Tech special teams not great

Paul Johnson on the ACC coaches teleconference on special teams Wednesday:

“Well, I think in some areas they’re improved, and in other areas we took a step back. We had a terrible blunder last week that created a safety. We did have a couple of nice punt returns and gave up a long kickoff return. So it’s been a mixed bag.”

Some (actually, a lot) numbers:

1. Tech’s net kickoff average is 37.2 yards, meaning that opponents’ average start is the 27.8-yard line. The net is 11th in the ACC, which surprised me because it’s seemed like it’s been better. Last year, the average start was the 28.1-yard line, which was ninth in the league. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, because the kickoff line was moved up five yards and touchbacks are now returned to the 25.

To compare, the top six kickoff cover teams forced average starts at the 21.4, 23.5, 23.8, 23.9, 25.5 and 26.

This year, it’s 21.2, 21.9, 23.3, 23.4, 23.7 and 23.7. So the better teams are doing slightly better, though at a greater rate than Tech. The best kickoff teams are either forcing touchbacks or pinning opponents inside the 25.

Kicker David Scully has 11 touchbacks on 27 kickoffs. Tech had eight touchbacks last season on 80 kickoffs. It’s a big improvement, although the moved-up kickoff line obviously has a hand.

2. Tech’s average start on offense after kickoffs is the 30.7, part of which has to do with some of Tech’s opponents not having very good kickers. The average kickoff distance has been 53.9 yards, compared to 61.4 for Tech. Tech’s longest return thus far is 32 yards, by Orwin Smith. The average return has been 17.7 yards, eighth in the league, compared to 19.2 last year, which was last in the ACC. The long return Johnson referenced was a 46-yard return by Miami’s Duke Johnson (no relation).

Another comparison – the top six return averages last year in the ACC were: 26.5, 23.1, 22.3, 21.9, 21.6 and 21.3.

This year so far, they’re 33.9, 26.6, 26.2, 24.6, 23.8 and 21.9.

So they’re up across the board, but Tech’s returns are worse. That includes Smith’s safety, though. With that removed, the average is 19.5, marginally better than last season’s average. The point could be made that fielding shorter kickoffs has hurt the return average. I don’t know if the same could be said for other ACC teams.

Neither the ACC nor the NCAA ranks teams by kickoff return starting spot, which is a more useful statistic than return average, in my opinion. That really burns me. (Actually, it doesn’t.)

3. Tech’s punt net is 37.5 yards, sixth in the ACC. Last year, it was 36.9, also sixth. Tech has turned to true freshman punter Ryan Rodwell after Sean Poole suffered an upper-body injury (looked like either a shoulder or collarbone) making a tackle last Saturday.

4. Tech’s punt return average is 15.2 yards, fifth best in the league. With only six returns, it’s weighted heavily by Jamal Golden’s 56-yard return against Miami. Last year, it was 8.1 yards, sixth in the league. Regardless, it’s worth noting that Golden’s return was the longest since the 2009 season. Golden will likely get more opportunities Saturday. If he can become a threat, that would significantly improve the special teams group.

A lot of numbers, I realize. Sorry if that’s not your thing. It’s early to render a sweeping judgment on new special-teams coordinator David Walkosky. Obviously, the averages and ACC rankings are skewed by the small sample size and the fact that, for instance, Tech has played three ACC games and some teams haven’t played any. Tech has been close on a couple punt blocks but has also come close to having its own punts blocked.

Walkosky is clearly doing some different things, like using different formations and having Poole rugby punt. Several starters are involved on the different units. Golden’s return (he also had a 28-yarder) suggests the potential for more big plays, but Duke Johnson’s long kickoff return would indicate that coverage needs to be tightened up, as well.

As Johnson noted, thus far it’s been a mixed bag.

In case you missed it…

Looking for a pass rush

Trials challenging Louis Young

Lee, Snoddy angling for playing time

Tech rebounding after Miami loss

Paul Johnson, fount of hope?

Johnson calls loss ‘my fault’

The meaning of Tech giving up 609 yards

After Miami loss, Tech tries to regroup

Mark Bradley: Johnson’s approach hurting Tech

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

61 comments Add your comment

SansWorld

September 27th, 2012
11:19 am

BuzzBecause

September 27th, 2012
11:19 am

Ken your numbers are great but lets be real…
That’s 11th out of how many teams? 12 – yes second to last but you want to hold off judging Walkosky. Same with punts, I heard one punter left team. Your right, take out that one long return and we would be right back down at the bottom again. Sure, everyone will make excuses for Walkosky, just like they did for CPJ, oh he needs his own guys, blah blah….. same story, and still team is not there.

www

September 27th, 2012
11:28 am

it’s never a good sign when your punter is making tackles…

SansWorld

September 27th, 2012
11:29 am

Kick offs seem much better with Scully. A starting average of the 25 or 30 does not matter much. Giving up occasional big returns does matter. If we force touchbacks 40% of the time, rather than 10% of the time, the likelihood of a big runback is greatly reduced.

