Jim Urquhart-USA TODAY Sports
After three straight losses (albeit to three quality teams), head coach Paul Johnson and his Georgia Tech football team are going to have to take a step back and regroup. The Yellow Jackets’ miserable performances in the past three games are definitely cause for some rethinking and re-evaluating of this offense across the board.
The main focus has to fall in two key areas, however; offensive line and quarterback.
The blocking from the line and from the A-backs has been marginally effective, but certainly not up to the level that’s expected for an offense that relies on the option. When defenders are allowed to penetrate both the inside and on the edges, it makes running an option–whether you’re diving or pitching–completely ineffective. The Jackets need to solidify the blocking assignments and make sure that quarterback Vad Lee isn’t hurried into bad decisions.
Some of the problems may be due to Lee’s inexperience, but for the most part he’s just not being afforded the time and space that he needs to complete a proper read.
The failures on 1st and 2nd down, and the abundance of dumb penalties (such as five false start penalties and lining up offside in one game) are putting Lee in unmanageable 3rd down situations and putting the offense in obvious passing downs, which of course is not the bread and butter of this team.
Now when you talk about Georgia Tech’s quarterback play, it should be noted that many of the problems Lee is having are directly related to the offensive line issues, as well as play calling from the coaches (not to mention his receivers constantly dropping passes). But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t had his own share of failures as well.
When the Jackets do want to pass the ball, Lee seems much more comfortable working from pistol formations, where he can get a better look at the defensive formations and call for his protections. For some reason, Johnson tends to call for pass plays that require Lee to be under center. If this is to try to fool a defense into thinking the Jackets might run, it’s clearly not working. Lee panics, and throws the ball up for grabs at times when he could toss it into the stands and live to play another down, or even check down to his safety valve receivers. Many of these problems have to do with his pre-snap reads.
It might be time for Johnson to rethink the quarterback situation, and go with a QB-by-committee approach. Having a change of pace on QB and mixing up the plays might go a long way to keeping defenses from pinning their ears back, which they have obviously been doing. Lee is still getting accustomed to running the option, but with only freshman and sophomores sitting behind him he’s still going to be the best at running it for now.
The Jackets are winning the time of possession battle in nearly every game, so it’s what the offense is doing with that time and how many drives are stalling in the red zone or being killed by penalties and turnovers that has to be the big concern. That falls on CPJ, and instilling some better discipline and getting this team to focus, and then calling the right plays to set his team up to be in a position to succeed.
The option is getting the team from 20-t0-20 on the field, but once the defense is able to squeeze in and clamp down inside the red zone, Johnson has to find some plays that will cross their wires.
This will be a crucial stretch for the Yellow Jackets, with three (supposedly) winnable games coming up against Syracuse, Virginia and Pittsburgh. Heading into Death Valley to face Clemson with a 6-3 record–as opposed to a 5-4 or 4-5–will do a lot to boost this team’s confidence against what may be their toughest opponent of the year.