We're going to start a new series this fall, wherein we take a step back on Sunday morning and look at the previous day's performance. We'll break down the team by position and give grades, and talk about the performance on a more individual level.
Justin Thomas wasn't very good in this game, nor was he particularly bad. The option game was a major struggle all through the afternoon with Wofford keying in on stopping the run, and in the first half Thomas was bad throwing the ball, going 3 for 8 with some misses on deep passes to DeAndre Smelter. He settled in for the second half though, making better reads and having lots of success in the mid-range passing game. His stats are inflated by yards after the catch and a pitch to Broderick Snoddy that counted as a pass, but overall he looked much better in the second half and should have a lot to build on for next week.
The main factor here was Zach Laskey, with 15 carries for 70 yards and 2 TD's. His two scores came on runs of 4 and 11 yards where he showed good vision and burst. For much of the afternoon, Laskey was being bottled up in the option game, through no fault of his own. Either given the ball on bad reads or sent into nonexistent holes, he never had much chance. They did run the speed option with him and Thomas once, which is a great play to incorporate back into the playbook this year. His blocking was also really pretty solid on the afternoon in situations where Thomas was passing.
Synjyn Days also played some here as more of a "bruiser" type, getting some short yardage in third-and-short or goal line situations. He'll continue to develop at B-Back the more he plays there.
Grade: B (no pun intended)
This position group was pretty good with the ball in their hands, but have room for improvement blocking. Charles Perkins, B.J. Bostic, Tony Zenon, and Broderick Snoddy all had some explosive plays on the afternoon both in the run game and pass game, and even one in an area somewhere in the middle of the run and pass game when Snoddy caught a forward pitch off of an option that counted as a pass. Blocking-wise there were some good moments, and in particular I can remember Charles Perkins laying a nice block on a long run.
This group wasn't really a set of difference-makers, but more one of role-players who offered a change of pace offensively at times. The talent that these guys have will need to be used more in the future.
DeAndre Smelter was a freaking monster, and that's all there is to know here really. 5 catches for 132 yards and 2 TD's, and just seemed to give Wofford problems for the entire second half. He was joined by Micheal Summers, who only had 2 catches for 15 yards, but made a difference on one of Smelter's touchdowns (the longer one) with a great block down field. This unit really impressed me. The perimeter blocking was pretty good but not perfect, so there is room for improvement, but this was an encouraging position group.
I was really not impressed at all by the offensive line in this game. There were 3 new starters here, including two playing in their first college football game (Freddie Burden and Chris Griffin). This unit was pushed around and blown up for most of the game, which is why there was so much difficulty in running the option. Pass protection wasn't particularly impressive either. If I go back and watch the game again, I might find differently, but this unit's performance today would not be good enough for Georgia Tech to beat much of anyone else on the schedule. I won't fail them because there was some success in the option game late, but they're going to need to make some adjustments, and quickly.
Similar to what I said about the offensive line, this performance wouldn't have been good enough to beat much of anyone else on the schedule. There were some bright spots for sure, especially in the passing game, but the option just wasn't very good at all -- especially disheartening after some of Coach Johnson's recent comments about being better at it than this time last year. The offense was able to score touchdowns on all four second-half drives, but that after 3 of 5 first-half drives ended without points. Some good here, but a lot more bad, and not to the level that we expect from this team.
There were a couple of bright spots here, particularly Roderick Rook-Chungong. Most of the unit was shut down for a majority of the afternoon though. Tyler Stargel had a rough time adjusting to Wofford's option and ended up being out of position or missing tackles more often than we would have liked. Adam Gotsis had a forgettable game with 3 tackles. He was swallowed up all afternoon by Wofford's offensive line. Shawn Green and KeShun Freeman had decent games, in particular Green who led the team with 2 TFL. Patrick Gamble was also a pleasant sight having a decent game. Overall the unit didn't impress me, though how much of that is purely due to Wofford's scheme is unclear. They're going to have to be better moving forward.
This group was disappointing to say the least. Wofford's scheme had them frequently caught out of position, and then struggling to make tackles. It was all fairly consistent whether there were two or three linebackers on the field. Again, understand that Wofford's offense is built on smoke-and-mirrors and misdirection and putting people out of position. Even still, that's the type of thing they should be seeing in practice, and I wasn't impressed with how they handled it. This group is absolutely going to have to be better moving forward.
I wasn't impressed here, either. What a lot of people don't truly understand is that the secondary does play an important role in stopping the option, having to set the edge and make tackles on the outside, not to mention stopping big gains. Both were of those were constant struggles on Saturday. The corners weren't beating blocks or wrapping up much, the safeties were sitting back too frequently instead of stepping up and supporting, and then there was the debacle of the 92-yard run right up the middle just before halftime. That kind of thing can't be happening. I think these guys will play better when their job is more concerning the passing game (Wofford went 7-of-13 passing), but Saturday's performance was just really uninspiring.
A very unimpressive game altogether by the defense, to be frank. They struggled most of the game with getting Wofford off the field. Turns out Wofford was only 5 of 13 on third downs, but apparently they didn't need three downs given that they had 16 first downs on the game. They also had three drives of 10 plays or more, for a total of 169 yards, 13 points, and 19:56 TOP. It was death by a thousand cuts, and for once, Tech fans felt what opposing teams have felt at times over the last six years. Wofford scored on 4 of 9 possessions. What's interesting is that of the 5 possessions that they didn't score, only one lasted more than 5 plays, and three were 3-and-outs. But once they got rolling, the Jackets were unable to get off the field. That's a problem that HAS to be remedied for the rest of the season to turn out how we want it to and think it will.
Some good, some bad here. Harrison Butker had a goal for the season of not missing any field goals, and fell short of that goal on the first try when he missed a 31-yarder in the second quarter. Kickoffs were good (lots of touchbacks), but the coverage on the only return wasn't, which went for 34 yards off of four or five missed tackles. Jamal Golden had a few solid kickoff returns and had a really nice punt return, but the punt return was called back by a penalty. He also muffed a punt in what was a pretty bad decision to pick up a punt that was bouncing deep in his own territory.
Again, some nice things here, but also some bumps in the road that need to be worked out before we're playing teams like Virginia Tech and Miami. Here's to hoping they are.
Overall it was just an unimpressive, uninspiring win that had a lot of Tech fans disappointed. A win's a win, and that's great, but the way we went about winning wasn't enough to convince us that the team can be as good as we think it can. A lot of adjustments are going to be needed before conference play starts, and some things are going to need fixing even before we go play Tulane. Here's to hoping.
What are your grades for yesterday? Did any units particularly impress or disappoint you?