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#STINGDAILY: Mettle-Testing Time

Oct. 4, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– With one third of the season in the rear view, there is still plenty to be learned about the Georgia Tech football team and it says here that Saturday’s game at No. 14 Miami may say more about the Yellow Jackets than the four previous games combined.

Here’s why: the Jackets are not only up against it with an ACC loss to a division foe at home and in need of a serious rebound, but they played so poorly on offense as to give observers pause and reason to play a game of wait-and-see.

The state of Florida has not been kind to Tech in recent years, which further sets the stage with even brighter klieg lights: does this team have that certain mettle required to bounce back in the face of adversity … in a house of horrors?

And was that the real O against Virginia Tech last week, or an aberration?

Head coach Paul Johnson’s like you, Mr. and Ms. Fan. He’s curious.

“I’ve got a handle on [the team], but I’m hoping and thinking that the game last Thursday was an anomaly where we didn’t play very well,” he said. “We’ve done that a couple of times against Virginia Tech, but you’ve got to give them credit. They caused some of it because we seem to self-destruct when we play them.”

The boss has made reference this week to simplifying matters a bit on offense.

Don’t overreact to that. Johnson earlier said that the Jackets do a lot of things — and the addition of new formations stands as some evidence – but that they weren’t doing anything particularly well even in earlier games.

He really did some digging on the option, a significant part of the offense.

The Jackets, though, are not throwing away big chunks of their attack. They’re going to modify.

“We’re going to run the offense, but what I’m saying is let’s not have every play with every formation,” he said Wednesday. “So you pick the plays you want with the formation you want . . . rather than this week saying, ‘We’re only running five plays.’ “

Some interpretation is required here, and it may not be right. This would appear to be saying that all plays are still in play, but not necessarily out of different formations. Certain plays that previously had been run out of different formations maybe will be run out of just one, or at the least out of fewer formations than before.

It’s a plausible argument that the addition of new formations has made the Jackets more multiple, but it’s also reasonable to believe that the process of adding those formations diluted their ability to sharpen certain plays by way of practicing them the same number of times but out of different formations.

So, a paring process began this week.

Regarding the option, Johnson said Tuesday that every part of it needed work.

“We’ve got to mesh better with the quarterback and B-back. Our releases on the offensive line have to be better. We’ve got to cut off better on the back side of the offensive line.

“We’ve got to block the perimeter better and we’ve got to get the ball out on the perimeter some. We’ve got to read things better. So that covers about all of them.”

Miami (4-0, 0-0 ACC) will be a serious test. The Hurricanes have a nice win over Florida in their pocket, although the Gators helped a lot with turnovers. Senior quarterback Stephen Morris is humming.

The Jackets (3-1, 2-1) are improved on defense and a question on offense.

More answers are likely to come in south Florida.

Fans have been thinking, worrying this week.

That’s what fans do. Johnson knows that. He’s talked to his team about the fact that the sky has not fallen on Tech. The Jackets are every bit still in the Coastal race even with the disappointment of the Virginia Tech game.

“We talk about it, but you talk about the one loss. I don’t get into fan reaction,” Johnson said. “Anybody who’s ever been around the sport any period of time they change their mind possession to possession.”

This would not be the first time in sport that a loss might sharpen senses and execution.

Monday’s practice was one of the best of the season, and redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Thomas was so crisp that Johnson said through the week that he’s likely to play some. Vad Lee will start. He who plays best may play more. The option may fit Thomas a bit better than Lee, and vice-versa.

“What has happened recently and in practice yesterday, is that our guys worked at it with a little more urgency,” Johnson said. “Sometimes what happens is when you’re winning, you can talk about it, but they’re not listening.

“But if they watch it on tape, they hear you. They see that we’ve got to do better and we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to coach the fundamental parts of it better.”

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