Defending the triple option (By Gene Williams, Warchant.com)
Last week, the Seminole defense spent every waking moment preparing for mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After he was injured on the first play of the game, those preparations turned out to be useless. This week, the defense again faces a unique challenge but it's unlikely that the preparations will go to waste.
While most college teams are going to the spread offense and relying more on the passing game, Georgia Tech, under new head coach Paul Johnson, has gone the opposite direction.
Under Johnson, the Yellow Jackets totally revamped their offensive scheme and implemented a triple option which forces defenses to worry about multiple running options on a single play.
So far this season, under the new system, Georgia Tech's offense leads the conference in rushing and are averaging 236 yards a game on the ground. And through the first eight games, the Jackets have chosen to run the football on nearly 80 percent of their offensive snaps.
"It's a new challenge. The option is a great type of offense if you can perfect it," linebacker Dekoda Watson told Warchant.com. "They do have speed, and their quarterback is in, number 9 instead of number 11, and he's pretty athletic so we have to respect him and respect the whole scheme."
On Monday in practice, the Seminole players got their first taste of what it will be like on Saturday to defend against the triple option.
"A lot of the guys were talking about it today and we haven't played against this since high school," cornerback Tony Carter said. "It's definitely a different thing but we are looking forward to the challenge."
While the triple option is rare for major college football, it is fairly commonplace in high school. Jacksonville native Tony Carter saw it whenever his Mandarin team took on cross-town rival Ed White. And for linebacker Dekoda Watson, he saw it every day in practice at South Aiken High School.
"We ran it (in high school) and I even remember catching a couple pitches myself," Watson said. "It's a trial and error thing. Once you start getting used to it and the more you (go against) it the more you see. It may be a little challenging in the first couple series."
As he did last week, freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel is playing the role of the opposing quarterback for the scout team. But this time, instead of just being an elusive quarterback that can run or pass, Manuel must simulate Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt by running the triple option. For Manuel and the entire scout team, it's a difficult offense to simulate in practice at the same level and speed as Georgia Tech will do this Saturday.
"The scout team does their best and do what the coaches ask but it's different when you have guys that actually do it every day and week in and week out," Carter said. "They (Georgia Tech) have been training with it since the day the new coaches arrived at Georgia Tech. It's definitely a difficult thing but we'll adjust to it."
In addition to the entire defense having to adjust to a deceptive run-oriented attack where the quarterback has three options every time he takes a snap, the defensive linemen must also adjust to totally new blocking scheme.
"I have never seen a blocking scheme like this since high school," noseguard Budd Thacker said. "It's going to take time and we have to get used to it. We have to have a cram session these next two or three days.
"The nose(guard) has got to go on the center and there are a lot of plays where he's trying to get to the outside to get the linebacker, and you've got the guard coming down to cut you and the other guard pulling. It was a bunch of craziness. I was confused today but hopefully we'll get that right in the film room."
How well the defense prepares this week will be tested this Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.
Walking wounded at running back (By Chris Nee, Warchant.com)
On Saturday, Florida State's running back depth chart took a big hit on back-to-back plays. Following a 12-yard pass completion from Christian Ponder to Antone Smith, the senior running back had to leave the game due to an issue with his elbow and ribs. He was replaced by freshman Jermaine Thomas, who suffered a concussion on his first run from scrimmage.
On Monday, both players were present and accounted for at practice.
"Antone was riding a bicycle today but I think he will be okay," head coach Bobby Bowden said following practice. "(Jermaine) seems to be okay. He was out there running today. Didn't see any effects of it."
Smith, who has not been cleared for contact in practice, seemed pretty optimistic about his condition following the Seminoles' Monday practice.
"I'm feeling alright," Smith said. "I'm not at 100 percent right now but I feel pretty good. My legs are fresh but my ribs are a little banged up. Other than that I feel pretty good. The elbow is feeling good it's still swollen little bit but it's more ribs than anything else."
The 'Noles' top rusher originally hurt his ribs against Colorado and has played wearing a vest ever since.
While Smith did not participate in Monday's practice, Thomas did and noted that he is 100 percent and cleared to return to action. He said the toughest part of dealing with the injury was missing out on a great chance for more playing time in a big game.
"I was kind of sick to my stomach but everything happens for a reason," Thomas said of the concussion. "I thought I missed an opportunity but hopefully I get another chance."
While his next opportunity could be this Saturday against Georgia Tech, his veteran teammate said that he does not plan to remain on the sideline against the Yellow Jackets.
"I'll do what I have to do to get ready to play," Smith said. "I have to be out there to help this team win. Whatever it takes to win, I am going to be out there to help.
"It's my senior year I don't have any other go around so I have to leave it all on the field and keep going out there and playing hard and keep trying to be productive."
Jackets defense can sting too (By Derek Redd, Osceola)
During the Georgia Tech football team's resurgence, the spotlight has shone on its triple-option offense, an old-school holdout in this current spread-happy, speed-addicted world of college football.
But Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher isn't focused on that offense. He's looking at a Yellow Jackets defense that currently sits 12th nationally in total defense and seventh in scoring defense.
"The defense is what's making them go," Fisher said.
They don't have to blitz to pressure. They can even rush three and pressure.
Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher
The Yellow Jackets allow a little more than 272 yards and 13 points a game. Their strength, Fisher said, is that they can throw several different looks at an opponent. Georgia Tech can pressure the passer with four linemen. They can rush three linemen, drop eight defenders into coverage and remain effective.
"Some people can't pressure you unless they blitz," he said. "They don't have to blitz to pressure. They can even rush three and pressure."
Georgia Tech's defensive front should test Florida State's young offensive line. The Seminoles had a tough test last weekend against Virginia Tech, a game where head coach Bobby Bowden said he could tell the freshman offensive linemen played a little wide-eyed for a while.
Sophomore guard Rodney Hudson was in their shoes just last year, and knew just what to say to get their heads back in the game.
"I just told them to stay focused," he said. "Calm down and trust your technique. As it went on we just kept getting better."
Hudson added that a tough game against Virginia Tech should have the line well prepared for Georgia Tech.
"It's going to help a lot," Hudson said. "A lot of ACC defenses are the same. They have a lot of speed on the corners. Georgia Tech plays pretty good team defense with pretty good speed and the have big guys in the middle."
Offensive line coach Rick Trickett knows he has a lot of young offensive linemen and, while they might be short on experience, they're long on tenacity.
"What I loved was that they never quit (against Virginia Tech)," Trickett said. "Good things are going to happen to people that do that."
Quote of the day
Defensive tackle Budd Thacker on defending the triple option:
"What we are thinking at the defensive tackle position is that the fullback always has the ball no matter what. We picture that the ball is in his hands and then go kill him. That's what we are going to do."
* Linebacker Dekoda Watson, who played for 12 snaps on defense against Virginia Tech, said his hamstring is about 75% recovered and expects to see more playing time this week against Georgia Tech. Watson has extra motivation to play this Saturday since former South Aiken High School teammate Ben Anderson plays defensive tackle for the Yellow Jackets. The two have been texting each other about the game.
* The Golden Torch Winners for all sports were announced on Monday night. The top academic performer for football was walk-on Jeffry Taccetta.
* Defensive tackle Justin Mincey, who injured his right knee on Saturday, said he is about 85% recovered. He was wearing a knee brace after Monday's practice but said he expects to play on Saturday.