Tech needing Attaochu’s playmaking spark

Statistically speaking, Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu played one of his best games of the season two Saturdays ago.

His coach doesn’t always speak the language of statistics, however.

“He made a lot of mistakes, but he made some tackles,” coach Paul Johnson said of Attaochu’s performance against Clemson Oct. 6. “He had some production.”

After a promising 2011 season in his first year as a starter, Attaochu has not altered the direction of games to the extent that the Yellow Jackets might have hoped for thus far. He is hardly the root cause of the implosion that led to the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, but he has not been an unavoidable playmaking colossus, either.

“I don’t judge my play,” said Attaochu, a junior. “I let the coaches do that.”

After leading Tech with six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 11 games last season, Attaochu has two sacks, accounting for all of his tackles for loss, at the halfway point for Tech. He had 59 total tackles year ago and 30 this season. He made 23 of the 30 against Virginia Tech and Clemson, arguably Tech’s biggest games thus far. He had two forced fumbles a year ago and none so far this season.

Injuries have hampered Attaochu’s high-motor play, which earned him a preseason nomination to the watch list for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker or lineman. The Jackets have also played quarterbacks who have gotten rid of the ball quickly or used heavy pass-protection schemes, and he also missed a game. But that doesn’t quite explain everything.

“It’s been nothing I can put my finger on,” Johnson said.

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Miami’s Al Golden both paid him compliments prior to their games against Tech. Golden called Attaochu “one of the best players, clearly, in the conference, if not the country.”

Attaochu did produce against Clemson, with 1.5 sacks and 13 total tackles. As Johnson alluded, he also missed tackles and other chances to make plays. Attaochu, whose attitude and work ethic are beyond reproach, stands by his play.

“I feel like my game has been making progress the first six games,” Attaochu said. “The last six games, it’s time to continue to speed up the progress and continue to amp it up.”

Tackles and sacks do not always tell the entire story. Before his firing, Groh said that Attaochu’s run defense was significantly improved and that he had become more confident and knowledgeable in the scheme. Further, Attaochu was creating pressure on the quarterback, but those plays had not turned into sacks.

There is an element of chance with sacks. Sometimes, a lineman will get a sack when a teammate’s pressure flushes the quarterback in his path. To a large degree, a quarterback pressure that forces an incompletion on third down accomplishes the same purpose as a sack.

However, whether it was Attaochu, his teammates or some other failing, Tech’s inability to agitate quarterbacks was central to its third-down lapses, which was in turn no small factor in Groh’s dismissal. Going into their Saturday home game against Boston College, the Jackets are 103rd out of 120 FBS teams in defensive third-down efficiency at 47.8 percent. Opponents were 31 of 46, 67.4 percent, in the past three games.

Attaochu is not consumed by his numbers.

“Bottom line, you watch film, tackles, sacks, all those things, they matter,” he said. “They matter, but at the end of the day, it’s about doing your job. If you’re doing your job and you make tackles, that’s good. If you’re doing your job and you don’t make tackles, that’s still good. That’s defense.”

The setting changes for Attaochu and his teammates. Charles Kelly has replaced Groh as interim coordinator and Joe Speed, formerly the inside linebackers coach, now supervises Attaochu and the outside linebackers.

“As long as I know I’m doing my job and I’m playing hard and giving everything I have, that’s all you can really ask for,” he said.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

51 comments Add your comment

Erik GT

October 15th, 2012
8:09 pm

Jackedjacket

October 15th, 2012
8:11 pm

Jackedjacket

October 15th, 2012
8:12 pm

How bout SECOND??? Kudos for that??

Erik GT

October 15th, 2012
8:17 pm

Erik GT

October 15th, 2012
8:19 pm

so what’s up with the rumors concerning kirby smart? seems like a cruel hoax toying with my emotions

Ice eater 1969

October 15th, 2012
8:19 pm

We need to blitz the run lanes . Attack chu makes plays so send him – he can’t LEAD FROM BEHIND. If we can’t make him famous we will never get the top drawer recruits. I have a good feeling about the defense actually scoring.

JD

October 15th, 2012
8:25 pm

crackbaby

October 15th, 2012
8:36 pm

JA is a force. High motor, fast and strong. Looking forward to watching him play more with Watts, Q & Co.

Go Jackets!

Smyrna Gold

October 15th, 2012
8:39 pm

I’m really trying to get myself pumped up to travel downtown Saturday and watch 2 teams with a combined 3 and 6 record compete. Oh well, the Varsity shouldn’t be too crowded and traffic should be pretty light around Grant Field. We Tech fans really deserve more than this especially with the price of tickets being what they are. My question is: Does anybody really give a crap anymore?? I don’t think so.

