Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ready to ramble: Tech gets most out of its option offense

Georgia Tech running back Roddy Jones (20) takes a pitch from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, left, for a touchdown against South Carolina State. Using its trademark option offense, Tech rushed for 372 yards in its 41-10 season-opening victory Saturday in Atlanta and brings that tricky offense to Lawrence today to face Kansas University.

Georgia Tech running back Roddy Jones (20) takes a pitch from quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, left, for a touchdown against South Carolina State. Using its trademark option offense, Tech rushed for 372 yards in its 41-10 season-opening victory Saturday in Atlanta and brings that tricky offense to Lawrence today to face Kansas University.


Others may be given credit for inventing the option offense, but Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson certainly has had a hand in perfecting it.

“He’s been running that type of offense for many, many years,” Kansas University defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said of Johnson. “Whether it’s the true wishbone or a spread option or a double slot or whatever you’ll call it, it goes back to having wishbone principles, and he knows how to make it operate.”

Those curious to see the precision option game run the way few teams can run it should find a cozy spot at Memorial Stadium at 11 today when Kansas University’s football team, reeling from its season-opening loss to North Dakota State, plays host to No. 15 Georgia Tech.

In last week’s opener, the Yellow Jackets logged eye-popping offensive totals. Fifty-six carries. Three-hundred-seventy-two rushing yards. Eight passing yards.

The result? A 41-10 trouncing of a South Carolina State team that Torbush said had incredible athletes.

Johnson’s version of the option — which is dubbed such because it employs a mobile quarterback who reads the defense while attacking with his legs — dates back to his early days in coaching.

“We’ve run some (different) stages of it, but we started running this offense in 1985 at Georgia Southern,” Johnson said. “I thought it gave us a chance to win games. We managed to (do that), and that’s why we kept doing it. It’s like anything else, if you execute, it’s gonna be good, if you don’t, it won’t.”

In reality, GT’s option attack is unlike anything else. Instead of playing with three wideouts, a quarterback, a running back and a tight end, Johnson uses three running backs, two receivers and a QB. Two of the three backs are known as A-backs, who function as slot backs, and the third is known as a B-back, which appears to be a fullback but tends to receive the lion’s share of the carries.

In Georgia Tech’s case, B-back Anthony Allen and quarterback Joshua Nesbitt are the two guys who make the offense go. Last week, SCSU keyed on Allen. The gameplan worked, as the senior from Tampa gained just 28 yards on six carries, but certainly did not stop the rest of Tech’s attack.

“What we’re going to try to do is move the ball,” Johnson said. “If you go back and look, (former GT running back) John Dwyer (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers) had plenty of games (in 2009) where he didn’t gain 30 or 40 yards in the game. The big problem would be if they took somebody out of the game and they stopped you otherwise. But we had 370 yards rushing.”

The reason comes from the way the offense is designed.

“We just have a lot of threats on (every) play,” Nesbitt said. “I can hand it off, run it or pitch it, and it just gives us a lot of options to run the ball.”

Few coaching staffs in America know the ins and outs of the option as well as KU’s. Head coach Turner Gill ran it to perfection for three years at Nebraska in the early 1980s. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush has seen it a ton and even coached against it last season when he was at Mississippi State — against this very Georgia Tech team, no less — and cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy spent time at Air Force, where the Falcons made a similar attack their ticket to national relevance.

Though the specifics of the option offense vary from team to team, Gill said the principles remain the same.

“It’s very similar in that you’re going to run that play over and over again,” Gill said. “The option game is what I’ve been around. We didn’t run the triple option as much as (Georgia Tech does). That’s their main aspect of it. We did more the double option as far as the two reads. We didn’t do a whole lot with the fullback.”

Regardless of the set, the idea is the same — the offense entices the defense to show its hand before it commits to one player to run the ball.

Nesbitt, who knows the offense as well as anybody, said he’s glad he’s on the side that has the ball. Asked what position he’d least like to play if he were on a defense assigned to stop the option, Nesbitt hesitated and then committed, much the way he does when running the offense.

