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Back Seat Coachin’: Gaps, pulls, and pressures

The Jackets lost to the Pack by 10, but there were positives in the contest.

Georgia Tech v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Back in December of 2020, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and NC State Wolfpack faced off in Raleigh, NC. The final score was 23-13 in favor of NCSU. Tech was without Jahmyr Gibbs who was out with an injury. The run game didn’t suffer as Jeff Sims ran for 93 yards and a touchdown while Jordan Mason pounded his way to 99 yards of his own. But Gibbs is always missed in more ways than one- both as a kick returner and as a receiver.

State was a little more explosive than Tech on the evening and it was the deciding factor. While Sims averaged 5.6 yards per pass attempt, and Bailey Hockman averaged 8.6 on big plays.

Let’s take a look at gaps, pulls and pressures from the 10 points loss in 2020.


College football has become an offensive-focused world and that’s put the defense far behind the 8-ball. Defenses have to gap exchange, scrape exchange, rotate safeties just before the snap. Split-field coverages, all the rage when TCU started using them over a decade ago, not become really difficult to excel with in the RPO-age.

Above: On the top left the nickel is coming to blitz.

By the top right picture you can see the NB come inside and the inside linebacker needs to scrape exchange after the snap. That, or the safety needs to roll down.

By picture 3, on the bottom left, the ILB was frozen and didn’t switch. The safety also didn’t roll down.

On the bottom right, you can see the running back get outside of the defense because the ILB doesn’t play the outside gap, and the safety doesn’t rotate down.


I haven’t seen this too many times at the college level. Back in my early high school coaching days, a few of the wing-t teams would pull guards opposite ways and run midline option (an old Paul Johnson staple). This would allow the OC to see if the linebackers were reading guards or cross-backs.

Above- Tech has QB Jeff Sims read the lone linebacker in the middle from NCSU. If the LB runs to Sims’ right, thus chasing the RB, Sims will pull. That’s exactly what he does. If the LB runs to Sims’ left, he gives to the RB. Sims keeps and scores a TD on the ground vs the Pack running this double pull read.


Georgia Tech had a few pressures that really worked against a potent NCSU offense. If Tech can get to QB’s without having to blitz, that would be fantastic in 2021. However, the occasional blitz never hurt anyone, until it does.

Above- GT gets to the QB with a four man pressure. It’s a delayed twist and Hockman winds up on his back.

Above- A five man pressure package that included two twists gets to Hockman again.

In the rearview

This ball game could have wound up in Tech’s favor had Gibbs played. It’s hard to win, especially when you’re talent strapped, without your star player. Even as a true freshman, Gibbs was clearly GT’s best player and most explosive talent. The Jackets need him healthy in ‘21, all season long, and that will come from giving Gibbs plays off at running back, even if it doesn’t mean taking him off the field entirely.