The key to successfully defending Georgia Tech’s spread option offense boils down to one thing — do your job — no more, no less.
Georgia Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo and (18) Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Christian Robinson (45) bring down Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington (13) as the Georgia Bulldogs take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Nov.27, 2010 in Athens, Ga. (Richard Hamm/Staffemail@example.com)
This will be the fourth time Georgia has faced the Yellow Jackets’ flexbone that thrives on punishing reckless pursuit.
“With this offense, you’ve got to be patient and pay attention to your assignments,” Georgia outside linebacker Cornelius Washington said. “You do what the play calls for you to do and nothing else. You don’t try to be a hero when you play against this offense. You can’t be a big-play guy. You’ve just got to play what you’ve got to play.”
Georgia Tech liberally uses the triple-option series in its offense. The triple option’s first read is the fullback dive. If the quarterback doesn’t see space for the fullback to run, he’ll pull the ball back and take it around end himself. If space closes on the end, he can pitch to the halfback. The triple option’s biggest gains usually happen when defenders run themselves out of position by chasing the ball, which makes keeping attention on the task at hand so important.
“It’s playing assignment football,” Georgia nose guard John Jenkins said. “You want to do your assignment. It’s like a project for a class. You do your assignment. Then everybody else does their assignment and then everything comes together and you get the good grade, right? So that’s how you treat it.”
Georgia won last year’s game 42-34, but the Yellow Jackets gashed the Bulldogs for 411 yards without starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt. In 2008, Georgia Tech gained 409 yards and beat the Bulldogs 45-42. Roddy Jones gained 214 yards that day and is back for his senior season.
“We just have to read our keys and not allow big plays,” Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said. “We need to make sure we wrap up when we make tackles because three years ago the safeties were making contact but they weren’t wrapping up and that allowed them to make more yards after contact. We’ve got to go out there and make contact and wrap up and make sure we’re doing our job.”
Georgia’s defensive linemen had a busy day against the Yellow Jackets last year. Abry Jones and DeAngelo Tyson each had 16 tackles and played almost every defensive snap of the game.
“I was shocked to look at the sheet and see the 16 tackles,” Tyson said. “But I might have been more impressed with the 92 plays that me and Abry played. It was a long night for us, but we fought through it and the team came out with a W.”
This year’s game sets up as major test of each team’s strength. Georgia ranks second in the nation in rushing defense (81.3 yards per game) and Georgia Tech is second in the nation in rushing offense (323.6 yards per game). Georgia Tech has gained at least 300 yards on the ground in five games, including a season-high 604 against Kansas. Georgia has held seven opponents to less than 100 rushing yards, including minus-19 against Florida and minus-21 against Tennessee .
“I take it as a big challenge,” Georgia inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. “All they do is run the ball and maybe throw it a couple of times to get some big plays. It’s going to be a challenge to see if every guy can do their job. That’s what we’ve been doing for the most part this year and that’s why we’ve had such good success is each guy is doing his job at the right time. Now that we’re able to focus on this particular style of offense this week, it’s going to be better because you’re not thinking about some other plays that might be going on in your head.”
Another issue that Georgia’s defenders will need to keep in the front of their minds is Georgia Tech’s propensity to cut block. Much of Georgia Tech’s offensive line scheme hinges on knocking defenders off of their feet by hitting them low, which is a philosophy Georgia does not face from other opponents.
“Abry and Tyson said they were hurting last year, they were hurting,” Jenkins said. Jenkins is a junior college transfer who will play his first game against an option team since he was in high school. “They said it’s going to be crazy facing the option. Even the coaches emphasized how much they chop. I’ve been getting it from everywhere, everywhere. I’ve been getting it from offensive guys. They’ve been happy because they’ve been able to chop.”