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

old dog

October 5th, 2012
8:59 am

Wishing y’all the best…..truly. But the D is “tore-up like a dollar-watch on the spin-cycle!” You will have to start completely over. No coaching, no talent, and for what little talent you DO have, a system they ARE NOT capable of running. We all have our difficulties, and we got scored on Saturday. But y’all are WAY behind any mention of that. Hope you get it righted.

beezit

October 5th, 2012
9:05 am

“Tech targets tackling woes”

Great….game six of year three and Al Groh is teaching his defense how to tackle….just great…

Highly Respected Southern Troll

October 5th, 2012
9:18 am

Obvious question: Shouldn’t giving-up 510 yards and 49 points to Middle Tennesse State one week after giving-up close to 600 yards and 42 points to a medicore Miami team be cause for immediate firing of the defensive coordinator?

[...] Tech targets tackling flaws [...]

Born2Buzz

October 5th, 2012
9:46 am

@14GT, your 10:36p post was right on, as was yeller bug’s follow up.
I think CPJ understands that he needs to severely upgrade the D and a lot of priority has gone into recruiting better athletes for that side of the ball (see Hunt-Days, Gotsis & Kallon – yes we need more). Hell, he canned Womack after winning the ACC because he knew the D needed to improve. His mistake was thinking Groh was the right guy for the job. We basically spent the last 3 years spinning our wheels. But a quick turnaround can happen with the right DC (just look at the Falcons).
I also agree that CPJ needs some serious introspection on his prized TO offense. Look at what Oregon and WVU are doing. CPJ’s O has the ability to do a lot of things but he needs to realize that throwing the ball might be the better option with the talent we have.

Everybody forgets that this is still a young team. Keep the faith Jacket fans. Groh will be gone, if not after this game, at least by the end of the year.

And hey, just think, we could be Arkansas.

WnE

October 5th, 2012
10:55 am

re:
Born2Buzz
October 5th, 2012
9:46 am

@14GT, your 10:36p post was right on, as was yeller bug’s follow up.
I think CPJ understands that he needs to severely upgrade the D and a lot of priority has gone into recruiting better athletes for that side of the ball (see Hunt-Days, Gotsis & Kallon – yes we need more). Hell, he canned Womack after winning the ACC because he knew the D needed to improve. His mistake was thinking Groh was the right guy for the job. We basically spent the last 3 years spinning our wheels. But a quick turnaround can happen with the right DC (just look at the Falcons).
I also agree that CPJ needs some serious introspection on his prized TO offense. Look at what Oregon and WVU are doing. CPJ’s O has the ability to do a lot of things but he needs to realize that throwing the ball might be the better option with the talent we have.

Everybody forgets that this is still a young team. Keep the faith Jacket fans. Groh will be gone, if not after this game, at least by the end of the year.

And hey, just think, we could be Arkansas.
_______________

Please don’t list Hunt-days in the same sentence as Kallon & Gotsis.

Hunt-Days is a playa with a lot of upside, Kallon & Gotsis are “projects” that you hope will develop at some point in the future, the success rate on “project players” like Kallon & Gotsis is much lower than it is on recruits like Hunt-Days.

Our roster is currently filled with guys like Kallon & Gotsis that did NOT pan out and that is WHY we have depth issues at multiple positions.

The quick turnaround that the Falcons have is because they have a GM & FREE AGENCY, until GT gets one or both of those, then there will be no quick turnarounds for GT’s defense.

1 4 GT

October 5th, 2012
12:25 pm

FYI…….While most of us may offer criticism of CPJ & GT football, we also come up with ways that we think could make things better. You can also sense an underlying, fervent hope that things will get turned around, almost an expectation, if you will. The readers will seldom find a commentator that is all negative, except for 1. There is one! He is all negativity! He is all critical! He is all hate! His critical analysis, as he calls it, is never constructive or offers any sort of answer, even when some of us ask him what he would suggest as a solution, he never replies to the query. I have been seeing this guys comments now for more than a year…..others longer I imagine. I don’t expect he will ever go away, but I can sure hope………..hint, hint………………………………“HELP”

PJ right for once

October 5th, 2012
12:30 pm

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

The Old Coot

October 5th, 2012
1:05 pm

Headline: Tech plans to tackle better

Does that mean that Tech dd not plan to tackle against Miami and MTSU?

I think winning a college football game takes more than just planning.