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Georgia Tech's Offensive Lynchpin: Unlikely Heroes

When we think about our spread option offense, we talk mostly about the guys who line up in "the box" around the ball. However, there are two very crucial guys (in the base set) that don't get much attention, but who could hold the key to success for our offense.

The Jackets could really stand for Darren Waller to step up in a big way this year.
The Jackets could really stand for Darren Waller to step up in a big way this year.

This article inspired by this one I saw on

Go talk to college football fans across the country and mention "Georgia Tech", and they'll mention something about our "triple option offense" and how "it'll never work in big time football" and all that. You will wince (a lot) and want to explain to them that the offense is much more intricate than that, that the triple option is just one play, etc. Instead, you will realize that it's a lost cause, and let them carry on thinking we run the ball 11 plays out of 10 and haven't won anything significant since World War II. Oh, football fans.

The thing is, our offense is a lot more intricate than that, moreso than most of us even realize many times. By studying the offense, one thing becomes apparent that is not obvious to the naked eye -- a crucial element of our offensive scheme's success is the performance by our Wide Receivers.

Let's toss our specific scheme out of the equation for a second. What's the difference between a semi-effective offense and an offensive juggernaut? Among other things, balance. A one-dimensional offense, as ours has been from time to time under Coach Johnson, is much easier to stop than one that threatens you in 5 different ways on any given play. If a defense knows what we're going to do (to a certain degree), we can throw in all the smoke and mirrors we want and they'll still limit our success. However, if on any given play we could legitimately come out and run the ball up the middle, run to the outside, throw a screen pass, throw a deep ball, or throw a short-to-mid range pass, the defense forfeits the ability to cheat without consequence. Forfeiting that ability to cheat makes our offense's operation smoother and more effective.

But enough with the X's and O's. To get that aforementioned balance, there's a pretty pronounced need for high-performing wide receivers. Look at the time Coach Johnson has spent at Tech -- the 3 best seasons he's had were with a credible passing threat on the outside (Demaryius Thomas in '08-'09, Stephen Hill in '11). It's not even that those guys were a central focus of the offense (Thomas caught 46 passes in '09, tied for 129th nationally, which I'd hardly consider "central"), it's more that the idea of a threat was there. The defense had something that they would have to pay for if they cheated and sold out for the run.

Following the departures of Jeff Greene, Chris Jackson, and Jeremy Moore, our roster this year shows only two guys who have a recorded a catch in college. On the bright side, both shown themselves capable of being a big-time threat at wide receiver, but at the same time neither has yet established themselves as "the guy" on the outside. Darren Waller is extremely athletic and very difficult to cover but occasionally has shown issues with his hands, while Anthony Autry was highly effective for a few games last year before tearing his ACL shortly after he started making it onto the field.

At this point, our offensive line is effective and has depth, our B-Backs are coming around, we have depth at A-Back, and we have two highly talented QBs who are both running and passing threats. A credible, consistent wide receiver threat is the missing piece in our offense. In fact, I'd rather use the word "lynchpin" to describe them. I use this word because having a threat at wide receiver is right now the only barrier between an effective, top-30 offense that can score 28 points per game, and a downright offensive onslaught that's capable of dropping 50 on any team on any given Saturday (I didn't say consistently, just capable). Our offensive attack as it is abuses the defensive front 7 of the other team; add a dominant wide receiver, and we add a considerable passing attack. That enables our offense to abuse the secondary, thus abusing the entire defense.

Am I putting too much weight on the wide receiver position in our offense at this point in time, or should developing our guys at the wide receiver position a major point of importance for us right now?