ATLANTA — Here’s at least one vote of confidence to suggest Al Groh’s 3-4 defensive scheme could be headed toward a more positive direction.
“I was a lot more comfortable in the defense,” Georgia Tech linebacker Steven Sylvester said, referring to his 10-tackle effort against Wake Forest last Saturday. “Just the things that Coach Groh did made it a lot simpler to get my reads and react.”
Groh, the Yellow Jackets’ new defensive coordinator who this fall has implemented a brand of defense predicated on quick, speedy, reactionary linebacker play, scaled back parts of the package the team ran against the Demon Deacons.
In an effort to tighten the unit up and to help it bounce back from its showing the previous week against North Carolina State — when it allowed 527 yards of total offense — Groh and the defensive coaches eased the terminology and implemented fewer responsibilities for players.
“It was a lot fewer reads,” Sylvester said. “It was basically reading one man and seeing what he does and then taking my reaction off of that."
Sylvester wasn’t the only linebacker who seemed to fit into the Yellow Jackets’ “simpler” scheme. Julian Burnett, a former Westside standout, tied Sylvester for the team lead with 10 tackles. Burnett split time between defense and special teams.
London , Johnson share common concerns
When Virginia head coach Mike London spoke Monday on his weekly teleconference/news conference, his statements sounded eerily similar to ones that have accompanied Georgia Tech news conferences this season.
“A lot of our weaknesses were exposed when playing a good team like that,” London said, referring to Florida State, which beat the Cavaliers 34-14 Saturday.
In that game, he said he witnessed a lacking third-down offense — London added that Virginia was 0-for-7 on third-downs by halftime against the Seminoles — a slew of uncharacteristic penalties, three dropped interceptions and a poor overall blocking performance from his offensive line.
Sound somewhat familiar?
Johnson at times this season has berated his third-down defense, in particular, as it has had trouble getting off the field. The offense, which often plays in four-down territory, hasn’t had as much trouble.
Additionally, penalties have been a problem for the Yellow Jackets, who incurred three personal foul infractions against Wake Forest alone. Asked about the penalties, particularly one on offensive lineman Phil Smith, who was flagged for smacking a Wake Forest player in the helmet post-play, Johnson was not amused.
“At least he hit somebody,” Johnson said, imploring Smith to block better in addition to watching the penalties.
Blair claims honors
For the second week this season, Yellow Jackets place-kicker Scott Blair was named Monday the ACC’s specialist of the week for his 3-for-3 field goal performance last Saturday.
His efforts also allowed him to be named one of three Lou Groza Kicking Award “Stars of the Week.” The Groza award recognizes the nation’s best place-kicker by season’s end.
In Georgia Tech’s 24-20 come-from-behind win over Wake Forest, the senior drove home three consecutive field goals — each from beyond 40 yards. Last season, he made just five from that distance.
One of those 40-yarders, a season-long 47-yarder, began the Yellow Jackets’ scoring in the first quarter.
He is now 7-for-7 on field goals this season after converting 14 all of 2009.
Blair also earned conference specialist of the week honors following Georgia Tech’s 30-24 road win over North Carolina earlier this year. Last season, he was recognized following his strong Week 3 performance against Clemson that led to another conference victory.
Johnson said injured offensive lineman Will Jackson missed Monday’s practice after being sidelined during last Saturday’s game.
The redshirt freshman left with another injury to his left ankle, the same ankle that gave him problems earlier in the season, Johnson said.
In his stead, Dublin native Nick McRae has had playing time at guard, although that action may become more pinched this weekend.
Johnson said that Zach Krish, a versatile, do-everything offensive lineman who works out as the team’s backup center, will be training at guard this week, as well.
Next game time set
The ACC on Monday announced game times and television networks for its games the weekend of Oct. 16.
Per the news release from the conference, Georgia Tech will play Middle Tennessee State at 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, in a contest broadcast on ESPN3.com.
The 3:30 kickoff will be the second consecutive for the Yellow Jackets, who take on ACC Coastal Division foe Virginia at that same time this Saturday.
Johnson in Macon
After speaking to media for less than two minutes Monday afternoon, Johnson rushed out of his practice attire and into dress clothes to jump into a waiting vehicle nearby.
But it was not just any vehicle.
The freshly-groomed head coach slipped away into a waiting red helicopter that had landed at Rose Bowl practice fields to take him to Macon.
The short flight was intentioned to get him to the Methodist Home for Youth and Children on Pierce Ave. for his annual appearance at the Macon Touchdown Club.