Geoff Collins came to Georgia Tech as the ‘right man for the job’ to save the Yellow Jackets from the evil flexbone triple option. Instead, Collins has won six combined games in his two years in Atlanta compared to Paul Johnson’s seven wins in his final season at Tech.
In fact, Coach Johnson had only posted three losing seasons in 11 years at GT, including a 6-6 regular season where a bowl loss dropped the Jackets to 6-7. Year Three for head coaches is the make or break year per ESPN’s Bill Connelly, and that will be no different for Coach Collins.
The transition from the triple option to the spread has been a rocky one, but there’s no easier time to rebuild than in the 2020’s. Head coaches have the transfer portal, transferring without sitting out a year, redshirting, the extra COVID season, graduate transfers, and an increase in technology making it easier to find players all over the world.
Georgia Tech has to become bowl eligible in 2021, but while the Jackets may look improved their record may not reflect more than four or five wins due to their strength of schedule. GT will travel to Clemson, host UNC, and travel to Virginia, Miami and Notre Dame, before hosting Georgia to end the season. Teams like Pitt, Virginia Tech and Boston College pose formidable threats as well.
Info: Georgia Tech @ Miami in Miami Gardens, FL
Day/Time/Channel: November 6, 2021 / TBD / TBD
If quarterback Jeff Sims and running back Jahmyr Gibbs are as good as advertised, Georgia Tech could see a drastic improvement on the field. Both the QB and the running back are expected to be on All-ACC watchlists by season’s end.
In the all-time series, Georgia Tech leads Miami by one game, with a series record of 13-12 in favor of the Jackets. The series dates all the way back to a Tech win in 1955. Over the last six seasons the series has been split 3-3.
2020 Record/Ranking: 3-7/Unranked.
2020 Data: 23.9 PPG scored (96th in FBS), 36.8PPG allowed (110th in FBS).
Bowl Game: Not eligible.
Key Losses: Pressley Harvin III, P; Ahamarean Brown, WR (transfer); Jalen Camp, WR; David Curry, LB; Zach Quinney, OL.
The Yellow Jackets have three spots on the Athlon Magazine preseason All-ACC team. Yeah you read that right, just three, and two are for Gibbs. Georgia Tech returns 12 of 22 starters on offense and defense, and brought in multiple transfers from the transfer portal to try to fill in gaps left in Paul Johnson’s final recruiting classes.
On the first team, the Jackets have Freshman All-American running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs scored seven touchdowns from scrimmage in 2020, and ran for 5.2 yards per carry with no passing game in sight for the Jackets. He pulled his hamstring towards the end of the season and was shut down by the staff. Gibbs is also on the second team as a kick returner after averaging 25.6 yards per return.
Quez Jackson made the fourth team defense at linebacker. Last season, Jackson logged 80 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, three PBU’s and two interceptions. GT may start the season with only two players and three spots on the All-ACC list, but keep an eye on Sims, guard Ryan Johnson, safety Tariq Carpenter, and defensive tackle Dijmon Brooks.
GT Scheme on O
The Jackets scheme on offense is the NCAA 11 (one running back, one tight end) personnel standard edition. The Jackets will use gap and zone running schemes, much like UNC, in the run game. Tech OC Dave Patenaude uses more play-action than RPO compared to UNC’s Phil Longo.
As a freshman, quarterback Jeff Sims threw for 1,881 yards which was 7.3 yards per attempt. The young signal caller also threw 13 TD’s but matched that with 13 interceptions. Sims added another 492 yards on the ground with six scores. The offense runs through Sims who is a plus rated athlete that needs to be more careful with the football both while passing it, and while scrambling.
How do you lose to the GT offense? Miami will struggle with Tech if the ‘Canes can’t stop the run. Manny Diaz will have to put a more concerted effort into align, assign and finish if Miami plans to slow down Sims, Gibbs, and talented backup RB’s like Jordan Mason and Jamious Griffin. Miami struggled against run heavy teams like UVA and UNC. Miami struggled greatly against gap schemes and GT loves power and counter.
Another way is less by designed runs, and more by Sims scrambling. Miami has struggled with mobile QB’s for years and Sims could keep the ‘Canes defense on the field by picking up 3rd downs with his legs. If Coach Diaz wants his linebackers to play better, they need to be physically more impressive than they have in the past five seasons. The era of the slow, plodding, stiff inside linebacker is gone. Adapt or die.
How do you beat the GT offense? In 2020, you beat the GT offense by forcing Sims into obvious passing situations. Sims took too many sacks, was careless with the football and Tech’s offensive line wasn’t good enough to protect him on ‘and long’ downs. Sims didn’t just throw 13 picks, he also fumbled a half dozen times as well. Also, GT is pre-snap penalty prone. The Jackets were one of the most penalized teams in the FBS in ‘20.
