Tech targets tackling woes

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson knows this much about Saturday’s game against No. 15 Clemson. The defense he brings to Death Valley had best not bear any resemblance to the one that was pummeled for 510 yards and 49 points by Middle Tennessee State.

“If we play like we did Saturday, they may not have enough lights on the scoreboard for Clemson,” Johnson said.

Poor tackling has been at the heart of Tech’s disappointing start, which has included overtime losses to Virginia Tech and Miami and then the humbling 49-28 loss to MTSU on Saturday. Not only did it trigger the Blue Raiders avalanche that buried the Yellow Jackets, but Johnson said that ineffective tackling probably cost Tech its games against the Hokies and Hurricanes, also.

It bottomed out, or so the Jackets would hope, Saturday, when Tech defenders tackled shadows and deflected off MTSU running back Benny Cunningham like pebbles off a dump truck. Johnson said after the game that Tech probably had as bad a tackling game as he’d ever seen, comparing it only to the Jackets’ efforts the previous week against Miami.

“What was really lacking was the energy level and the contact level and the toughness that has to be part of the culture of this defense and had served it pretty well in the preceding four weeks,” defensive coordinator Al Groh said.

What likely comes as little consolation to Tech or its fans is the perception among coaches that poor tackling technique has encroached upon the game at all points. Teams practice full-speed, to-the-ground tackling little, if at all, and less time is devoted to tackling in spring and preseason practice than in the past. Injury concerns and NCAA rules limiting fully-padded practices are a driving force.

“But what happens is, when you don’t get to play this game live and full speed often, and then all of a sudden, you show up on game day, it’s just hard to simulate, so it takes a little bit longer, I think, for people to really improve,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

With offenses also spreading the field, ball-carriers have more space to elude tacklers. MTSU widened Tech’s defense by splitting out wide receivers, which left the Jackets vulnerable in the middle and also often unable to bring down Blue Raiders perimeter players one-on-one.

That said, the problem against MTSU was less about form than effort.

When a defensive player doesn’t play with focus or energy, “you don’t come up with the intensity you need to come up with,” outside linebacker Brandon Watts said. “Every runner’s going to try to keep running after contact. If you don’t bring the intensity you need to bring with the hit, they’re probably going to run through you.”

Tech practices tackling drills every day, but players usually don’t tackle to the ground. That said, the team has conducted more tackling drills this week than usual and has heard plenty from coaches about wrapping up scout-team players in practice.

Starting with wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Clemson may be loaded with the most elusive playmakers that Tech will face this year. In five games this season, the Tigers have broken 28 plays for 20 yards or more. Stopping Clemson will require technique and will. A productive week of practice bodes well, but is no guarantee.

According to Groh, the best Thursday practice this season was probably last week’s.

“There’s a big difference between Thursday, as good an effort as you get from the scout-team players, and Saturday, when the other guys are trying to win,” he said.

Thanks for reading. A word of caution: Everyone is welcome to his/her opinion, but profane language or antagonistism towards other commenters and posting under someone else’s handle are bannable offenses, no matter whose team you support. Consider this a warning.

In case you missed it…

ACC reverts to 8-game league schedule

Michael Carvell: Tech recruits react to 2-3 start

Offensive line not meeting Johnson’s expectations

Team leaders call for accountability

Notes: Abnormal heart rate gives Jackson scare

Tech considering safety options for stadium

Johnson addresses defense

Johnson: ‘You want fans that care’

Johnson to team: Stop pouting

Fitting MTSU loss into Tech history

After debacle, Tech braces for Clemson

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

109 comments Add your comment

GT Joe

October 4th, 2012
11:39 am

hate to say it, this is an “L” for Tech. Never said that before on the blogs, until this game. The reason? Not defense. TEVIN WASHINGTON. aka Reggie Ball.

I fully expect a beatdown in Clemson. Then CPJ will finally realize (after going 11-13 with Tevin) that Vad is the answer. He’ll use the bye week to hand the keys to the Ferrari to Vad. And Vad will run the table (yes, beat UGA too). And win the bowl game.

Nostradamus has spoken.

SteveC

October 4th, 2012
12:00 pm

Just a guess, but I doubt GT will finish even 6-6 this year, with losses to Clemson, BYU and UGA, plus another “upset” to Duke or UNC thrown in for good measure. Just as well, in my humble opinion.

Maybe next year? Teams with competent QBs who can pass have been (and will continue to) riddle our secondary. How many times have you watched them give a receiver a 15 yard cushion on a 3rd and 13 play?

