Handling the Big Dudes

Sept. 23, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

At 6-feet-6 and 290 pounds, Quinton Coples is a big dude by any standard, and relative to all other defenders Georgia Tech has faced so far this season, he is – to use the words of Tech head coach Paul Johnson – huge.

They seem bigger when they’re not only large, but really, really good.

That’s Coples, a wickedly talented, bigger version of former Tar Heel Julius Peppers (although he’s not as quick nor as athletic as Peppers). The other day, Johnson pegged him as an eventual NFL first-round draft pick.

If you’re not already planning it, you should go see him this afternoon, and more importantly you ought to check out the Jackets. Invite some friends, too.

Beyond the fact that they need you, need the noise, need the vibe … there will be two undefeated, nationally-ranked teams in Bobby Dodd Stadium, and the weather is supposed to be just about perfect.

The senior defensive end wearing No. 90 in Carolina blue won’t be alone in his manner this afternoon when the No. 24 Yellow Jackets set out to protect their undefeated record against No. 25 North Carolina in a noon game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Beyond Coples, the Tar Heels go 6-3, 315; 6-3, 305; and 6-6, 260 across the defensive front.

Yet if Tech manages just a little more than half of what it has in three games, the presence of Coples on the side of victim – as long as the Jackets win in addition to whatever yardage/points they put up – will draw all the more national attention.

UNC will be by far the stiffest, and biggest, test the Jackets have faced yet.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the Tech offense handles big dudes. They cut `em, and out-quick `em. More problems come with the combination of big and quick (Iowa, LSU).

Averaging 59.33 points and about 1,000,000 yards per game, Tech has begun dancing on the boundries of national consciousness. Even if the Jackets don’t score on the first play of the game, as they have in all three games so far, this team has a chance today to make serious national noise.

There is already one convert. Many of you are familiar with the ESPN.com ACC blogger and her track record relative to Tech. She’s coming around. Just a few weeks ago she predicted Middle Tennessee State to upset the Jackets. This week, she wrote almost as if in awe about Tech’s offense.

To read that entire story, click here.

Or, if you don’t want to invest that kind of time as you rush to get ready for today’s game, consider this comment from UNC interim coach Everett Withers that Heather Dinich used in her story:

“I get shocked at five passes over 50 yards. The run game doesn’t show me . . . They have three guys that have 200 yards-plus, averaging 12.1 yards per carry, which is an NCAA record. I don’t worry so much about the yards when you play Georgia Tech. You worry … are they scoring touchdowns, or kicking field goals?”

In the category of neither here nor there, UNC quarterback Bryn Renner is the son of former Green Bay Packers punter Bill Renner.

More to the point, it’s quite possible that he’s very, very good.

He was revered in high school as one a top quarterback recruit, but sat behind T.J. Yates for the past couple years, attempting just two passes.

Renner has attempted 70 passes in three games, and just a few more than two passes have hit the ground. He’s completed 57 and thrown four picks.

This wide receiver, a guy named Dwight Jones, might be good, too. He’s already caught 20 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. This senior’s big as well, going 6-4 and about 225. His counterpart, WR Erik Highsmith is 6-3, 190.

Keep an eye on that guy. Today would be a good day for the Tech pass rush to show up in earnest, no?

Racked by offseason controversy and the firing of head coach Butch Davis, the Tar Heels have begun the season in fine fashion. And get this: they’ve already played 21 freshmen (11 redshirt, 10 true).

I mentioned earlier this week that Paul Newberry of the Associated Press was working up a story on Orwin Smith, and if you haven’t seen it, here it is.

Interesting as it was to learn that even though Smith grew up in Alabama, not all that far from Auburn, he grew up caring very little about Auburn or Alabama.

Yet my number one takeaway from the AP story was the Embry Peeples’ quote: “We all enjoy seeing Big O out there running the ball. When he gets the ball, we all yell, `Big O!’ and throw up the `O’ symbol. You make the block; he’s gonna do the rest.”

That explains why, at last Saturday’s post-game media conference, Peeples was throwing up hand signals. AS he was standing off to the side while Smith and quarterback Tevin Washington were up at the interview table, Peeples kept bringing his hands together in front of his face, thumb-to-thumb, and forefinger-to-forefinger, making the shape of an O (thumbs down, forefingers up).

I thought he was showing his support for Oprah’s magazine, or perhaps her newer network. Wrong. Silly me.

He was throwing the O. Try it today, at appropriate times, of course. I must say that given Tech’s run of big plays this season, a trend could easily be started. Every time the Jackets cover 20 yards or more on offense, fans could throw up the O. Think that’d get you on TV? Do it often enough, and my bet’s on you.

You’re going to have time today, and tonight, to send me a message. The effort in this regard has been poor — very poor — so far this season. On your phone, your PC, your laptop, whatever, let me know what you’re thinking. The address: stingdaily@gmail.com.

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