ATLANTA — When Georgia Tech called timeout to prepare for its final scoring opportunity of last Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, receivers coach Buzz Preston made a key observation.
Based upon previous Demon Deacons defensive setups he observed from atop BB&T Field’s press box, the assistant spoke into his microphone and offered a bit of advice to head coach Paul Johnson: run a slant to Correy Earls.
“Defensively there in the secondary, you could see certain things that they were doing that tells you, ‘Hey, that could be a possibility,’” Preston said. “So that’s what you have to do, and there’s three of us up in the box and that’s our job to be able to see the little adjustments and be able to get them down to Coach so he can make the call.”
Johnson made the call for quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to buy time, avoid a sack and find Earls cutting nine yards toward the end zone.
With the ball zipping into Earls’ palms and his legs crossing the plane of the goal line, the play had worked just as the Yellow Jackets had hoped. A touchdown score with 15 seconds remaining, the reception delivered Georgia Tech a come-from-behind 24-20 victory.
“It’s just part of the job,” Preston said. “We’re supposed to see things up there to help Coach so we can get it done. By what they were doing, there was an opportunity to have something there and fortunately, we all saw it and got it done.”
London , Groh on advantage
On Tuesday, during a rare news conference, Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh was asked about his past relationships with the staff at Virginia and how they may impact this weekend’s matchup between the two programs.
He pulled no punches.
“Clearly the advantage is on the Virginia side,” the former Cavaliers head coach said. “I say that for one, because I taught our defense that we’re playing here to the secondary and head coach (there). They’ve got all my playbooks, all my cut-ups.”
Groh led Virginia the past nine seasons, implementing his 3-4 defensive scheme there. The system is one that was made famous by him and others at the NFL level, where he won a Super Bowl nearly two decades ago.
“Three of their coaches have sat through endless hours of meetings with me discussing the defense, making gameplans and analyzing our performance,” Groh said. “There’s no dilemma up there of figuring out how Al Groh thinks.”
Current Virginia head coach Mike London, a former assistant who left the Cavaliers to coach at Richmond before coming back this fall, agreed with Groh’s estimation. Well, sort of.
“He taught us the defense, so we do know particulars about the defense. That’s accurate,” London said when asked Wednesday about Groh’s comments. “But what we as coaches know, the players have to react to that. They have to be the ones able to execute that.”
When asked about injuries following Wednesday’s practice, Johnson said that linebacker Brad Jefferson worked out, but offensive guard Will Jackson was still sidelined.
Jefferson was a little banged up following the win over Wake Forest, while Jackson was lost in the first quarter with a left ankle injury. It is the same ankle that ran him from the season-opener against South Carolina State and forced him to miss the Week 2 loss at Kansas.
Jefferson is expected to play, while Jackson — if he can’t go Thursday — could be replaced at guard by backup Zach Krish. If that happens, Dublin native Nick McRae likely will fall down the depth chart at guard and be behind both Jackson and Krish, after starting the preseason battling for the starting job with Jackson.
Back-to-back for Wake
The Demon Deacons’ tough road doesn’t get any easier this week as they face Johnson’s former Navy program one game after seeing the Yellow Jackets.
The problem with seeing the Midshipmen seven days after Georgia Tech can be
summed up with two words: physical offenses.
“It’s a grind physically playing triple option-style offenses,” Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference Wednesday. “Every play is a gut-check, they’ve got linemen running into your defenders every play. One of my concerns with last week’s game was that they were so physical, and here we go again.”
The Yellow Jackets churned out 209 yards rushing against the Demon Deacons in a game that was largely dominated by defensive efforts, until Earls’ catch late.