Sept. 2, 2011
By Jon Cooper
The buzz word surrounding the Georgia Tech defense following Thursday night’s season-opening 63-21 rout of Western Carolina seemed to be “disrupt.”
Tech’s blitzes certainly disrupted the rhythm of the Catamounts’ “Pistol,” and, when quarterback Brandon Pechloff was able to complete his short-hitters, his receivers and backs were met by quick- and hard-hitters by Tech DBs and linebackers.
“I think we were really disruptive,” said redshirt senior nose tackle Logan Walls, who had seven tackles (three solo), second on the team. “We had a couple of batted passes early. Everybody was hitting everywhere. I felt like making those cross routs, you might not want to do that too much.
“We hope up in the front seven that it never gets to the secondary,” he added. “But if it does, we like it when they hit them when they get there.”
Noticeably more comfortable in the 3-4 defense than last year’s group, Jackets defenders relentlessly pursued Catamounts ball carriers.
“I think we’ve just got a different mindset. We want the ball,” said junior inside linebacker Julian Burnett, who is off to a good start in defending his title of Tech’s leading tackler, leading everyone in Bobby Dodd Stadium with 12 tackles, seven solos and two for loss. “Nobody is more valuable on the team than somebody who can get you the ball. That’s our mindset this year and we’re going after it.”
“We came out here and did what our coach wanted us to do, and that was be disruptive, run to the ball,” added sophomore outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, who ran right to and dove on a second-quarter fumble by Western receiver Jacoby Mitchell following a tremendous hit by ILB Daniel Drummond. “We can process things fast, see plays and can make faster moves. It’s not only being faster athletically, it’s being faster mentally, when the game is going on.”
While Head Coach Paul Johnson had some issues with the defense — the pass rush and third down conversion rate (Western converted 44.4 percent, 8-for-18 but only 1-for-7 in the first quarter, when the game was on the line) — he had no issues with the team’s hitting.
“There were some pretty good hits out there at times tonight,” Johnson said. “Rod Sweeting (five tackles, four solos and a pass break-up) had a couple of pretty good shots, Jemea Thomas (5, 2) had a hard shot. He’s just got to learn that you don’t lead with your head. There were some different guys that made some hits. I don’t doubt our guys’ courage. I don’t think hitting is going to be an issue. We’ve got guys that will hit.”
Catching the ball was a potential issue for the secondary, as several potential interceptions fell incomplete.
Linebacker Isaiah Johnson believes that will turn around in the coming weeks.
“[We were] being aggressive toward the ball,” said Johnson, who chipped in six tackles (five solos) and a pass break-up. “What we could have done better today was catching the ball. But as far as making big plays and as far as hitting and breaking to the ball we did pretty good. We just have to work on catching it.
“We had a game plan and pretty much executed,” he added. “Of course, we had a couple of mental errors but that’s going to happen. We’re going to come back next week and clean up the little mess we had.”