Where do re rank on safeties on returns.

www

September 27th, 2012
11:30 am

nice to have you obsessing over the georgia tech football team, “BuzzBecause”!

sidewalk fans are always welcome.

www

September 27th, 2012
11:31 am

lol @ sans.

the institute is currently leading the country on “safeties on returns”.

but at least we can laugh about it.

George Stein

September 27th, 2012
11:43 am

I think the most incriminating metric is that through four games, we have had six punt returns. You paying attention, Coach Groh?

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2012
11:44 am

BuzzBecause – i’d note that a week ago, plenty of people were raving about the improved defense. i imagine some of them have re-considered. and who knows, may re-consider again.

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2012
11:47 am

i’m glad you like the numbers, though.
to clarify, george stein, opponents have punted 23 times. only six have been returned.

George Stein

September 27th, 2012
11:50 am

Y’know, in my haste, I neglected that, Ken. But almost immediately after I hit submit, it occurred to me that the number might not include touchbacks, fair catches, etc.

But seriously, our defense still sucks.

FL Jacket

September 27th, 2012
11:53 am

Numbers are my bag baby!

Always a Jacket

September 27th, 2012
11:58 am

I believe GT’s strength of schedule rating is about middle of ACC right now. So,it will be interesting to see special teams numbers at the end of the season. My guess is GT will be in bottom third of ACC. This is due to, in my opinon, lack of athletic depth.

Tokyo jacket

September 27th, 2012
12:35 pm

@Ken, “A lot of numbers, I realize. Sorry if that’s not your thing.” You’re talking to a bunch of Techies here man!

GT Mike

September 27th, 2012
12:41 pm

Ken, it’s a GT blog, numbers are easier than the English language to us

@www, I remember the play in which Poole got hurt, he ran 30 yards down field and dove at the returner who was already out of bounds and missed. Kinda a bonehead play on his part

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
12:53 pm

We should want the Big O to have as many touches as possible.
If he wants to come out of the endzone, GET OUT OF THE DAMN WAY.
Sure he will get stopped sometimes at the 15.
That is why you want to get him more touches so he has a better opportunity to break one.
Same thinking on punts to Golden.
Golden made a perhaps risky catch work.
Your star players sometimes make you think “Oh no” and then “Oh yes”.
The Bowl loss and this one such look like a choking coaching staff to me.
Remember Falcons’ layoff loss to Dallas in 1980.
Sitting on the lead doesn’t work.

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
12:55 pm

bad grammer.
2 years Tech English improved me but not enough.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
1:00 pm

Ken, in paragraph 4 you had the following ” Regardless, it’s worth NOTHING that Golden’s return was the longest since the 2009 season. Did you really mean NOTHING, or did you mean NOTING?

FL Jacket

September 27th, 2012
1:23 pm

SS…good catch, I think e did mean “Noting”

That is unless Ken has read The Hive lately and is infinitely more glum and desparate as a result…

Wes

September 27th, 2012
1:24 pm

Let us play Duke, Maryland, UNC, MTSU, and BC then we’ll see where we really stand. Other schools in our conference haven’t had to play both Miami and VT yet.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
1:26 pm

@ FLJ…..obviously it could have gone either way. I would like to think he did mean “noting,” But, unfortunately, “nothing” makes sense too

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
1:31 pm

How a choking staff can make a good QB look terrible.
1980 Falcons QB was Steve Bartkowski who was having both a great year and a great game vs Cowboys.
Did the Cowboys suddenly start playing better in the 4th quarter as the Falcons blew a 17 point lead (just like Tech)?
Doubtful.
The Falcons went conservative on play calling which made the stops Dallas got possible. Alfred Jenkins has torched their secondary for three quarters. Falcons coaching staff had more to do with stopping that than Dallas did.
Some may say the players choked.
Not me.
Choking coaching staffs both times gave both games away.

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
1:44 pm

@Wes.
Miami was the Big Game on the home schedule.
I finished the game hot, hoarse and spent.
Now maybe u don’t have other things to do but I do.
The only Tech coach I have wanted fired before now was Bill Lewis.
I know many will disagree but I’d rather pay Hewitt to work than do nothing with the contract he had.
Has Tech ever thought to hire good lawyers?
A good lawyer advises against Hewitt’s contract.
A good lawyer argues better our case concerning 2009 infractions.
CPJ needs to beat UGA and then I’ll get off his back.
If he and Al can actually coach, they need to show it for the rest of this season and upset one or more teams.

