Updated: Tech’s O-line repeating errors and Johnson is tired of them

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wouldn’t accept on Tuesday that the offensive line had communication issues in Saturday’s 17-14 win over Boston College.

Starting guard Shamire Devine said on Monday there was was sometimes too much communication and sometimes a lack of communication in the game. The issue dates back to last season.

Johnson said blaming communication is easy when players aren’t blocking the opponent.

“We shouldn’t have had any,” he said. “Some of the stuff we did was just stupid. We aren’t taking an out on that. I’m not giving an out on that. I’ve heard communication issues. I want to see somebody put their hand down and come off the ball.”

Johnson said there may be changes on the line this week. The only player whose spot may be secure is center Freddie Burden, but only because his back-up is also competing at left tackle. Johnson said Parker Braun will play because Johnson wants to see if he will hit somebody.

Behind the line that features returning starters in redshirt junior Devine, and Burden, left guard Will Bryan, who started six games at right tackle last season, and right tackle Trey Klock, who started three games at left tackle last season, Tech’s rushing attack totaled a mere 119 rushing yards in the opener. The 2.7-yards-per-carry average was the fourth-lowest for a team coached by Johnson. The Jackets had just one carry of at least 20 yards.

The pass blocking was mostly solid, with just one sack allowed. But the failure of the line to create consistent rushing lanes was an unfortunate reminder of one of many reasons why the Jackets went 3-9 last season and averaged 256.2 rushing yards per game, the fewest since Johnson took over the program before the 2008 season.

As one of Tech’s coaches said on Monday about the opening game, the Jackets aren’t going to win many games if they can’t rush for more yards.

Asked for the most important thing the line needs to do to improve for this week’s game, Johnson dryly said: “Come off the ball. Get their pads down.”

Offensive line coach Mike Sewak said Boston College’s front seven would sometimes move around late, which would affect the communication between the linemen. One lineman could have a player in front of him, make his call to the rest of the line, and then the defensive player would move. That movement will sometimes necessitate a new call not only from him, but from whichever lineman is now “covered up” by the defensive player. Those calls need to be heard and echoed back so that all the offensive linemen are on the same page. When someone doesn’t hear, hears the wrong thing, or doesn’t send the call down the line so that the other linemen know what’s going on, the blocking schemes can get messed up.

Boston College’s tactic wasn’t unusual. Opponents have used that against all types of offenses in the past. Tech’s defense does it against the offense in practice. It’s likely something Tech will continue to see until the linemen can prove they can handle it.

Devine said the linemen would typically talk through what they should do either with co-offensive line coach Ron West on the sidelines, or with Sewak in the locker room at halftime.

Devine said the problems aren’t a concern because it was just the first game and they can immediately work on fixes, starting with Saturday’s home-opener against Mercer.

“It will become a major concern if it continues going on past the second and third game,” he said.

How the line played against a good Boston College defense – it was arguably the best in FBS last season – isn’t how it and the rest of the team performed in the practices in August. That was one of the reasons that Johnson said his team was fortunate to beat the Eagles.

“Task of moving people around is always difficult,” Sewak said. “Do your footwork, do your technique and go out and trust it. There were some real long runs we could have had and for whatever reason it didn’t pop out for us.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.