“That’s kind of hard to say because it’s hard from a defensive standpoint, period,” he said. “I would probably say safety. You have to notice the play, you have to identify if it’s a run or a pass, and then you have to find the ball. I would say (safeties) have the hardest job.”

For Kansas, that could spell trouble considering the fact that three of the team’s top four safeties have limited gameday experience. Still, true freshman Keeston Terry, who moved up to second string free safety on this week’s depth chart, believes that stopping the option is as simple as staying disciplined in one’s assignments.

“I’ve seen it a couple times in high school, but not much,” Terry said. “We gotta make open-field tackles and (focus on) our pitch keys as far as the quarterback and the running back. That’s probably the biggest thing. You mess that up and they’re going 50 yards down the field.”

Added Torbush: “You’ve gotta stop the dive, No. 1. If you don’t stop the dive, they’ll never get out to the second two phases. You have to stop the running game or you’ve got no chance. You’re not going to stop it play after play, but you’ve got to make sure you keep it to minimum gains when they make gains.”

As for Johnson, he likes that his quirky offense has caused coordinators to spend so much time studying ways to stop it, and he insists that even he doesn’t have the answer.

“There’s no magic defense against it,” he said. “It’s like anything else. We’ve been doing it for 25 years, (and) we’ve managed to win a few games. It’s just like any offense. If you execute it well, you’ll be fine. Everybody’s gotta do what they think they gotta do. I’m not trying to tell anybody they gotta run this offense. I hope nobody does. That makes it better for us.”


steamboat 9 years, 5 months ago

The line is 14?? R u serious? Maybe 14 per quarter. I'm sure GA. Tech will see this. That's gonna piss 'em off. It will be a train wreck

bad_dog 9 years, 5 months ago

I seriously doubt a well disciplined team gives a crap about it. They know they're favorites, so you think they need a larger spread to feel good about themselves and a smaller one will hurt their feelings?

nappaneejayhawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Through thick & thin (And I am not talking about the former football coach vs. current football coach) ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!! KU!!

steamboat 9 years, 5 months ago

The week long bashing by radio 580, 610, 710 and 810 was terrible. Come on guys let's grow a pair today and make it respectable. It's on the tube so here your chance to redeem yourselves.

hawkitup 9 years, 5 months ago

Anyone know where I can watch this game online?

Justin Lindsley 9 years, 5 months ago

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE HAWKS LOOK LIKE THEY WANT IT!!!! GO HCTG!!!

Ed Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

WOW! Who put the performance enhancing drugs in the Gatorade??? Rock Chalk BABY. I think Opurum is really wearing an offensive lineman's jersey. :)

The Hawks are playing some very respectable football. To top it off, we get to see it in HD on the big screen in Dallas for a change. Sorry HCTG for doubting you.

jchief40 9 years, 5 months ago

Even after last weeks loss I knew I liked what I saw out of Gill and his staff. See my earlier comments. I will say the fans were kind of WEAK today out of the stadium. Everybody was nervous at the end and not making noise. The fans obviously lack confidence... all the more reason to admire the job the staff has done with the new system. I believe in Turner Gill!

grandpa 9 years, 5 months ago

I have never seen such a negative bunch of bums who call themselves Ku fans. Hope you and Keegan got your eyeballs full today!!!/

bleed_BLUE 9 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

bleed_BLUE 9 years, 5 months ago

That's FUNNY right there..I don't care who you are......

bleed_BLUE 9 years, 5 months ago

Wow, got my post removed for what?? Talking out against precious KU??? The site staff must be like Hitler.

bleed_BLUE 9 years, 5 months ago

So, I guess if I post that Georgia Tech is one of the worst teams in college football will get removed too??? Huh......well, 1-11 look better than 0-12. I guess you're not allowed to mention dogs or squirrels on this forum. But what do you expect. It IS the Journal-World. Don't worry, people, the site staff know what I'm talking about. The censorship rules around here are WEAK.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.