7 things to know from Georgia Tech’s preseason

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Georgia Tech lost to Virginia Tech and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler 23-21 last November. AJC photo by Curtis Compton

Gleanings from Georgia Tech’s Tuesday media availability…

1. Two new coordinators for Boston College

In Boston College, Tech faces a team that will have two new coordinators. The Yellow Jackets have considerable familiarity with both. Defensive coordinator Jim Reid was defensive coordinator at Virginia 2010-12 before being fired. He was at Iowa the past three years as a linebackers coach.

Boston College offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler held the same position at Virginia Tech 2013-15. He was not retained in the coaching change that brought Justin Fuente to Blacksburg, Va.

B.C. coach Steve Addazio had the defensive opening after coordinator Don Brown was hired to the same position at Michigan after the Eagles ranked No. 1 in total defense, third-down conversion rate and No. 4 in scoring defense. Brown was named assistant coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association.

Addazio hired Loeffler although he already had an offensive coordinator on staff, Todd Fitch, who was reassigned to coach wide receivers. About a month later, Fitch was hired at Louisiana Tech as its coordinator. Boston College was 125th nationally in total offense last season.

To anticipate the Eagles’ methods, coaches assuredly have looked at how both coaches played Tech while at Virginia (Reid) and Virginia Tech (Loeffler). Tech scored 33, 21 and 56 points against Virginia during Reid’s tenure and allowed 17, 24 and 23 points during Loeffler’s at Virginia Tech.

For what it’s worth, Addazio spoke in the spring about his history with option offenses and coach Paul Johnson’s in particular, how the scout-team offense was “my baby” and his excitement about having former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni (“arguably the best football coach in the country”) on his staff. It’s conceivable Boston College may show Tech something different than what Reid did at Virginia. As Johnson is wont to say, there are only so many ways to play his offense.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof sees a good marriage between Loeffler and Boston College. He noted, for example, how the Eagles have used wide receiver Charlie Callinan as a “move” player, sometimes using him essentially as a tight end but also splitting him wide. Roof saw similarities with how Loeffler used Virginia Tech tight end Bucky Hodges.

“I’m sure there’ll be new wrinkles based on personnel, so we’ll see,” Roof said.

2. Working on the pass rush

One way Roof said that the pass rush fell short last year was that defenders didn’t disguise their blitz intentions well enough. Johnson has remarked on different occasions that the Tech defense was “quick gamed” – hit with quick passes that nullify blitzes. That was at least in part because offenses recognized blitzes were coming, again at least in part because defenders tipped their hands by creeping up to the line too quickly. Hence, the Jackets tied for 120th in sacks per game last season (1.2).

“I think it’s an experience thing,” Roof said. “The offenses are also designed to sniff it out with phony cadences and phony signals and things like that, so it’s not just snapping your fingers (to solve the problem). It’s part of what they do, too. We’ve worked on that and worked hard on it. We need to see some fruits of our labor there.”

(Look for a story from my colleague Doug Roberson with more on the pass rush.)

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington led the Jackets to a 56-20 win over Virginia and then defensive coordinator Jim Reid in 2012. Washington is now a graduate assistant at Tech. Washington wore No. 40 that game to honor former teammate Julian Burnett. (AJC file photo by Johnny Crawford)

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington led the Jackets to a 56-20 win over Virginia and then defensive coordinator Jim Reid in 2012. Washington is now a graduate assistant at Tech. Washington wore No. 40 that game to honor former teammate Julian Burnett. (AJC file photo by Johnny Crawford)

3. Keeping scout teamers encouraged

Defensive-line coach Mike Pelton sent defensive end Tyler Merriweather and other linemen to the scout team with a message: Stay ready.

“I tell ’em all the time, you just never know when that opportunity’s going to come,” he said.

He has a perfect example in defensive tackle Kyle Cerge-Henderson. As a first-year freshman last fall, Cerge-Henderson was on the scout-team defense but was pulled up due to injuries and the ejection of tackle Adam Gotsis in the North Carolina game, the fifth game of the season. Cerge-Henderson ended up playing six games and started three.

“This day and time, college football’s a long season and everybody’s big and strong and fast and injuries happen,” he said, “and guys that you think are going to be out there, and they’re not. Guys just always have to be ready.”

 4. Uncertain about depth

Pelton isn’t quite sure what his group can do, particularly his younger ones. Defensive tackle Brentavious Glanton is a redshirt freshman. Cerge-Henderson played last year, but is a sophomore. Defensive tackle Brandon Adams, expected to play, is a first-year freshman. Defensive end Desmond Branch is a sophomore but has yet to play a down of Division I football (he redshirted at New Mexico, transferred to a junior college and then transferred to Tech).

“You want to have people that are capable of going in and continuing to do what we’re trying to do on defense,” Pelton said. “So depth is always a plus, but a lot of that depth is just inexperience. They say that every freshman you play, you can count it a loss. I hope that’s not the case, because we’re going to play some guys that haven’t hit the field. You’re trying to stay on them about their technique, so we’re just really trying to just get them game ready as best as we can without actually playing a game.”

The inexperience could manifest itself in different ways.

“I don’t think a lot of those guys just really understand how hard it is to win a college football game,” he said. “How it is to grind it out. That (opposing) team, their players are trying to do the exact same thing you do, and who’s going to impose their will? A lot of them, you’re just trying to get them mentally ready as well as physically ready. The only way they’re going to be able to do that is just get out there and go play a football game.”

5. Cottrell role uncertain

Redshirt freshman A-back Nate Cottrell’s role is evolving, Johnson said. Cottrell is at the back end of the pool of A-backs, which includes Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy, J.J. Green, Isiah Willis and Lynn Griffin.

“Right now, that position is fairly deep, so there’s probably five or six guys that’ll play and he’s fighting to get under that line,” Johnson said.

Cottrell missed time in the preseason, which has set back his progress. Johnson said that, despite coming back from an ACL tear last August, his speed (he ran a legitimate sub-4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash in high school) has not diminished.

6. No depth chart yet

Johnson said he was ready to release a depth chart this past Monday, but because Boston College was not willing or ready to do the same, he held back. He said the depth chart for the opener will be released Monday.

7. No more ballots

Johnson’s term as a voter in the coaches poll is over. Johnson was asked to take part in the poll – he had long been against taking part – prior to the 2014 season, but is not on the 64-coach panel this year. Johnson said he wasn’t asked to continue.

“Coach Huff’s going to be disappointed,” Johnson said, referring to operations director Mike Huff, who evidently was in charge of assembling Johnson’s ballot.

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