FL Jacket

September 27th, 2012
1:51 pm

Detective…

When clock-grinding conservative play-calling works…they call it a “death march” (like at the end of the Clemson 2011 game). When it doesn’t work they say the play-calling wasn’t aggressive enough.

The objective was the same…the only difference is that this time it didn’t work.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
1:58 pm

Actually, according to a friend of mine who was on the sideline, the play calling was fine; it was the execution that was bad. Tevin went into one of his patented hesitation funks, and by the time he had made up his mind what to do, the holes in the line had slammed shut, so there was nowhere for him or any of the backs to go on most of those plays. He wasn’t in that funk during the 36 point barrage, but apparently he either relaxed or started getting intimidated by the Miami defense, and consequently, he (and the offense) accomplished little or nothing from that point on.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
1:59 pm

In Johnson’s offense, it’s all about timing, and if the timing is off, then the play isn’t going anywhere.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
2:01 pm

Some will say that Johnson should have put in Vad then to see if he could do any better, but I THINK that Johnson in this case was trying to spare Vad getting beat up by that swarming (not to mention brutish) Miami defense.

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2012
2:01 pm

life is meaningless and so are long punt returns.
good catch. thanks. it’s kind of like how “resign” and “re-sign” have completely opposite meaning.
i figured the statistics might be received well. know your audience.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
2:08 pm

@ Ken…..I just emailed you. Sorry that I had to, but the old problem is back again

RocketCityJacket

September 27th, 2012
2:09 pm

JD you are 100% correct. I have been following Tech Football for more years than you can count and your estimation on why we lost is right on. I can’t tell you how many times Tech has lost a football game because the coaching staff choked by going conservative. A prevent defense only prevents you from winning. On the offensive side, keep playing the way that you were playing when you got the lead. Going conservative keeps you from scoring. For a long, long time, Tech has employed coaches without the killer instinct that go conservative when they get a lead and then blow it in the end. This latest group is no exception.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
2:13 pm

@ RocketCity…..read what I posted between 1:56 and 2:01. Apparently, according to my source, Johnson did NOT go conservative. Tevin just didn’t do what he had been doing.

SansWorld

September 27th, 2012
2:21 pm

A grind it out, clock killing drive works much better when you have a QB the size of Nesbett and a B Back the size of Dyer. We did it over and over in 2009. How many eight minute drives did we have that year to end games?

Basicly that is what VT and Logan Thomas did to us the the 4th quarter last year.

The problem no one ever remembers when this or a prevent defence works be cause it is uneventful and expected. When it does not work, it makes headlines.

collegeballfan

September 27th, 2012
2:24 pm

Ken you might look at the number of 4th and 5th year on the special teams as compared to other schools. Without doing a count I have the impression that Johnson likes to use first and second year players on special teams.

yeller bug

September 27th, 2012
2:27 pm

We also had blocked a FG which is a positive for the ST.

Why don’t we have Snoddy return KOs if he’s the fastest guy on the team? You don’t really need a power runner (Smith) to break tackles on KOs because the D is coming at you fast—you either find a crease to run or juke a guy to avoid a hit. I think we have several who are a faster runners than O. Smith—granted Smith is a senior so he won’t make mistakes like hesitating to come out or have a safety—er…well most of the time that won’t happen.

I would have hoped that we would have blocked a punt by now—it seems we’re a bit tentative going for the ball. I like the rugby kick when appropriate, but our punt formation is scary—no blocking back most times. It’s not a formation for faking a punt so if we want to try, we’d have to change formations and thus perhaps tip off our opponents.

We need a big confidence builder Sat—win with authority and I hope we open things up on Offense. On another blog CAG commented that UM kept 7 in to block on 3rd downs and sent out 3 receivers—if we only rushed 5 then I can understand little pressure but that means double coverage on EVERY receiver—they should NEVER get open.

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
2:28 pm

Sorry Superize but I am not buying into your source.
Sounds like Johnson throwing his player under the bus as usual.
And only taking responsiblility and blame after he was pressured to.

Grinch

September 27th, 2012
2:31 pm

The problem I have with this season is that (in CPJ’s assessment), that we are “this close” to being 4-0. I’d rather get pounded by 30 than give away leads on the LAST DRIVE of each game, only to lose in OT. It rips out my heart and beats me in the gon@ds each and every time.

yeller bug

September 27th, 2012
2:32 pm

We also should pass the ball more—the refs do NOT call holding on pass plays unless it is so blatent that Stevie Wonder can see it so we need to take advantage of their slack penalty calling and throw the ball too. This is a dinstinct disadvantage to our offense since we only throw 8 to 12 times a game.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
2:32 pm