Delbert D.

October 15th, 2012
8:42 pm

Looking forward to some serious attacking by the defense against BC on Saturday.

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 15th, 2012
8:44 pm

I don’t see Kirby Smart coming to Tech as the DC. He’s an uga guy. Only way he would come to Tech is if you gave him the HC spot. Personally, that might not be such a bad move in my book. I haven’t totally given up on Johnson’s system, if he can pull us out of this slump and right the ship with a few solid wins including Georgie, then I’ll be right back on the wagon. I’m just very skeptical at this point.

Gr8 2B aFuzzyB

October 15th, 2012
8:48 pm

As for Attaouchu, he’s absolutely the key to our defense. I suspect the injury bug has something to do with the numbers being down. It’s hard to be relentless when you’re not 100%. His 85% is still better than most.

GTGirl

October 15th, 2012
8:52 pm

Jeremiah is a beast! i love watching him attack the opposing team.
Go Jackets!

E.O. Wheeler

October 15th, 2012
9:02 pm

To Smyrna Gold,

Our team still needs our support. I live in south Ga. and drive 145 miles to the games and
plan on being there Saturday. So quit complaining about having to drive from Smyrna and
get your you know what to the game.

Smyrna Gold

October 15th, 2012
9:09 pm

To E.O. Wheeler

Oh, I’ll be there; have been for 45+ years. That being said, the program is still pathetic and the only way changes will be made is by not supporting this fiasco. I always come to the games along with the other 25,000.

gt34backer

October 15th, 2012
9:20 pm

Still love watching the Jackets and even with the disappointment of having lost a few close games and a lacking defense I’m excited about this weekend to see what changes have been made and how our guys will respond. I expect an exciting group to show up Saturday. Have my tickets for Maryland and UNC to support our guys out of town. GO JACKETS!

DRad Fan

October 15th, 2012
9:22 pm

I’ll be there Sat. I’ve been through hard times over the years with GT. Being a Jacket fan is really TOUGH, but not supporting the team or program when we are needed the most is more like what UGA fans do. Like vandalizing the QB’s house and wanting to fire the HC after one losss. Could those fans really go through what we GT fans have over the years?

Lake Park Jacket

October 15th, 2012
9:24 pm

I drive from Lake Park which is only 6 miles from Florida to watch GT play a few times a season. Even if our team is not doing good they still need to be supported by a good fan base. I know it’s easier to be a fan when the team is winning but that’s not a true fan. True fans stick with thier team through the ups and downs of the season. I’m not happy about the way we have played so far this season but I will also support and watch my team. Lets be known nationally for a hardcore fan base that shows up and disrupts opposing offenses with a loud raucous noise. Go jackets!!

Jacket Detective

October 15th, 2012
9:37 pm

I’ll be there too but am not happy with anything about Al Groh starting with letting him attend practice in 2009 before Orange Bowl.
There are so many reasons not to have hired him.
His idea of a blitz is bringing Attaochu which is the usual rush of a 4-3 and not really a blitz.
Had Johnson taken the firing as an opportunity to do a serious search, we could have gotten someone good and maybe become a top program.

Jacket Detective

October 15th, 2012
9:43 pm

@Lake Park Jacket.
Last year I did that when Uga attempted a FG right before the half ended.
We yelled and he missed.
But rarely done in the 1st half, our coach called a timeout.
Their kicker was in a slump.
Our coach got him out of it with a 2nd chance.
I’ve saved my voice a lot more since then.

Jacket Detective

October 15th, 2012
9:48 pm

Johnson did not realize how important the 2009 arch-rival game was.
He probably does now.

www

October 15th, 2012
10:45 pm

who wants to give me a couple of tickets for this weekend?

Ga Tech Old Timer

October 15th, 2012
11:03 pm

As long as we’re talking about the distance we all drive in order to get to these games – and I mean season ticket holders who show up for EVERY game – for years I traveled from Daytona Beach and had to make it a two and sometimes three day trip – depending on the time of kick off – not an easy thing especially now in this economy. Figure in hotel and food expense for two – plus the two season tickets and gas money and you’re talking some serious cash to watch our guys play. Did I see 45 years in attendance? That’s great! But how about trying on 60+ years for size and seeing if that can come close to being an ardent supporter / fan / believer in Georgia Tech football – and I’m sure there are more out there with more years than I’ve got.

