November 23, 2011

No cutting corners

Though not illegal by definition, Georgia Tech's penchant for cut blocks has gotten under the skin of more than one college coach.

Three years ago in 2009, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer accused the Yellow Jackets of engaging in illegal chop blocks during a 2009 meeting, something Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson obviously disagreed with.

"They got out-schemed. So it's illegal to out-scheme them, I guess," Johnson was quoted as saying after Beamer's accusation. "We blocked them the same way we blocked them (in a 2008 Virginia Tech win) and they weren't complaining when they won."

Those blocking schemes are something the 13th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are certainly familiar with, especially defensive linemen like Abry Jones who have to face getting cut on every play.

"Mentally, it can make for a tough day," Jones said of last year's game, won by Georgia 42-34. "I kind of felt like it was 150 that day. It can be really exhausting."

Defensiv end DeAngelo Tyson agreed.

"I probably stayed in bed that whole next day; I was very, very sore," Tyson said. "It wasn't a good feeling."

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner knows he's got his work cut out when it comes to getting his players to successfully deal with what lies ahead.

"You try to get them to take that out of their minds and tell them that's just part of it," Garner said. "You coach them on the fundamentals, things they've got to do, how they got to play, how they've got to use their hands, play with pad level, move their feet and just try not to worry about that."

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is banking on his players having a year's experience in the 3-4 will help.

"I think any time you've done something, the continuity allows you to play a little faster, a little better, all that kind of stuff," Grantham said. "We look forward to getting out there, playing and seeing what we can do."

Added Garner: "It's a stresser."

Sam linebacker Cornelius Washington, a veteran of two games against Georgia Tech, knows the key to playing the Yellow Jackets.

"You can only play Georgia Tech one way - you strictly have to play your assignments," Washington said. "There's not a whole lot else you can do."

But when it comes to Georgia's defensive line, Washington thinks the Bulldogs will have an advantage when it comes to taking on those cut block techniques the Yellow Jackets will employ.

"We've got some big guys up front with Abry, DeAngelo, Kwame (Geathers) and J.J. (Jonathan Jenkins)," Washington said. "I don't see that offense being able to do much with those guys. I'm not trying to knock the way they play, but those guys (the defensive line) are good, and that's why we have them in the positions we do. I'm not worried about it."

Geathers and Jenkins will be a factor Georgia Tech's offensive line did not have to deal with last year.

Last year it was Tyson anchoring the middle of the Bulldog defensive line, this year the Yellow Jackets will have to deal with a pair of 350-pounders.

Will size matter? Garner hopes so.

"Hopefully; if they execute it will make a significant difference, if they don't, probably not," Garner said. "The bottom line is you've got to execute, you've got to stay active, you can't get cut, and you can't let them tie your legs up."

Jenkins admitted it will be his first time playing against an option-based team - ever.

"That's why I've been listening to what everybody has had to say," Jenkins said. "Everybody says it's crazy, how it's tough because they try to chop you on every play. I've been getting an earful."

Head coach Mark Richt knows all about the challenge of trying to stop the Jackets' triple-option attack, despite the fact his defense ranks second nationally against the run giving up just 81.2 yards per game.

Richt knows his Bulldogs probably won't be that high once Saturday's game is complete.

"I don't think it matters what you are ranked against the rush when it comes to playing Georgia Tech's offense. If you played Georgia Tech, Navy and Georgia Southern, you aren't going to lead the nation in rush defense. That's what they do and they do it so well," Richt said. "If you are going to average 'X' amount of yards per game, and historically 80 percent of your total is rushing, even on a bad day they are going to rush for 250. If you give up 250 rushing you think it's horrible if you are trying to lead the world in rush defense. There is no correlation between that stat, in my opinion, to try to make some kind of prediction."

But Jones said the defense will be ready.

"We know it's a challenge, it always is," Jones said. "We've just got to keep our eyes open and play as hard as we can."