Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Music City Bowl Preview: Breaking Down Georgia Tech's Offensive Line

This is the sixth in our series of previews for this year’s Music City Bowl

They key winning football games is in the trenches…the guys who do the grunt work on the line of scrimmage can make or break a team, regardless of the skill players they have or what schemes they run. This is especially true for Georgia Tech, who runs an option offense that keys on the offensive line doing their job.

Essentially, if the O-line doesn’t get it done, there is no option for the quarterback.

The Yellow Jackets had some issues early in the season on offense, to the point that head coach Paul Johnson plainly stated that his team just wasn’t very good at running the option yet. But as quarterback Vad Lee got comfortable running the offense, his line provided some of the best work in the country.

The thing that makes the option work, however, isn’t just the blocking of guards, tackles and centers – it’s also the A-Backs and wide receivers, who must handle blocking defensive ends and linebackers who are trying to keep the edge contained. Their job – get them off of their feet, or away from the play.

That brings up the big point of contention to opponents. Is it cut blocking, or chop blocking?

The offensive line in this scheme is different than that of a typical pro-style line, in that instead of bulk and strength, the line play depends on speed and agility. The tackles and guards must be able to pull and move quickly down the line, throwing sealing blocks at the defenders. Those blocks are generally thrown at the lower-leg and knee area, and are meant to get a defensive linemen off their feet. Many times you’ll hear defenders complaining about constantly being “chop blocked”, but truth is, they aren’t.

A cut block is simply a block thrown below the thigh area, and they are a completely legal block. However, if a defender is already engaged in with another linemen, and then they are blocked below the knee by someone else, it’s a chop block and is illegal.

Tech’s experienced linemen (3 seniors, 1 junior and a sophomore) and receivers have become masters at this blocking technique (which is not dissimilar to zone-blocking techniques taught in the NFL), and helped lead the Jackets to the No. 5 rushing offense in the country.

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Will Jackson (RS SR) – LT: Jackson has developed into one of the best tackles in the ACC, and has a lot of experience playing guard as well. When Jackson moved over from the LG to LT position, things really began to gel on the line.

Trey Braun (RS SO) – LG: Braun moved into the starting LG spot following the injury to starter Ray Beno. He fit in immediately and helped lead Tech to a 348 rushing ypg average in the last four games.

Jay Finch (RS SR) – C: Finch has been a rock at center for 39 career games, and is undeniably one of the best centers in the conference, if not the nation.

Shaquille Mason (JR) – RG: Mason has been named to several All-ACC squads and is a sure fire pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. His inside sealing blocks on the right side have opened more than a few holes for Techs running backs.

Ray Beno (RS SR) – Beno was injured in the Miami game, and has been returning to full strength. He had a great game against Georgia in the season finale, and should be in top form for the Music City Bowl.

RESERVES:

Bryan Chamberlain (RS SO) – LT/RT, Nick Brigham (RS FR) – LG/RG, Thomas O’Reilly (RS SO) – C

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Tags: Football Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Music City Bowl Shaquille Mason Vad Lee

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