The point of all these numbers is that they are just numbers. We either are staunch supporters of the Tech program or not. We either show up for EVERY game or not. We don’t have to like the coach or the way the team is playing but our support should go much deeper than that. It should go deeper than the current record or the record over the past xxx years or how many times we’ve beaten UGA. Tech supporters – more than anyone – should understand the dynamic of the institution – the fact that academic offerings are limited that might attract a wider section of prospects from which to offer scholarships – that the athletic director does actually care that the team is playing poorly and if his confidence is lacking in the head coach he will make a change – that the teams we see today are not the same as the ones we saw win the national championships here at Tech in the past and are not going to produce at that same level in the future on a consistant basis year after year like they did throughout the “Glory Days” – at least not in my lifetime.

In todays world – we want instant gratification – win them all and win big. Reality says we can not consistantly compete with those who grace the top ten year after year. It does little for anyone to have come onto these blogs – point fingers – berate coaches / players and athletic directors for the past seven weeks. Yes, our voice is out there but those in “control” of the football destiny at Georgia Tech are not making their decisions on – who to fire / who to play / what plays to run / what defense to play – based on what they read here. Support comes from the heart – the LOVE of Georgia Tech and all it stands for from academics through sports and beyond. Everyone loves a winner and that includes myself and yes I’m discouraged and disappointed – but let’s not threaten to not show up on game day to show our displeasure. That only has the potential for a completely negative impact on those currently playing and those prospects who might be at the game consisering Tech as their choice. Plus the fact that as a season ticket holder you’ve already purchased the ticket so why not come on out. If you’ve got kids let me ask you a question – When they had difficult times – did you withdraw your support from them? I’m sure you didn’t – and we shouldn’t withdraw support from these kids either – not if you’re a REAL Tech fan.

Death2UGA

October 15th, 2012
11:04 pm

I need tickets!

Supersize that order, mutt

October 15th, 2012
11:11 pm

@ Ga Tech Old Timer ……. FANTASTIC POST !!! It should be required reading by every Tech fan. THANKS !!!!!

1 4 GT

October 15th, 2012
11:17 pm

FYI….if you are in need of tickets, try either rambling wreck.com or stubhub.com….I’m “guessing” you might even get a reduced price thru stubhub. Just saying.

1 4 GT

October 15th, 2012
11:18 pm

ramblingwreck.com = no space=sorry

GT Fan

October 16th, 2012
12:26 am

Nice post GT Old timer!

Smyrna Gold … Oh well, the Varsity shouldn’t be too crowded and traffic should be pretty light around Grant Field. We Tech fans really deserve more than this especially with the price of tickets being what they are.
What the heck are you talking about? Tix prices? They are more than reasonable. Get your sorry but to BDS, and maybe bring a truckload of GT fans with you!

GT Fan

October 16th, 2012
12:29 am

GT’s 3rd down D the last 3 games … 31 of 46 … 67.4% – YIKES!
How about the boys get back to the 1st 3 games on 3rd down …. 13 of 46 … 28.2%!

46 opps in the 1st 3, 46 opps in the next 3 …. Wow! Huge inability to get the opp O off the field in the past 3. BC can throw the ball, hope CK dials up some better QB pressure.

macrotech

October 16th, 2012
12:58 am

I will ALWAYS love GT football…win or lose! Of course, I prefer the “win” side of things, but I will be an ardent supporter of the Jackets! GO TECH!!!

Ga Tech Old Timer….well stated, indeed!

mic-man

October 16th, 2012
3:42 am

I haved liked Charles Kelly ever since he was special teams coordinator for Gailey. I was very happy that CPJ kept him on when he came. I hope he can turn the defense around. It’s really a tough spot for him to come in to.

trueblueeagle

October 16th, 2012
6:27 am

“As long as I know I’m doing my job and I’m playing hard and giving everything I have, that’s all you can really ask for,” he said.

sounds like someone who plays on Sunday! who does not care about team play! you win as a team! who cares if you have a great game and still lose! ITs all about winning!

Ken Sugiura

October 16th, 2012
7:22 am

well done, erik gt.

Ken Sugiura

October 16th, 2012
7:23 am

if you’re wondering, tickets start at $6 on stubhub. i believe the term is buyer’s market.

10per

October 16th, 2012
9:11 am

Kirby Smart? Seriously? Like we could afford him.

Who are the dumb...

