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Why the 2020 Season Will be Different for Georgia Tech: More Playmaking on Defense

A Defense that struggled to disrupt opposing offenses last year has reason to be excited in 2020

Georgia Tech v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Growing up going to GT football games, a phrase stands out that I would use all the time when GT was on defense. I’d be standing up, clapping, and yelling, “Come on D, make a play!” What exactly did I mean? Usually, I wanted a turnover, a sack, or a stop on third down. I wanted us to put the other offense in a bad position or get the ball back for our offense.

Digging into some of the statistics we have at our disposal, there are two that jump out to give us a good glimpse into the “playmaking” ability of a defense: stuff rate and havoc rate. Let’s remember what we are measuring with these two numbers:

Stuff Rate = the percentage of running plays stopped for no gain or a loss

Havoc Rate = the percentage of plays on which the defense recorded a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, intercepted a pass or broke up a pass

How did we do in 2019?

Well, not great. Our defensive stuff rate was 16%, which ranked 117th out of 130 teams in the FBS. The havoc rate was 19%, which left us 103th nationally. If you watched Tech football in 2019, this won’t come as a surprise. Our defensive line struggled to get penetration. Our linebackers lacked the high end athleticism and strength to be disruptive. Our secondary was good but not good enough to make up for the weaknesses in the front six.

Why will playmaking be better in 2020?

Simply, the 2020 defense will put more playmakers on the field for more snaps. There are 3 guys in particular I expect to contribute to gains in the stuff and havoc rates this season.

Antonneous Clayton: You all know about the Florida transfer and former 5 star recruit. You all know he didn’t get his waiver last year. The coaches have not stopped talking about him this preseason. He possesses a combination of strength, size, and athleticism that is superior to any GT Defensive Lineman since Jeremiah Attaochu in 2013. He will be expected to set the edge on run plays and anchor the pass rush. Look for Clayton to fill up the spreadsheet with stuffs and havoc plays.

Jordan Domineck: On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Jordan Domineck is the clearcut starter. In only 7 games last season, the redshirt freshman recorded 25 tackles, was fourth on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5, and added two quarterback hits, which was second on the team. In areas where the GT defense was especially weak, Dominick was one of the few bright spots. He’s my pick to be the first GT defensive player with more than seven sacks since Pat Gamble in 2016.

Charlie Thomas: Although he started only 5 games at his outside linebacker spot in 2019, Charlie Thomas easily led the defense in havoc plays. This year, he’s changing positions, and his athleticism, quickness, and instincts will make him an excellent defender against the run and pass from the nickel spot. I expect him to continue his havoc-creation from his new position, and ultimately, the position change will get him more snaps on the field.

How will we measure improvement?

As we track stuff rate in our advanced stats review column throughout the year, the goal I am setting is an even 20%. This would put us firmly in the middle of the pack nationally and would signal great improvement in playmaking against the run. As we track havoc rate, the goal I am setting is 21%. We need to disrupt opposing rush offenses more with tackles for loss that put the offense behind the chains. We need to disrupt opposing passing games by breaking up passes and sacking the quarterback.

If we can do these things just a couple more times every game, 2020 will be different.