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Back Seat Coachin’: counter, corners, and kicking game

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Film review from 2020 of the Georgia Tech and Duke football game.

Georgia Tech v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Today’s “Back Seat Coachin’” features the Georgia Tech versus Duke football game from November 28th, 2020. The Blue Devils were one of the Jackets three victims last season, with the other two being Louisville and Florida State. The Duke game had its ups and downs after three weeks of waiting due to COVID issues throughout the country.

Tech pulled away from Duke with a final score of 56-33, after a 28-26 lead at the half. GT ran for 377 yards and Jeff Sims threw three touchdowns in a winning effort. What went right? The Jackets counter play. What went wrong? Cornerback play and the kicking game, once again.

Let’s take a look at a few clips from the Tech win over Duke last season.


Counter

Georgia Tech has really used gap scheme to their benefit under Dave Patenaude and especially with Jordan Mason and Jahmyr Gibbs carrying the football. Mason is a bruiser, Gibbs is an NFL prototype and the Jackets O-Line should be improved in ‘21. Even with weaker players up front, gap scheme has worked on The Flats.

Above- (From Shakin’ the Southland) The shotgun counter play has been used to perfection by UNC, Clemson, Oklahoma and now Georgia Tech. The goal is to get more blockers at the point of attack, in this case the play side B-gap, than possible defenders.

While, so far, GT has used counter as a locked handoff, Oklahoma has used counter in a variety of RPO’s and QB reads, as well. As you can see in the image above, the left tackle, left guard and center will typically ‘block back’ or away from where the ball is going. Sometimes teams will use the tackle and guard to the play side to ‘double team’ the 3-tech (DT with the “3”).

The back side guard and tackle will pull. The guard’s job is to “kick out” the “5” technique D-End in blue, the tackle’s job is to ‘wrap’ or pull around and run through the B-Gap to find a linebacker. This way the RB, whom also goes through the B, has a lead blocker.

Above- You can see the guard and tackle pull on both GIF’s above. This has been a highly effective play for the Jackets and I would expect gap scheme plays (counter, but also power) to stay as a major part of the GT offense.


Corners

Above- Georgia Tech’s defense was susceptible to two major things in ‘20: the deep ball and the 3rd down conversion. Cornerbacks Zamari Walton and Tre Swilling are back and transfer Kenyatta Watson II adds depth to the position.

As you can see above, the Tech defender is there running stride for stride with the Duke wide receiver. The defender has the physiological ability, he just doesn’t have the technical and tactical skill to turn and look for the football to make a play on the ball before it’s caught.

Tech gave up a ton of deep balls in ‘20, and even another during this game against Duke. Something that has to be fixed in ‘21 will be coverages and the players’ abilities to make the right checks and not blow assignments for explosive plays in the passing game.


Kicking Game

Outside of Jahmyr Gibbs on kick returns, and Pressley Harvin III’s punting- Georgia Tech was atrocious in the kicking game. Kickoff coverage, extra points and field goals, and punt returns all had woes in ‘20. The sign of bad football teams is not controlling the controllables (pre-snap penalties, clock mismanagement, sloppy turnovers) and poor special teams play.

Above- The GT punt returner fumbles the punt on a ball that he misjudges. Once he has to start drifting backwards, he should’ve just let the ball go. Those are skills that are learned through experience, but also in the return game- sometimes instinct goes a long way. There’s a feel to the game and understanding when to leave well enough alone.

If Tech wants to improve from three wins, the kicking game must be improved. Tech finished the 2020 season ranked 74th per Bill Connelly’s SP+ including a ranking of 108th in kicking game efficiency.


In the rearview

If Georgia Tech wants to finally get over the three-win hump, cornerback play and the kicking game must improve- while the counter play must remain effective in ‘21. Coach Collins can no longer suffer through a season of losses that are all 10 points or more, and thus the kicking units must be improved. The ACC Coastal isn’t a sure bet for anyone I believe this is going to be an ‘any given Saturday’ season in the Coastal.