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

Hayseed Dixie

October 3rd, 2012
10:27 pm


I take it you guys had access to Coach Groh today?

Did you do your journalistic duty and put his heels to the coals? :)

Any more quotes from Groh, though, really? I felt like it was more than poor tackling that got us beat the last two games.

We had no answer for Miami’s passing game, and against MTSU they just flat out quit.

Jacket Detective

October 3rd, 2012
10:31 pm

I hope the new drills and emphasis on wrapping up ball-carriers produce a better defense.
Of course if it does, we’ll wonder why the coaches waited until week 6 to concentrate on better tackling techniques.
I do not care how we do it but we have to pressure the QB.
We have found out, if we did not already know it, that a comfortable QB will pick us apart.

Jacket Detective

October 3rd, 2012
10:40 pm

They quit because they lost confidence in their coaches.
The Utah, VT and Miami game all had a similar theme.
In all three, we played good enough to win in regulation, let them off the hook, and then lost in OT to a team they (and us fans) thought we had already defeated.

Tech rebel

October 3rd, 2012
10:49 pm

UGA gave up 44 and WVU gave up 63 last week. Both top 10 teams with defensive issues. Offenses are definitely better. You better out score your opponent! Tech has not. Utah, VT and Miami were in the hands of the offense and they did not get it done. Maybe grow is not as bad as you think.

Tech rebel

October 3rd, 2012
10:51 pm

Maybe Groh is not as bad as you think!

Supersize that order, mutt

October 3rd, 2012
11:13 pm

Tech hasn’t tackled worth a damn any year since Groh has been at Tech. I can’t believe they are just addressing this.


October 3rd, 2012
11:20 pm

This is not against Ken’s column. Good report. But we (as fans) are not hearing the answers or coach’s solutions to our defensive woes. Our defense has been very bad for years. It is not all due to tackling! What other solutions are Groh and Johnson giving to satisfy Tech fans?! Just to focus on tackling as the problem is insulting…


October 3rd, 2012
11:26 pm

Saturday made me sick. I’ll watch this next game with one eye closed; and only because I love the Jackets. We typically own Clemson, and I hope we do again this year; what will really kill me is if we actually win the game. I’m frustrated with knowing every year that we have a good team and a good head coach, yet we seem to lose the games that we need to win to bring this program up where it should be. Beating Clemson (a better looking team than us) will just make me angrier about the VT and Miami losses. smh

Delbert D.

October 3rd, 2012
11:31 pm

Interesting article on chuckoliver dot not tonight:
“What’s Next for Georgia Tech? Choose Giff (Smith)”
There has been quite a bit of discussion on Ken’s blogs about Smith lately.

An article (look up the headline for that one yourself) by Chadd Scott builds on his earlier article this week about making a bigger change (head coach) that I think is premature.

1 4 GT

October 3rd, 2012
11:32 pm

Not surprising SS. Not surprising. If I read Ken correctly, he stated something I did not know. Back in my day, the linemen were separated from the QB’s, rb’s & TE/WR’s. The linemen practiced blocking & tackling technique every day we put on full gear pads (3 days per week in season). But apparently, time with players is so controlled now that proper technique is pretty much ignored….in the name of safety….don’t spend much time on it even in the spring….if I read Ken correctly. As I have said before, I have noticed poor tackling in many games, even the pros. The Falcons are using better tackling technique than I have seen in a long time.

Delbert D.

October 3rd, 2012
11:33 pm

That should obviously be “chuckoliver dot net”

Delbert D.

October 3rd, 2012
11:37 pm

1 4 GT – We did the sleds in the Spring and Summer, but during the season at least 30 minutes each day was linemen in the pit against other linemen 1 on 1. I think the backs were playing tag or something.

