Tar Heel Illustrated gets its readers set for Saturday's ACC Coastal Division showdown with Georgia Tech by asking several questions about the Yellow Jackets to JacketsOnline.com publisher Kelly Quinlan.
Quinlan gives everyone a closer look at Georgia Tech and what they figure to throw at the Tar Heels when the two teams convene at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in downtown Atlanta for a noon kickoff Saturday.
Paul Johnson has an established base offense at Georgia Tech, but he seems to be always throwing in new wrinkles that keep opposing defenses completely off-balance. What were some of these things that you saw in the opening games against Elon and Duke that could very well work again this week against a UNC defense that didn't really do anything to stop the Yellow Jackets defensively a year ago.............
Coach Johnson hasn't really put much on the table yet other than the diamond formation in the pistol and that is just an inverted version of his spread option under center.
The Yellow Jackets have some shotgun multiple receiver looks and other tactics to spread out opposing defenses. Quarterback Vad Lee ran well up the middle when the UNC defense was spread out some last year and I'm sure he will try to create those types of mismatches and one on one situations again this year.
Ted Roof received praise from Larry Fedora in this week's pregame press conference for the way he's got Georgia Tech's defense in good position and making plays. What has gone right so far for the Yellow Jackets this season on the defensive side, and who are some of the guys playing well right now?
Coach Roof went back to the basics of tackling and getting lined up in the right spot upon his arrival at Georgia Tech. That built upon what Tech did at the end of last season in games against FSU and USC and they are getting more confident.
I think the confidence issue along with not knowing where and how to line up was the killer under former defensive coordinator Al Groh They have comparable talent with most ACC teams on the defensive side of the ball especially in the skill positions and Roof has allowed those players to run around and make plays. He says he doesn't care if they occasionally give up a big play if everyone is playing hard and following their assignments.
A lot of people in North Carolina know the story of Vad Lee, a local kid from Durham who got a UNC scholarship offer but elected to go to Georgia Tech, where they wanted him to be a quarterback. Do you think that Vad Lee takes this game a little more personally than most because UNC recruited him as a wide receiver instead of a quarterback?
Vad has the ability to raise his game to another level at times and the North Carolina schools Duke and UNC seem to really fire him up.
I think it is in the back of his mind that he was told he wasn't good enough to play QB at UNC and that along with knowing so many players on the UNC team, including former teammates and the bragging rights back home seem to spark him.
So much attention is heaped on the quarterback and running backs in Paul Johnson's offense, but what about the wide receivers? Georgia Tech really crushed UNC with play-action passing a year ago. Who are some of the weapons in the passing game that UNC could be vulnerable trying to defend?
Darren Waller is a huge target at 6'6" 230-plus pounds with 4.5 speed that Lee connected with last year in Chapel Hill for a big play. He is back along with former Tech baseball pitcher turned receiver DeAndre Smelter who had two touchdown catches against Duke. They are the bigger targets at receiver along with redshirt freshman Travin Henry.
The Yellow Jackets also have Michael Summers who is a speedster receiver that has very good hands. This is probably the best all-around receiver group at Tech since the late-90s, when a guy named Joe Hamilton was slinging the ball around.
Georgia Tech isn't necessarily known for a huge home field advantage (they've lost seven home games going back to the 2010 season and can't seem to beat Miami lately in Atlanta) but they've completely dominated North Carolina at Bobby Dodd Stadium over the past decade and a half. UNC hasn't won in Atlanta since 1997---the last year of the Mack Brown era. What do you think it is that has helped Georgia Tech maintain such a stranglehold over the Tar Heels on their home field?
UNC had some bad teams that were poorly coached after Mack Brown left and some huge defensive letdowns like the 1999 game when Joe Hamilton led Tech to two scores in the final minute and overtime for a win following the unfortunate injury to Ronald Curry.
Since Coach Johnson arrived in Atlanta, he has taken a lot of personal pleasure in beating UNC since he is a Western North Carolina native and he seems to have his teams hyped to play UNC, Duke, N.C. State and Wake.
He is 13-2 against the Carolina ACC quartet at Georgia Tech.
What in your opinion are the keys to Saturday's game from Georgia Tech's side of things? What does Georgia Tech have to do well in order to win the game, and what are some of the things that could get them beaten?
Limiting big plays on defense especially from the tight ends and in the screen game will be the biggest defensive key. Offensively Paul Johnson wants to control the tempo of the game, jump on UNC early, and then hold the ball and play keep away.
Fedora's teams struggle when they are limited in the number of possessions in a game and Georgia Tech has the ability to hold the ball for five to ten minutes of game time on drives when they want to, and if they're able to do that Saturday, it's going to be very difficult for UNC to prevail.