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Georgia Tech Football: Why 2021 will be different - The Offensive Line

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The offensive line has a chance to not be bad this year!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 Vanderbilt at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last year had a lot of excitement with the addition of true freshmen Jeff Sims and Jahmyr Gibbs on offense, and it could have been better, but the offensive line still wasn’t great.

I’m going to share some stats from Football Outsiders here, but before I do that, let me show their explanations:

Run-blocking stats

- Line Yards per Carry: For 2018, we are experimenting with a new definition for college line yardage based on film study and generalization. Instead of the ALY figure FO used for the NFL, this one is tighter: the line gets credit for rushing yardage between 0-3 yards (instead of 0-4) and 50% credit for yards 4-8 (instead of 5-10). Anything over 8 yards is quantified as a highlight opportunity, and credit goes to the runner. As with the pro definition, lost yardage still counts for 125%. (Garbage time is filtered out for all line yardage averages.)

- Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry: The raw, unadjusted per-carry line yardage for a team on standard downs (first down, second-and-7 or fewer, third-and-4 or fewer, fourth-and-4 or fewer).

- Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry: The same unadjusted averages for rushing on passing downs.

- Opportunity Rate: The percentage of carries (when four yards are available) that gain at least four yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.

- Power Success Rate: This is the same as on the NFL side — percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown.

- Stuff Rate: Same as STUFFED on the NFL side — percentage of carries by running backs that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.

Pass-blocking stats

- Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for all non-garbage time pass attempts.

- Standard Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for standard downs pass attempts.

- Passing Downs Sack Rate: Unadjusted sack rate for passing downs pass attempts.

Now, let’s take a look at how Georgia Tech did compared to the rest of the ACC last season.

2020 ACC Offensive Line Stats

Team Line Yards Rank Std. Downs Line Yards Rank Pass. Downs Line Yards Rank Opp. Rate Rank Power Success Rate Rank Stuff Rate Rank Sack Rate Rank Std. Downs Sack Rate Rank Pass. Downs Sack Rate Rank ACC Avg. Rush Rank ACC Avg. Pass Rank ACC Avg. Rank
Team Line Yards Rank Std. Downs Line Yards Rank Pass. Downs Line Yards Rank Opp. Rate Rank Power Success Rate Rank Stuff Rate Rank Sack Rate Rank Std. Downs Sack Rate Rank Pass. Downs Sack Rate Rank ACC Avg. Rush Rank ACC Avg. Pass Rank ACC Avg. Rank
Boston College 2.48 91 (10) 2.47 81 (8) 2.71 78 (10) 41.80% 113 (14) 81.30% 21 (1) 17% 44 (6) 6.60% 73 (4) 4.40% 53 (3) 8.60% 72 (6) 8 4 5
Clemson 2.71 51 (6) 2.7 48 (5) 2.62 91 (11) 47.90% 66 (9) 80% 25 (2) 15.90% 36 (3) 3.40% 11 (1) 3.30% 20 (1) 4.60% 18 (1) 5 1 2
Duke 2.24 117 (14) 2.09 122 (15) 2.85 66 (9) 39.90% 120 (15) 59.50% 107 (14) 19.70% 83 (10) 8.60% 104 (12) 7.80% 106 (12) 9.20% 80 (9) 13 12 14
Florida State 2.96 17 (3) 2.87 23 (4) 3.45 22 (2) 55.3%% 8 (1) 72.70% 47 (5) 16.2%% 41 (4) 9.5%% 112 (14) 9.0%% 117 (15) 9.20% 79 (8) 2 13 4
Georgia Tech 2.6 66 (7) 2.41 88 (9) 3.08 51 (6) 52.60% 28 (5) 70% 59 (7) 22.90% 113 (12) 7% 81 (5) 8.40% 112 (14) 7.10% 47 (4) 7 7 7
Louisville 2.4 104 (12) 2.19 117 (13) 2.91 60 (7) 48.80% 60 (8) 69.60% 62 (8) 23.70% 118 (14) 7.60% 94 (10) 6.20% 85 (7) 10.90% 99 (12) 11 9 13
Miami 2.43 99 (11) 2.32 106 (12) 2.9 62 (8) 44.80% 89 (11) 69.20% 64 (9) 20.90% 94 (11) 7.30% 88 (8) 3.50% 27 (2) 12.40% 110 (14) 11 8 11
NC State 2.52 87 (9) 2.4 90 (10) 3.13 43 (5) 49.10% 57 (7) 65.50% 84 (11) 17.80% 57 (8) 7.10% 84 (7) 6.20% 86 (8) 9.00% 76 (7) 9 6 9
North Carolina 2.97 16 (2) 2.96 17 (3) 3.14 42 (4) 53.00% 25 (4) 68.00% 71 (10) 17.20% 49 (7) 8.70% 106 (13) 8.10% 111 (13) 9.70% 90 (11) 4 13 6
Notre Dame 2.93 26 (4) 2.58 67 (6) 3.49 9 (1) 52.40% 30 (6) 78.10% 32 (4) 14.00% 15 (2) 7.00% 82 (6) 5.50% 76 (5) 8.10% 61 (5) 3 5 3
Pittsburgh 2.26 115 (13) 2.32 105 (11) 1.94 122 (15) 44.10% 96 (12) 64.0%% 92 (13) 23.6%% 117 (13) 5.00% 36 (2) 5.80% 79 (6) 5.70% 34 (3) 13 3 12
Syracuse 2.18 122 (15) 2.19 118 (14) 2.55 103 (12) 45.70% 78 (10) 50.00% 119 (15) 27.20% 126 (15) 10.90% 119 (15) 7.60% 104 (11) 13.10% 115 (15) 15 15 15
Virginia 3.14 5 (1) 3.05 5 (1) 3.17 34 (3) 54.20% 15 (3) 72.70% 47 (5) 10.30% 4 (1) 5.20% 44 (3) 4.70% 63 (4) 5.50% 31 (2) 1 2 1
Virginia Tech 2.86 31 (5) 2.98 11 (2) 2.37 115 (14) 54.80% 10 (2) 64.50% 90 (12) 16.70% 43 (5) 7.60% 93 (9) 6.40% 89 (9) 10.90% 100 (13) 6 10 8
Wake Forest 2.56 74 (8) 2.58 68 (7) 2.41 110 (13) 44.10% 97 (13) 78.60% 30 (3) 18.20% 63 (9) 8.10% 99 (11) 6.50% 93 (10) 9.60% 89 (10) 9 10 10

