Johnson, Tech offense watch film together after loss to Clemson

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas (5) looks for a space for a pass in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Thursday, September 22, 2016. Clemson Tigers won 26 - 7 over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Because of their 26-7 loss to No. 5 Clemson, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson pulled every offensive player together to watch film this week.

Earning 22 total yards in the first half, Johnson wanted answers to why his offense was shut down.

“I want to know why did this happen? What’s the problem? Is this so confusing to you that you don’t know what to do or did someone tell you to do that,” Johnson said. “And then I also wanted some accountability in front of the whole group. It’s not that I think the offensive guys don’t know what they’re doing, I know they do. It’s the same guys that were coaching them in 2014.”

Johnson’s 2014 team went 11-3 overall, 6-2 in the ACC and went to the ACC Championship where they put up a fight, but lost 37-35 to Florida State.

Against Clemson, the Jackets 2016 team, similar in personnel, in no way resembled the Jackets of 2014. The Jackets’ offense earned 124 total yards, 11 first downs, were 2-of-12 for third-downs and scored only once in the fourth quarter against the No. 5 team in the country.

Usually Johnson watches film with his quarterbacks to start the next week of practice, but the lack of drive his team demonstrated against the Tigers (4-0) was cause for a group review session. While Johnson has confidence in his assistant coaches to correct the offensive mistakes, he wanted to take matters into his own hands.

For B-back Isiah Willis, the film session did exactly what Johnson intended — drove home the point that what happened against Clemson was unacceptable.

“Sometimes they’ll ask you ‘what would you do on this play?’, ‘What are you supposed to be doing?’, ‘Why did you do this?’,” Willis said. “Sometimes he’s just trying to understand what you know, where’s the miscommunication on within that play. He definitely does that. You just have to answer.”

Willis was responsible for 10 of the Jackets’ 95 rushing yards against Clemson. Freshman b-back Dedrick Mills had the most positive yardage of any Yellow Jacket on Saturday, rushing for 75 yards and the Jackets’ only touchdown.

The Jackets’ joint film study isn’t new.

Johnson’s brought the offense together a few times last year in their 3-9 season to review crushing losses.

Instead feeling embarrassed for being called out in film study, Willis, a redshirt senior, is using the instruction to encourage the younger Jackets to keep fighting after being knocked down by a talented team.

Willis’ takeaway from Johnson’s film review was the need to improve on fundamentals like footwork and technique.

“I don’t want him to have to sit down with us for anything negative like that, so you just want it to encourage you to get working and get back on your grind,” Willis said. “I guess you get to see everything everybody else is doing wrong, so it’s like you kind of want to encourage them as well and just see yourself when he’s talking to you and you get pointed out in front of everybody. It affects you that much more like ‘I don’t want to be that guy’ or ‘I don’t want to be that person that’s getting called out on the film.’”

For quarterback Justin Thomas, the offenses’ first joint film review of the season wasn’t enjoyable, but the quarterback sees how the offense can bond through the hardship.

“Truthfully, it’s kind of like being in a spotlight,” Thomas said. “It’s just all eyes on you. I think it helped out and hopefully we’ll see the outcome on Saturday (against Miami).”

Thomas threw 4-for-13 for 25 yards and had negative 25 rushing yards against Clemson.

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