1 4 GT

October 3rd, 2012
11:58 pm

Delbert D.—-Thanks for the heads up on chuckoliver dot net. There are 4 real interesting & informative & thought provoking articles on that website. I would suggest all GT bloggers read all 4 of them. They make a great deal of sense and Taylor King has sound logic behind his musings. BTW, all 4 articles are about GT, Giff Smith, MTSU & CPJ.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
12:01 am

Delbert D. It was much the same here. We even did the Oklahoma “nutcracker”, which was banned sometime in the late 60’s, I believe. That was a tough drill.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
12:02 am

We also had a full speed, live scrimmage on Wednesdays.


October 4th, 2012
12:05 am

Thank you Ken!

Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog, totally FREE from antagonism!

I think I’m going to really enjoy it around here.

1 4 GT

October 4th, 2012
12:10 am

you’ll never be totally free

Long Beach Jacket

October 4th, 2012
12:14 am

I made the trip back from CA to see the Jackets against Miami and MTSU. First time back in 4 yrs.
Tremendously disappointed by the performance in both games. Two of the worst back to back performances I can remember by GT in quite some time. There is no other way to spin it.
Still (and always) behind the team and the program. I expect they are working very hard to improve.

I know it happens all over college football… and I am far removed from my college days, but I don’t understand how the young men can work so hard ALL year to get ready and not come out with maximum effort and intensity on gameday….regardless of what happened the week before (re: MTSU effort after Miami loss). So much effort (and pain) is invested in preparing for those 12 individual games, I just don’t understand how you can come out and just “punch the clock”. That’s what I saw last Sat from the Jackets. Cmon guys…

I’m pulling for them to get back on track and will support them regardless. It’s their sweat and sacrifice…I just want them to reap some success…and of course enjoy it when they do….

yeller bug

October 4th, 2012
1:46 am

Sorry Long Beach you came back to see those two games—hope you got a chance to enjoy the aquarium or Stone Mountain.

Amen on lying down during a game. All that blood, sweat, toil, and tears to embarass yourself on the field…on TV. We can do better. The goal is to win, but if you’ve played your best and you lose then the fans will support you. VT and Miami were gut wrenching because a play here or there would have put it in the win column. Even the sub-par performance against MTSU—we had the play to tie the game and the ball (yes, underthrown) bounced off the chest of the receiver and was INT. We then wilted. Hope it never happens again.

D has their work cut out for them this week—best offense we’ll see all year. I hope CPJ pulls out all stops on Offense—be aggressive. I still think platooning QBs is the way to go—TW in the TO and Vad in the pistol. Two different looks, two different schemes, two different skill sets to defend against. Heck platoon the whole backfield—we’re deep enough—maybe catch Clemson D in a bad matchup and make something happen. Try some new stuff!


October 4th, 2012
2:19 am

This is just some more intelligent jargon from CPJ. How many losing College Coaches can come up with all this cute stuff. Tackling angles, pouting, no energy, they had better athletes. No! No! No! When is some CPJ going to say we are not doing a good job Coaching, recruiting and I must do bettter. When is CAG going to come down on from his Mountain and say maybe the 3-4 and the way I teach it is not working so let me add some 4-3, let me simplify. When is McCollum going to have his D-Line get sacks, when is he going to be able to close on some big time recruits? It has to start at the top, this Staff has to pull out the mirror and look at themselves. Then they will fix GT problems. They can do it but this intelligent excuses and rational must stop first!


October 4th, 2012
4:32 am

All of the Tech fans in Georgia must make an effort to get rid of Al Groh.

Father A. Long

October 4th, 2012
5:27 am

GT is using te Deion Sanders tackling method. See how fast you can get out of the way!


October 4th, 2012
5:34 am

Along with CPJ and CAG, shouldn’t the other assistant coaches get some of the blame. The offensive line has been disappointing and the defensive line can hang their hat on two games. Thinking about it, they didn’t do that great against Presbyterian College. Not sure if Coach McCollum is still in charge of recruiting, but the assistant coaches are going to have to start winning some recruiting battles.

