Georgia Tech Getting Familiar
By Matt Osborne
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Overall, the personnel responsible for executing Georgia Tech’s offense will look much different this fall. The Yellow Jackets’ scheme, conversely, should be more familiar than we one which we saw a year ago.
Despite never having finished worse than fourth in the ACC in total offense in his six seasons at Georgia Tech, it seems like Paul Johnson is constantly being criticized by the vast majority of Yellow Jackets fans for his offense’s perceived unproductiveness.
Establishing the program as a premier offensive power, it seemed, was not enough to make up for the low entertainment-value provided by the spread option attack. Points were, not surprisingly, easy to come by. Gaining the favor of the fan base, however, proved to be a more arduous task.
Perhaps inspired by the endless demands of the fan base, Johnson decided to make a few tweaks to the offense in 2013. With a quarterback in Vad Lee who, from a physical standpoint, was a better athlete and passer than his predecessor, Tevin Washington, Johnson decided to implement more shotgun, pistol packages in the base offense. He also opted to throw the football slightly more than he had in previous seasons.
And even though the offense continued to put points on the scoreboard at a relatively high clip, it also produced its fewest total yards since the 2010 campaign.
Frequently looking uncomfortable in the Yellow Jackets’ scheme, Lee transferred to James Madison early in the offseason, paving the way for elite athlete Justin Thomas to take control under center.
Now a facing another athletic upgrade at the position, Johnson seems content to keep the offense more simplistic this fall. The hope, naturally, is that a venture back to the basics will bring the offense’s efficiency back to where it had been in previous seasons.
“I think we’re back more to the basic stuff,” Johnson said of his current offense on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. “We still have [the pistol] as part of the package, but it’s not going to be as big of a part, I don’t think.”
The fastest player on Georgia Tech’s current roster, Thomas has already been proclaimed as the starting quarterback by Johnson, although there is still competition at the position. With plenty of speed and athleticism to spare, the question for Thomas will not be if he has the physical tools to succeed in Johnson’s offense, but, rather, whether or not he will be able to master the intricacies of the system.
While Thomas continues to strive for better command of the scheme, the Yellow Jackets can at least rest easy with the knowledge that he will have an assortment of talented playmakers surrounding him on offense.
Most notably, Georgia Tech should be stronger at the B-back position than it has been in at least a few years.
Rising senior Zach Laskey, who is the Yellow Jackets’ leading returning rusher with 485 yards, is the physical, bruising runner that fans have grown accustom to watching in Johnson’s patented attack. Though not an explosive athlete, Laskey provides a steadying presence when lined up behind the quarterback due to his dependability.
Georgia Tech is certainly thrilled to have Laskey’s ability to consistently churn out positive yardage, but the Yellow Jackets have also spent the past few seasons searching for a dynamic athlete at the B-back position, and it appears they have found their man in freshman Travis Custis.
“Travis is a really good athlete. He has a lot of ability, and he’s kind of feeling his way out and learning all of his assignments so he can play fast,” Johnson commented of the star of his 2012 recruiting class. “We’re excited. I think he’s going to be a good player; it’s just a matter of how quickly he can figure things out.”
The Jackets’ overall depth at B-back has allowed the coaching staff to make a couple of positional changes which they believe could help the team’s athleticism on the perimeter.
With the physical Synjyn Days returning as one likely starter at A-back, Georgia Tech is searching for a speedy, agile athlete to fill the other starting A-back position. Playing time at the position will undoubtedly be fierce, but one player on which to keep an eye will be Broderick Snoddy, who is making the transition from B-back. Snoddy, along with the aforementioned Thomas, is considered to be one of the two fastest players on the roster, and he will bring explosive playmaking ability to the perimeter this fall.
Overall, the personnel responsible for executing Georgia Tech’s offense will look much different this fall.
The Yellow Jackets’ scheme, conversely, should be more familiar than we one which we saw a year ago.
And with that return to the basics of his spread option attack, Paul Johnson should expect to see increased success.