@ JD……my source knows more about college football and Tech football in particular than all of us on this blog combined. I DEFINITELY trust what he said. All you had to do Saturday was to look at Tevin in the 4th quarter, and he telegraphed every single play he made. If I could see what he was considering from the stands, then you can be sure the Miami defense could see it, and they had plenty of time to respond. We were attempting to run the same types of plays that he had run with authority and confidence in the 2nd quarter, but he was hesitating on every one of them.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
2:34 pm

@ yeller bug……when one of Tech’s defenders had to pull his jersey back over his shoulder pads after a play, then I would say that is pretty obvious holding, but it wasn’t called. And that DID happen at least once in the 4th quarter

Ken Sugiura

September 27th, 2012
2:38 pm

collegebballfan – there are actually a lot of starters on special teams. Jeremiah Attaochu, Louis Young, Isaiah Johnson and others are all on various units. there are freshmen and sophomores, but Johnson has said that he’s given Walkosky his choice of whomever he wants.

GT Fan

September 27th, 2012
2:51 pm

Wasn’t Duke Johnson’s long KO return the KO, or PO (PUNT-off) after the safety?

Unlike and actual 4th down punt where the snapper, and at least 2 wideouts can takeoff downfield BEFORE the ball is kicked, a PUNToff, like a KO nobody can be offsides before the ball is kicked.

This played a bigger factor than realized with DJ’s long return.

GT Fan

September 27th, 2012
2:54 pm

IMO, and NOT b/c of the safety,
Orwin Smith should be removed from KO return. Those duties should be given to B.Snoddy, T.Zenon, J.Golden, and maybe the Chris Milton kid that’s so darn fast.

Too bad J.Thomas is a redshirt b/c it’d be nice to see him & Snoddy back deep!

yeller bug

September 27th, 2012
2:56 pm

Yep Super–I saw that too—Tech had one holding penalty on a running play which happens because blocks on the perimeter are highly “visible”, but for UM to throw 52 times without holding is a crock. The refs just don’t call it. It is what it is.

I just hope we open up the playbook and play 2 QBs every game from here on out. TW can take 70% of the snaps—that’s fine. Have Vad just run from the Pistol if he’s not got the timing down on the TO. We have to win the rest of our games and I personally think that Vad operating out of the Pistol is at least as effective as TW in the TO. It gives the D technically two Offenses to prepare for. We’re deep enough to sub the whole backfield—Vad, Snoddy, Days & Zenon while TW, Laskey, Smith and Godhigh with Sims and others subbing with either team. Keep them fresh hungry, competitive and zoned in on the game. If as your source claimed that TW got conservative, then take him out for a series or two. Let him get his head straight. Make it a positive that we run two QBs, not a punishment or a vote of no confidence. We are not using our assets in the best way possible.

juvenal

September 27th, 2012
2:57 pm

Ken, used to love all the stats Doug threw out-keep them coming…….Super, changed Saturday position, just no longer saying anything negative i have already said-no need to, really, they keep repeating the old stuff…..

George Stein

September 27th, 2012
3:00 pm

I agree 100%, Grinch. I would have rather lost by 100 points than lose two games the way we did.

Now I get to sit around and wait on the other shoe to drop on the Braves this season. I’ve often said being a sports fan is akin to battered wife syndrome (though, obviously, less serious): we all know we’re gonna kicked in the stones, and we show up anyway.

GIVE ME A BREAK

September 27th, 2012
3:03 pm

I still believe that Miami’s speed created a lot of Tevin’s problems. He was a step behind all day.

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
3:15 pm

@SansWorld.
We did this over and over.
How about the Wake Forest game?
Tech has the choice of a punt, very long FG try or going for it on 4th in a tie game.
With CPJ that means going for it.
Nesbitt was tackled for a big loss.
The stadium grew quiet.
Wake had the ball and enough time to drive for a FG and wreck our season.
Why didn’t that happen?
Derrick Morgan saved the gambling Paul Johnson from himself by making a game-saving sack.
Know your history.

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
3:18 pm

@ juvenal……glad to see you back

Supersize that order, mutt

September 27th, 2012
3:19 pm

@ yeller…..I totally agree with what you said about not letting Vad play being a negative, but a positive for both him and Tevin…..as well as for the entire team. It’s not a punishment or a reward; just using all available options for the greatest benefit

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
3:22 pm

@George Stein.
You’re funny.
Supersize thinks I have gone off the deep end because I am not agreeing with his buddy’s on the sidelines version of events and because I’ve cussed a little.
Actually that comment concerning the Big O was similar to a Tech fan’s favorite quip I sat next to a lot in the West stands.
When some Jacket would make a good run and run over a few of the other team’s players in the process, he would always be ready with “Get out of my way”.

Jacket Detective

September 27th, 2012
3:29 pm

CPJ goes for it on 4th when he should punt at the 50 and failure gives them a short field.
Remarkably both failures in the VT and Miami game did not result in points for the opposition.
Then late in the Miami game when he should go for it, he doesn’t.