ATLANTA — As the drama of a hopeful comeback hung above their heads against North Carolina State last Saturday, Georgia Tech’s defenders dealt with a hodgepodge of external activities that made it more difficult to compete — and to hear.
Contending, at times, with an incessantly loud crowd, the seemingly frayed, on-edge nerves of the defensive Yellow Jackets took center stage as they allowed a 45-point outburst from the Wolfpack.
Of course, most college football teams regularly play in front of crowds as loud as or louder than the 48,825-person throng that showed up at Bobby Dodd Stadium last weekend.
According to players on that side of the ball, however, the combination of noise and a lack of attention to detail made on-field communication a major challenge. Even at least one offensive player told The Telegraph he had heard rumblings that plays weren’t being relayed properly.
“There were little miscommunications mostly from the fact that some people were saying they weren’t hearing the calls and some people said they weren’t getting them,” linebacker, and primary defensive play-caller Brad Jefferson said. “So they’ve just got to tune in and make the calls and hear the calls.”
Safety Jerrard Tarrant, the player in charge of calling plays in the defensive backfield agreed with Jefferson’s sentiments, saying that the miscues led to mishaps during play.
“Everybody wasn’t communicating together on the same page. And if everybody isn’t on the same page then some assignment is going to get blown, someone’s going to go uncovered or a gap isn’t going to get filled,” Tarrant said.
He added that players may not hear calls because they get “caught in the moment, the crowd is getting loud, and sometimes you forget to say something or you forget to look around for the signal.”
In turn, players found themselves in improper positions or running responsibilities that had nothing to do with a particular play. Film study indicated as much.
During his Sunday teleconference, head coach Paul Johnson said there were some 43 missed assignments by the defense in the game against North Carolina State. When hearing that number, linebackers coach Joe Speed could think of only one reason why the wrong assignments were run.
“It stems from just initial communication,” Speed said. “Once we start communicating, and all 11 are going in the same direction, we’ll be OK.
“It’s a lot to learn (installing the new 3-4 defense), but they’re things they should be able to pick on up, so we’re going to make sure we do what’s necessary to set them up for success and give them what they can handle.”
Senior cornerback Mario Butler said the miscommunications weren’t a product of what the coaches were doing. They had more to do with what the players weren’t.
“It’s everybody getting a sense of urgency at the line and then getting the call and shouting back the call,” Butler said. “The good thing is is that everything is fixable. It’s nothing the coaches did or anything. It’s all the players and we know we can fix that.”
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