Coach Diaz needs to put pressure on Sims and the GT offensive line and force the sophomore to have to react versus have the time to read. By all accounts, Sims has a high football IQ and is a film room junkie, he’ll be ready off the field, but has it translated to between the whistles?
GT Scheme on D
Coach Collins is a defensive coordinator by trade. The former Western Carolina linebacker put up stifling defenses as a DC at Mississippi State and Florida before taking over for Matt Rhule at Temple. Collins uses a hybrid 4-3/4-2-5, and even some 3-2-6, much like Manny Diaz. Tech uses less pressure and more reliance on fundamental football.
However, those fundamentals have been lacking in Atlanta. Tech has been able to align and assign, but they’ve struggled to finish in two seasons under Collins. His “money down” schtick on 3rd downs have also worn thin with the Jackets fanbase. The goal has to be to get faster on defense, and to tackle better in ‘21.
How do you lose to the GT defense? You’ll lose to GT’s defense by playing into their hand. What I mean by that is by getting into ‘and long’ situations that the QB D’Eriq King can’t scramble out of. Tech is well coached, there’s no doubt, but if King is healthy I can’t see the Jackets keeping up with him. As sloppy as GT is on offense regarding pre-snap penalties, you can’t match them by also being backed up into bad down and distance situations.
Stay on schedule and you’ll beat the Jackets defense.
How do you beat the GT defense? If you want to beat GT’s defense you need to own those 3rd downs. If they’re going to be weak on 3rd down, you need to be strong. Miami can’t afford to rush up to the line and run inside zone on 3rd and three. OC Rhett Lashlee needs to re-evaluate his methodology and consider the reason the country has turned away from the hurry up / no huddle approach for the most part. It created sloppy, predictable football.
What concept can Miami use against GT? Going back to the Pitt preview, Miami needs to be a better go route / fade / vertical team. Coach Lashlee spent two seasons with Sonny Dykes, and Dykes is an Air Raid coach who learned under the Mike Leach coaching tree. Leach, Dykes, and the Air Raid gurus like to incorporate deep balls to back teams off so they can then work horizontally in space.
Above- this is a diagram from The Athletic on the Air Raid “Four Verticals” or “6” concept. Mike Leach drew this up decades ago and it’s worked wonders at the high school, college, and NFL/XFL ranks.
The concept is built around finding the best matchups for CAP, per Dub Maddox’s Capology. Coverage, alignment, and personnel. For instance, if I’m Coach Lashlee and am calling 6, if I have Mike Harley at the F (outside right WR) and Will Mallory at the Y (inline tight end) I can probably get Harley in a 1-on-1 matchup against the cornerback.
If Harley’s CB is playing press man, it’s Harley’s job to beat him deep. If the CB is playing seven or more yards off, Harley probably isn’t beating him over the top, ie. he’s capped. In that instance, King has to look at other matchups and their CAP.
The beauty of 6 is the QB can always call tags to receivers if he sees, say, a 10 yard sail out being open based on linebacker alignment. Tag the Z (inside left WR) on a 10 yard out and let the X (outside left WR) run the CB and safety off. The Z will push vertical for 10 yards before breaking off on the out.
Also each route has an option quality to it. The X and F can always break off outside, while the Y and Z can always break off inside on a hitch or inside seam. Essentially, this concept should always be right. Coach Leach ran it to perfection with Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree at Texas Tech to upset Texas in 2009.
Canyonero keys to victory
1- Cut down on penalties. GT is prone to pre-snap penalties, you can’t also make that mistake. Get the Jackets into ‘and long’ when they’re on offense and ‘and short’ when they’re on defense. Eventually Miami has to play sharper, more disciplined football. This isn’t 1989, you’re not that much more physically gifted than your opponent.
2- Stop the run. Miami needs to focus on being a better run defense in ‘21. Align, assign, finish. Miami has to improve on:
A: Getting lined up properly. The ‘Canes can’t leave as many open gaps pre-snap.
B: Knowing what gaps is yours. Three players can’t shoot into the C-Gap leaving the B and A gaps open. This is a mixture of football IQ and coaching up your defensive calls properly.
C: Pursue and tackle. Miami can’t take bad angles against a team that has an elite back like Gibbs. The ‘Canes also can’t be an F-rated tackling team again in ‘21 like they were in ‘20.
3- Special Teams. Miami can really take advantage of GT when it comes to special teams. The ‘Canes need to coach up their freshman kicker, while GT has struggled to make PAT’s and field goals. Tech also loses their punter.
Gibbs is going to be electric in the kick return game and Miami can’t afford to give up a big return or TD. At the same time, Miami needs to get a big return or two and can’t afford to turn the ball over with a muffed punt return.
Way too early prediction: Miami by 14.