Jmonty

October 4th, 2012
12:15 pm

Yeah… Groh is that bad. If you don’t play aggressive the players themselves aren’t aggressive. Sadly, my poor Jackets are suffering. It will take a strong defensive minded person to take over. With the players we have, a 4-3 or 5-2 would fit better. You should be flexible as a coach and use the strengths you have to hide any weaknesses. I agree poor tackling is a big issues. But, even with that… we seem to NEVER pressure the QB. There isn’t much imagination with the “D”. A good DC would move players and confuse the other team’s QB. Again… this is not the players fault. I guess I take exception to students being blamed for bad coaching. The blame lie with both.. But, ultimately.. the coaches need to correct the root cause. I have seen this happen.. No corrections. Groh is not aggressive enough to be a decent coach. GT needs someone that can make players become play makers. Not just people on the field running around.

GT Fan

October 4th, 2012
12:21 pm

Sammy Dawg
October 4th, 2012
11:31 am
When tek is this bad, where else can you go? Clemson 61, tek 21. Next week will be a much quieter week on the blogs for tek since it will be time to put the season to bed and ponder what to do with the program. I promise to help come up with new an innovative ideas next week. Good luck and God bless.
———————————
We’ll all be anxiously waiting, Sammy. HOPEFULLY your ideas will be as “innovative” as your idea to refer to TECH as tek? You should work for NASA.

GT Fan

October 4th, 2012
12:24 pm

Just my 2.5 cents ….

If coaches are concerned about players getting hurt in full speed tackling drills, spend some $ on more tackling DUMMIES! Teach them how to WRAP-UP when they tackle as well.

well, what is the proper distance for a D back?

October 4th, 2012
1:05 pm

If 15 yards is too much, what was that play against MT for a TD? The D guy was actually close to the line and the MT guy caught a slant and ran home untouched?

Is grow getting ready for that double receiver set from other teams?…worked for MT.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
1:12 pm

Back in the days of yore….we learned the proper techniques of blocking & tackling with the handheld dummies & blocking sleds….then put it into actual practice on each other….the linemen even had 2 on 1 blocking & tackling technique drills….& kept doing it until Coach quit hollering at us….guess they have to be more “genteel” in today’s world….coaches can’t coach thanks to PC libs….kids lives sure are different today….too many folks worried about them getting hurt….ie..can’t ride bikes without helmets & pads & other silly stuff

Al Bundy

October 4th, 2012
1:31 pm

1 4 GT,
Back in the days of yore….we learned the proper techniques of blocking & tackling with the handheld dummies & blocking sleds….then put it into actual practice on each other….the linemen even had 2 on 1 blocking & tackling technique drills….& kept doing it until Coach quit hollering at us….guess they have to be more “genteel” in today’s world….coaches can’t coach thanks to PC libs….kids lives sure are different today….too many folks worried about them getting hurt….ie..can’t ride bikes without helmets & pads & other silly stuff

You hit that one out of the park!!!! Exactly right!

GT Lee

October 4th, 2012
1:33 pm

Make sure the Dodge is roadworthy, AL Bundy, and bring Peggy, Kelly and Bud to BDS with you sometime this year!

MariettaMike

October 4th, 2012
1:36 pm

I am guaranteeing a great day for the triple option in Clemson, SC on Saturday. GT will score six touchdowns, count them six on the Tigers this Saturday. Unfortunately Clemson will score eight touchdowns on us. Take Clemson and the points. The score will be Clemson 56 GT 40. GT misses two extra points.

GT Lee's Daddy

October 4th, 2012
1:41 pm

GT Lee has never kissed a girl before

GEAUX DAWGS

October 4th, 2012
1:44 pm

Paul Johnson makes $2,750,000 and the head coach of Middle Tenn makes $500,000
Well that makes perfect sense to me.

Al Bundy

October 4th, 2012
1:45 pm

GT Lee, It’s looking like me and family won’t be making the trip this year. The old Dodge is up to it, but I’m planning a wedding for my daughter and the wallet is empty. Do you have any idea how much a wedding costs? And Peg’s no help at all, she still doesn’t have a job. I’m going to have to quit insulting fat women who come in the store and just sell them shoes.

I do think the Jackets win this weekend and I do know a thing or two about football. I once scored 4 touchdowns at Polk High!

Go Jackets!

LOL Ice eater

October 4th, 2012
1:46 pm

I can see it now – players coming from unexpected places – like off the bench or from the stands – yeah that will be a real surprise. Short of that what do we do? We don’t have enough quality D1 players.

old dog

October 4th, 2012
1:48 pm

@14GT,
You are right on……….we practiced with the dummies THEN went full contact. All your above-mentioned drills were part of it, too. Nobody “passed out” at practice or had heat-stroke at summer practice. Say what you want, but those old salted drinks may have done the trick. Also, we were “weatherized” since we played outside all the time. Many had to play both sides of the ball, and narry a cramp! And bike helmets? Sheesh………
Sounds like you had the same “raising” the old dog had….

