Georgia Tech needs Charlie Thomas, but targeting penalties are an issue

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Georgia Tech linebacker Charlie Thomas has made his presence felt in every game this season.

Tech’s linebackers played an exemplary game Saturday in their 26-21 upset of then-No. 24 Pitt in interim coach Brent Key’s first game in charge. Arguably none of them had a better game than Thomas, whose stat line included seven tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery. He also became the third player in Tech history to record a fumble recovery and interception in a game since 2000. He did all of that while playing only in the second half.

Thomas’ production has been affected by targeting penalties. He missed the first half versus Pitt because of a targeting penalty that he incurred in the second half of the game a week earlier versus Central Florida. He also missed the first half against Western Carolina because of a targeting penalty a week earlier, in the season opener against Clemson.

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Because Thomas is a key contributor, there is a fine line between tweaking his technique to try to avoid such penalties, and making sure he can stay as dominant as he has been so far. Key made that point Tuesday.

“I don’t think you can take a player like Charlie and adjust what he does,” Key said. “You can’t take a football player that has such uncanny instincts and playmaking ability and adjust what he does.”

That being said Key alluded to there being adjustments to how Thomas tackles.

“The coaching and teaching of ways to do things, we work on that every single day,” Key said. “(Assistant coach Jason) Semore is working and drilling things in practice for the safety of Charlie and the safety of those whoever he is playing against, but also yes to increase his availability.”

Key compared his standout senior to a water moccasin, the lethal and aggressive snake fit for Thomas’ style of defense.

Aside from Thomas’ pure football ability, he is one of the leaders of the team, and his absence is felt. Should Thomas receive another targeting penalty this season, he would be forced to miss the rest of that game and the entire game after that.

He nearly ended up out of the game for a targeting call Saturday, and with the possible increased scrutiny because of his history of calls, Thomas and the Tech coaching staff are going to have to find the balance between being wary and him still playing loose.

Tech will look to build off their great defensive performance against Duke Saturday, with Thomas on the field from the start to the end, hopefully.