Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Will Georgia Tech's option game work?

GREENSBORO, Ga. - The most hotly debated subject at the ACC preseason media kickoff has been whether first-year coach Paul Johnson's option game can work at Georgia Tech.

Opposing coaches seem concerned about the offense that helped Navy average 39.9 points per game last season. But the option has seldom been used in BCS conferences over the past 10 years to the extent that Georgia Tech will use it.

"I think Paul will drive people crazy," said Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. "I wish he (Johnson) would have gone somewhere else," said Clemson's Tommy Bowden.

The question people have is whether Johnson will be able to recruit good enough athletes to that offense to win in the ACC and defeat rival Georgia, which owns a seven-game winning streak against Georgia Tech.

Will elite wide receivers and offensive linemen sign with Georgia Tech to play in an offense that's not used in the NFL? Johnson doesn't anticipate a problem with that.

"Navy recruits against Army just as hard as Georgia Tech recruits against Georgia," Johnson said. "So that part of it's not hugely different. The pool of recruits are different but the way you go about it is the same."

Georgia Tech defensive tackle Vance Walker, who's from Fort Mill, S.C., near Charlotte, said Johnson is more fiery during practice than former coach Chan Gailey. If a player made a mistake, Gailey would quietly correct it after practice through an assistant coach.

Johnson gets in players' faces immediately after mistakes. After lining up against Johnson's offense during spring practice, Walker predicts it will work.

"Not many people have seen the offense," Walker said. "I’ve talked to a couple players here already and they say it gives them headaches. It’s just like a machine. Once it gets going, it’s hard to stop." – Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Yes, it will work. It always has. I don't care how good of a scout team your defense will face in practice every day, nobody will ever be able to replicate the speed that Tech will run it with.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to believe that it will be a success, if for no other reason than because no one else is running it these days and it will be very difficult for teams in the ACC and SEC to adjust in one week's time away from defending a pro style offense to defending the option. It worked at Navy with generally inferior athletes, and they often played other option teams such as Delaware and Air Force, among others.

The option and variations on it have survived and succeeded at the 1-AA level as well. Georgia Southern under Johnson was a powerhouse, Wofford has continued to be succesful with, again, inferior athletes (generally speaking), and a number of other schools have also found success.

However, there is a reason that the option has fallen out of favor in major college football and that is speed. The average defensive player in the ACC will be quicker and faster than the average player on the lower level 1-A and 1-AA level. That average player will also hit harder and more squarely (due to size and speed.) The quarterback is likely to take more of a pounding, which could have a detrimental effect as regards injuries.

Additionally, one of the other wonderful and effective things about the option is that it relies on the offensive team leaving two defensive players unblocked at the point of attack (generally the defensive tackle and the defensive end on the play side.) It allows the quarterback to read out the play as he travels down the line of scrimmage and, ostensibly, it doesn't matter what that player does, he will always be wrong. This works with slower players, but its certainly possible that at the increased speed of the major college game those players might make a higher percentage of plays than they are usually able to at other levels. Additionally, it is imperative that linebackers be blocked in the option scheme, and that may also prove more difficult, particularly for backside linebackers.

It is, of course, true that Georgia Tech will have larger, stronger, and quicker offensive linemen at the point of attack as well, but as the option relies on speed, and generally the option is run by teams with faster, but smaller linemen, the added ability of the GT linemen may not be enough to overcome, or stay in proportion with, the added speed of the defense of say, a Florida State.

It will certainly be interesting to see what goes on.