Monday Mailbag 9/30

Kevin C. Cox

Lots of questions stemmed from Georgia Tech's loss to Virginia Tech, and your resident faux-expert is here to answer them.

Why no dual QB system? I thought the whole point of bringing in Vad Lee was to pass the ball more. Nothing wrong with the base system as that's done us well the last several years, but now even CPJ says we suck at running the option.

I think the best answer I can give you on that issue is that CPJ simply wants Vad to be better with the base system. He would probably tell you that Justin is better at the base system, but Vad is far more equipped at this point in other areas. Don't forget that Coach Johnson is fairly stubborn by nature, and there's a chance that he feels like he can jam a square peg into a round hole if he pushes hard enough.

One other note I'll add here is my frustration that CPJ is hard-set on making sure the option works, even though he was able to average 45 points per game when it wasn't working and he moved on.

Other than the loss of Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith, how do we account for the offense looking less effective this year than last year? Our offensive line was supposed to be more experienced, we added a receiver in Smelter who could catch and our B-backs were supposed to be a year wiser. In addition our special teams and defense have not been putting the offense in as much of a hole this year. What gives?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. First, look at the strength of schedule this early in the season. Our last three games have been against divisional opponents, none of which are complete slouches (this isn't your grandma's Duke team). Usually we have a few tough games before the offense hits its stride around October. That said, our offense hasn't looked bad this year. It managed 70, 38, and 28 points in the first three games, and if you leave out the Virginia Tech game that puts us in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense -- all that without any considerable help from the defense adding scores. Let's be honest: the offense was a disaster on Thursday. But it's unfair to say that it's been a disaster all year.

Paul Johnson is not a good coach. Do you really think GT will ever compete for anything meaningful running the option? Paul Johnson has reached his max potential already.

(Note: This question from a VT fan.)

That's where you're wrong. CPJ is a very good coach. His track record at Tech is ridiculous given the hurdles he's had to go over and the circumstances he's had to deal with. I've said it before though, I think he needs to be more willing to change what he's doing if something isn't working. We didn't see that Thursday. Without winning a BCS game, CPJ has not reached his full potential at Tech, though it should be noted that few coaches ever do reach their full potential at any school.

Why weren't we smoke-routing VPI to death last night? We got consistent soft coverage from the corners, more than 10 yards in many cases. Gotta make them pay.

I've wondered that for a while, and not just on our side, but also why other teams don't do it to us more than they do. If it's me, that's the best way to get their guys out of the box and keep them honest instead of allowing them to load up against the run. I'd love to see some 3-4 yard gains through the air on a quick slant. Take it all day long, and then when they adjust to stop you, hit 'em with a David Sims dive and frustrate them.

Is it willful ignorance, studipity or an anger management problem that causes people to continually refer to Paul Johnson's offense as an option offense? Why don't they make the same references to the 70% of other college teams that have at least one option package in their offensive scheme like Paul Johnson's teams do?

Well, the offense IS built off of the option. His base scheme operates largely off of option concepts. The issues arise when people call it "the triple option at Georgia Tech", because that excludes almost the entirety of the playbook.

1. What exactly is the purpose served by cut blocking? Does it save energy, reduce wear and tear on the OL and reduce injuries? There's gotta be a reason for it. I don't understand continuing to do it (vs. conventional) when it, um, isn't working.

The goal of cut blocking is for the offensive players to get the defensive players on the ground, at least for long enough for a ballcarrier to get past them. When you run a fullback dive, getting the defense on the ground allows enough time for the B-Back to a) see the hole easier, and b) get through it. When a DL has a vertical base, he'll have a much easier time stuffing an inside carry.

2. I like, respect and admire CPJ but I get a little scared after reading quotes from him at least twice last week saying 'we're not doing the option right, we're not getting the option right' etc. I'm under the assumption that the option is one of the foundations of a spread option offense. I realize recruiting is a long-term pipeline leading toward, and selecting for, a particular style or scheme but at some point it seems to me you have to take advantage of the strengths you have (like a number of other folks on here have said). The best bosses I've had are those that expect their employees to work the plan AND mold the plan to their people -- at the same time, in a continuous, fluid feedback loop. Why do I feel that CTR has made better use of the strengths of the young men he has (they are better in a 4-3 than a 3-4, no?) than CPJ has made with the strengths of his offensive players?

As I mentioned above, I get the impression that CPJ is OK trying to force a square peg into a round hole if it means he can run the system how he knows to. That said, we've watched Vad Lee's HS film, and he's incredibly comfortable working from the pistol/shotgun, where he seems like he struggles a little more from under center. It kills me that we saw him continuing to run from under center through all the struggles on Thursday, and that's where I think CPJ's stubbornness really becomes his own Achilles' heel.

3. Do you all think the OL can solidify around, and adjust for, a platoon offense (Vad in shotgun/pistol and Justin Thomas under center, as several folks have suggested), or is it just gonna confuse the hell out of them??

This is where you need to be careful with the size of your playbook. I'd love to have a 200-play-deep playbook that everyone understood and executed well, but the fact is that it's not possible given the limitations of time and human memory capabilities. Obviously we have pistol & shotgun plays at our disposal currently, along with the under center plays, and so it could be done. I think it'd be more of a pain to make sure Vad only ran one set of plays and Justin ran a completely disjoint set, especially given how little we're seeing Justin so far.

Any thoughts on UofMaryland vs. ACC for $52 million? Seems like they are still trying to hammer out where to have the throwdown, Maryland or NC.

Gotta get our money's worth, right? If it's important enough for them to leave, I have no problem with asking for that much cash.

Thoughts on Kiffin getting the boot?

Shocked it never happened sooner. Dude seems like one of the biggest POS guys out there, both as a coach and person. Would love for him to try entering the state of Tennessee some time, just to see if his personal safety could be guaranteed.

We have family friends who are huge Tennessee fans, they tell us that he could be tar & feathered in the town square, and that nobody would have seen anything once the police got there.

1. Does ECU's beat down of UNC change your opinion of VPI and UNC? If so, what are your new impressions?

I didn't watch the game but it looks to me like UNC just completely self-destructed, allowing 600 yards of offense and committing 9 penalties for close to 100 yards. Seems like they're somersaulting down a hill and can't figure out how to stop and get back on their feet. This game actually reminds me heavily of the GT-MTSU game last year that definitely never happened.

2. Why can't we be like Wisconsin? They have a bunch of two and three star recruits on their team every year, and they run out and punch you in the mouth. They win a lot of games that way, and even when they lose, they look pretty good doing it. There was a legitimate shot at beating Ohio State on Saturday night. They run a pro-style offense, and they don't have to be afraid of anybody.

For one thing, I think they have issues with getting any of their recruits noticed. To me, it would make sense that Rivals has no interest in going to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the like to really get a good look at recruits for good ratings. I think they also do a really good job of recruiting their system and keeping consistent identities through the years. An O-Lineman might not be able to pass block, but if he's 310 lbs and can bulldoze most of anything in front of him, sign him up to play at Wisconsin because he'll fit right in. Actually reminds me of how Tech does it -- "Screw the ratings, let's go get the guys that fit what we're trying to do."

Why can't our OL pass block? And why don't we account for that in playcalling? Vad was 7-for-24 throwing the ball. However, the stats don't tell the full story - our OL was consistently getting blown up forcing him to scramble around and launch the ball with no ability to ever get set. We ran considerably less of the Pistol - Full House than we did against Duke, and that formation (or the asymmetric Pistol with one A-Back on the line and the other in the backfield) would have given us ability to run block-and-release routes or chip-block-and-go routes out of the backfield. It's like we pull out all the shiny "experimental" stuff against teams like Duke, show off all the crazy innovative stuff we can do, and then against big opponents like VPI, we just go back to using the basic 8-play Flexbone playbook because...what? Why do we do this?

The reason our O-Line isn't the best at pass blocking is the same reason that the Falcons' O-Line isn't much for run blocking. The focus of our system is on running, so why spend a ton of time and resources trying to develop pass-blocking abilities and trying to find guys who are effective pass blockers? That said, our line is far better than they ever were for Nesbitt in pass blocking. I think the majority of the issues against Virginia Tech came from the ridiculous amount of talent they've got in the front 7. Look at their game against Alabama -- all the 4- and 5-stars in the world struggled to stop that pass rush. (I actually watched a lot of that game, and can promise you that their offense was probably less comfortable than they have been in any game since.)

Why is the O-line awful? This O-line is injury prone to the extreme, can't run option block when a D has 2 big tackles and can never pass block. They were sole reason we lost Thursday. I read it here earlier and echo the question: Do we need a new O-line coach and recruiting strategy?

As I said above, there's no use in focusing on recruiting pass blockers if our offense is going to be run-oriented. Consequently, Vad's never going to have all day to pass on a consistent basis. Also, most of the struggles from 2 big DTs comes about because they're really talented DTs. Look back at games that the O-Line has struggled against defensive fronts, and then look at the percentage of those fronts that were All-Conference picks, All-American picks, and NFL Draft picks. The reason we lost our first two bowl games has a lot to do with the fact that something like 18 of the 22 combined starters from the 2008 LSU defense and the 2009 Iowa defense are now playing on Sundays. Look at uga's defense last year, where we struggled mightily -- they had 7 guys drafted in April. It's not a system issue, it's a talent issue, and that's far and away the toughest to fix for our program as it stands.

Could you give us a scouting report on Miami's defense? Particularly, how has their defensive line performed? I am not sure they have played a quality opponent other than Florida. From what I saw in that game, Miami did what they needed to do defensively, but Driskel and company helped them out a lot in the red zone.

I'll give my best quick rundown. They're experienced for one -- 9 starters are Juniors or Seniors, with Sophomores at CB and S to round out their starting 11. Even their backups are experienced -- of the front 7, 5 spots have a JR or SR at second string. Denzel Perryman is a monster at MLB, if you remember anything from last year's game. They're generally athletic and talented, as you'd expect any Miami unit to be. Their pass rush isn't necessarily devastating, but it's good. They're very opportunistic. If you don't secure the ball, it's going to be a fumble. If you throw into traffic, it's going to be intercepted. Mistakes that were costly against Virginia Tech are going to be at least as costly against Miami, if not moreso. It's one thing when Florida is helping them, it's another thing when they're accepting the help and not messing up opportunities.

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