Been There. . . Done That

October 4th, 2012
6:49 am

While I agree with CPJ on noting the players need to effectively “man up,” which I’d translate into getting angrier over the near-misses & embarrassing routs, CPJ & Groh need to step out of their own heads for a moment and see how to tweak and/or adjust the schemes. Simply put, aside from poor tackling (and yes, we all agree it’s been atrocious), see what’s salvageable from these schemes, adjust it, and toss out the repeated mistakes occurring in the same situations over and over. What’s working well (less and less over the last few weeks), let’s see ‘em encourage the players to step it up!


October 4th, 2012
7:03 am

Poor tackling did not lose the VT/Miami games. ZERO pass rush and WIDE open receivers over the middle while knowing those teams HAD to pass. Getting outcoached in the 4th quarter has become s standard for this team, and not just for this season.


October 4th, 2012
7:05 am

Let’s face it folks, we just do not have the depth to overcome four would be starters out for one game, and Watts missing a big chunk as well. Sneezy, Holton, Julian Burnett, and L. Young were all standing together watching Saturday. It had to kill them to watch and hopefully they will bring a renewed intensity back to the field with them. We had two freshmen LB’s being abused and Golden playing out of position and it was ugly. How many times have we heard about UGA missing starters this season on defense, about 3,000 times, yet nothing in the local media, with the exception of Ken, about our situation except that we stink.

If we can get these guys back on the field, all but Burnett of course, we will be much better. UGA gave up 44 with all of their guys back, but have gotten a pass because they won and are considered a top 5(?) team, oh and they finally play a decent team this Saturday.

I predict will see a significant improvement in our defense over the next month, this is not a 2-3 type team.

Jeremy "Dowtown" Royer

October 4th, 2012
7:43 am

Mark my words…the Jackets will WIN baybee on Saturday!

Jeff "The Raleigh Railer" Maher

October 4th, 2012
7:44 am

Too bad we aren’t playing NC State this year in Raleigh…GOOD TIMES!

Tommy "Two Inch" Dills

October 4th, 2012
7:46 am

dis place suck. I ain’t never comin’ back!

Tommy "Lemon Drop" Eaves

October 4th, 2012
7:51 am



October 4th, 2012
8:00 am

Ken, I’m all for trying to keep this comment board clean but let’s face it, you can’t ban anyone. No one signs in and therefore you cannot stop any postings unless you block their IP address which I am fairly certain they have not given you the tools to do so. So, why doesn’t the AJC require logging in like a proper forum or comment board? Bring yourselves into this decade.

That being said, Go Jackets! Let’s go into Clemson and beat up on some Tigers. I believe we have it in us, but we’ll have to play a solid defensive game with very little mistakes.


October 4th, 2012
8:07 am

-Am very disappointed with the D line rush, or lack of it. It all starts up front, the more pressure applied and the quicker it’s done……..the better the remainder of the defense will be. Lets get out of this crappy 3-4 and go back to a base 4-man line…… some stunting / blitzing ……….and Groh STILL must go.


October 4th, 2012
8:43 am

I’m not sure why there are folks posting here that think CPJ is in some danger of being let go – that ain’t gonna happen in the forseeable future. The Athletic Ass(es) are, I’m sre, still trying to get over the Gailey buyout, and the Hewitt payoff too, so unless something really, really bad happens (soon), don’t count on seeing him gone. Groh, maybe, but not PJ.

Just stating reality – I don’t particularly dislike CPJ, I just dislike that the team seems to be so unfocused. I’d like to see more accountability as regards the entire coaching staff, not just one guy.

C’mon Jackets, let’s do to Klimpson what Romney did to Obie last night!!!!!!!


October 4th, 2012
8:47 am

the D line is the worst we have ever had..that is part of the tackeling issues.
it is always D-backs making tackles in open field!!!!


October 4th, 2012
8:51 am

Let the Jackets get behind Saturday by 10 or more points and watch this team fold like a broken tent.

