We say again: Georgia Tech needs more and better players

For a while, the Jackets rose to the occasion. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

For a while, the Jackets rose to the occasion. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

I apologize for belaboring a point I’ve already belabored, but what we saw Thursday was that coaching can only get a program so far. There has to be some playing involved, too. And Georgia Tech — stop me if you’ve heard this one — doesn’t have an abundance of top-shelf players.

This isn’t to say the Jackets aren’t feisty and resourceful. They wouldn’t be 7-3 if they weren’t. And with 16 minutes remaining against the nation’s No. 10 team and the Jackets leading by five points, it was possible to envision this crew of modest means playing for the ACC title on Dec. 3 in Charlotte.

Then reality intervened. Georgia Tech didn’t score another point. Virginia Tech scored 16. The Jackets lost by 11 and were eliminated from the Coastal Division chase. They hadn’t played poorly — they made no turnovers and scored 26 points against an opponent that was yielding 15 a game — but they hadn’t been good enough.

Virginia Tech completed only seven passes. On three of them, a Jacket was in position to make a play on the ball but didn’t. That’s not coaching, or a failure thereof. That’s playing. At the end of both halves the Hokies’ offense  was pushing the Jackets backward, which can happen when your heaviest defensive linemen is outweighed by four of the other team’s five starting O-linemen. (And when their enormous quarterback outweighs eight of your starting defenders.)

The common denominator in Georgia Tech’s three losses has been size and strength. The Jackets were overpowered by Virginia’s offensive line, by Miami’s defensive front and by Virginia Tech across the board. On Thursday the GT defense would do its job on first and second down only to be undone on third. (The Hokies converted 10 of 16 times.) The Jackets couldn’t make the necessary play on the get-off-the-field down. That’s not coaching. That’s playing.

Even as Georgia Tech was pulling ahead in both halves, the thought occurred: How many first-team all-ACC players are on this roster? Guard Omoregie Uzzi will make it, but will anybody else? That notion served to illustrate the Jackets’ position in the football pecking order: They’re clever enough to give anyone trouble, but they have to function at such a high level to win that any wobble — Jeremiah Attaochu’s personal foul, say — can assume outsize dimensions.

In 2008 and 2009, Georgia Tech had enough players of the first rank to override mistakes. (You know the names: Dwyer, Morgan, Nesbitt, Thomas.) With their departures, the Jackets have become a team of mid-level talent. That Georgia Tech stayed in the division race this long was a credit to its fighting spirit, but against Virginia Tech the difference in manpower showed.

Jacket fans point to this team’s relative youth — 18 of 24 starters are set to return — as reason to believe next year will be better, and it might. But how many of those 18 players are capable of being difference-makers? Maybe Vad Lee, the redshirt freshman quarterback, will become the new Nesbitt, but there’s no guarantee he’ll dislodge Tevin Washington, who’ll be a senior.

The more you watch this team, the more you wonder if what we’ve just seen is what we’ll be seeing in 2012 and beyond. Sometimes what the recruiting mavens say is true. Sometimes there really is no substitute for talent.

By Mark Bradley

269 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

November 11th, 2011
11:14 am

NC Dawg

November 11th, 2011
11:14 am

Mark Bradley

November 11th, 2011
11:15 am

Kudos, NC. Big week you’re having.

Worm

November 11th, 2011
11:17 am

Tech didn’t make any plays and Orwin Smith’s drops and Attaochu’s punch certainly didn’t help.

mateo

November 11th, 2011
11:18 am

Fourth!!! Tech needs more than just players! It be helpful if fans would sellout their HS stadium.

Ted M

November 11th, 2011
11:19 am

Their special teams still stink. If Paul Johnson could fix it he would so we’re stuck with crappy special teams.

GT89

November 11th, 2011
11:19 am

I was VERY embarrassed for the classless punch that Attaochu threw.

Let’s face it, we “upgraded” from Coach Chan Gailey winning an average of 7 games per year to Coach Paul Johnson winning an average of 8 games per year.

Now I hear that there was a rape on our campus just prior to the game – I am almost afraid to even go down there anymore for night games.

We’ll beat the leghumpers though, they still haven’t defeated a real team all year!

Worm

November 11th, 2011
11:21 am

The fact that Beamer and his esteemed DC fell for that first 4th and five was pitiful..Poor,Poor coaching to be drawn off sides when everybody in the building knew Tech WASN’T going to snap it.

Yellow Maggot

November 11th, 2011
11:21 am

Attachou (bless you) is a THUG!!!!!!!

Herschel Talker

November 11th, 2011
11:22 am

MB:

GT doesn’t need better players. They need players who won’t punch other players and a coach who won’t make boneheaded 4th down calls.

