1. For Georgia Tech, the answer to its pass-rush problems isn’t chasing after the quarterback with blind fury. At least not this week.
Coaches have been preaching “rush-lane integrity” – defensive linemen staying in their assigned gaps rather than roaming wide to get to the quarterback – in order to contain BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, an agile passer capable of making plays with his feet.
“We’ve got to stay in our gap, don’t peek, don’t try to go make somebody else’s job,” said David Walkosky, Tech’s defensive line coach and special-teams coordinator. “Do your job.”
Against Boston College, Tech had two sacks of Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig, who had 31 pass attempts. One sack was on Boston College’s final drive with the game in hand. Rettig was occasionally pressured, but often was comfortable in the pocket.
Coach Paul Johnson said that the pass-rush pressure is better than it may sometimes seem during games, but acknowledged that it is an issue. Blitz pressure might be the answer, but is hardly the only one.
“I think anybody will tell you that, no matter when you pressure, you’ve still got to beat blocks,” interim defensive coordinator Charles Kelly said. “There’s no way to outnumber people every time. When you start doing that, you start leaving yourself vulnerable to other things, which can create big plays.”
With a comfortable lead against Boston College and the team in only its first game with Kelly calling the shots, the Yellow Jackets didn’t unveil the full array of pressure schemes.
“We were just doing a lot of basic stuff,” inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy said. “We weren’t running too many blitzes, trying to corrupt the pass like that.”
2. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is unusual for this much. He is looking forward to playing against Tech’s option-based spread offense.
Typically, coaches bemoan facing Tech because players have difficulty adjusting to the demands of defending the Jackets’ option game. Mendenhall, who doubles as the Cougars’ defensive coordinator, did no bemoaning.
“I am passionate about” scheming for it, he said. “I like it a lot. I have good days and bad days defending the option. More good than bad, but when you’re playing it well, it’s very gratifying. When you’re not, you’re helpless. So there is an extra sense of urgency, but I like the challenge.”
BYU last faced an offense similar to Tech’s in 2010, when Air Force lit up the Cougars for 409 rushing yards in a 35-14 win. The defense was under the direction of Jaime Hill, whom Mendenhall fired later that season. Mendenhall told the Salt Lake Tribune that this will be the 15th or 16th time he has faced an option offense.
In situations like this when the Tech staff is unfamiliar with a team or coordinator, the coaching staff tries to find past games when the opponent’s coaches faced similar offenses. Failing that, coach Paul Johnson said this week, “you look at it and you gauge, as a coach, if you had their people and their scheme, how would you line up? That’s kind of the way I’ve always done it.”
3. Part of Tech’s solution with the field-goal unit may be the return of holder Sean Poole, who had been out since the Miami game after suffering an upper-body injury making a tackle after a punt. Since then, Justin Moore had been the holder until Moore himself became the kicker when David Scully was replaced at halftime of the Boston College game. David Sims held for Moore.
Scully had missed four of his past five field-goal tries, and then Moore made one of two and missed a point-after try. Walkosky tried to avoid discrediting the other holders, but noted that Poole held for both Moore and Scully last season, and then over the summer and into this season.
“Shoot, he’s the quarterback of your operations,” Walkosky said of the holder. “I think the kickers feel good about having him in there.
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Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog