It’s unusual to see Georgia Tech’s rushing attack ranked as low at it is this season. But there are a couple of legitimate reasons why the Yellow Jackets rank only 26th in the nation with 229.2 yards per game.
The Yellow Jackets have never finished out of the top 10 in rushing since head coach Paul Johnson arrived in 2008. They have led the nation twice (2010, 2014) and averaged 342.1 yards on the ground in the 11-3 campaign of 2014. Their worst under Johnson was last year’s team, which ranked eighth with 256.2 yards.
Part of the problem has been the opposition. Boston College, Clemson and Miami are all in the top 10 in the nation in total defense.
The other reason is time of possession. Mercer, a game that Georgia Tech won handily, was able to keep the ball for long stretches and play keep-away from the Yellow Jackets. Boston College and Pittsburgh did the same things.
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He said the Georgia Southern defense, which ranks 31st nationally against the run, has a senior-laden group, especially on the line. The Yellow Jackets host the Eagles at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday in a game televised by Fox Sports South.
But Johnson said, “We’re not as close to being as good on offense as we need to be.”
The Yellow Jackets have been outrushed only 14 times in Johnson’s nine years at Georgia Tech. Two have occurred this year — against Boston College and Clemson.
Simmons stepping up
Junior Antonio Simmons has impressed the Georgia Tech staff with his ability to get after the passer. The undersized (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) defensive end, shares the team lead for tackles for loss (five), has one sack and a team-high nine hurries.
“He’s been our best past rusher,” Johnson said. “Seems to be productive when he’s in game.”
Simmons’ problems lie with consistency and understanding his responsibilities.
“He’s doing better,” Johnson said. “Sometimes when you freelance, you get other guys in trouble. As he plays more responsibly, his reps will continue because he’s been very productive.”
Green still catching up
J.J. Green is starting to grow more accustomed to the demands of the Georgia Tech offense after sitting out last season following his transfer from Georgia. Green played a lot early because of his blocking skills; he threw the block to spring Dedrick Mills for the winning touchdown against Boston College.
“Last week, he did some nice things with the ball in his hands,” Johnson said. “He’s got to get away from missed assignments. He has a couple every week. We’re halfway through the season. It shouldn’t happen.”
Green has rushed 15 times for 97 yards. He ran five times for 40 yards against Miami and four times for 26 yards and a touchdown against Pitt. He also returned a kickoff for a 96-yard touchdown against Pitt.
The Yellow Jackets came out with more bruises against Pitt than from any game this season. Linemen Trey Klock, Shamire Devine and Andrew Marshall were all dinged up, and P.J. Davis left the game early with an undisclosed leg injury. The Yellow Jackets could get cornerback Step Durham back; he is listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart.