The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been a true rollercoaster ride since hiring Paul Johnson in 2008. Johnson immediately jumped the Jackets into the top 25 for the first time since the 2001 season. Georgia Tech has managed six winning seasons including an Orange Bowl victory and an ACC Championship. Consider many fans deem the triple option a dead offense, the Flexbone has had more success than whatever Mark Richt’s “NCAA offense” is.
However, Mark Richt has had great success against the Yellow Jackets both at Georgia and Miami. Richt has lost to Paul Johnson only twice; once in 2008 by three points and in overtime in 2014. While at Miami, Coach Richt’s ‘Canes have finished 2-0 against the triple option. Miami had the pleasure of playing the Jackets after a bye week in 2016, but hosted Georgia Tech after a road trip to FSU in 2017.
The 2017 game came down to another Darrell Langham miracle catch, this a tipped fourth down grab for 28 yards setting up a Michael Badgley field goal. The ‘Canes emerged with a 25-24 victory over Paul Johnson. Manny Diaz’s defense held the Jackets to 226 rushing yards and only one touchdown. Keep in mind the Jackets averaged 307 rushing yards and almost three rushing touchdowns per game in 2017.
The Jackets will run their typical 30 personnel (3 running backs, no tight ends) offense based on a 2x2 (wide receiver and A-Back to each side) formation. Tech’s offense finished 2017 ranked 61st per the S&P+. TaQuon Marshall returns at quarterback after a rocky season throwing the football, he only completed 37% of his passes, but he did run for 1,146 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing ten more.
B-Back (Tech’s fullback) KirVonte Benson returns as well. The five-foot-nine, 211 pound Benson averaged 5.2 yards per carry while rushing for six touchdowns a year ago. Benson ran for 1,053 yards running dive, trap, and power as part of the veer system. The offensive line returns veterans from left to right as they should start all juniors and seniors on the line.
The A-Backs (wingbacks) are Qua Searcy and Nate Cottrell. Searcy averaged 8.7 yards per play from scrimmage and scored twice while Cottrell ran for 8.2 yards per carry but didn’t catch a pass on the season. The wide receivers are Brad Stewart and Jalen Camp who caught a whole five passes in 2017, but they were all deep bombs as they averaged 24.8 and 49 yards per reception, respectively.
Paul Johnson calls the offense but Nate Woody will call the defense in 2018. Woody brings his 3-4 defense over from Appalachian State and will have Victor Alexander as his stand up pass rusher. Alexander made 60 tackles (2 tackles for loss) and two sacks in 2017 for the Jackets. Linebacker Brant Mitchell also returns with 51 tackles from a year ago.
In 2017, the Jackets defense only sacked the quarterback 17 times and had only six interceptions. That’s not enough big plays to win games and Johnson’s team finished 5-6 last season because of a weak defense. The Tech defense was 66th per the S&P+ a year ago and needed new blood to help Paul Johnson stay on the sideline by 2019.
The Hurricanes need to move on to 3-0 against the Jackets and the triple option. Miami is projected to finish 2018 13th overall per the S&P+ while the Yellow Jackets are pre-season 53rd in S&P+. If Mark Richt wants to keep momentum building the ‘Canes can’t fall to a lesser program like Georgia Tech, even if it’s on the road a week before heading to Blacksburg to face the Hokies.
The Miami defense is lacking in defensive tackle depth but the defensive ends, linebackers, and safeties should be able to slow the triple option down and Jaquan Johnson is a player that can be trusted not to get burned on the occasional play-action bomb the Jackets love to shock defenses with. Shaquille Quarterman needs this to be another huge game for him as does Gerald Willis III and John Ford.
Score: Miami 31 - Georgia Tech 13