HT

GTHorsie

November 11th, 2011
11:22 am

I have to disagree with you, Mark. The whole idea behind coaching is that you are supposed to understand the talent you have, and plan accordingly. The fact that the Jackets couldn’t make a play on the “get-off-the-field-down” seemed to be because they refused to try to put any pressure on the QB. When you have lesser talent (and all Tech fans acknowledge that we don’t get the top tier recruits), you MUST game plan around it. You can’t expect players to make plays that you know they are not capable of making.

Comin' Down The Track

November 11th, 2011
11:23 am

“We just didn’t make enough plays, we didn’t get it done,” Johnson [Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius] said. “Offense, defense, special teams – nobody got it done.”

No mention of coaching in that sentence. Oh, right. Mea Culpa isn’t necessary when one is blameless.

oldmike

November 11th, 2011
11:23 am

So what you are really saying Mark is that Coach Johnson and staff is not at a level sufficient to recruit the level of talent needed to compete with the “big dawgs” Is gthis lack of faith for recruits in the system or in the man?

Herschel Talker

November 11th, 2011
11:23 am

GT89:

Keep dreaming, you clown. You bozos say the same thing every year, and every year we beat your arses. Will be the same old tune this year. Jarvis Jones will eat the option alive. You will lose. Yet again.

HT

mateo

November 11th, 2011
11:24 am

GT89….You really think GT could beat 5 consecutive SEC teams? Come on, Virginia??? Miami??? And you think you will beat tha DAWGS??? please

AugustaDawg

November 11th, 2011
11:24 am

Tech will always have problems recruiting enough top shelf talent. It’s a problem they’ll always have to deal with. Occasionally, the talent level will spike up, but not enough to attain national prominence year in year out. I do think Coach Johnson’s offense hurts them over-all with recuiting, but he did beat my Dawgs once with it. I believe you’re right about the lack of physicality…they are small!

Ted M

November 11th, 2011
11:25 am

Mark,

Good Blog, but what is your theory on the lack of talent?

RW

November 11th, 2011
11:25 am

Mark…I do not disagree that tech needs better players but the game was lost w/one punch by Attaochu…If Attaochu doesn’t throw that punch tech has the ball on the 50 and would have been in position to put the game away!!!

Smitty

November 11th, 2011
11:27 am

Way to put all the blame on the players Mark. Why don’t you point the finger at the coach who recruited them??? This is CPJ’s team.

GTFan

November 11th, 2011
11:27 am

Dawg fans, worry about your team and your season!!! Why are you on the Tech blogs anyways? Obviously you have nothing else better to do with your day.

Rusty

November 11th, 2011
11:31 am

That is not the first time I’ve seen Johnson go for it on 4th and short deep in his own territory… and fail to convert.

The entire 4th quarter remained to be played. You punt there and challenge your defense. That call (more than the flagrant foul) is what cost Tech the game.

Herschel Talker

November 11th, 2011
11:31 am

GTFan:

What could be better than us being on a blog making fun of your idiot coach for that idiot 4th down call and that idiot player for that idiotic punch?

HT

Sigh

November 11th, 2011
11:32 am

gt

November 11th, 2011
11:32 am

every time we lose we don’t have enough players, when we win pj is a genuis, i am sick of this, if he needs better players and he is a genius, why doesn’t he recruit them? we have seen this for years, we play in the acc, we should compete for the title every year. exspecialy with a genius as head coach.

hand solo

November 11th, 2011
11:32 am

to all the bullpup trolls on here, yall go straight to hell

Yellow Maggot

November 11th, 2011
11:33 am

You Tech fans who are saying “we chose not to pressure the QB….

Do you honestly fail to see that because of Tech’s size, they COULDN’T put pressure on him???

UGA’s Defensive line is HUGE, and their LBs are FAST…… good luck over thanksgiving!!

GO HOKIES!!!!

Recruiting is CPJ's Responsibility

November 11th, 2011
11:33 am

Mark,
Last I checked, CPJ is responsible for recruiting talent to GTech. His offensive scheme is not exciting and won’t get you to the League, Secondly, he has the personality of a manure fly so why does anyone want to play for him?

Bottomline, CPJ does not get a pass here.

GTFan

November 11th, 2011
11:34 am

mateo

November 11th, 2011
11:24 am

GT89….You really think GT could beat 5 consecutive SEC teams? Come on, Virginia??? Miami??? And you think you will beat tha DAWGS??? please

LOL, the Dawgs are in the worst SEC conference. The only teams worth anything in the SEC are LSU AND Bama.

Yellow Maggot

November 11th, 2011
11:34 am

I would HONEST TO GOD say that Paul Johnson is on a hotter seat than Richt at the moment, and especially after bowl season!!

