Johnson calls for tighter pass defense

At his Tuesday news conference, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson offered his confidence in defensive coordinator Ted Roof as his unit grinds through a season that finds itself ranked 122nd out of 128 FBS teams in yards per play (6.57).

“You’ve got to hire people and give them some leeway to run the thing and I’ve got confidence they’ll get it right,” Johnson said.

That said, Johnson has been more than willing to offer suggestions. Last week, he mentioned blitzing. Tuesday, it was a desire to see defensive backs and linebackers play tighter coverage against receivers.

“Get up there and make them beat you,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to help them with that. When we pressure, we’ve got to know when we’re pressuring and we’ve got to get up there and play tight. Can’t play scared.”

With a pass rush that has often been ineffective, Tech has found itself in a quandary, playing zone coverages that prevent big plays but that opposing quarterbacks have picked apart. Blitzing hasn’t necessarily always been the answer, either.

“When you blitz, it’s a combination,” Roof said. “You’ve got to snug up the coverage, and at the same time, the blitzers have got to get going, have a sense of urgency to get back there and realize that we’ve voided some zones or we’ve got some guys in man or whatever the case may be.”

Opponents are completing 65.3 percent of their passes, which is 115th in the country. Tech is tied for 30th in pass plays allowed of 40 yards or more with four, but tied for 112th in pass plays of 20 yards or more with 31. Tech’s defensive third-down efficiency is 52.1 percent, fourth highest in the country, a considerable jump from its 36.3 percent number last season.

“We definitely can’t sit back there and let everybody pitch and catch all the time,” secondary coach Joe Speed said. “We need to do a better job at challenging, especially on those critical downs, to get off the field.”

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