Georgia Tech prepping to face ‘really, really, really good players’ Saturday

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, 33-6 as a starter, including two wins over Tech.

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Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, 33-6 as a starter, including two wins over Tech.

One of the first things that Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins does when he breaks down the Yellow Jackets’ next opponent is to look at the explosive run and pass plays that its defense has given up.

The review for No. 4 Georgia was curiously short, enough so that he said he called in his graduate assistants for answers.

“I’m like, where’s the rest of them?” Collins said. “There’s only eight. (The reply:) ‘Coach, that’s accurate. There’s eight.’ ”

To defeat the Bulldogs on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets have a mountain to climb, and Tech coaches acknowledged as much Tuesday at their weekly news conferences.

“Obviously, the thing that jumps off the tape is really, really, really good players,” Collins said. “They’ve got a strong roster — size, speed, length, athleticism. The coaching staff has them playing really hard. They’re sound fundamentally. Big, physical and tough and, obviously, they’ve got elite playmakers on both sides of the ball.”

The explosive-play count that Collins mentioned — evidently, it was runs or passes of 30 yards or more — is but one standard by which Tech coaches have ascertained the Bulldogs’ excellence.

When he starts his breakdown of an opponent, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said that he first tries to understand who an opponent is schematically and physically.

“The most impressive thing for them is that they’re elite at both,” Patenaude said.

Georgia doesn’t excel in two areas that defenses of its ilk typically do — takeaways and tackles for loss – but the Bulldogs make advancing the ball difficult. They are top five nationally in yards per play by both pass and run. The Bulldogs rely on a deep well of players, notably safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte, linebackers Tae Crowder, Monty Rice and Azeez Ojulari and defensive tackle Tyler Clark.

Aside from giving up the second fewest plays of 30 yards or more in FBS, Georgia is tied for second nationally in scoring defense (10.7 points per game) and second in rushing defense (68.5 yards per game).

Patenaude’s challenge is finding an advantageous matchup or throwing a wrinkle that Georgia hasn’t previously seen.

“Keep them off-balance,” Patenaude said. “But you can’t be conservative at all, I don’t think, because it’s very difficult to drive the ball against a defense that’s schematically so sound and has a big group of angry guys running around.”

On defense, coordinator Andrew Thacker similarly was braced for the challenge that lies ahead.

“They’re big, they’re physical up front, elite college football running backs,” he said. “So scheme will be a piece of it. It’s a challenge. The quarterback (Jake) Fromm does a wonderful job of getting them into the right plays, even post getting the play call in, getting the correct plays running in the right direction.”

Tech will combat the Bulldogs’ offensive line (the biggest in school history, including All-American left tackle Andrew Thomas) with a defensive line that for the past two games started three redshirt freshmen (T.K. Chimedza, Jordan Domineck and Curtis Ryans) and a walk-on (Djimon Brooks).

“We are where we are in terms of size, in terms of body types, in terms of them having a size advantage,” Thacker said. “So as always, we have to be creative in our scheme. We’ve got to have a willingness and a toughness and a competitiveness.”

Thacker gleaned insights into Fromm from talking to defensive players who had faced him a year ago in the Jackets’ 45-21 loss in Athens. Thacker said they told him that when they tried to disguise pressure from one side and then “all of the sudden, he’s checking to where we’re bringing pressure from and running away from that pressure. He’s got a very mature approach, very NFL kind of mindset.”

The poise of Fromm, 33-6 as a starter, clearly made an impression.

“You don’t see him get rattled,” Thacker said.