GTT

November 11th, 2011
11:35 am

Could it be the option is driving them away? On both sides of the ball? Or can Johnson just not recruit?

George Stein

November 11th, 2011
11:36 am

A mistimed jump is not a failure of talent.

How are the UGA fans that think Johnson always blames his players (he doesn’t, BTW) squaring that with this column?

George Stein

November 11th, 2011
11:37 am

Fortunately, no one cares what you or your God thinks, Yellow Maggot.

GTFan

November 11th, 2011
11:37 am

Herschel Talker

November 11th, 2011
11:31 am

GTFan:

What could be better than us being on a blog making fun of your idiot coach for that idiot 4th down call and that idiot player for that idiotic punch?

HT

Well, you apparently have nothing else better going on in your life then focusing on GT, which is pretty sad and sorry. Oh, and like UGA has never done anything like this before.

OedipusWreck

November 11th, 2011
11:38 am

Mark…I do not disagree that tech needs better players but the game was lost w/one punch by Attaochu…If Attaochu doesn’t throw that punch tech has the ball on the 50 and would have been in position to put the game away!!!

This is correct. That was the point in the game in which mental toughness was lacking. Championships and big games aren’t just won on physical talent. Mental toughness can mke all the difference in the world. Attaochu failed that test. And it broke my heart. I knew, I mean I KNEW that that would be the turning point and that we would lose that game.

Dave

November 11th, 2011
11:38 am

Ummm….GTFan, I do. We have won 7 straight over, admittedly, mid to lower level teams. But we won them all, since the second game. We didn’t short circuit (a la Virginia and Miami) and beat what was put in front of us. Tomorrow, we have a big game and if we win, we can all but clinch the SEC East. I am very worried about the game because it’s a big rivalry and they are a good, but not great team. UGA will also beat ech at the year’s end to put Tech out of their misery. Coaching is great, but when you don’t have the horses to pull the wagon, all the whipping and encouragement really won’t help much.

Toom

November 11th, 2011
11:39 am

Let’s make sure we all understand. Tech wins because Johnson is a genius. Tech loses and it’s because their players aren’t any good. Allow me to suggest an alternative assessment. He’s an unlikable guy who de-motivates his players and will consistently lose to ANY team with strong DL play. (Why do you think Tech continues to lose to Miami and with one exception, to UGA?) This IS a scheme issue. A significant flaw that goes with being one-dimensional.

I also think it’s really strange and unbecoming for a college coach to insinuate, at every possible opportunity, that his players are inferior and I think it is odd that he has an AJC columist in his back pocket. Even if your characterization is accurate, one might suggest that identifying, selecting, and developing players is a pretty important part of coaching and the failure to do so, makes even the biggest genius on earth, a failure as a coach.

Goose

November 11th, 2011
11:39 am

We are recruiting FCS talent to play in a BCS conference. Maybe we should join the Southern Conference.

GTFan

November 11th, 2011
11:41 am

Dave

November 11th, 2011
11:38 am

Ummm….GTFan, I do. We have won 7 straight over, admittedly, mid to lower level teams. But we won them all, since the second game. We didn’t short circuit (a la Virginia and Miami) and beat what was put in front of us. Tomorrow, we have a big game and if we win, we can all but clinch the SEC East. I am very worried about the game because it’s a big rivalry and they are a good, but not great team. UGA will also beat ech at the year’s end to put Tech out of their misery. Coaching is great, but when you don’t have the horses to pull the wagon, all the whipping and encouragement really won’t help much.

I am rooting for UGA tomorrow, just because I hate Auburn with a passion. The SEC EAST sucks!!!!! It’s not wonder UGA is #1, give me a break. And, how are you so sure that UGA will beat Tech?

ConeDawg

November 11th, 2011
11:42 am

Coach Johnson WANTS less talented players. How else can he prove he’s a genius?

T3

November 11th, 2011
11:42 am

What I find so DEFINITIVELY PREDICTABLE about Mark Bradley
is that he ONLY rolls out such contrived BS……when GT loses.

Bradley didnt have ANYTHING to say on this subject when GT destroyed
a #5 Ranked, Undefeated Clemson team that beat VT by 20 in Blacksburg.

And lets face it: if not for the ACC refs, GT would have beaten Clemson
at AT LEAST 14 additonal points. GT wiped the field with Clemson. Thats a fact.

Bradley didnt have anything to say on this topic 10 days ago.

Bradley conveniently overlooks that VT beat Duke
just 10 days ago by the world-dominating score of 14-10.

Noooooooooooooo. Bradley didnt have anything to say on this topic 10 days ago.

GT fans have to understand: Bradley has an SEC agenda.

That should be plainly clear to everyone.