So a few things surprised me when I was compiling all of this, specifically that Virginia apparently had the best offensive line in the ACC last season according to my super scientific method of averaging all of the ACC ranks together to form a new rank!

What also surprised me was that Georgia Tech was in the middle of the ACC in these rankings, because they have not passed the eye test on offensive line in a while. Specifically, the Yellow Jackets allowed quarterbacks to get sacked 22 times last season, though the sack rate is only seven percent, so the ACC as a whole was kind of down in that regard.

The other stat that really stood out to me was Georgia Tech’s stuff rate. On nearly 23 percent of running plays by a running back, the running back was stopped at or before the line of scrimmage. And, uhhh, that’s not great at all! That’s almost an entire quarter’s worth of rushing plays.

And if I’m being perfectly honest, that stuff rate should probably be higher, if not for Gibbs juking the [Foreigner] out of defenders to oblivion.

So, why do I think that will change this season?

Well, I think it’s a really simple reason. I think Georgia Tech has done an excellent job adding new pieces to the offensive line that should elevate its play to potentially the top quarter of the conference. Let’s take a look at what Nishant observed during the open practice earlier this month.

Offensive Line: The first two units today were:

1 - LT Devin Cochran, LG Jordan Williams, C Mikey Minihan, RG Ryan Johnson, RT Nick Pendley

2 - LT Jakiah Leftwich, LG Paula Vaipulu, C Weston Franklin, RG Kenny Cooper, RT Kenneth Kirby

There’s a very strong transfer portal flavor here, with three transfers in the first unit and a fourth in the likely swing tackle (Kirby). As of now, the starting five seems all but set, with Franklin, Cooper, and Kirby likely to rotate in.

Looking at the starters listed here, I don’t know if this is exactly how they’ll line up, but it give us a starting point. On this line are three starters from last season in Jordan Williams (who started at right tackle last season), Mikey Minihan and Ryan Johnson.

In this line-up, Williams moved to left guard in place of Jack DeFoor who graduated and opted not to return. I think he could still potentially swap with Nick Pendley and stay at right tackle.

So, adding to the three returning starters, Georgia Tech adds a player that was arguably one of the top offensive linemen in the SEC while at Vandy in Devin Cochran. Now, I don’t think Zach Quinney was a bad offensive lineman, but I think Cochran is certainly a step up in quality with a ton of experience against some really good defenses.

The Yellow Jackets also add Nick Pendley and Kenneth Kirby. Pendley played sparingly at Mississippi State, and I think he’s a better fit at guard due to his size. Kirby was a three-year starter at Norfolk State, adding even more experience, even if it was at a lower division.

There’s also another guy listed there that has some extensive starting experience for Georgia Tech that I haven’t even mentioned yet: Kenny Cooper. Cooper was the starting center under Paul Johnson, but now is mostly playing guard. William Lay III also returns some more starting experience.

All in all, I think this is the season that Brent Key needs to show us what he can do. While I think that the offensive line is certainly better than it was in the last few years of Paul Johnson, the idea with hiring Key was that we were brining in the best offensive line in the country, and he hasn’t shown that yet.

I understand that he clearly had a lot to do, but now that we’re in Year 3, those excuses need to stop. I don’t want to hear anymore about it being tHe BiGgEsT tRaNsItIoN iN cOlLeGe FoOtBaLl HiStOrY. I want to see results. And this year, I think we do.