Born2Buzz

October 4th, 2012
1:52 pm

I hope our D gets better soon, but I still want Al Groan Gone!
I have a picture I took of him off the TV from Saturday as he sat in the booth. He looks like a confused old man!

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
2:03 pm

old dog & Al B….& kids had work at it to be obese………………

GT Lee

October 4th, 2012
2:09 pm

GT Lee’s Daddy

October 4th, 2012
1:41 pm

GT Lee has never kissed a girl before
_____________________________________

Well now that’s just creepy….a 12-year-old is stalking me on the Tech blogs…..by the way, little fella, I saw you on the Braves blog using the handle Chipper; don’t have much imagination, do you? You said the exact same things on that blog too……

wt. king

October 4th, 2012
2:11 pm

“Tech plans to tackle better” …… AGAIN…. that’s it? That’s the plan? As compared to the plan last week before MTS?

Looks like the coaching staff plans, yet again, to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Please tell me I’m wrong!!

Jacket Nation Deflation

October 4th, 2012
2:23 pm

How do you recover after giving up 49 points to Middle Tennesee State? The season is over. The Jeckets will not be appearing on the top 25 and will be very fortunate to get any kind of bowl game. We have a sorry excuse of a defense…there is no other way to put it. How many sacks has the d-line had? This 3-4 scheme is NOT WORKING for the third miserable year. Gambling by run blitzing and pass blitzing is what they must do, if there is any chance of beating Clemson, which I don’t think there is. Tevin threw the ball pretty good Saturday. The one interception was Greene’s fault. D. Thomas will have made a play on the ball. Throw the ball much more knuckle head coach. Then MAYBE the middle will open up for the B-Backs and you can hit the corners with the A-Backs. What’s wrong with running the A- Backs between the tackles with the other A Back blocking?
Groh needs to retire. Vad should be put in the game more. Just my opinion for what it’s not worth.

Rodeo

October 4th, 2012
2:37 pm

I don’t have a good feeling about Saturday’s game. PJ is loyal to TW as Chan was to RB, and my prediction is that VL will not play unless its a single series or until the very end of the game – similar to last week’s game. Additionally the offense will open with a pass their first offensive play from scrimmage, as they have done in most of their recent games, and then go back to their run mode and throw only when 3rd and long. With TW as QB, Clemson only needs to focus mainly on run defense. When close to the goal line, Clemson will focus on stopping TW only since he mainly calls his own number. Tech will score some points unfortunately Clemson will score more.

Ken I agree entirely that Groh is in his last season. Unfortunately he will not be replaced until either late in the season or in the off-season, so we have at least 6 more games to live with this.

Winning cures everything, however, unless GT wins the remainder of their games (highly unlikely) then PJ will eventually be replaced. Beating Ugag would buy him some time, but that also is highly unlikely. Ken, I think well before 2016, the university will come up with a buy-out of the remaining years.

T-man

October 4th, 2012
2:43 pm

Why is it other teams don’t seem to have the epidemic tackling problems Tech has? It would seem that by the time these young men get to playing football on the Division 1-A college level that knowing how to tackle and doing it with consistency would be second nature. Could it be that some of the players were known to be average to sub-par tacklers when they were recruited out of high school? Could it be that some of the players have lost site of the importance of playing every down as though it might be a game changer? Could it be that some of the player’s postion coaches worry too much about schemes and game plans instead of basic fundementals? Could it be that some of the players have inadvertently taken on the low key, uninspiring personalities of their fearless leaders -CPJ and CAG? Or could it be that some of these players don’t fully understand or take enough pride in playing for one of the most famous football schools of all time? You’d think that putting on the White and Old Gold and playing on the hallowed ground of Bobby Dodd Stadium would be sufficient to not letting yourself get beat the way they’ve been getting beat. You’d think.

Jacket Nation Deflation

October 4th, 2012
2:53 pm

Keeping giving scholarships to 1, 2, and 3 star athletes and this is what you get. Hey where is Giff Smith these days? We need a real recruiter. With the way Tech runs the ball, seems like 4 and 5 star backs would be doable. We don’t have a super star power back like Dwyer or Choice. Much better recruiting all the way around is in order.