George Stein

November 11th, 2011
11:45 am

What a fundamentally stupid comment, Toom. Tech hasn’t exactly struggled to score against UGA.

Chadd Scott

November 11th, 2011
11:45 am

Chadd Scott here from Chuck Oliver’s blog. Here’s what I had to say about the controversial play and horrible call by the officials:

With 3:36 left in the third quarter, leading 26-21 and momentum on their side, the Jackets had Virginia Tech 3rd-and-19 at the Hokie 17-yard-line. Georgia Tech would sack Thomas back near the 10, but be called for a dubious personal foul roughing-the-passer which could easily not have been called. It was called, however, and the penalty resulted in an automatic first down for VT. Instead of punting deep in their territory to the rolling Jackets, the Hokies would get a 44-yard run from tailback David Wilson two plays later and soon find themselves in the end-zone, now up 27-26. The mark of poor officiating is when the referees become a major storyline in the game and this marginal personal foul call did exactly that. ACC officiating has been suspect all season and this is more evidence.

carolinajacket

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

So how do we get more players? I thought there were limits on the number of players a team can have.

ToccoaDawg

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

Bradley where is your 2 weeks of write ups about the illegal punch like you did on Georgia?

Dave

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

GTFan, if Tech gets rolling with the option attack, they can be hard to handle. You proved it against Clemson. But Clemson had been giving up a TON of points all year. Size matters in the trenches and size is what UGA has in spades. Stuff the line, occupy blockers and let the linebackers wreck havoc. Our offense limps along and occassionally has it’s moments, but this year it’s the defense that matters. When the 2nd and 3rd stringers aren’t in, the defense is rattlesnake mean. As long as UGA plays disciplined football, I don’t see it being that much of a problem. But I’ve been wrong once or twice before.

CT_Jacket

November 11th, 2011
11:47 am

Okay, let’s actually talk about the point of the blog, “Tech needs better players.” I can understand how the offense may negatively impact recruiting, but the “scheme” doesn’t affect special teams or defensive recruiting. It can’t be that we’re in the ACC. FSU, Miami, Clemson, VT and even UVA all have top 25 classes per ESPN. Tech is a challenging school but so are ND, Stanford, Michigan, Vandy which are all in the top 25. Stadium size isn’t it either. Several of the “top 25″ schools have comparable stadiums and attendance. Atlanta should be a draw. Sure crime is high, but there is a ton to do there. Other good football programs are in cities (Miami, UT, Ohio St, BC, UCLA, USC, etc.)

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

November 11th, 2011
11:50 am

Last night was a tough loss but GA Tech has achieved more than predicted at the start of the season.

I still can’t understand why so many UGA fans are talking smack…UGA’s football program hasn’t won anything of significance since the days of Vince Dooley and Hershel Walker…..GET REAL!!!!! UGA gets the top recruits annually and what do they accomplish? If they make it to the SEC Championship Game it is going to be “REAL U-G-L-Y” Coming back to reality is going to be a B#&@% for UGA fans

braveman

November 11th, 2011
11:50 am

Bradley you are the biggest fair-weather writer in the world. A month and a half ago Paul Johnson was the greatest and Tech was headed for big things.

patience

November 11th, 2011
11:50 am

I don’t think its a lack of size that cost us the game last night, it was an abrupt swing in momentum that killed us. When Attaochu got the personal foul and turned what would have been a fourth and forever into a first down it was downhill after that. With that said, while you do need talented players, you have to be able to coach them up and put them in the right position to make the plays. Size doesn’t matter as much as execution (see the UGA, Boise State game).

flagboy?

November 11th, 2011
11:51 am

Does gt need better players. .yes. But, what college football DOESN’T need better players? Every team is always out there looking for better players. . . Fact is, if you go for it on 4th and 1 on your own 30, there is a chance you’re not going to get it. It’s a risk vs. reward thing. This is the thing that annoys me about Johnson (being stubborn aside). I think he’s a very, very good coach. I really like the flexbone. But comments like the one below put all the blame on the players instead of himself.

“We needed to go down and score,” Johnson said. “I thought we could make a yard, and we didn’t. We didn’t do a very good job with the play, maybe we could have had a different play call. We didn’t execute the one that was called.”

Did they not execute? Possibly. But heck, that’s football. . . you’re not going to win every play. If you don’t make that yard, you put your team in a terrible position, and it is up to the HC to decide if the risk is worth the reward. Don’t get me wrong, I think Johnson is really good, but he acts as though he’s above reproach. . . As a Dawg fan, I was happy to see him throw the ball 4 times in a row 2 years ago up at tech to end that game. At some point, you have to say “my fault” instead of “we didn’t execute” (ie, the players).