Road Scholar

October 4th, 2012
8:58 am

How many years do CPJ and Groh have on their contracts? Auto rollover?

old dog

October 4th, 2012
9:00 am

Coach Groh,
Really? The energy level/contact level etc. that has served you well the previous few weeks? Tarzan must be swinging from a cable now, as it is apparant that you have smoked up all his rope! You have installed a defense you do not have the people to man. The tackling has been poor all year; Saturday was a new low. I wish Tech the best, but you gotta look in the mirror and stick to the old adage: “When all else fails, tell the truth!”
Here it is: You have not recruited D-1 talent, you run a scheme that you do not have the hosses for, and your guys completely QUIT (yeah, I said it) Saturday. You have given up more yards this season than a calculator can keep up with. To mention that the D has served y’all well previously is an abomination. My Tech buddies, you deserve better!!

The Tower

October 4th, 2012
9:17 am

RIGHT! You need bigger, better, faster players in order to do this! We don’t have those!


October 4th, 2012
9:46 am

My UGA friends would like us to keep Groh as DC, keep PJ for recruiting, and bring back Chan Gailey for game-day coaching. Oh, except they want PJ to coach the bowl games!

Ice eater 1969

October 4th, 2012
9:57 am

Old dog is right and grow and his boss should know this and do the obvious -blitz at least 5 with that last one coming from some unexpected place. If that fails then try 7 with two coming from some expected place. what is important is to get the defense of the field asap. I have watched the Houston texans go from a 4-3 three years ago when it was worst in league. They changed to a 3-4 but not a passive one like groh ( I can hear groh telling them to key them in front then breakdown on the ball- don’t get out of position) but a blitzing one that rallies to the ball. The texans improve to top 5 in one year and now are the best in nfl. They are the aggressors!!!!!!.
In our situation we need our grind it offense on the field a lot early in the game. We will wear out the defense. Plus it is fun too watch. Anyone remember how Glanville taught aggression under bud Carson. It seemed to be the only bright spot in 68 69. They at least hit people.

one coming


October 4th, 2012
10:03 am

i like it.

keep it simple – focus on tackling and pressuring the opposing qb.

Johnson Head

October 4th, 2012
10:16 am

I’ve managed to build a team that will go 5-7 this year. Oh, yeah… we will lose to UGA again.
Too bad, you won’t be able to spend all your money going to a bowl game and watch us lose this year. I know you’ve grown to expect that. Maybe next year. Buy your season tickets now at a cut rate!


October 4th, 2012
10:16 am

I don’t like the wall…

Ken Sugiura

October 4th, 2012
10:52 am

Groh is in his final year. Johnson’s is through 2016.

old dog

October 4th, 2012
11:00 am

Clemson will have more yards on Tech than there are yards of concrete in I-85. As previously stated, y’all gotta start over. You may pull out a win, but it won’t be the D that does it. Best of luck…..and AGAIN please truly address your d-problems during the off-season. I realize they must limp through this season, and likewise y’all as true fans must support them. But that axle is broken, the rubber is off the tire, and sparks are a-flyin’! And the sad part is, everybody, no matter where your loyalty lies, knows it. As previously stated, y’all deserve better than this poor effort.


October 4th, 2012
11:01 am

Middle Tenn. State, you should be able to tackle without intensity. Also you should be nasty all the time, Tech plays scared, and even the bush leagues can smell it. Worse defense I have seen at Tech and I have been watching for close to 60 years.


October 4th, 2012
11:03 am

no extension if he does not beat UGA!

Ice eater 1969

October 4th, 2012
11:05 am

How hard is it for groh and Johnson to realize that teaching a read react defense with the scout team is not practical . In practice the defense allows the scout team blockerb to engage him but at proper distance then the defender sheds the scout team blocker. Guess the real player are real blockers and we can’t get off the block. On the practice for the blitzing the scout team is pick up the Telegraphed blitzed and the technique of getting free to the ball is perfected.
Recruiting. Lets say we were 3 years into recruiting for the aggressor defense. We may have sucked at first now we would be getting athletes that can make plays and will get credit.

Aggressive d. — Good for offense, fun for kids on defense, easier to teach and great for Recruiting,!,,, .


October 4th, 2012
11:26 am

The D needs improvement but I don’t believe 28 points will beat Clemson either.

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.