By rule of physiology and physics, football players gradually wear down over the course of the season. For Georgia Tech B-back David Sims, despite playing a brutal position, the opposite has held true.
After starting the season recovering from a stress fracture in his shin, Sims has progressed through injuries to his ankle and hamstring before finally the ability to play pain-free blessedly returned. Sims, playing the feature position in Tech’s spread-option offense, said he feels the best he’s felt all season.
Told that it must be nice to run the ball the way he know he can, Sims replied, “You have no idea.”
Consider Sims, then, a fitting metaphor for the Yellow Jackets’ season. After stumbling through the first half of the season, Tech has found its groove heading into the showdown at Sanford Stadium with No. 3 Georgia (10-1). There are no shortage of reasons to believe Tech is doomed. The Jackets (6-5) have never beaten the Bulldogs when they’ve been ranked in the top 10. The Georgia offense appears primed to overrun the Tech defense. You may have heard Georgia has won 10 of the past 11 in the series.
A Jackets upset would rank at least as their biggest since the John Dewberry-led conquest in 1984 and probably the most significant ever. At the heart of such a triumph would most likely be Tech’s engine room – Sims, his backup Zach Laskey and the Jackets’ five offensive linemen.
The staple of the offense is the triple-option play, and the staple of the triple option is the B-back dive. While Tech has managed to skirt around Sims and Laskey’s lack of impact with productive play by the A-backs on the perimeter and quarterback Tevin Washington’s keepers, the Jackets will likely have to force Georgia to honor the dive in order to negate the Bulldogs’ strength and speed advantages. It goes doubly so if playmaking A-back Orwin Smith either can’t play or is limited due to an ankle injury suffered last Saturday.
“I think so,” Sims said, asked if the interior running game would be crucial, before correcting himself. “I don’t think so, I know so. I think that helps everything that we’re going to try to do this upcoming Saturday.”
Sims and Laskey combined for 109 rushing yards against North Carolina and 142 against Duke last Saturday, and Tech exploded for 110 points in the two wins. It was the first time the B-back position had produced back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against BCS conference opponents since Anthony Allen played the position in 2010. It was a far cry from Tech’s overtime loss to Miami in September, when Sims said the Hurricanes practically ignored the B-back dive into the line.
“They weren’t respecting us,” Sims said. “That’s basically how everybody tries to defend the option. They try to make sure the stop the perimeter, and we’re trying to change that to where, if we can keep them in (the box), then we can go out to the perimeter.”
The Tech offensive line, which in recent weeks has played its best in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure, will need another standout performance against Georgia’s star-studded defensive front. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, nose tackle John Jenkins and, if he declares for the draft, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree all could be first-round draft picks in April.
“They’re really big, athletic guys,” offensive tackle Ray Beno said of the Bulldogs’ front three. “Their linebackers and secondary, all speed guys.”
The confrontation will start with center Jay Finch and Jenkins, who is listed at 358 pounds but whom Johnson insisted is closer to 400 pounds. Finch weighs 280 pounds. Last year, drained by sickness, he tried to dislodge Jenkins at 250 pounds. He described the difference between Jenkins and other nose tackles as “trying to push a car that’s in neutral and then one that’s in park.”
Every 3- or 4-yard dive play by Sims would steadily erode Georgia, leading to long drives, the occasional big play caused by a knockdown block and a missed assignment and, ideally, touchdowns. Every first down Tech can churn out against the defense ranked fourth in FBS at forcing three-and-outs means another couple minutes that Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has to wait on the sidelines.
“We’re going to have to hit some plays,” quarterbacks and B-backs coach Brian Bohannon said. “There’s no doubt about it. I think the big key for us is we’ve got to take care of the football. You look back at the last few years, we haven’t taken care of the football like we need to to win the game.”
Sims, the converted quarterback from St. Matthews, S.C., is ready for his chance to set flame to the Bulldogs’ national championship hopes. What would that mean to Tech fans?
He probably has no idea.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog