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Back Seat Coacher: Louisville, Clemson

The Jackets win after a tune-up week, head into a tough matchup with the Tigers

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, October 9th, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets hosted the Louisville Cardinals in a battle of 1-2 ACC programs. The Jackets emerged victorious in a 46-27 victory in a rain soaked game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Ramblin’ Wreck had to click on the windshield wipers but avoided the costly mistakes that plagued the Cards all evening.

Looking ahead- Clemson is the #1 team in the country right now and it’s not even close after Bama struggled with unranked Ole Miss and Florida lost to Texas A&M. The SP+ analytics have Clemson ranked 2nd overall (behind OSU who has yet to play a game), 3rd on offense, 4th on defense and 19th in kicking. The Jackets are 48th overall, including 74th on offense, 35th on defense, and 72nd in kicking.

In the rearview

The offense

There are a couple of obvious data points that stick out from Friday night’s game. Points scored... 46 is a ton of points. Turnovers: ZERO. 11.7 yards per pass and 5.6 yards per rush with no sacks allowed... outstanding. Third down conversions were 6-of-12 while 4th downs were 1-for-1. Not bad on the offensive side of the money down (we’ll get to the defensive side later).

Georgia Tech is in good hands for the future. Freshman quarterback Jeff Sims broke out of his slump and completed just over half of his passes for 11.9 yards per attempt and scored three times (two passing, one rushing). Running back Jahmyr Gibbs, also a freshman, put up 121 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.

Above- on the first score for Gibbs, Georgia Tech ran Power G. Power G is an old school wing-t scheme where the front side guard will pull and kick the defensive end (in this case, the sam linebacker for L’ville’s 3-4 scheme) and the back side guard will pull and wrap to the inside linebacker.

The winged H, the play side tackle and center will block gap-down-backer. The back side tackle and TE (Y) will gap-hinge or step into their gap to secure, then open up back side to cut off anyone chasing hard.

Above- The RB’s job is to follow the block of the wrapping guard. The Z in motion is a decoy and the X’s job is to stalk block (run down and block) the cornerback. Louisville over rotates (their LB’s and safety run to defend the Z in motion going outside) and the inside is nothing but angle blocking for a touchdown.

Above- On the screen to Gibbs, the thing that I noticed was his elite running form. Having great efficiency of movement is going to not only help you excel in your performance, but also keep you healthier and more fresh for the 4th quarter. Think of Christian McCaffrey and his form, and performance late in games. McCaffrey plays better as the game goes on. You’re really tired, he’s not as tired.

Above- a second Power G, but later in the game.

Speed guru Dale Baskett, aka the Godfather of Speed, recommends the above picture as his running form. I’m a Dalesciple in my work as a movement coach (Increasing speed and efficiency of movement through sprinting, change of direction, agility, yoga, reflexive performance reset, ELDOA, and weight training).

Gibbs has a track runners “spikes up” mentality on the back leg. Nothing wrong with that at all. I love how he runs and keeps his non-ball arm locked at 90 degrees for most of his run, including through breaking tackles and cutting. His efficiency of movement allows him to ‘look slower’ than he really is, because he doesn’t have to strain to hit top speeds.

Above- a little trickeration has never done anyone any harm. Sims looks like he’s running speed option, Ahmarean Brown cuts between, gets the flip pass, pulls up and hits Jalen Camp for a touchdown.

Above- It was a great way to divert the eyes of the Louisville defenders and honestly Brown probably could’ve ran or throw it, but the pass looked beautiful.

On offense- you have to love the fact that there were no turnovers, Sims used a great mix of efficient passing and his legs to keep the chains moving. Gibbs was stellar both in the run and pass game. And the offensive line played a great game (no sacks allowed, only one TFL, one QB hurry) against the Cards 3-4 defense. Louisville’s defense is by far their weakest spot and it’s good to see that Tech can score when they should.

The Defense

The defense did a great job on a few things. Eight tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and holding Louisville QB Malik Cunningham to only 6.9 yards per passing attempt. However, the Tech swarm struggled once again on the “money down.” On 3rd down the Jackets defense allowed Louisville to convert on 9-of-17 attempts, and on 2-of-3 4th down conversions.

The defense struggled to contain Cunningham on 3rd and 4th downs and it hurt. GT gave up 27 points to the Cards, including two rushing TD’s from Cunningham, as well as 242 rushing yards for a five yards per carry clip. That has to be fixed before facing Travis Etienne and Clemson.

Above- This is just a screenshot of GT trying to bring pressure and coming up empty. The Jackets are also not getting pressure on the “money down” with the front four and are forced to bring pressure, but linebacker David Curry has been struggling in space in 2020. He’s a great run stopping thumper but on 3rd and long, when teams have been getting their conversions, it’s been with mobile QB’s out running Mr. Curry.

Above- Louisville is great at this type of play, using play-action to set up a back in the flat. And Tech has struggled to cover the flats all season. At times it’s been being out athleted (is that a real phrase?) and at times guys have blown assignments. This is a blown assignment.

On down the road

Clemson just slapped Miami around 42-17 in primetime. The Tigers ran through and around Miami with Travis Etienne leading the way. The Tigers defense was suffocating making D’Eriq King look like a JV quarterback and confusing the Miami line. Look at just a few of the fronts and coverage shells Clemson threw at the ‘Canes below.

On Offense

Brent Key and the offensive line will have their hands full against Brent Venables multiple scheme where they’re in an even or odd front, and the amount of pressures the Tigers bring and how they drop and pressure with different players on every snap (above). It’s hard to overcome the talent, consistency, and scheme from Clemson.

Jeff Sims and Dave Patenaude will also have a lot to handle. As a true freshman, seeing the speed, power and scheme of Clemson will be much different than anyone he’s seen thus far- as FSU, UCF, Syracuse and Louisville aren’t known for killer defenses.

It might be time to really dig into the more Air Raid based plays in the playbook- Stick, Mesh, shallow cross, and Y-Cross as well as the Air Raid theory of hitting easy screens and the backs in the flats as check downs. Mesh has been a hit or miss play for Sims throughout the season but getting Gibbs (ABOVE) tagged on a wheel after a few completed mesh concepts could be a great deep shot play for the Jackets.

What hurt Clemson’s defense against UVA was a mobile QB. Sims will have to be a bigger part of the game plan regarding his legs, than his arm. Pass-Run Options like Swing-Draw or Stick-Draw (ABOVE) could be the ticket to taking advantage of the weakest group on the Tigers defense, the linebackers.

A healthy dose of Coach Choice’s running back room, which has shown that it’s four back deep, will have to be the go-to game plan against Venables.

On Defense

Above- The Jackets have to know that counter is coming. The linebackers have to jam it up in there and not allow this to happen. This is where Curry excels, at being a battering ram type thumper in the middle.

Tech has to find a way to get pressure on Trevor Lawrence, not let him run for first downs on 3rd and long, and find a way to simultaneously not get beat deep in 1-on-1 situations with the Tigers WR’s against the Jackets CB’s... good luck.

One suggestion would be to steal from the Clemson playbook. Above- Clemson puts a linebacker in a two point stance but as defensive tackle. Maybe GT can slide Curry down to defensive end, or in a 3-technique, on 3rd and long, and put a more athletic player in at the Mike position. That keeps Curry out there to lead the defense and make the calls but not in a position to really hurt the defense, and actually might help GT get a pass rush going.

Above- Clemson does what they do. You’re getting a load of Etienne on screens, swings, split zones and counters mixed with run-pass options (RPO’s) and Amari Rodgers just running past defenders. Slowing down Etienne is easier said that done.

Prediction: Clemson by 21