, return kickoffs more than a few yards, and fair catch punts or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then it needs to get some players who can do these important tasks or simply be resigned to the same results year after year.

VA's and Miami's Love Bug

October 25th, 2011
8:31 am

Our offense is unstoppable!

Big Ol Stinger

October 25th, 2011
8:41 am

You’re right Technically Correct. I like CPJ but he’s just putting his head in the sand on the special teams SNAFU’s.

If he’s too stubborn to change some things up at Division 1, he won’t be around for a long time. I was at the LSU debacle, and watched the Iowa, Virginia and Miami debacles. I think he’s too good of a coach to go down in flames doing the same old same old. At least I hope he is. We’ll see, but I will say I’m concerned at this point that he shows no ability to change anything up.

Thanks, Ken...

October 25th, 2011
8:42 am

From a realistic perspective, I appreciate this column more than just about any of the others I’ve read lately. I keep reading comments that say ‘the youth factor is over emphasized’, well, apparently it’s not. I know we all jumped on Laskey, but he is, after all a true freshman. I didn’t think that this was our year – maybe next year or even 2013, regardless, we see now that lack of experience and youth DOES make a hell of a difference. Add to that, a somewhat lack in depth, and we see that we are what we are. Don’t blame the coach for all of these problems, and I doubt that anyone that posts here, troll or GTfan could do any better than CPJ. Change for the sake of change never works in the long run. When the guys get worked up enough, they’ll come around. As long as we kick ugag’s collective ass this year, I’ll be satisfied.