What are the challenges about facing an offense like Georgia Tech’s?
“They’re 11-fold. For every 11 players they got on their team they have good players. Paul [Johnson] knows his system better than anybody in the country and he’s got an answer for any defense you can throw at him. They have a bible and they go through it and if you’re running a certain scheme, there’s only so many kinds of defenses, and then they just pull out those calls and they know what works against what. They practice that every week so the hard part is doing something that you think your guys can execute with the talent of the guys you have on your team.
“For example, when we played them when I was at Clemson we had 10 or 11 future NFL guys out there, but particularly in the secondary, so we were able to play more of a man concept against them. Now they hurt us throwing the ball, because they had a future NFL receiver that abused us a little bit, but every team is different. We might not be able to do some of the things that we’ve done. We’re just trying to find the things that we think we can do the best and just try to execute the best we can, make tackles, get off the blocks.
“The blocking schemes that they use are not those that you see every day or practice against every day. Some of the cut blocking schemes, especially inside, are particularly dangerous and hard to defend for your defensive linemen. You’re disengaging on a block and having another guy cutting you at the same time and it’s a hard thing.”
How do you practice against the cut blocks?
“You just do the drills and we do about as many drills as you can all the time for that stuff, but the other part of it that’s hard in my experience, particularly at Wyoming going against Air Force, is the speed of it. I used to joke around with the guys it’s like going out on the interstate and trying to dodge cars. It’s coming at you fast and you’re not used to that because you can’t get the same look in practice that you’re going to have in the game.”
Why do you think more teams don’t use the option offense?
“I think it’s hard to recruit linemen that aren’t pass setting. Guys want to go to the NFL and it’s hard to recruit receivers that you have cracking and loading all the time. I do think it fits certain guys. There are certain quarterbacks. They’re able to get some of the best option-style quarterbacks in the country. They can probably get pretty good fullback type guys, but there’s not been that many guys that have translated and gone to the next level. There have been a few, but that’s the other side of it.
“It’s not this case with Georgia Tech, but typically the [U.S. Service] Academies do it, because they’re getting guys that maybe aren’t the biggest or the fastest or the strongest because of the requirements of the Academies and then they do things if they execute you can’t get enough guys to the ball, because if they get their blocks and execute you just cannot schematically get enough guys. They will schematically get somebody from one side to the other faster than you can. It’s just you can’t do it, so somebody’s got to get off a block or somebody’s got to beat a block and then you got to run like the dickens to get there.
“So, again, like we talked about we had a kid at Clemson named Chris Clemons that was a 10.5 [second] 100-meter guy at 210 pounds who plays for the Dolphins now. He could get from one side to the other so we had a guy who could do that and some teams do and right now that’s not a luxury that we got so we’re just trying to play with what we got.”
How much help is the bye week?
“I think the biggest help for our guys was getting over some of the flu sickness and I’ve heard a couple of other teams talking about it. I know Notre Dame had a big bout of it too. We were right on the edge of it. I don’t think everybody knows how sick [Kevin] Reddick was on Friday before N.C. State. He was bad sick so we had our bouts with that. I think that has helped with that and I think it’s helped with a few of the guys that had ankle issues and whatnot. I think it’s helped with that.
“As far as game plan-wise, we had kind of put together something in the summer so that we could just insert it. We spent a little more time on it obviously, but you also got to do what you do too so it’s kind of a mixed bag.”
Everybody talks about playing assignment football against Georgia Tech. You’ve got a secondary that has created turnovers and wants to make plays. Is it hard to instill more discipline in them?
“It’s also a secondary that likes to look in the backfield and that is tough. What you said is exactly right so they’re going to have to. I’m anxious to see how they play on Saturday. We’ve had some good sharp crisp practices this week and, again, we do still go against their offense a good bit and we’re getting a mixed bag a little bit, but the thing you typically have against the option is you have to keep it extremely simple, because of all the different looks and so our guys are going to have to be better than their guys. It’s going to boil down to that, because you got to have enough guys to stop the run in option football.
"You've always got to pack the box. You watch every film and everybody has got to do that so our guys are going to have to win some one-on-one’s. They’re going to have to get off blocks and make tackles in the perimeter. That’s going to be the big thing is avoiding blocks on the perimeter and shedding blocks in the perimeter.”