ATLANTA -- With four straight losses dragging behind them, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets promised to go back to basics this week when they return home to play Pittsburgh on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The strategy and philosophy won’t change, but there will be an emphasis on fundamentals in practice as head coach Paul Johnson tries to pull the team out of its spin.
“You go back and practice the plays that you run and practice the offense,” Johnson said. “When you line up, and you’re trying to run an option play, and the kids can’t tell the difference between a 50-defense or a 4-3 or a 6-1, you’ve got issues.”
The Yellow Jackets continue to be hurt by missed assignments on the offensive line, which was expected to be one of the team’s strengths this season.
“I mean, if you can’t look and see if the guards are covered or uncovered, you’ve got issues,” Johnson said. “So you just go back to basics, you keep repping it and hope that they do that. If you try to load the read-key and you load the pitch-key, you’ve got issues. And we’ve got to do a better job of coaching that up.”
With half the season gone, most of the players are ready to hit the reset button and try to finish strong. The Yellow Jackets cannot afford a misstep if they want to extend their consecutive streak of 18 bowl appearances.
“Now that we’re through half the season, we have to flush it, kind of start over and go from there,” center Freddie Burden said. “We’re down on ourselves, people are disappointed, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Just start over.”
Burden said the offensive line has gotten confused at times and needs to relax.
“We haven’t been ourselves,” Burden said. “We have to get back to what we do, and we’re not doing a good job at that right now.”
Georgia Tech might have to do it without starting right tackle Errin Joe, who left the game with an injury in the second half against Clemson and did not return.
The problems aren’t limited to the offensive line. The backs and receivers have had issues, too.
Freshman B-back Marcus Marshall said, “It’s that close, small things we do to ourselves to keep from being successful.”
That’s why Johnson emphasized there was nothing wrong with the offensive scheme, which was so impressive last year and during the first two games of 2015. It’s just going to be necessary to get all the players on the same page to understand what must be done.
“You know, the worst thing that you can do when things aren’t going well is throw the baby out with the bathwater and just panic,” he said. “We’re not bad on third downs because of the scheme. I mean, we led the nation and set an all-time record last year running the same plays. We’ve got to do them at a higher efficiency and play better. It doesn’t do any good to add more plays and add more stuff when you can’t do the basics of what you are doing right.”
OF NOTE: ESPN exercised its six-day option for selecting the kickoff time for the Oct. 24 game against Florida State at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The network is also using the option on the Clemson-Miami game. ... Georgia Tech will play four of its final six games at home. This week the Yellow Jackets will induct nine sports icons into its athletics Hall of Fame, including former tailback Joe Burns from Thomasville, punter Dan Dyke, safety Jakie Rudolph and longtime radio voice Wes Durham. Others are: Jessica (Sallinger) Cole for softball, Kris Mikkelsen for golf, Chaunte (Howard) Lowe for track and field, Tyler Greene for baseball and former football manager Charlie Germany.