GT Fan

October 4th, 2012
2:54 pm

Jacket Nation Deflation …. u r wrong about the INT being Greene’s fault. Go back and watch the hightlight …. TW grossly UNDERTHREW the pass causing a WIDE OPEN J.Greene to slow-down/come-back to the ball, thus allowing the DB back into the play.

J.Greene was behind the DB, and would have scored, untouched, had the ball not been underthrown.

Born2Buzz

October 4th, 2012
3:01 pm

GT Joe, I hope you are right…well about everything but the loss this weekend. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Jacket Nation Deflation

October 4th, 2012
3:03 pm

Yes Tevin under threw the ball and Greene and to slow down and turn around. However, D would have made a play on the ball and not allowed the defender to beat him. So far Greene does not appear to have the skill set to make lesser throws become completions. But you are right that in that Tevin does not put enough on it when he goes long.

Jacket Nation Deflation

October 4th, 2012
3:04 pm

I wish you could edit your typos on this blog. Hey Ken, can you get em to fix that???

GT Fan

October 4th, 2012
3:08 pm

Jacket Nation Deflation … I just went back and watch the INT, again, and I’m even sicker now b/c, while I knew J.Green was WIDE OPEN and behind the defender, I’d forgot just how far behind not just the DB, but the ENTIRE defense!

OMG! What a WHIF by TW on that throw!

GT Joe

October 4th, 2012
3:35 pm

GT Fan: TW underthrew ANOTHER sure TD pass on the left side of the field too. I think 3rd or 4th quarter, that was just an incompletion luckily.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
3:43 pm

Clem 61 – tek 21. Hurry, phone lines are open for tickets this weekend. Plenty left in the tek section. They will need to send unsold tickets back after 5PM. Come see history made live!

GT Joe

October 4th, 2012
3:52 pm

Sammy: after Saturday, we’ll be 2 games under .500. Unfamiliar territory for us jackets, please help us GT folks: how did you mutts keep from killing yourselves when YOU were 2 games under .500 last year?

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:20 pm

GT Joe: Answer comes in 2 parts. (1) talent and (2) easier schedule ahead of UGA. Tek has neither. Sorry, this may seem unfamiliar territory to you, but this talent funk may take a while to get out of (see Bill Lewis transition).

old dog

October 4th, 2012
4:22 pm

As per john boy and Billy;
“This here’s the Reverand Billy-Ray Collins comin’ to you’uns from the Sword of Joshua Full-Gospel Inedependant Pentacostal Assembly just off’n I 20 on the frontage road. Today, we’uns is prayin’ for our pals at the North Avenue Trade School that they be learnt to tackle in this here game a-comin’ up!”

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:28 pm

Dag nabit! I am putting down some funny stuff to help the teksters and it gets blocked. Just trying to help improve tackling.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:30 pm

I got it. Take some of those tackling dummies mentioned above and glue pictures of some of the tek co-eds we all see in the stands on game day. That will make the players mad about their decision to come to tek.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:33 pm

Only 25 minuters to get your tek tix to Clemson. Plenty left. Face value. Don’t make your ticket office package them up and send them up with the team on the bus. We know what might happen to extra tickets aroung Mr. Young. Ouch.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:33 pm

Ya’ll have to laugh. That was a sweet one.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:36 pm

Once a Dawg fan gets 5 straight comments in on a tek blog, the AJC should shut it down. Good day. Someone wake Al Groh up when the leave tonight. He is scared of the dark.

Sammy Dawg

October 4th, 2012
4:58 pm

Clem – 61
Tek – 21

cosmicjacket

October 4th, 2012
5:07 pm

This is simple, bring back Giff Smith and make him DC and recruiting coordinator. All you have to do is read is bio while at GT.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
6:30 pm

cosmicjacket….that was precisely what an article by Taylor King said on the chuckoliver dot net site said

Tech Observer

October 4th, 2012
6:31 pm

Just an observation here but I remember when the GT defense had what was coined ‘The Black Watch’ back in 1985 I believe. Those front 4 were awesome and no team (including UGA) could run on them. I would like to see the same defense return to GT and get back to the fundamentals. Is that defensive coach still around? If so, an offer should be made and Groh should be kicked to the curb.

dry dirt road

October 4th, 2012
7:37 pm

For Tech to tackle well, quit eating butterfingers between possessions. Don’t eat them at halftime. Don’t stuff them down front of football pants for quick energy when on sidelines. Butterfingers eventually have melted milk chocolate that makes hands slippery. Don’t insist that you have to have Ataochu on defense as the star of the defense, otherwise you can’t tackle. There’s no defensive star. Also, apparently Groh needs to come back onto the sidelines. He was no Tenuta last week.

dry dirt road

October 4th, 2012
7:42 pm

To tackle well, Tech also needs to fully embrace the white helmets and white pants unis of the early 70’s teams that had such tough defenses. They did this in first two games of season. When they went off on a tangent and combined white helmets with tan pants against MT, their early 70’s defense wasn’t there.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
10:36 pm

I’ve done a good bit of looking @ GT & CPJ. I can all but guarantee y’all that this situation he finds himself & his team in is preying on his mind. He knows that he will never get another big time HC’ing job. And, for the naysayer mutt trolls, GT is still a big time job, though some of the luster is gone. He also knows he will never get a paycheck like he is getting now from his next small potatoes job as a HC. So he wants to retire from GT. He will try everything at his disposal to turn this program around, starting this weekend. If GT can make a good, close game of it at least, that will be a step in the right direction. If not, I see a 5 or 6 win season at best. That said, the only thing that will make it better is beating Georgie. His job depends on all of the above. Most likely not after this season, but he will have a short leash. Can he & GT right this ship? Of course they can. Play with heart, dedication, intensity & focus & anything can happen. That’s why they play the games. In the long run, CPJ will have to do some serious introspection & change some of his ways. He must recruit better. He must build a strong defense. He must adapt his offense. He can do this. Will he? Only time will tell. I hope so. I don’t want to watch 3 to 5 years of a new coach rebuilding. Groh is gone after this season. Selah.

yeller bug

October 4th, 2012
11:33 pm

Nice points 1 4 GT—this is a great gig for CPJ. He is fiercely competitive and he will try his very best to turn things around. However, the question is whether he consideres the TO his sacred cow. No I haven’t watched practice, but I and everyone including Ray Charles can see that Vad passes better than TW. He runs better than TW, but he doesn’t run the TO better than TW. So is the TO the highest priority? Is that the required starting point? Then TW is the guy. If we break all barriers and kill all sacred cows, maybe CPJ will realize that the team could actually do better from the Pistol with Vad than the TO with TW. Maybe CPJ will recognize that these choices are not mutually exclusive and he can do both. I think you adapt your offense to suit your personnel. Let’s open things up. At some point stubborn becomes stupid and I hope we don’t get to that point.

Empty Seats

October 4th, 2012
11:38 pm

If they have better players, who recruited yours Paul Johnson?

Are you not the “head coach”, responsible for recruiting even if you delegate recruiting?

This buck don’t stop.

Enjoy your cool $10 million Paul, nice retirement plan.

dagnabit

October 4th, 2012
11:54 pm

I agree with Ken. Al Groh is in his final year. But he’s retired already.

Empty Seats

October 4th, 2012
11:59 pm

Takes three years to learn the D, so a four year player will know the D one year of his playing college career, then leave. never mind proficient, just learned it. This makes since. How?

The “head coach” picked this gem too. Al Groh. You get what you pay for, partly due to Hewitt’s buyout.

The trend is negative and gaining momentum even with indoor facility rather than investing in good defense coordinator.

$10M Contract thru 2016, congrats Paul Johnson. Nice Job D-Rad and thanks for the Scholarship penalties and ACC Championship vacated. Read NCAA report if you want the facts. No player was guilty, Admin sighted in NCAA report.

Another coach set for life. Congratulations Paul Hewitt and Paul Johnson.

Enjoy the money from the Georgia taxpayers and Alumni for whom you produce a mediocre or no product. Must make you very proud.

WnE

October 5th, 2012
7:46 am

re:
Jacket Nation Deflation
October 4th, 2012
2:53 pm

Keeping giving scholarships to 1, 2, and 3 star athletes and this is what you get. Hey where is Giff Smith these days? We need a real recruiter. With the way Tech runs the ball, seems like 4 and 5 star backs would be doable. We don’t have a super star power back like Dwyer or Choice. Much better recruiting all the way around is in order.
______________

Giff Smith ain’t coming back to GT.

If/when things go south in Buffalo for Chan, Giff will have NFL position coach experience, BCS experience from GT, and with all that he’ll go to a SEC school and cash in.

In the SEC he’ll be under more pressure to produce quick results, but he’ll also make 30-40% more for the same exact Asst. Coach slot.

GT blew their budget with CPJ’s contract and that leaves them very little wiggle room to go after top Assts.

Yet another example that the cushy contract that DRad gave to CPJ is the gift that keeps on giving.

The contract is so big for GT’s smallish Athl. Budget that we can’t fire CPJ nor are we able to aggressively pursue top flight Assts. or top flight Recruiters.

CPJ’s contract has the GT FB hamstrung to the extent that we can’t do anything aggressive with our coaching staff and this will lead to GT FB dying a slow death.