October 16th, 2012
9:38 am

…arses who have the audacity to even think anyone, much less a former UGA guy, would leave a MNC job at a place like AL, or TX, or UF, or anywhere else, to take a lateral job at a place like GT? Seriously? Buehler, Buehler, Buehler…

mic-man

October 16th, 2012
10:21 am

Kirby Smart? There will likely be four SEC head coaching jobs available this year, two of them (UT and AU) are definately better jobs than GT and Arkansas certainly isn’t a lower tier than GT. Why would Kirby want to be GT’s DC when he will probably have a shot at one of those jobs?

We need to find an up-and-comer like (unfortunately) Grantham.

5150 UOAD

October 16th, 2012
11:49 am

I go because I Love the Jackets and college football. I support the players that put so much of themselves in school, in practice and in the games.
The games are supposed to be a fun exciting break from the workweek. I hate losing but I love the time spent watching Tech play and being with Dad.

JM

October 16th, 2012
11:50 am

Part of the issue is coaches seeing what Attaochu did last season. They recognize his ability and are playing away from him at times. Losing middle linebacker Julian Burnett is having an impact that many fans did not anticipate. He was a huge part of the defense, his experience would make the team better this season.

Jmonty

October 16th, 2012
12:36 pm

With the 3-4 defense… The linebackers should have the highest number of tackles. The theory of the 3-4 is to have the linemen cover assigned gaps and then linebackers are usually the play makers. Unfortunately, Groh seemed to never taught that. But, isn’t funny on how one bad deed can erase a lot of good ones? Attaochu makes tons of tackles and it’s pointed out he missed some here and there. Reminds me of a tech game where Thomas made tons of catches and dropped a pass at the end of the game. All that was said was “thomas blew the game”… I think with Groh gone.. You will see a new defense now.

GT Fan

October 16th, 2012
12:40 pm

JM … It all starts “in the trenches” as they say. Untill GT can get some consistent stoppers on the DL the D will have problems.

With that said, and now hearing that Groh was asking GT’s less-talented, NON-NFL DL’men to do what only the pros do in the 3-4 (play 2-gap), maybe CK’s simplification (1-gap) will help them? We’ll see.

Jmonty

October 16th, 2012
12:54 pm

@ GT Fan… It sure is nice to see someone else that understands defense… You are 100% correct.. Play single gap assignment. But, with that said… I don’t think Groh taught it properly. You could see the chaos and uncertainly on the field. The players only can do what they are taught. If something isn’t taught, you can’t really expect them to know. As a coach you need to play to your strengths and do what you can to hide your weaknesses. A lot of NFL teams use smoke and mirrors to enlighten the strenghts and hide their weakness. Even the Baltimore Ravens use the tactic. It’s no different in the college ranks. It just takes a good coach to know this… Al Groh was not that coach.

Peckerdeck

October 16th, 2012
3:22 pm

6 dollars a ticket… a buyers market… LMAO youre the writer for Ga Tech, now thats just funny

New Defense

October 16th, 2012
3:25 pm

Attaochu’s stuggles are further evidence the the Groh plan was flawed. The longer he was in it, the worse it got. Wonderful guy, but Al overthought defense.
Simplify and let the players like Jeremiah go to the ball. Turn ‘em loose! They may make a few mistakes, but will definitely make more good plays.
Gives more players a chance to participate, too.

GT Fan

October 16th, 2012
3:40 pm

JMonty … if I’m not mistaken, didn’t one of Ken’s recent articles quote PJ as saying Groh was a little stubborn/resistent to changing the D?

SS loves Obama

October 16th, 2012
3:44 pm

@GT Fan…Glad you have toned it down. You have some interesting opinions.

If I Had a Daughter Sir,I'd Dress Her in White and Gold

October 16th, 2012
5:10 pm

@Ga Tech Old Timer…my sentiments exactly! I’ve grown up as a Tech fan and have cheered them on through the good times and the bad. That’s what a true fan does! GO JACKETS! THWG!

...Take The Wheel

October 16th, 2012
6:31 pm

@5150 UOAD – Well said and respectable! Now theres a man with perspective.

on another note… I think if we can get Jeremiah Attachou and Jemea Thomas clicking on all cylinders… thats a great start. They give the D energy. … very impressed with them.

beezit

October 16th, 2012
6:56 pm

hard to get much defensive production when you’re trying to unbuckle the ball carrier’s pants instead of putting him on the ground…

1 4 GT

October 16th, 2012
8:36 pm

I guess the leg humpers are back….as if they don’t have enough to worry about….#2 UFl coming up for them & got embarrassed by USCe…..but bless their “widdle hearts thems worried bout us’ns”….ain’t that sweet of them to care……………………………………..LOL